Stranded in the Desert WITHOUT Jesus




A foreign sound emanating from underneath our bus interrupts the Crash Karma playing on my iPod.

“What was that?” asks Marina as our bus comes to a rolling stop on the side of the road somewhere between Uyuni and Potosi.

We are once again surrounded by sand and mountains, and once again mocked by the burning sun while our South American transportation has failed.

“I hope it’s just a tire,” I joke.

After three days and three flat tires on the Bolivian salt flats excursion, we’ve become quite accustomed to waiting on the side of the road while wheels are replaced by their spares (when available).

Unfortunately, this particular time, the problem is more complicated.

Our bus is completely void of battery power.


“See you later, suckers!” yells an abdominally obese, and morbidly obnoxious Santa Claus look-alike from the US.

He and the equally annoying Mrs. Claus are standing in the back of a dump truck, along with a dozen others.

They’ve just “hitched” a ride to Potosi.

“See you later, idiots!” I reply with a smile.

We stand by our defunct bus, waving at the group of dolts who were originally on said vehicle.

We are all thankful the obnoxious American elderly couple, in a state of sheer, albeit completely unnecessary panic, have decided to hitch a ride.

The daft, tattoo-covered German, who minutes earlier almost single-handedly destroyed the bus’ console in an effort to open the underlying luggage compartment, joins Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Some folks do not deal well with “emergency” situations.


A Bolivian child screeches as our barely-functioning, replacement bus makes a bumpy pass over some railway tracks.

A sketchy looking puppy just pissed a few inches from my feet. The stream of urine came even closer to Killian’s daypack.


Note the puddle of fresh urine.

Every time I look over the edge of the road and see sheer cliff for hundreds of meters below I get a bit lightheaded.

Alas, the stench of fresh urine wakes me back up promptly.

We are approximately 1 hrs outside of Potosi, the highest city in the world.

This is the 8th hour of our six hour journey from Uyuni to Potosi.

Tomorrow we are planning on visiting the famous, and horrendous Potosi mines. There’s rumours circulating we’ll be purchasing TNT and blowing things up in and outside of the mines.

I’d rather not miss that.


A little boy starts clapping in joy as the view of city lights in the distance appears through the bus window to the right of the road.

We all join in.

Tourists and locals alike, and likely that damned puppy, are all relieved to see an end to this trip.

It appears we are actually going to make it to Potosi tonight.

No need to resort to cannibalism after all.

Sorry to disappoint you, Mr. and Mrs. Claus.


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Putting the ‘Caca’ in Lake Titicaca


The three of us finally get the courage to venture out of our tiny 3-bed room and give the 10lb plastic bag of presents to the local family who is hosting us for the night. The night before, in Puno, we had purchased a ton of non-perishable food items, toiletries, and other knick-knacks on suggestion from Luciano.

We walk down the haphazard steps and turn right towards the hut serving as a kitchen. The flimsy metal door is half open, but I still knock to be polite.

Marina and Killian designate me to be our group’s communicator.

As I slowly enter the dimly lit kitchen, I am greeted by the sight of an indigenous woman on the floor vigorously handling a hairless guinea pig carcass in a shallow basin.

This is our dinner, I think to myself.

Five others work around the room on some component of meal preparation, but no one looks up to see the three strangers bearing gifts.

“Presents from us to your family,” I manage in broken Spanish.

Still no one looks up at me.

“This is so fucking awkward,” I whisper to Killian who just entered this unsocial environment behind me.

Just then, a hand of one of the women working around the 2 range gas stove is raised in my direction. Her other hand continues to work, and her gaze barely breaks from her task.

I put the bag in the floating hand.

“Gracias” is muttered as our bag of presents is quickly dropped to the floor without any inspection or acknowledgment.

Everyone continues to work in darkness and silence, and the three of us stand awkwardly in the doorway waiting for more interaction.

“Well, I guess that’s that.”

We walk back out feeling confused and rejected.

The metal door slams behind us.

This home stay with a local family on one of the islands on Lake Titicaca, the largest high-altitude body of water (approximately 4000m), was supposed to be our big finale of Peru travel, and yet it is failing miserably.

After this interaction, or lack thereof, the three of us brace ourselves for the most awkward dinner experience of our lives.

“What if we just say we are sick?” suggests Killian.

We’d all rather just avoid the dinner altogether; Luciano previously warned us against the locally prepared dinner due to high probability of getting a wide array of GI problems.

Just then, a knock on our door is heard.


The dreaded dinner call.

We are led back to the kitchen by one of the younger members of the family, and shown to a table with three place settings in the corner of the candlelit room.

Immediately after we sit down, three bowls of mystery soup are handed out.

“I can’t eat this…”

“Can you find any guinea pig in your bowls?”

“This is the worst dinner of our entire trip”

As Marina, Killian and I carry on our miserable conversation whilst mindlessly stirring the contents in our bowls, a couple members of our host family sit on the floor across from us devouring their cenas. No one speaks or looks at us.

“Let’s just say ‘thank you’ and go back to our room,” I suggest.

After pushing around our food some more we use this strategy and get back to our room.

Soon thereafter yet another knock on our door.

This time, we are dressed in traditional Peruvian garb to attend the local dance hall – or Inca-theque.

While Marina looks quite cute in her intricate and multilayered outfit, Killian and I look like ridiculous hobo wizards.


After an underwhelming Inca-theque, a cold night of broken sleep, the development of a sore throat, and another frightful meal with our socially challenged hosts, we were off the island and en route back to Puno.

Thank goodness.


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