29. Tour Leader

Mala Suerte (bad luck),
 
My third journey as a tour guide was suppose to be the most easy one. A journey for 24 days through Peru and Bolivia, with private transportation. It was like my first journey.
Only now I would have a small group with 11 persons and they were also a bit older. The youngest was 50 and the oldest 67 years...
I hope that this goes well with passing the high altitude of Cañon del Colca?
 
The trip started immediately with an adventure, what was promising for the rest of the journey…
One woman her seat was over-booked, so she would arrive the next day early in the morning. But she was still earlier that 5 of the bags from the pax who did arrive on time. One of those bags even arrived 5 days later in Arequipa! All in total no good recommendation for the service of KLM.
Ok, these people got some compensation. The group still had a good time visiting all nice places on the way and if this were the only problems for this journey, I think that there´s not much to complain.
 
However, then we went to Cañon del Colca.
At first things seem to go well. The usual head-aches and feelings of weakness. But after time passed by, without seeing any condors and having a flat tire 50m from the highest point on the road between Chivay and Puno, some head-aches became worse.
3 Women became very sick and 2 of them needed oxygen in Puno. One woman even got, in La Paz, a fever of 40 degrees!
She went to a private clinic were she was treated very well. Only she couldn´t continue the journey with us to Uyuni and Potosi. Her friend stayed with her in La Paz.
 
For some other group members these long bus rides were heavy as well, suffering from stomach problems and diarrhoea. They stopped eating salads and vegetables only to hear later that the woman who had to stay in the clinic, got sick from a bacteria which was already 4 weeks old...!?
An other odd thing was that the only 2 group members who smoke, didn´t got sick...
 
Enough about sick people now. Luckily the woman who had to stay in La Paz felt better when we returned, so we could all continue our journey to Copacabana and Cusco.
 
But before I continue from there, there´s still a lot to tell about our trip to Uyuni, Potosi and back. This trip had a “good” start as well:
Already after half an hour told the driver us that there were some problems with the balance of his tires. He changed 3 tires to an other place, two in the front and one in the back and half an hour later we could go again.
Only 3 hours later, just after Oruro, there was again something wrong...
To make a very, very long story a bit shorter and to save the driver some more embarrassment. I will not tell you about the things that happened there, the discussions we had with the driver and the people from the tire shop.
The result was that we could finally continue our journey after2 hours. Leaving one flat tire behind and driving with the same front tire as he put 5 hours before on the back...
 
I think we had enough flat tires and bus problems now. Time for something else, blockades;
 
First it wasn´t sure if we could arrive in Potosi, because some of the roads were blocked. But we finally seem to have some luck. We did arrive in Potosi and the group enjoyed the city.
I met my first fake policeman who wanted to see my passport. But he couldn´t fool me, because he wasn´t wearing a uniform.
Then our luck runned out again. It wasn´t possible to go from Potosi to La Paz during the blockades, without driving for more than 20 hours around...
We decided to go to Sucre (only 2.5 hours away), to take from there a plane to La Paz. This decision had a risk that when it would be to cloudy lift off, we would have to stay in Sucre. There were also no more direct flights available, sins there were more people who wanted to avoid the blockades. We could only take an indirect flight late in the afternoon, stopping over in Cochabamba for 3 hours. But no problem, Sucre is a nice city to spend half a day.
Only to bad that they tried to steal the backpack from someone of my group, when they were walking on the market. Luckily the group reacted very well and they didn´t succeed.
 
However our flight(s) went great! Good weather, no delays and no problems to land on the highest international airport in the world (4030m). Yep, it only took us 20min. plus 35min. to save a 20hour bus ride. Only just enough time for the cabin crew to serve us a drink. They literally had to run to recollect most of the empty cups a second before we would land. For sure we also had more luck this time than that group out of my last story ;-)
 
Damn, telling about all those adventures with the group, I almost forget to tell about a little adventure I had myself in La Paz;
It happened in the evening on our first day in La Paz, when I came back from the clinic. I went out to eat a hamburger and to visit a friend I met earlier that day. She wasn´t in her hostel, so I walked back. This was around 22:45h. Walking back through a dark street, I felt the danger, but was to late. One guy grabbed me around the neck and2 others tried to steal my wallet. I tried to spies them in the eyes and wanted to drop myself on the one on my back. It did work, but that was the last I remember.......
I woke up not more that a few minutes later, I know because I still had my watch. Ok, I lost a bit of money (not more than 20us$ in total), but it made me aware again that even I have to be a bit more careful sometimes...
 
Coming back in the hotel I noticed that I lost most of my voice. My friends would like that, but as a tour leader it is a bit more difficult. I also didn´t want to frighten my group to much. I have been so many times in La Paz and this was my first incident. It was even after being a bit stupid walking in nice clothes and doing what I tell my group not to do...
I told them that I drunk something wrong and talked to much.
They had a good time in La Paz :-)
 
If you read all these stories, you maybe wonder where the fun was during this journey and if the group enjoyed their trip?
I was wondering that myself as well, but you will be surprised how fast they "forgot" most about the problems and enjoyed the good things. And off course there were enough good things as well. Like the impression of the mysterious Nasca-Lines, the surrealistic landscape of the Salar and many other things that make Peru and Bolivia nice countries to visit.
We had also luck with the weather on all the places we went. In Aguas Calientes we even went to Machu Picchu between the rainfalls, the day before and after. So my group could make great pictures!
 
So what can I say about this group and the trip, if I look back? The most easy journey? No, but I can´t say that it was very difficult eighter.
I had a colourful group with some special characters, one in particular. But they made a good group, who took care of each other and were fun to work with.
 
All right one character wasn´t always fun to work with.
She´s a trauma therapist, who can´t listen. One that I wouldn´t even like to have her as a patient.
She was lonely and asking for attention in all kind of ways. She also didn´t want to do things with the group, because she didn´t want to act as a rich tourist. But if I explained her how she could do it different, she would only listen half. Not doing tours with the group however didn´t prevent her from asking for attention in all other ways she could get it. I will give only one example, to not embarrass her to much:
The last day in Lima she didn´t feel very well. She took a little rest and felt better when we went in the afternoon to the centre of Lima. However, an hour after I left my group I was walking past Plaza de Armas and found her curled up and laying down on a bench in the shadow of some houses. She didn´t feel well and wanted to stay out of the sun. So why aren´t you resting in the restaurant/hotel were we are going to have our late lunch? No good reason. So I told her that it was dangerous to fall asleep on a bench in the centre of Lima when you have your valuable things with you. She told me that those two nice old Peruvian guys would protect her...? I convinced her that she could better go to the hotel and when she got up I walked away. I did keep an eye on her to see how she was doing and later on I saw her shopping. So if she could still do some shopping, she wasn´t to sick and probably overacting again to get some attention, from anyone who would concern...
She isn´t a bad person, but sometimes she makes things very difficult for herself and others and that´s a pity.
But she also did something good; The group had all something in common to talk and agree about and that is something that can make a group more solid ;-)
 
Can I complain about this group in total?
No, not at all. Especially not after I spoke to a girl who works for the rich Tucan Travel. When I heard how rude her groups could be, I can only be happy with mine. Also my agency (Koning Aap) shows a lot more appreciation for my work, than Tucan does for her tour-leaders. Tucan seems to give far less support and I have nothing to complain about that.
 
Has my group a reason to complain about this journey?
Off course, they had many of them. They had a lot of bad luck during their vacation. But I also have to say that they booked an adventure journey through Peru and Bolivia and that´s exactly what they got...
I do hope that they did have a great vacation as well. That they will remember the good things forever and that they will be able to smile about the bad things.
 
The most important thing that I learned from this journey, was that I should be careful not to offer my group to many options to think about. They have vacation and it is impossible to make everyone happy.
 
Saludos from a lucky person,
Martijn
 
P.s. I´m now back in Mera were my friends have big problems with greedy people and legalising their land. Anyone who wants to send them a short mental support is more than welcome and lets all hope that things go better soon. I keep you informed.

 

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