Do I know it´s Christmas time at all?

I had to get up at 4:45 a.m. to be sure to get the kids ready, and let them open their few little gifts, and get to the bus for 5:30 a.m, so we could leave at 6 a.m. for Tupiza. Unfortunately, because there is a 1 hour time difference and it was so late when I set my alarm, I accidentally got everyone up at 4 a.m instead. Aodhan was extatic that there were some presents and a note from Santa saying that most of his gifts were in Toronto. His favorite present was a World Atlas which has a Bolivian focus. He looked at it all the way to Tupiza. We tried to sleep again, but it was no use.

The bus to Tupiza was a small bus. There were two guys on it who had been drinking, or otherwize imbibing. The bus had to make a couple of stops for them to relieve themselves of last nights alcohol in various ways. One of the old Bolivian grandmothers on the bus finally told one of them to sit down and behave himself and they were both quiet after that.

The road was much like the road from La Paz. It was like driving on a washboard, through miles of desert. Every couple of miles we drive down a river bank and through a mostly dried up river bed. These are quite bumpy. Some of the rivers have some water in them, so sometimes we drive throught a few feet of water. We dozed, we played cards, we talked, we drew. Sometimes the bumps were almost enough to knock the wind out of us. We stopped along the way to drop people and to pick people up. We mostly stopped at little pueblos with a few houses, but one time we stopped to pick an old lady with a huge bundle and two bags up, and there was nothing in sight. We could see for miles across the landscape, and there was nothing but a few patchy pieces of grass and hills and mountains way in the distance. Where did she come from? How far did this 60-70 year old woman walk with this huge pack and two bags?

We stopped at a small town for a break after several hours. We all needed the pee stop. Unfortuately, the public bathrooms were not open yet. Many of the other passengers were utilizing a ditch behind some buildings, so the boys and I did the same. (When in Bolivia...). I bought some fresh squeesed orange juice. They squeeze it right there in front of you for about 50c a glass. I am going to miss the fresh squeezed oj. The kids were taken aback when I reminded them that it was Christmas day. They commented that everyone was working, and here it was just another day. The old ladies walked around selling empanadas that they had been up all night baking, and the fruit sellers had gotten there early to pile their produce neatly.

The scenery started to change as we headed into the mountains. The mountains were beautiful. Soon we started to see lush green valleys with blue rivers flowing through them, and lovely chartreuse willows. The mountains here are all different colours, There are bright rusty mountains, and soft coppery green, soft greys and small round ochre hills. The hills in the distance are a soft violet and the sky is azure. After miles of grey desert, it was breathtaking.

We were well past the noon hour that we were supposed to arrive at, and I silently prayed that Hilary wouldn´t get discouraged, or even worse, get a bus, as the sun fell lower in the sky and I still wasn´t there.

We started to see a built up area, and we stopped at a checkpoint to pay a toll to get into Tupiza. The kids started to look out the windows to see if they could see Hilary. They were bouncing around with excitement. As we pulled into the terminal, Ciaran yelled out the window and Iain and Hilary jumped up and started waving.

We were overwhelmed to see one another after such an ordeal to get together. Hilary already had a hotel - a great one too with a nice breakfast included and a pool! We walked there and talked for a while. I took Ciaran and Aodhan out to Call Greg for Christmas day, and to find out about tours to the Salt Flats, and to get Hilary some coca tea and medicine for Soroche (altitude sickness). The tea really helped, the pills were questionable. I also met a nice couple named Sonia and Henry who had a cute baby, and found the market and a restaurant for the evening.

We all went for a quick swim and then to a nice long pizza supper. There were two little girls (3&5) at the restaurant (kids of the owners). They brought out some books and I read to them in Spanish, and they helped me with my Spanish words.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.
Felize Navidad y prospero año y felicidad.

What a strange and wonderful Christmas day.