I got up at about 8am and bought my train ticket out of Uyuni for when I returned from the tour on Saturday. Then, once I had spoken with the tour company I had to return it because it turns out they had made the tour an extra day (“at no extra charge… of course”). I did not want an extra day on the tour, I just wanted to get out of Bolivia. I was not given options and I did not really care that much so I went along with it.
On the trip was a German couple and 3 Irish girls on an “around the world” ticket. However, we did have to wait a few hours while 3 of our trip staged a sit-in protest in the tour company’s office. They had been promised an English translator and there was none to be had. They wouldn’t leave without one. The tour company was very upset and did not want to leave without them. They did call the Irish girls all sorts of nasty things including “foul people” and “Israelis”. The tourist police were eventually called. Unlike her counterpart of the day before, she was sober, at least enough to say “There is simply nothing you can do: you must go on the trip.”
The tour company was completely befuddled by the whole process. Even the tourist policewoman was confused: “Usually tourists get upset because they find out at the last minute that they are being overcharged for their English guide. But this is the first group that wanted to pay extra for one that I have encountered. I don’t know why these girls don’t just learn Spanish and enjoy our culture.” I tried to explain that the girls had really been upset by the cultural principles involved in keeping one’s word and I think it was lost on them. While everyone in the town seemed to be involved in the touring business, I doubt there was one among them who had ever been on a tour in his life! They offer products they do not consume themselves and, like the chef without taste, the blind traffic cop, and the deaf composer, often wonder why they have dissatisfied customers. Beethoven was a prodigy and we shall speak no more of him.
The Irish girls held out for another hour until someone’s grandmother was summoned to translate English. At this, the point of the Irish girls was proved and they decided to go on the trip and give some money to the German girl who spoke excellent English as well as Spanish and, of course, German. She would be their translator.
Personally I’m glad we didn’t have a paid guide who spoke in a second language. They often feel they have to speak just to prove that they can. They are misleading at best.