Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Takesi trek

After getting very wet on the first morning of the Takesi trek, i decided to be positive, write, you know your worst stories are the best ones, so i wrote this...

Day 2 of Takesi Trek

Yep, that's all i wrote, my feet at the bottom of the tent were wet. I was in no writing mood and i probably needed to take a number two, otherwise known as a Nixon and i did too, i remember the entire morning clearly!

Still alive

Day 2 went well, we got to a house still a days trek from the nearest village, we got a fire going and after a few hours, the guy that owned the place came along in the middle of the night with a donkey, as you do.

My guide

I heard the owner complain to my guide about the logs we (I) burned, he wanted them for work in a mine, the next day my guide Linber couldn't wait to get out of there
Fuckin shit
That was the first bit of English i heard my guide say, of course it made to speak English with miner that wanted us out of there, after being paid of course

The house I slept in day 2

In fairness my guide had a very laid back attitude in dealing with people and it showed, he is one of those people that can sleep anywhere, I'm freakin jealous, the conditions have to be just right for me to sleep

"Read more and sleep more", this is Mark Zuckerburgs philosophy, i totally agree.

Takesi village

Lamas going home

The last day, we ended up at a mine, actually there, they have housing for the workers, right there. security too, they came on the bus to check that no one took any zinc as a souvenir

Mine at the end of the Trek

Housing for the miners and their familys

Land slide coming back to La Paz

Coming down the mountain...

Amazing views

More views

The next day we walked by the hydro electrical power plant in the video

It seemed like every village had a earth mover, when it rains in Bolivia, the mountains tend to give way to gravity, this road seemed pretty bad, they were building up the road, before it all gave way to gravity, no problem, no problem, not in Bolivia.

Rocks were falling, there was a guy telling drivers to go quickly, before any fell, the views were amazing too, waterfalls in the clouds, i was telling people the scenery...

It was like that movie that's a cross between Little Big Man/Soldier Blue and the Smurfs?

Of course i meant Avatar

How to get a fire going


A bit foggy?

Additional videos:

and here

Monday, 30 March 2015

The power of the written word, it spooks some people 'round here

Coroico, Bolivia

I was in a cafe the other day in Corocio, the end of the death road, sitting in a local cafe, enjoying the view, sipping a coffee, reading and making some notes.

People started looking at me a bit strange, the guy that sat next to me told me to hurry up and get out, i was taking too long.

Of course they have a different culture, breakfast is not something you take your time at, and it reminded me of the Aran Islands in Ireland.

Basically its called an Island mentality:
The term "island mentality" is also used in some psychological research to describe individuals who dislike or have problems with relating to others, and then live as loners or "islands". This concept (in which people may feel inferior, afraid, or alone) has little to nothing to do with the above terminology

Terrace Coca leaf plantation

When i was last there i heard when people would go there and take notes about some notes, its a good habit to get into, capture your thoughts, unless your directly descended from a monkey, so each note will be about food and sex.

But i guess, everyone has to start somewhere, right?

In Ireland, the Island mentality didn't very much like people making notes, people would think yu were from the government, sent to spy on them and i guess this cafe i was in had the same idea, i was somehow going to make life difficult for them.

Nice views

In reality when you go places as a tourist, you see the place as a tourist, when you spend a bit of time there you get to see a different side, maybe i was seeing a bit of the other side, not that i cared, i just went around the corner, found another cafe with a smiling woman and kept reading and writing

The view up the hill from Coricio

My hotel in Corocio

A Bolivian Pied piper

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Che video diarys

I took a few videos along the Che route, here they are, i was going to get George Clooney to do the voice overs, but i think he´s a bit busy now.

So this is it.

One of Ches victories in Bolivia

Half way to La hégira

After doing this next video, i saw some old women, they wanted to know where i was from, how did i get there, i walked 10km from the road where the bus dropped me off, they couldn't believe it, impossible!!

Walking into La hégira village

La hégira

Waiting at the gate to get into the Cemetary, on Che Guevara Avenue

Where Che was originally buried

At the hospital in Vallegrande

Hospital laundry

Where Che had his hands cut off

Monday, 16 March 2015

´Know this now, you are killing a man´, Last words by Che

Its interesting, the Bolivians didn't have much interest in Che Guevara, until he died.
When they saw him dead, he looked a bit like Jesus. After all, he did say he would come back.

They wrapped him in a tent, tied him to the leg of a helicopter and brought him to Vallegrande, nice.

I went to the museum here, one wall said he was guarded, another room had an account of a school teacher that went to the laundry, where he was and took photos of him with her friend, i wonder did they take selfies?

The defeated revolutionary lies on a laundry room table, eyes open, locked in a stoic gaze as a frenzy of reporters and crowds of locals scrambled to catch a last glimpse of history. After their publication, the death photos were compared to two famous paintings; Rembrandt's "Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp," circa 1632 and Mantegna's "Lamentation over the Dead Christ," circa 1490. 
   "If Che hadn't been who he was," Casey said, "No one would have made that comparison.

"Lamentation over the Dead Christ," circa 1490

 After the success of the Cuban Revolution, the international press latched onto Guevara as an interesting figure in Castro's new government. Guevara had trained as a doctor in his native Buenos Aires, Argentina, but cast off his life of privilege to discover his own identity and eventually pursue revolutionary ideals.

   "Che's life, in many ways, mirrors that of a religious martyr," Casey said. "It's the idea of casting off worldly possessions in a pursuit of an ideal and then paying the ultimate price for it."

Days before Guevara and others were captured and killed, some of the guerrillas were in Alto Seco getting supplies from the store. At first they were willing to pay for what they took.
   "An elderly woman spoke up," Osinaga said. "She told the guerrillas that the store owner intended to tell the army about them." 
   The guerrillas became enraged, refused to pay for their supplies and demanded to see the owner, who hid, fearing his life. The townsfolk were generally uncooperative with the guerrillas, who tried to win their trust to no avail. Guevara was not able to recruit troops from the local population nor was he able to gain their support, a crucial element to his revolutionary plan. 
   "None of us knew the guerrillas were led by Che," Osinaga said, "Even if we had, we wouldn't have wanted anything to do with him." 
   Guevara stunk in a particularly wretched way that only 11 months in the Bolivian wilderness can accommodate. Not only were the guerrillas dirty, Osinaga said, but Guevara smelled like urine and looked ragged. Seven years after the Korda photograph was taken, Guevara in Bolivia was an entirely different picture. 
   It was the townspeople who supplied the Bolivian army with intelligence regarding the location and movements of the guerrillas. Many of them were actually former schoolmates of young captain Prado, who grew up in the area. As far as the locals were concerned, Guevara and his men were simply a dangerous bunch of foreigners.

Ches shoes

By killing Che, they made him a god, he couldn't breathe, due to chronic asthma, he had arthritis, it was cold, he had been in Bolivia for 11 months, so he had been through a winter, and he looked it. Two of his men abandoned him, he didn't even have proper shoes!!

His clothes, look like the real deal

Tanyas shoes (his girlfriend)

Not to make a big deal about the shoes, but it does look Ches group was pretty unprepared for what they were up against, its too late now...

My advice would have been...

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Pablo, Jesus and Che Guevara

Meet Pablo

I watched the Pablo Escobar series the other night in my hotel room, it was about the only DVD on offer to watch, in Spanish. Not just Spanish, a type of Spanish with all the words stuck together, set in Columbia, Argentinian Spanish.

Boom, are you with me?

The start of each episode of Pablo Escobar started off with a notice about how history is always repeating itself, too true, one bad guy in favour, falls out of favour, they get rid of him, the next guy comes along...

 To cut a long story short, he was a member of Parliament

Some interesting tidbits:
As a teenager on the streets of Medellín, he began his criminal career by allegedly stealing gravestones and sanding them down for resale to smugglers.
In 1982 Escobar was elected as an alternate member of the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia as part of the Colombian Liberal Party.[12] He was the official representative of the Colombian government in the swearing in of Felipe González in Spain.
Pablo Escobar said that the essence of the cocaine business was "Simple—you bribe someone here, you bribe someone there, and you pay a friendly banker to help you bring the money back. 
Escobar was responsible for the construction of many hospitals, schools and churches in western Colombia, which gained him popularity inside the local Roman Catholic Church. He worked hard to cultivate his Robin Hood image, and frequently distributed money to the poor through housing projects and other civic activities, which gained him notable popularity among the poor. 
The population of Medellín often helped Escobar serving as lookouts, hiding information from the authorities, or doing whatever else they could to protect him.

A history lesson

Basically, he was too powerful, the he bribed too many people and killed the rest, he had to go, and he went, and while the US and Colombian governments were looking for him, the Cali cartel got bigger and bigger and in the end, the Cali cartel had to go, but people loved Pablo, but he went off to meet the next guy

What Jesus would look like if he was black

Next up, Jesus

He got too big, and he never had a job either, people loved him, about two thousand years later, so there is always time for everybody .

Jesus had to go, he went!!

Next up, Che

Wrong place, wrong time?

The Bolivian government wanted Che dead ASAP, one of the arresting soldiers wanted to interrogate him, apparently word came from America, that he posed the biggest threat to the USA.

The Laundry where they cut off Ches hands

After Che died, his wounds were apparently like Jesus, so the people here started worshiping him, Santa Ernesto Guevara, too bad he didn't rise up on the third day? Not that it would have been any good, since they cut off his hands

He didn't have the support of the people, he went.

A laundry like no other...

Would you trust this guy with your daughter?

Before September 11, Eminem was the biggest threat to America, since polio. then when they were trying to seem cool to the kids in the far ea st, Eminem became a handy tool, so they used him to terrorise the parents of these kids that like him all over Iraq

Public enemy number one, becomes the Pied Piper, he´s still here, i like him!!

Me so hooneey

In Thailand, there is a famous red light district called Patbong, they tried to shut it down a few years ago, the guy that owns the area said he paid off cops, judged, politicians, i will name names, he spent millions in bribes, he could bring down the government.

That was the end of trying to shut him down, he´s still in business, no flies on him, the place is still going full swing!!

Maybe Che was in the wrong business?

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Che Guevara and what he should have learned from Adolf...


I arrived in Samaipata today, its the location of one of Che Guevaras first successful skirmishes with the Bolivian government, he was here to bring them down, Rambo style.

It didn´t quite work out that way, when they went looking for food, since the native Indians had never seen people with bears before, they ran away or ran away and told the police.

He never got the people on his side, they just weren´t interested, in Bolivia ,he was after all a terrorist!

What would you do if ZZ Top approached you looking for food?

Run to the hills!!

Che´s problem reminded me of a tour of a bomb bunker in Berlin. I learned how Hitler whipped the German people up before the war and got them very on his side

First, he got their attention:

People walking their kids to school would see posters of airplanes, with flags underneath, Ireland was there, we had no air force and we still don't, Denmark was there they had a flying trapeze plane

Sign said if you see these planes with these flags, dropping bombs, its because they hate us.

Second, he got them complying on little things, like a good salesman will tell you, get people saying yes to the small things, they will say yes to the big things,
For those too old to fight, they were given the job of going around to check that no lights were visible, apparently blue lights were ok, as they couldn't be seen above 500 feet.

If your was observed with a light, a poster was put on your door, informing you of the danger, then your neighbours would think
Hey this guy is putting out lives in danger!!!
which leads on to the next...

Third, peer pressure, no one wants to be the one letting the team down, people that did not comply with this small thing of covering the light were going to cause bigger problems, so they disappeared, so then you were left with the people that would comply, a good start to a war.

Never forget...

Che couldn't even get food, his Asthma was waging war with him, he had arthritis, he was very old 39 years old, before his time, he didn't stand a chance


And of course, David Bowie said the following to a reporter high on coke

BOWIE: Rock stars are fascists. Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars.
PLAYBOY: How so?
BOWIE: Think about it. Look at some of his films and see how he moved. I think he was quite as good as Jagger. It’s astounding. And boy, when he hit that stage, he worked an audience. Good God! He was no politician. He was a media artist. He used politics and theatrics and created this thing that governed and controlled the show for 12 years. The world will never see his like again. 
He staged a country […] People aren’t very bright, you know? They say they want freedom, but when they get the chance, they pass up Nietzsche and choose Hitler because he would march into a room to speak and music and lights would come on at strategic moments. It was rather like a rock ‘n roll concert. The kids would get very excited – girls got hot and sweaty and guys wished it was them up there. That, for me, is the rock ‘n roll experience.

Does this look like a Rock star?

Monday, 9 March 2015

My 25 hour bus journey to Santa Cruz...

I was in Cochabamba, i heard about the rain in La Paz, a quick look at the guide book told me it would be raining a lot in March, going to Santa Cruz seemed like the sensible thing to do, ok?

The last time i was in Bolivia, there was an outbreak of Dengue fever, first it was a few people, a few days later it was a hundred, then thousands, aid workers were flow in, they got it too, i decided to stay away, it proved a successful strategy, i´m still alive and kicking.

So, i knew the bus is normally 12 hours, when i bought the ticket i was told 17. The ticket was 130 Bolivianos, about 25 dollars Australian

On the way, i was told the bridge was down, we would be going the historical way, a dirt road over the Andes, not just a dirt road, a road with over sized trucks, really big artic trucks that should not have been there.

Somewhere, over the ...

I saw the the bus drivers, we had two, negotiate situations no one would believe, we would be stuck for hours, something would happen, we would be off again for 100 meters and stuck for another hour, a great bus ride if you like smoking breaks!

When we finally got out of the worst of it, i could see the traffic backed up across the valley, some truck drivers had enough and pulled over for a sleep, good, but blocked a whole line of traffic, it reminded me of Death road in La Paz, there just was no room to go, driving a truck here isn´t for faint hearted.

I think most people would have a nervous breakdown like in the movie ´Falling down´

Falling down

When we finally crossed the mountains, at one point the elevation was 3500 meters, we descended into what looked like Paradise, green fields, tons of crops, humidity and to a place that could have been ...Brazil?

Are we in Brazil? Lets get the party started!!!

 Yes, it could have been Brazil, Santa Cruz is only 600 kms from Brazil, i was told 30,000 Brazilians come here to study medicine, none of them learn Spanish

I did a 54 hour train journey once in India with one of my ex, i was supposed to buy the 36 hour ticket, i got confused and got the wrong one, i can clearly remember screaming and shouting and a room key being thrown at me in the staircase of the ticket office, oh the memories!!

It reminds me of a story i heard about the Trans Siberian train journey
Woman: I need to get off, i am going to have a baby
Conductor: Why did you get on if you are going to have a baby
Woman: When i got on i wasn´t pregnant

So i am in Santa Cruz to learn more about Che Guevara, there is a guide booklet, one of the pages has a picture of a chicken fight with guys sitting around drinking beer, cultural or what, where am I? What year is it?

Studies have shown, considerably less animals are harmed in Jelly wrestling, interesting, huh?

Its my party and i´ll....ok, you have to shake your ass first

Last Monday (one week exactly) it was my birthday, just another day. or so it seemed. I was reading my book in the Casa Blanca hostel (White house hostel), when an Argentinian guy in my dorm said
Hey, it will be your birthday in a half an hour
I was so absorbed in reading, i forgot but he didn´t, my 1 month of no drinking was at an end, every year i stop for a month, its always the best thing, moderation i something i´m not very experienced with

Birthdays must be big deals in Argentenia as everybody was singing me happy birthday, quite flattering really, i felt like a ten year old, again...

The drummer came over to me before this video and said
´You have to shake you ass´

The next night my new friends from the Amigos de Bolivia trip to Marchamaca Rodney and Helen gave me a birthday dinner, we listened to lots of great music, Helen cooked a wonderful local dish that involved frying pasta, top effort!!

I introduced Rodney to a new DJ

Friday, 6 March 2015

A cool Bolivian tradition, that is pretty Irish too!!

You´ve been to NY, Paris Amsterdam?

I was having a read of my guide book the other day, i don't know, maybe i was bored, maybe it was the appeal of the color pictures when i happened of a chapter on a Bolivian custom called Tinku

Indonesian style

Ok, so the general idea of Tinku is every year some towns have this festival, it starts with people running around in a circle, a bit like a mosh pit, the blood starts to pump, except there is a guy with a whip and he will let you have it Indonesian style if he thinks you are not giving it 110%, are you willing to give it 110%?

A mosh pit

So the the idea is, you come to town, you get loaded on booze, the next think is you walk around, you see someone you don't like, maybe he´s said something about your three legged girlfriend that´s a goat, that's insulting!!!

Now´s your chance to settle the score or forever hold your tongue

They dont need much of a sign

Or course, its all how you see it, some people think it just blowing off a little steam, sometimes people throw stones, its not murder, they get offered as an offering to the Pacha Mama (or mother earth)

 blow off steam verb 
to do something to get rid of negative emotions.

Which sound a lot better than people going around assaulting each other, don't yea think?

What did you say about Garth Brooks? How the Americans do it

So anyways, i´m in the market yesterday and i see this excerpt from a Tinuk festival, lots of people watching it, other screens has WWF wrestling which is also real and i think, oh yeah, we have something like that in Ireland.

How the Bolivians do it

Bored with doing the housework, no worries!

How the Irish do it

Oh yeah, its not only this we do either, we love sports and the law, check out this popular pastime

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Marchamarca, i got there and heres what happened

I made it back to Potosi, i checked into the Casa Blanca hostel, and a tourisim poster on the wall got my attention, it was a lost city track.

Waiting with Helen

After a quick chat with the guy in reception off i went to the office promising the trek, i got the office, i didn't get much answers, so i came back to the hostel, after talking to Walter on the reception an hour later he told me
 ´No, no, they are going on an expedition to Marchamarca tomorrow´
Walter calls the office again, i got to the office, maybe its on, maybe not, i have no boots, that's a problem, a problem that can be solved, i have size 45 feet, i couldn't find any shoes that size in the market, all i want to do is go to a lost city, i wouldn't have minded crawling.

Wall inspecting

To cut a long story short, i got woken up by Walter the next morning, he said
´Helen said your to get to her office in the next twenty minutes, if you want to go´
 and i was gone.

Rodney and myself

My trekking buddy was Rodney, since it was an expedition, things weren't really organised, Helen the owner of Amigos de Bolivia came with us to see for herself.

First up we got a taxi to the domestic bus station, then the bus, we picked up 2 girls and a guy then we got on the back of a truck to a cross roads. No one was sure what time the next bus coming was, they come when they feel like it, one came in about an hour. We were off.

After about an hour and a half on a dirt road over mountain passes, we were dropped off at the side of the road, then we trekked down a hill, after an hour we came to Spanish ruins

Looking up the valley

Now the interesting thing about these ruins, is noting can be found online about them, no one has really studied them, the Spanish ruins are from the 17th century Rodney found out from talking to some suspicious miners.

Da Chinese were ere

Since we had hard hats, this was enough cause to make some locals very jumpy, juys were shouting at us from a mine from over the valley, maybe we were Chinese coming to take their silver?

Hostel Marchamarca, dont stay here!!

First we had to sleep, we slepped in a room next to the church, i didn't get any sleep, between the cold, people snoring and people talking about how cold it was, things didn´t get better, eventually somehow, it was morning, thank god!!

First building in the ruins

The next morning we had guests, two guys who came to see what we were doing, maybe we were miners, no we were tourists, interestingly Rodney was quick to ask them about he history, recording their opinions, they people loved it, but we had to go to see the Inca ruins.

I was told i would be the first ever tourist to go to the ruins, alas a Lorenza from South Africa, girl i know from Rio claims to have been there, whatever, she is crazier than me, i will take first European to go there.

Welcome to Marchamarca

Apparently we had someone in our group who was studying Incas, too bad she didn't say much, the site has not been studied yest and there is no preservation order on the place, which is obvious by the amount of destruction being done to the area by Chinese miners.

Seem like Inca to you?

Apparently about 12 years ago, under a previous corrupt president, they sold the rights to the mines, and now about 1 million Chinese live in Bolivia

Mining in the valley

17 century Spanish village, local people use houses on the weekend

We met another ´miner´guy on the way back, he said he was a miner, same ding dong, lots of questions, shook hands to say good bye, i said to Helen, that guy isn't a miner at all, his hands are too soft, he must work in an office, that and he was a spy, to see who we were. Too funny, Hlen said people there are like that.

Bridge before the Spanish village

Oh Bolivia if you promoted these ruins, your kids wouldnt need to go near any mines!!

Monday, 2 March 2015

The Devils miner...

  Hard at work in Potosi
I made it back to Potosi a few days ago, while waiting for my buddy to arrive i decided to go on a tour to not waste any time.

What to do? Do the mine tour again of course, it´s what people come here, they made a movie too, its called ´The Devils miner´, more information here, or just watch it here

Its not just any tour, its rated the most dangerous tour in the world, for a good reason too i think.

All ready?

I went to Amigos de Bolivia and off we went.

The mountain, over eight million died in this mountain

The last time i went, we went to the top of the mountain, this company took me to the bottom of the hill, in the top its cold, at the bottom its room temperature, you go down deeper, it gets hot, very hot!

We walked in about 500 meters, then we went up ladders, up ladders, down ladders, reminded me of snakes and ladders, and we got to where the mine boss was.
I was near a 200 meter hole at one point, no barriers, no warning, you go in, its bye bye buddy, you´d be a statistic the eight million plus one, person to be taken by the mountain.

 Not a single sign like this

We could hear blasting on the tour, no problem, no problem!
 In my previous roles in Gas and Electricity companies, they were mad about health and safety, it would drive you nuts, a little cable on the ground, you have to write a report, i wonder what they would make of this mine? I think no way a bat would be allowed into these caves, no way!!

Mine boss (sounds German?)

We go to witness the mine boss pulling up one tonne buckets of ore from below, tough work. Rock with minerals is very heavy stuff, he would make $500 per week if he is really lucky

Machine to pull up the rocks

Workers pulling down one ton of rocks and dust from the shaft above

Workers pushing out 1 ton of rocks

The workers doing all the heavy pushing get about $30 per day, they start at 2am until noon, then back at it in the afternoon, they work over 12 hours of this, not much of a dream there.

The mountain has 500 entrances and employs 16,000 people, when the mine runs out in 15 years, they will be moving the operation down the hill, to follow the veins of silver, down into the earths core

We saw one guy that had to load about 140 wheel barrows and move it 30 meters per day, heavy work, i loaded one wheel barrow, i´m going to stick to my day job!!!
Whats funny is the people there look happy, and they got happier when we gave them juice and coca leaves.

The mine boss at work

Since they cant eat in the mine, there is so much poisonous stuff down there, one of them being arsenic, they chew coca leaves.
The last tour i did i was told they have to pee (Bear Grills style) on their hands to put the leaves in their mouth.

You´d think there would be showers for the miners, no nothing, you probably wouldn't want to sit next to a guy covered in dust on your way home in the bus either?

Uncle Tio (or the Devil)

Every mine has a Tio, or Devil, introduced by the Spanish to get the slaves to work hard, underground they work for the Tio

The miners gay test

The miners on Fridays go to the Tio and have a smoke with him, they light a cigarette for him, place it in his mouth and drink Ceibo, 96% proof alcohol, they do a big ´Aghhhhhh´ and beat their chests, if you don't do that, your gay

Our tour guide

She was the only one that passed the gay test, i would have settled for a Pina Colada

A little gift

As part of the tour, they stop, we give them juice and coca leaves, before we gave them TNT and Dynamite, oh how times change, the last time i was here 6 years ago, some guy bought TNT, Dynamite and blew up some hostel, talk about a bad hostel review?

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