Wednesday, April 29, 2009

(Almost a) taxi fight

We arrived yesterday morning at 5am off the night bus from Potosi in Uyuni. Uyuni is where the great salt flats are located and where we will be starting our tour.

When we got off the bus, it was SO freakin' cold. Seriously what a change from Potosi. It's warm during the day when the sun is out but once that starts going down it's like being in Moscow. It's extremely dry here as well, but if there were any precipitation in the night it would be snow for sure.

Back to the story: we get off the bus and try to get our bearings. There are no taxis at that time. We walk around the corner looking for some kind of vehicle (there are many unofficial taxi vultures in Bolivia) and find a guy driving through that stops and offers us a ride to our hotel.

We tell him we want to go to Hotel Avenida and we ask how much. He says $1.50. That's a lot because I know the city is small but it's 5am and I'm about to cry from the cold so we say yes and get in. Normally we should have only paid like $0.50, to give you an estimate.

We get to the front of the hotel, Charlotte asked the driver to wait while I went to the door and asked if there's any room. An old lady opened a tiny square door at eye level when I rang the doorbell. She said hi and told me there's no room left.

So I got back into the taxi and we asked the driver to take us to another hotel that is less than half the distance of the first drive from the bus station to the first hotel. We're talking like 300 meters here.

When we got there, I rang the bell again and asked for a room. The lady told us there is room so we unpacked our bags from the car and the taxi driver asks for $3. We're like "what?". That's just way too much. $2 is the price of a 3 course dinner at the central market.

I argued with him that it was too much while Charlotte took her bags inside the hotel. I pulled out $2 to give the man for driving us to 2 places. He kept arguing with me that it was 2 trips for 2 people so I owe him $3 which is double of the original $1.50. I knew that was just bullshit so I just gave him the $2 and started picking up my bags to head inside.

He continued to tell me I owe him another $1. I was starting to get impatient. I told him a solid "no" and picked up my last bag, which he grabbed and tried to pull away from me.

We were playing bag grabbies at this point. I was slowly dragging him toward the hotel door. He was a decent sized guy but he wasn't going to be able to compete with me in a physical match.

I told him to let go. He was yelling at me to pay up. We were playing tug of war with my spare bag that contained alpaca hats in it.

I lost my patience after about 10 seconds of struggle. I realized I was going to have to beat his ass, so I started putting my big bag down inside the hotel entranceway and then my backpack.

My plan was to drag him into the hotel foyer and then take him down and then ask for the police, but right when I was about to tug him into the hotel he suddenly let go and walked right to his taxi without a word, put the car in drive and left. Not another word from him. Like it was all a show.

So then I realized he probably does this bullshit with every tourist that might get intimidated enough to pay up without wanting to fight at 5:30 in the morning, but it's not worth $1 to him to get his ass beaten.

I'm so glad I didn't pay the extra dollar to the scamming coward. I think it would have been fun to have an excuse to kick somebody's ass but I guess it's better that no actual violence happened.

We had to wait until 6:30 in the foyer for our hotel room so that we didn't have to pay for 2 nights. That was 1 very cold hour even though my adrenaline was pumping for a while.

Charlotte was so cold and tired (physically) she had been talking to the hotel lady asking about the room, so I don't think she realized how close I came to kicking him in self defense, which in restrospect, was kind of a funny situation. After the guy left and while I was thinking about what just happened, she said to me, "we have to wait until 6:30 for the room."


Blogger ben said...

that's too bad, it would've been a good story and you could have used some of your black belt skillz

April 29, 2009 at 12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Next time, give him that one dollar.
They need it more than you.
If you don't feel good, tell him, it is from your sympathy.
Also, many terrible accidents happen during simple arguments in such countries.
I know what was your feeling but don't argue with anybody, if at all possible, while traveling.

April 30, 2009 at 3:25 PM  

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