2 Jam Packed Weeks in Malcorancho and Uyuni

Saturday, October 11, 2014
Uyuni, Oruro, Bolivia

More on Malcorancho:

The team started off the second week living in Malcorancho home stays, by taking a visit to Cochabamba's largest market: the cancha . With surely no less than 20,000 different shops (well at least it felt like that many) this market had anything you would ever need from clothes, to local food, or even a pair of chickens.

Hours later we made our way to the fútbol stadium to watch Cochabamba's home team, Wilsterman, challenge the first place side of San Jose from Oruro. 8 yellow cards, 3 goals, and 3 stoppage times later (yes 3 stoppage times, the 4th official was off his game) the home team of wilstermam had triumphed to a 2-1 victory.

After returning from our day trip to Cochabamba, we continued our stays in Malcorancho living with host families and working at the nearby school. After a long day of work on the 30th, the leaders took us on a surprise trip for some sightseeing of the Andes mountains. It really ROCKed (bad rock pun, take it or leave it.)

The following day the crew took off a much needed day of work to visit the Collcas Inca remains in the town of Quillacollo . It was great to learn about the history of the Incas and see what was left of their modest homes.

Continuing this jam packed week, the next night there was a large fiesta with all of the host families and also the masons who were helping us at the school. When me and Ryan's host family arrived I told our host mother "if you want any more soda to drink, feel free to get some over on the table". In a straight face that eventually turned to a laugh out of both of us, she replied "no quiero fresca, quiero alcohol" or as you can probably already guess "I don't want soda, I want alcohol."  Delicious food (the chicken was the best I've ever had my life) and a warm and friendly environment made for a night that would not be forgotten. Some of the team members, especially Arvind and Jeremy, enjoyed testing the limits of the bass on the new stereo system that was acquired for the night. It's frankly a miracle that we can all still hear.

The next morning we finished up our work at the school and received a meal of thanks . With help from the masons and some locals, we managed to tile, paint, and stucco two complete rooms in less than two weeks. Not too shabby.

Although it was fulfilling to see our progress, it was also difficult to say goodbye to some of the friends we had met at the school. It was especially difficult to bid adieu to the masons, Felix and Criscencio who guided us through the whole project. It was great to see the friendships develop between us and our maestros. Emma and Criscencio had a stand out bond that consisted of many inside jokes and tons of laughs.

Leaving for Cochabamba later that day, we all had to say goodbye to our host families that had taken care of us for a week and a half. Ryan and I grew very close with our hosts making for a sad departure.

Fortunately we were able to go out with a bang by having an all out water balloon fight with the one, four, and twelve year olds of the family . Ryan's technique of cutting a hole in a water
bottle and squirting it out of the top combined with my continuous aerial attacks made for a deadly combo that very few small children could defend.

Finally, arriving in Cochabamba, we dropped off our bags at the hostel and made the journey to see the massive 33 meter high Christ statue that stood on the top of a nearby mountain. The sheer size of the statute combined with the incredible view of the city from up above was absolutely breathtaking (but actually breathtaking, it's pretty darn hard to breath at that elevation).


Finally, ending this busy week, the team drove out 2.5 hours to hike the tallest mountain in Cochabamba: Mount Tunari. At a final elevation of over 16,000 feet, the view from atop was absolutely surreal.



After Mount Tunari we enjoyed a well deserved pizza dinner . Worn out and exhausted, we were all looking forward to the activities to come in Uyuni.

The following day we said goodbye to our wonderful Cochabamba director, Jean Carla, and our driver, Raul, and departed on a bus to Oruro. After an 8 hour bus ride from La Paz to Cochabamba, I wasn't looking forward to this ride as much. However, an hour into the ride the movie Titanic came on in Spanish and I was captivated by the classic tragedy, trying to understand as much of it as I could. Time flew by and soon enough, we were in Oruro by 1:30pm. We had 5 hours to spend in this new town before our 7 o'clock train to Uyuni. We got lunch then split up and explored the city. We reconvened and went bowling, with Geoff emerging as the winner. Soon enough, it was 7 o'clock and we were on the 8 hour overnight train ride to Uyuni.

We arrived in Uyuni to discover it was as cold as the Arctic Poles. Freezing and tired, we walked a few blocks to our hostal at 3 am . Upon arrival, we were pleasantly surprised with steaming hot showers and the most comfortable beds we've had thus far. These comforts were short lived, as we were departing on a four day trip in the desert the following morning.

With our guides Don Braulio and Jorge, we set out in two different jeeps, only one of which had a functional audio speaker (unfortunately). The first day was interesting. We saw rocks shaped like animals and kings, herds of llamas, and learned about the history of a few small towns along the way. We arrived at a cozy hostal that night and the guys went out and taught the local kids how to play American football.

The second day brought new activities. We started off by going to a hot spring and enjoying the soothing natural hot water, shortly followed by lunch. It was the most relaxing part of the trip. After lunch we went and saw the geysers (or geezers, as Craig would say) . They were an interesting sight, and could be accurately described as steaming hot and rancid. I accidentally jumped into a hole of wet clay and got it all over my feet. For the third consecutive night, we found ourselves in a new hostal.

The following day was the shortest. We traveled to a few lakes and saw some flamingos and also visited a rock tree. We got back to a hostal pretty early in the afternoon, but unlike other hostals, this one was made of salt. That night the guys spent 4 hours playing a card game called president.

Our final day was our most eventful. We spent all day on the salar (2000 square kilometers of salt) taking pictures and playing football. We went to Fish Island, made of volcanic rock and home to cacti which were 1000 years old.

After hiking around the island and taking pictures for an hour, we enjoyed a lunch on a salt table with salt chairs. The afternoon held more of the same; more pictures on the salar .

We ended our journey at a train graveyard (where trains go to die). We got back to the hostal we stayed at on the first night and enjoyed a much deserved pizza dinner (again).

After trekking through the desert, we are all welcoming the challenge of the rainforest in Rurrenabaque in the coming week.