Viaja de Plata.
Or the journey of silver.
This was the first title that popped up in my head when I started to write this new travel-story. I think that it´s a great title for this little story. It explains in 3 words the most important things of my second (silver) journey as a tour guide.
This roundtrip of 29 days follows most of the old silver routes through South America in one big circle. Starting in Arica (Chile), following the old silver railway across the rough Andean mountains. After ending in Potosi we followed the old mule-tracks from the Spain al the way back to Lima.
It was a trip full history, with great stories about the Tiawanaku, Collas, Inka´s and the great silver train robbery of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid.
Of course we also made our own little history, with most good, but unfortunately also some bad experiences. I think these things belong to a groups journey. You are together with a group of different people for 29 days. You get to share different habits and emotions from these people. The happiness of vacations feelings and exploring new worlds, but sometimes also the fear for the unknown. In these cases it was my job to try to take away those feelings. A job that´s not always easy.
I started this trip with mixed feelings as well. I was happy with the opportunity to go tour guiding again through countries I like. But I felt a little sad leaving a piece of my heart in Merazonia. It was a feeling I wasn´t prepared for when I only planned to visit some “old” friends.
Now at the end of my trip I still have these mixed feelings, more than I was hoping for. But the also seem to go very well with the pleasure I find in Tour Guiding. I think I can´t live without either of them ;-)
All right, a bit more about my trip now:
Again I had a group of mixed ages from 27 till 67 years old. It was a group of 16 people who had booked a tour of 30 days through Peru, Chile and Bolivia. For 2 persons this tour was only the beginning of their journey for 6 months. Part of their goal during this journey was to collect money for poor children. See their website for more info: www.uiltje.com
This tour was suppose to be more difficult than my first, sins it is mostly with public transportation.
The first week everything went very smooth. Nothing stolen, great weather in Pisco, Nasca and Arequipa and a happy group. All right, most people felt a bit sick of the altitude with stomach and headache problems when we went to Chivay, but the symptoms were far less than last time. It even seemed that the whole tour went easier than my first…
Ok, I shouldn’t have said that to soon…
After a week the first cracks came. One bad day out of this tour:
Leaving from the nice costal place of Arica (Chile), I couldn´t get a direct bus to San Pedro the Atacama. Even the alternative bus company had only 19 seats left (we took 17)…
During this ride, which started at 21:30u, we had to leave the bus twice. Ones around 23:00h for food control (you are not aloud to travel with fruit and vegetables) and ones for a drugs control, around 4:30h.
At 3 O’clock the Chile time went one hour ahead, from winter into summer time.
Surviving al this we arrived about 8:30h in Calama. Here we had to change bus, so I paid the driver a bit more to bring us to the terminal of the other bus company.
Here we heard that the busses to San Pedro didn´t have enough seats as well. We had to wait until we could take 2 busses at 10:15h and 10:30h.
In the end we arrived at 12:30h at our hotel in San Pedro. However from there we had to check inn into 3 different hotels, sins our hotel was over booked…
Luckily I had already heard this when I called then to confirm our reservation. I had asked them to find us other, similar hotels and they had found us 3 hotels in the same street. They had done a good job for us.
Yes, this day didn´t start very well, but it ended great! With a tour through Valla del Luna and a very colorful sunset above this special landscape!
From now on highlights and disappointments followed each other quickly.
The journey continued through the surrealistic landscape of Dali and the Salar the Uyuni, where we were lucky to even spot some of the wildlife! This trip brought also some good memories up from my own trip one and a half year ago.
In Uyuni, unfortunately someone got her camera stolen L
We had to continue. We followed the old silver railway, with it´s history, all the way up to the impressive and depressive mines of Potosi.
Then to Sucre, a place with very special memories to me…
Everything went smooth, except for a tour to the market of Tarabuco. We had two busses that broke down on the way to get to the market. Lets hope that this doesn´t happen on our way to La Paz…
For this trip to La Paz I had arranged a privet bus. My group had to pay 5US$ each and together with my budget for this journey by public transportation, I could rent a big bus with 36 big seats, a toilet and 2 televisions all for ourselves!
This journey of 10 hours was comfortable and went great! What made it even more special was the comment an other, more experienced, tour guide gave me 2 days before. She was wondering why I didn´t advised my group to go flying. I told her that I recommended my group not to fly, sins they would have to pay 60US$ more and they would have the risk that they couldn´t land or take off with the clouds that are often above Sucre and La Paz…
Her group was suppose to fly on the afternoon of our last day, but they ended up taking a public bus in the morning of the next day, because no flights could take off. They lost one and a half day……
Four members of my group had a great time surviving the most dangerous road in the world. While others went to a highlight in their lives, when they “climbed” up the 5400m of Chalcantaya.
Most of the group found that there was so much to do in La Paz, that we should have more time. Maybe this wasn´t good to ask, because on the day we had to leave to Puno, our transportation didn´t show up???!
We arranged others and went in Puno to the touristy Uros Islands and the mystic Sillastani towers, made by the Collas. These towers could be about 12m high and were made in the shape of a big penis. They had a vagina facing the east, to enter and a womb to burry their death. They believed that this was the way to send their death back to mother earth, Pachamama. Strange people those Collas…
To our final destination we got ripped off by our bus company, who had sold our tickets to a cheaper company. We arrived 1.5 hour later, but I met some nice company on the bus. She was from Sweden and was traveling around for 3 months. Sins I´m still a backpacker as well and have most of the time 2 beds in my room, I offered her a place to stay in my room in Cusco. She had already a friend.
Of course Cusco for filled all its promises to my group. We all had a good time in Cusco and great weather to visit Machu Picchu.
Also the 2 and 4 day Inka Trail walkers had a good time during their tours. Only they had some very, very slow walkers from an other group in their group. This other group was from Shoestring… Shoestring, the company I applied for in the first place, sins they travel mostly with a bit younger groups. I was happy that I wasn´t working for Shoestring at that moment and I was proud on my Monkey King group J
Than it was time to say goodbye again. First to my temporary roommate, who I had a good time with J We had been talking a lot and I even felt something missing when she wasn´t there the last night in Cusco. Funny how fast you can get used to have someone in your room again…
The next day in Lima I had to say goodbye to my second group. A good group, a silver group who had given me a great time the last 28 days!
Now sitting here alone in my room, writing this story, I think by myself how lucky I am. Thinking back from the beginning of this year till now, who could have predicted this result……….