Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Impressions of Argentina

Last Tuesday the 21st we touched down at the international airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina! The days prior had been a whirlwind of cities and climates – Thurs through Sunday we had been in cold Oruro watching carnaval, Sunday afternoon we were back in tropical Cochabamba, Monday afternoon we landed in hot Santa Cruz, and the next day was the 21st.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Experiencing Bolivian Culture: Carnaval, Parades, and Dress

***I would like to start this post by saying that I did actually write it a week ago when I was still in Bolivia, but between spending several days in a row traveling and then being on a farm with no internet has slowed down the uploading pictures and posting process.  Apologize for the delay and appreciate your patience!

Before I came to Bolivia, I have to say I knew pretty much next to nothing about the country.  I'm not even sure I could have pointed it out on a map of South America.  On top of having the opportunity to see so much of the country, one of the highlights for me has been learning about the history and culture here, from the traditional ways people dress to dance to religious ceremonies.  Sam and I lucked out with our timing in Rurrenabaque and were able to catch part of a festival where people come all over from the Beni department of Bolivia (where Rurrenabaque is situated) to perform traditional dances.  It was kind of like a mini-Carnaval, but different (and a lot hotter). 

Monday, February 20, 2012

On Getting Mugged

Dear Parents: We're fine. No one was hurt, or even harmed and I only lost $75 and my wallet.

There's two things I've learned last night about getting mugged:
-First, if you talk about muggings that have been happening in the city recently over drinks with friends the same night, karma might just play a joke on you.
-Second, it's exactly as you imagine it to be.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Few More Bumps in the Road

After so much sight-seeing around Bolivia, Cochabamba was a welcomed break.  We literally did not see a single museum, but we did take the tram up to the Jesus statue.  It is the exact same one as the famous Jesus statue in Rio de Janiero, but this one is actually a tad taller.  Also, similar to the Rio one, it sits at the top of the hill, giving you great view of the city, which is surprisingly huge.  On top of taking Spanish classes, hanging out with my high school classmate Doug and his wife (and two adorable children), experiencing Cochabamba nightlife and cafes, we basically just chilled and figured out our plans for the next couple months and gear ourselves up for Carnival.

This includes WWOFing in Argentina, which we have finalized, yay!  We will be on a small farm/restaurant outside of Buenos Aires starting on Wednesday, February 22.  Now we just had to get down there.  No biggie, we´ll just fly down to Buenos Aireas.   There´s a Bolivian national airline, BOA, with direct flights from Cochabamba to Buenos Aires.  We make our way to the travel agency, and first we find out we can´t book one-way flights to Argentina since we´re not Argentine.  Ok, so we´ll book a filght out and return it.  But then we find out there is not a available single flight to Buenos Aires until February 27.  ANOTHER week in Cochabamba?  And what about WWOOFing?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On Death and Taxis

Between all the cities we've visited in Bolivia, we've ridden our share of taxis. We probably could take the time to figure out the minbuses that cost 1 Bs. and run everywhere, but for $1-2 the convenience is worth it. I now know where all the old cars from the US go - Bolivia (or probably more generally Central/South America). It seems that when dealers in the US get cars they can't sell they put them on a barge and float them down south.

Once they arrive in Bolivia, the taxi drivers attend a special school before they're allowed to drive them. The special rules are not limited to:
-driving as fast as possible at all times
-passing, cutting-off, and otherwise overtaking any car ahead of you
-creating lanes where they don't exist (you thought the road was marked for two lanes... but you can fit five!)
-honking when approaching intersections
-honking when passing cars
-honking if you haven't honked in the last few minutes
-after-dark red lights are actually optional, as long as you honk

Here is a collection of my favorite taxis so far:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tiwanaku, Lake Titicaca, and a Change in Plans

The beauty of extended travel is that, unlike a week-long vacation, you don't have to plan everything out ahead of time and you can decide to change your plans at the last minute.  Sam and I had been planning for awhile to go Brazil after Bolivia--in fact, had we gone with our initial plans, we would be there right now.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

La Paz is What You Make of It

I wanted to thank everyone that really set a low expectation for us about La Paz. You said it was large, it was loud, it was dirty, there were lots of people, there were lots of cars, it was polluted, there were people begging for money, it was cold, it was ugly, and it wasn't worth spending more than one day there.

Seriously, thank you. Because our expectations were so low, we were able to find things to do and see that exceeded any expectations, and we ended up staying 6 days in La Paz.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pimpin the Pampas

After weeks in the chilly altiplano, it was nice to escape to the Pampas (which means "plain" in Quechua) for a change in scenery.  Sam and I decided to book a 3 day, 2 night tour with Inca Land Tours, which we had heard good things about from a classmate in Sucre.  Surprisingly, we found out the day before the tour that we were the only ones who were on our tour.  One of the nice things about Inca Land Tours, unlike many of the other tour companies, is they don't pawn you off onto another tour if theirs isn't full.  So basically we got a private tour.  The only downside was we had really enjoyed meeting other people on our Salt Flats tour (after spending day in and day out with each other, it is nice to break it up with the company of others).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Booms, Bass, Barks and Banks

So last Friday (the 27th) we flew to Rurrenabaque, Bolivia to explore and relax (or so we thought) before our pampas tour on Sunday. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Unpredictability of Public Transportation in Bolivia

Traveling around Bolivia can be quite the adventure, considering 75% of the roads are unpaved.  The plus side to this: no worries about getting stuck in traffic!  The negative: some of the routes can be quite bumpy (as we experienced traveling between Potosí and Uyuni and on the Salt Flats tour) or downright dangerous (there is a reason there is a former major route known as the Death Road).  So imagine how excited Sam and I were to find out that there was an actual train between Uyuni and the town of Oruru, which you have to pass through to get to La Paz, our next destination.  Of course, we could have taken the bus, which was not dangerous, but from what we heard extraordinarily bumpy, not to mention no bathroom (which is not very appealing for a 7-hour bus ride).  And even better, for a mere 112 Bolivianos, or $16 per person, we could ride in the Executive class, which has seats that recline almost all the way.  Win!