Goodbye, Mary Poppins


This blog entry about the events of Friday, January 16, 2004 was originally posted on January 19, 2004.

DAY 90: Our wake-up knock on the door came about half an hour before dawn — at an hour the girls appropriately called “stupid o’clock.”  The point of waking at such an hour was to catch the sunrise, and we were disappointed when we discovered it was too cloudy to see it — but we were already up and it was too late to slip back into bed.

We drove south as the sky got lighter.  Everyone was too groggy to do anything, except for Lara who was awake and about as cheery as Mary Poppins.  She tried to get us to wake up for a sing-along, but no one — including myself — was into it so early in the morning.

“Grumpy fuckers,” Mary Poppins said.

THINGS STARTED PICKING UP when we arrived at the fumaroles and steam geysers of Sol de Mañana, a prehistoric landscape of steam and sulfuric gases rising from bubbling pools of mud — it was the perfect setting for singing another one of our standard jeep classics, Eruption’s “One Way Ticket” — which we all were convinced went “one way ticket to the moon” in the chorus.  (It wasn’t until I looked up the lyrics for this entry that I discovered the actual line is “One way ticket to the blues.”) 

Steam shot out of blow holes as an earthy ooze bubbled in craters like flasks in a science lab.  Sam, who was wearing Lara’s towel on her head for warmth making her look a bit like Little Red Riding Hood, described the area as a witches cauldron or The Bog of Eternal Stench from the 1986 movie Labyrinth

Our next stop was at the thermal baths, with mossy water heated up naturally from the underground percolation of volcanic activity.  The seven of us reluctantly stripped down to our trunks and bikinis on that cold morning, but didn’t regret it after slipping into the relaxing hot waters.  Without shower facilities, it was the closest we could get to a bath for a while. 

Breakfast was served out of the back of our jeep as we dressed up in our clothes.  Lara, still in Mary Poppins mode, went ahead and prepared scrambled egg sandwiches for the “kids” Sam and Zoe.  Just when everything seemed like the place could be normal, a caravan of randon [sic] trucks drove by, seemingly out of nowhere.  Yes, we were still in Dali World.

OUR JOURNEY THROUGH DALI WORLD continued when Primo took us south through the surreal desert landscape, passed an area known as Rochas de Salvador Daly (Rocks of Salvador Dali).  The rocks, although too far to drive to, looked exactly like the backdrop of many of the artist’s paintings.  “Man, Dali’s such a fraud,” I said.  The others agreed; the “master of surrealism” simply came to the Bolivian desert and painted still lifes of things he saw.  (I wondered if he too rode in a jeep and annoyingly sang disco songs in his driver’s ear.)  We continued through the landscape and stopped again in the middle of nowhere for a photo opp.  The Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive” suddenly came on, prompting me and Lara to pose in the obvious way against Dali’s ripped off background.

“Beat that, Dali,” I said, finger in the air like John Travolta.

“IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL,” Zoe said as we arrived at Laguna Verde, an aquamarine lake nestled at the base of the Volcan Licancabur, our next stop — and the final stop of Lara and those going to Chile as it was just around the volcano from the border.  For my final moments with Lara in Bolivia, we hiked down the cliff and to the edge of the lake for a better photo, not caring that we were obstructing the view of all the others that were too lazy to climb on down. 

Lara’s transport jeep to the Chilean border was about to depart, so Zoe, Sam and I bid our Mary Poppins goodbye before she sailed away on a weather vane structure — it was the closest thing we could find for a prop since no one had an umbrella. 

“Oh no, guess who’s in the jeep,” Lara said to me.  I looked inside and realized she’d have hold in her comments and snickers — the couple we knew as Mr. Lilliput and Gulliver were in the second row.  Sooner than we thought, Mary Poppins and a bunch of others went forth on “Gulliver’s Travels.”  The jeep cruised by the Laguna Verde (picture above) and around the Volcan Licancabur to the land of Chile.

“Okay then,” I said to the kids Sam and Zoe, posing as the father Mr. Banks.  “Let’s go fly a kite!”

Sam smiled and started singing the rest of the words to the Disney song.

LARA’S SPACE IN THE LAND CRUISER was filled with Betty, the woman who had been cooking for us and the people in the other jeep in our company’s caravan (where she had been riding in).  She wasn’t nearly as much of a conversationalist as Lara the Guernsey Girl, but had a good sense of humor nonetheless.  She had with her a new tape to listen to, and she laughed at the part where, in the middle of a song, some kid recorded his voice over the music.

We head northbound back towards the way we came, on the stretch of desert near the Rocks of Salvador Dali.  In the distance we saw a lone figure walking under the desert sun.  We thought it might have been another random guy selling sleeping bags, but as we got closer we realized it was Gilbert.  His jeep had left him stranded in the middle of the desert for two hours thus far, without any information that he’d be picked up.  Gilbert told us that he started walking towards the Dali Rocks for a picture, not realizing how far they were, only to see his jeep leave him and get farther and farther away.  Two jeeps drove passed him as he tried to hitch a ride to anywhere, but no one stopped for him — until we did.

We decided to wait with him in the middle of nowhere until his jeep came.  Primo explained that perhaps his jeep was in a hurry because most of its passengers had to catch the transport to the Chilean border.

Gilbert’s jeep finally came without anyone else; all of them were in fact Chile-bound and he was the only passenger left to go back to Uyuni.  He hopped into his jeep without complaining, just happy that he didn’t have to be stuck inside a Dali painting forever.

THE WEATHER OF THE SURREAL WORLD got even stranger — the sun was out one second and the next it was snowing.  The afternoon desert drive wasn’t nearly as fun without Lara — Sam and I were the only ones doing the “Y.M.C.A.” dance while the others slept — but we were all still in good spirits when the jeep went in reverse, making a funny electronic female voice say, “Attencion!  Attencion!  Esta coche esta retrociediendo…” over and over.

After a lunch break near a less impressive salt flat, we stopped for a pee break in the little village of Villa Mar where three boys that were in charge of the public toilet followed us around town.  We continued onto the Valley of the Rocks, another surreal attraction in Dali World.  Huge monumental rock formation surrounded us, one of which I deemed worthy of a “rock piss” (yet another phrase we coined on the trip).  The Valley of the Rocks reminded Sam and Zoe of the movie Labyrinth as we walked through it, looking for rocks to do stupid poses with.  We found one with a hole in it and went to town with our cameras

OUR HOME FOR THE NIGHT was at a hostel in Alota, a small village with a lotta nothing going on.  As one of the pueblos modelos (model villages) in the region, most of the villagers were occupied constructing the town in hopes of bringing in tourism.  I walked the entire span of the town to stretch my legs after the long ride — this time without “the British nanny” — until it was time for dinner.  We sat over our meal wondering what our Mary Poppins was doing on “Gulliver’s Travels.”  Suzanne told us that she actually spoke to “Gulliver” before for an inside scoop and that the unlikely pair was taking a chance of getting the short Peruvian into Chile — usually immigration doesn’t allow it. 

We theorized what the short Peruvian would do if he couldn’t enter the country and was stranded at the border:  he could live under a bridge like in “Billy Goat’s Gruff” or get a job as a construction cone.  If his tall girlfriend stayed with him, they could set up a “shell game” with two other cone-shaped hats and charge money.

“That’s so mean you guys, they’re in love!” Zoe defended.  But her sentiment was only short-lived when she thought that maybe the two could join a freak show together.

WE TURNED INTO OUR DORM with our notes and journals until the lights went off with the generator outside.  There was no British nanny to tuck us in with her funny sarcastic comments that night, but we were okay.  As I told the “kids” earlier in the day, I still had my cookies — and “just a bagful of Oreos helps the medicine go down.”

Next entry: Back to Reality

Previous entry: Surreal People

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “Goodbye, Mary Poppins”

  • too many pics to choose for wallpaper!

    what’s a nerd to do?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/19  at  07:20 PM

  • “one with a hole in it” pic reminds me of “hmmmm” planet eeyartee productions in TMITR…hah!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/19  at  07:25 PM

  • Markyt, i totally agree!

    it’s a gloomy day here in CO, i feel better after looking at your picts erik! smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/19  at  08:42 PM

  • dood..Laguna Verde’s fa-bu-lous!

    So long Ms. Croft…until next blog…take care.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/19  at  09:05 PM

  • i have new wallpaper.

    Posted by Alyson  on  01/20  at  12:23 AM

  • Something tells me this isn’t the last we’ll read of Miss Croft.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  01:53 AM

  • did anyone else see the smiling face in the mud bubble (pic 2)? that was weird.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  08:00 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Back to Reality

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Surreal People


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