Urmiri Hotsprings Part 2 – A Bolivian Adventure

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Often we find that life flourishes in places that we least expect.

Finally at the end of our long journey, our minibus slowly crunched it’s rocky way towards Hotel Gloria’s service gate. Our driver hopped out and screamed at the top of his lungs for someone from Hotel Gloria to open the gate. I honestly felt bad for the weather worn man, but I gueseed that this was just the way that things were done here.

After a few minutes of shouting, my minibus was still locked outside of the gate. I started to wonder why the poor man didn’t just use his cell phone to call the front desk?

“After all”, I thought, “this is a hotel, after all”.

Some more time passed and I began to get worried. My mind began to race.”Perhaps he doesn’t have a phone”, I thought.”Or perhaps he does have a phone and can’t use it?” I really wanted to help move this situation along. However, my Spanish wasn’t good enough to communicate with the chattering family that shared the bus with me, and I couldn’t communicate with the driver either. Out of desperation, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my own cell phone. I hopped out of the sun baked minibus and walked over to the frustrated driver. I looked him in the eye, held out my phone and pronounced the most useful Spanish phrase that I know – “por favor” (please).

To my dismay the driver just shook his head at me and refused my kind offer. At this point there was nothing else I could do other than return to our bus.

Finally, half an hour later, someone came to open the gate.

As we drove inside the gates, I saw green hills and colorful flowers creeping up the walls of the canyon. I couldn’t help but think how beautifully lush this oasis was in contrast to the arid altiplano that we had just been driving through. Other than the gentle sound of the thermal waterfall splashing into its pool, it was truly quiet.

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I was quite thirsty so I figured that I would ask the reception for a coke and call my husband from the plush couch in the lobby.

The clerk at the front desk gladly sold  me a coke for 6.00 Bolivanos ($0.87 USD), and told me about their facilities. Afterwards I sat down on the couch (as planned) and extracted my cellphone from my knapsack. I dialed my husbands phone number and waited. To my deep frustration there was no ring. I looked at my cell phone – no reception bars :-(. “Perhaps I am in a part of the hotel with no reception”, I thought. I stood up and tried calling from almost everywhere in the lobby – still nothing. Using a combination of all the Spanish I could articulate and a mixture of charades, I managed to ask the hotel clerk if they had a place with better reception. The man looked at me, smiled, and made the motions that meant that there was no reception anywhere in or around this hotel, (which was in the  middle of no where). I was extremely annoyed, and knew that my husband was waiting for my call. Out of desperation, I passed a 20.00 Boliviano bill across the desk and using charades I asked if I could use their landline. Much to my disbelief the man told me that the hotel doesn’t have any landlines, internet, and as I already knew – cellular reception. Out of sheer desperation I asked if I could communicate via morse code – the man smiled shook his head NO.

I knew from prior experience in the middle of nowhere that if there was any reception, it can only be found on the tip tops of the hills and mountains.

Needless to say, I did a lot of hiking that day, and  never was able to catch a single wave  of reception in the Andean winds. Given my  situation I accepted that which I couldn’t change, and enjoyed the truly beautiful place that I found myself in.

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Our minibus was due to leave at 4:00PM, but the family that was returning to La Paz with me wasn’t ready to leave  until 5:00PM. I returned to La Paz very late that evening.

Often we find that life flourishes in places that we least expect. Contrast creates the most beautiful paintings. The first light of dawn is far more coveted than the sun shining at 2:00PM on a hot summers day. So, too, the colorful flowers and hot springs of Urmiri that are extremely beautiful are even more so after three hours of driving through the arid Bolivian altiplano. Similarly, returning to La Paz after a day at the Urmiri hot-springs was a moment of appreciation for the small things in life – such as a 3G connection, landlines and internet.

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Zoe Green

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