I sit next to a weathered old man in a flat cap. He’s drinking from a big bottle of Fanta and talking vaguely to the room, indifferent to if anyone’s listening in that manner typical of the elderly. My Spanish doesn’t stretch to this so, just smile and say “Sí”. He spends most of his time staring intently out the window, muttering. It’s like he’s inspecting the land to make sure everything’s just where he left it, but anticipating some young hoodlums building something vulgar without his permission.
The train rumbles over Lago Poopo (heehee), there must be a good 10,000 flamingos here. They go on forever… Two German girls a few rows behind seem to giggle each time I look back for spare seats. Assumably this is because everything I do is really weird and embarrassing or because I’m so ruggedly attractive in my unshowered state that they are reduced to flustered schoolgirls at the site of me. Definitely one of those two.
The woman across the aisle demands my attention, asking me turn down the TV. It’s Bolivian pop which seems to have frighteningly specific rules for music videos. All are of groups of average looking, slightly chubby men between about 28-65. They wear black shirts with the top three buttons undone, black trousers and aviators. The song starts with an extended intro from the Andean flautist who is invariably the cool/ sexy one of the group. They stand on a mountain or by a church or in a bull ring and close their eyes and bite their lips in expressions of pure passion while a group of young cholitas do a traditional dance behind them. Cut along side this a beautiful woman in peasant garb collects hay as a bumbling young man vies for her attention, mostly by picking up the same bit of hay, stroking her arm and looking at her intensely. Three shots of the bassist walking up a mountain, an elderly man yelling at the couple for no reason, a sexy tractor ride and the singer punching the air and pulling back his fist with a pained expression and we’re done. That covers all forty or so videos I saw.
The woman across the aisle doesn’t need my analysis. She needs the TV down. Unfortunately for her she picked a British person for the task. How could I possibly be so bold as to decide the music level for the whole carriage? If I do it the people who want it loud will scorn me, heckle and probably throw me off the train. War will break out between the ‘quieters’ and the ‘louders’. Blood will be shed. I mean can I even do it? Will it just not work and I’ll look like an idiot in front of all my new train friends? Is it even legal?
Feared as I am I know that somehow saying no to her will be even worse so I get up and put it down from 26 to 21 inquiring to her if it’s enough. I don’t understand her response so sit down quickly resigning myself to at least having made the effort. The music doesn’t sound any quieter.
Through the window Rhea’s do that crazy ostrich dance and Vicunas watch us with bemusement. The sunset would be amongst the most vibrant and glorious I’ve seen but the woman across the aisle shuts her blind as it starts and I only get glimpses.
Next up Kim and Uyuni…