degenerate arm herpes and stripey socks

after 28 hours travelling from puno watching the andes fall, descending from 3 800 to 2 600 and being able to breathe again, waiting 3 hours in arequipa for a bus to lima, watching the andes change from snow capped to dry and desertic in less than 100 kilometres along the pan american highway that winds through the deserts of south peru while kissing the pacific coastline under a setting sun, absolutely beautiful, but i know these places already. sleep some more, ignore than van damme - schwarzenneger marathon on the bus, eat some papas rellenas and some chicharrones, sleep.
back in the country of reggaeton, last night at 12:30 (am) i arrived in lima, sooo not a good time to arrive. we jumped in a taxi for barranco (at that time i wouldn´t risk a collectivo with all my stuff..) where i just happened to bump into moises (THANK GOD) while aimlessly searching for a hostal at 1 am. tibo gets in tomorrow and i hope tomorrow night we´ll be jungle bound.

in the meantime i have all of 40 soles left to my name, maybe a little less now after the ceviche i had for lunch (YUM), 10 soles for the hostal so it´s ok, but jeebus. i can´t afford to take cash out on the visa if i´mma take the dog back, and i don´t want to keep mooching off of donations, even though they are always appreciated.

anyway. today is call delta and call embassy and figure out how the hell to get tiago back day, followed by maybe a bit of lima nightlife. or maybe i´ll just crash long and hard.

the centre is calling, good idea to go before it gets dark, god knows it´s sketchy out there.


isla del sol, isla del frio!

we wandered about and ate some delicious asaditos with a spicy maní (peanut) sauce OMGWTFBBQ so good. sooo good.
while the girls were sleeping off our crazy la paz night, i walked the dog and met a sweet columbian artesano, mighty beautiful to look at might i add. make that really beautiful to look at, so much in fact that he actually made me blush by telling me i was bonita, i stared at my feet for about 5 seconds and he laughed at me. aw. i´m a sucker for compliments from pretty boys with pretty accents. i ran off looking for rolling papers and told him i´d see him later - we ran into him later on in the evening before he ran off saying something we couldn´t understand, leaving us alone with our pipe and our bottle of bolivian red, which is weird but in a good way. i was hoping to run into him today as he had a plan for a 5 boliviano hostel, ok well it´s on straw mats instead of matresses but whatever, it´s cheap. imagine the itchy dreads though.

i was awoken the next day by the sounds of tiago chewing... on my llama foetus. doh! you don´t just find those everywhere, only in the witches market in la paz, and god knows what they use to fossilize them. i was so mad, it was a gift!

we had (another) trout lunch (it´s fresh and delicious and good for your memory, which i definately need) before jumping on the boat for isla del sol.

lake titicaca is beautiful and BLUE and big and the mountains kiss the water while the altiplano sun shines and the wind makes your face numb.

we got to la isla and climbed, oh how we climbed, and climbed, i felt like i was going to die, the pack and the dog and the altitude, dear jesus. 4 500m above sea level makes you feel like you´re going to suffocate, you pick something up off the ground and you´re out of breath. so imagine climbing up from 4 300m to 4 500 m with a 20kg pack and a dog, behind hoardes of mamitas and their llamas and donkeys, laughing at the silly gringo who´s clutching her heart and gasping for breath, offering 10 bolivianos to take the pack as i huff and puff, "No es la mochila.. es la altura!"

we get to the top and there it is, the illampu mountain range, it´s 6 500 m peaks (second largest in south america) majestically looming over the beautiful blue waters below.

we camped out for a night, three in a two place tent, with the dog who was vomiting llama foetus (or, as we call it, chupacabra) all night and releasing some of the nastiest gases i´ve ever smellted (i say it was the spirit escaping his little puppy body by any means it could!) and now we´re back in copacabana, stuck apparently because of a strike (oh, bolivia...). who knows when that will end. dammit. I have 17 days left! YOU CAN´T DO THIS TO ME! i need to get to the jungle! well, normally we can get a collectivo to kasani and then get to puno so all is not lost.

thibault, however, lost his CB and seems stuck in la paz, i don´t know how he´s doing.. but he has some stuff i left (ugh) at the hostal so i hope i see him again. cause you know a battery charger is always important to have when going to the jungle.

anyway. PICTURES. parce que vous le valez bien.

northern argentina: sierra de las 7 colores and la quebrada de humahuaca (3 600m)



first night in bus, blair witch styleez.

this one speaks for itself

lemonade in a bag!


la paz children and thibault

lago titikaka

illampu mountain and titikaka

isla del sol

4 500 m! i made it!


put your hands up for detroit la paz

la paz. so. where to start.

the llama foetuses? the shoe shiner who tried to steal my shoe? the san pedro cactuses sold at the witches market for a mere dollar fitty? fried chicken everywhere? the strange street man who grabbed my arm pleading that i give him money, and as i said dejame! and took my arm out of his bony grasp i smacked him in the face (by accident)?
or maybe my food poisoning - it was bound to happen sometime, living dangerously the way i do, except that it wasn´t caused by eating salteñas made by fat mamitas, but by a rather odd tasting wonton soup. serves me right for craving chinese food in bolivia, i guess.

it goes up and down and up and down and huff and puff and pause, heart.. going.. to.. explode. the pollution and the cars and the 70 degree hills and the traffic, both human and mechanical, all of this added on to the fact that you´re living between 3 800m and 4 085 m at all times just makes it so hard to breathe.
at night sometimes it felt like i was suffocating, a big sign of soroche, but i survived.

i think i have everyone covered for presents now. can you say neurotik ALPACA crew?

i sent home 7 kilos yesterday. it cost me a whopping 250 bolivianos. that´s a little under 40$. woot.

isa and her chilean friend maria josé came back to town, we went out for a lovely vegetarian meal with some kind of soya meatballs covered in cheese and god it was good, such a relieving change from, oh what´s this? FRIED FOOD. we went to get our tickets for copacabana and the lady at the desk asked us, french, the both of you? no, french, and canadian. i asked how she knew and she said the accent - surely isa has a very noticeable francophone accent but me? ME?!?!?! with my trusty rrrrs and shhhs and dropin off the d´s in ados and whatnot, with all that linguistic practise, surely she couoldn´t mean that i had a (heaven forbid) FRENCH ACCENT!

i was crushed. so i went and had a coca maté to cheer myself up.

we decided that for our last night in la paz we needed to do something, so we bought a 10 boliviano bottle of rhum (read: DOLLAR FITTY) and looked for food, salchipapas and cheese bread just wouldn´t cut it, so we wandered off towards the oblisk and saw a big MB in the distance.

McBoli! I exclaimed. the mc donald´s of the altiplano!

McBoli! replied the chorus of hungry people.

it actually stood for megaburger but we thought mcboli was funnier.

it was that, or salchipapas, or broaster chicken (read: deep fried chicken deep fried plantain and deep fried fries, which goes without saying)

after that we wandered down to traffic and surprise! the dj was a boli-frenchy. spinning ridiculously awesome acid house and old school detroit and uk techno. Stay up forever? check. Jeff Mills? check. old school Prodigy? check. Vitalic? check.

I know of a certain roommate of mine who would have been nuts. hell i went nuts - i needed a bit of speakerlove.

and then the trance hit, and that´s when i hit the bar, and met a lovely catalan girl who assured me my accent had nothing left of catalá at all, but that i sounded purely argentine. aww. thanks. i do still make a point of saying barthelona instead of barcelona, just because i can´t imagine saying it any other way.
after the comment from the lady at the bus terminal this boosted my ego and i went along happily chatting away in castellano with a myriad of different people.

i met a few people i wanted to hit, one that was trying to teach me about france, when i lived there for oh 8 years? hi, douchebag? don´t try to tell me that bretons and provençales have the same culture, cause we don´t. in any case whenever i´d try to say something he´d say, will you let me speak?
at one point i asked if he was interested in having a conversation or a monologue, and then i left.

then this italian girl lashed out at me when i was trying to help thibault out of the bar, he walked into her and i said lo siento, and she got really mad at me for no apparent reason, piss off you french bitch, i hate the french, i´m italian, blablablabla, vafanculo, vafanculo. i almost headbutted her, but decided that i´d let her make a fool out of her skankself by walking away. i don´t understand people who judge someone based on their nationality - i´m better than that. she obviously wasn´t. i bolted after that.

one thing i´ve noticed in bolivia is people are either extremely pleasant, friendly and helpful, or the are complete assholes. i´ll ask them something in spanish and they look at me as if i´m speaking to them in uyghur. i´ll repeat and repeat and they´ll just stand there - no entiendo

no entiendes o no quieres entender, la concha de tu madre!

the altiplano dwellers are a perfect example of that. they are either odious or delightful, whereas in the oriente, or eastern bolivia, people are generally a lot nicer, and generally politer. but, as in all of south america, people never say oops! sorry! i just bumped into you! or pardon me for stepping on your dog!

cultural differences or lack of education? maybe both?

in any case the indigenous population here seriously needs to learn garbage management and sanitation, because throwing bags of piss out the window (poor hitchhikers) or leaving their trash everywhere, only to burn it all later is definately not hygenic, nor ecofriendly.

getting a little sidetracked here, this morning i ran back to the hostel and put a very very very drunken thibault to bed before grabbing ALMOST all my shit (i left my CAMERA CHARGER DOH and my ganesh statuette) and then ran to isa and m jota´s hostel to wait for the bus. while waiting a delightful old man came and spoke to us and asked us if we were tourists, i said depends on your definition of tourist.

define tourist.

well there´s the tourist who comes with a camera and a credit card and hangs around with ex pats and just looks at sites and has little or no interest in local culture, and there´s the person who goes to share things and discover new people, cultures, places.

très bien, but you know those piercings on your face are going to give you cancer?

it was still a pleasant morning.

we jumped on the bus and promptly crashed, and upon arriving here in copacabana went to eat some fresh trout from lake titicaca.
delightful, and i´m not big on fish.

tomorrow we jump on a ferry for isla del sol where we´ll camp until tuesday morning when thibault comes to meet us and then we go to the jungle and i don´t know what isa is doing yet.

i have 20 days left and i´m petrified, i don´t want to leave, i especially don´t want to go back to lima the dreadful, but then again i miss my pajeritos and i´m sure the feeling is mutual... for most of them, anyway.

i´m going to go get a nice cold beer and go pet the alpaca standing in the street and hopefully dip my feet in the lake, which has a year round temperature of between 10 and 15 degrees, which is a hell of a lot warmer than the strait of magellan.


fossilized llama foetuses and crazy frenchies

i arrived in la paz after 18 hours in a chair that was NOT semi cama because i had indeed gotten the last seat out of santa cruz at the back of the bus, 18 hours of cut off leg circulation sitting next to a giant chiquitana with tiago crying, crying, crying. nice.

la paz is this crazy little hole of a city at the bottom of a sort of valley beneath snow capped mountain tops and shantytowns all around the downtown core. i think it´s a nice place, not as sketchy as lima, more hustle and bustle than santa cruz.

finding a hostel was not easy, tho.

i walked around for about 2 hours looking for a cheap hostel, it was all booked up full... being at almost 4000m after being at 1800m is quite a strain, so i went nuts after walking up and down and up and down and caved in for a room at 50 bolivianos which is cheap by our standards but expensive as fuck compared to my usual budget.

as i was walking to the hong kong pollos a la brasa place, three saltimbanco looking dudes were eyeing me up and down, one came to speak to me and for some reason i answered in french - turns out all three are french. we went for some lunch and some turkish coffee and went back to their hostel to drink a bit of rhum, while conversing it turns out that one of them knows bast and tom, what the fuck crazy world, so small.

so we´re probably going to go to iquitos together as the other two are going towards ecuador, and we´re both all gung ho on doing the ´huasca with the shaman in the jungle.

now we sit here with our bottle of rhum wondering what to do with ourselves in a city where civil dressed policemen ask you if you want cocaine and llama foetuses are sold on the street as talismans for luck.


bolivia really is a fucked up place, but i love it.


the adventures of cosita and tiago

i said goodbye to my friends in samaipata and hitched a ride with a bus back here, so i´m sitting here in santa cruz with tiago on my lap eating a sausage (and he won´t stop whining -- HUMANS EAT FIRST, THEN DOGGIES, ME ENTIENDES?) waiting for my bus to la paz, 120 Bs (15$) for cama service (first time for everything) seems like a nice price, anyway it was the only company with seats left so i took it. i want to get to la paz and send some of my stuff back to montreal because now with the dog and two backpacks it´s starting to get quite crowded on my person.

i´m loving bolivia but missing argentina like mad.. my little porteños. carry, juanito, kythe, and even the oos wankitos, mirko, polak, frances, sabri, sebas.. meh.

i´ll be back soooooooon i promise.

now to find some bathrooms and get the little one to evacuate his bowels as i´ve already been pissed on and it´s not pleasant.

more to come from the highest capital city in ze world!


nunca mas estaré sola....

day 5 in samaipata, escaping tomorrow back to santa cruz and hopping on a bus for la paz where i can hopefully find isa who is finally in the same country as me.

life is lazy and sweet, i spend teh day with the artesanos in the market calling out to tourists and trying to help them sell their stuff, all while drinking copious amounts of maté and eating delightful onion and corn cakes fresh out of the oven.

samaipata has a large expat community, full of francophones, bretons, normands, and swiss folk, so it´s strange to be surrounded by so many francophones! last night there was a bit fo a party down at la candé´s (where i live) and we were all drinking cachaça and blabbing away in french it was nice.

i went over to elodie's the next day, who showed me a pile of puppies.

"take one. please. either luna will kill them off, as she's already killed two and injured one, or they'll die. i can't keep them, and i don't want them on the streets."

maybe 4,5 weeks old, emaciated. full of parasites.

i couldn`t leave them there.

i picked the biggest and strongest male, he´s a little mutt but he´s adorable, i don´t know what to name him yet though. bene or tiago, i´m thinking, or maybe saqui which is quechua for favourite, but it´s a girl´s name. or nosé, cause everyone keeps asking "como se llama?" "no sé" "hola, nosé!". he´s curled up in my sweater right now, and he is the cutest thing i´ve seen in a long time.

yay! i have a dog. and i´m going to go to the market and pick up some menudos and some rice and make him a good meal so he can be a big strong dog who can protect me one day.. for the moment though, he´s tiny and fragile and i have to protect him.

i shouldn´t have problems taking him back, normally they need to be 8 weeks old for their first vaccines and whatnot so i´mma take him to the vet in la paz and get a health certificate for him and see what i can do to bring him back with me.. if i can´t bring him, well i guess i´ll have to stay here.

or maybe moises can help me out. i don´t know. i´ll find something, cause i´m not leaving him behind that´s for damn sure.



we left corumbá and went on to quijarró to take the fancier train monday night, we slept through most of it although the first hour was filled with strange music videos from mexican superstar who has a tendency of putting water faucets and candles on her bras. must be another one of their fetishes to add to "sola la puntita".

we got into santa cruz around 8:30, i went to pick up el monstro and then kyhe saw me off in a cab as i sped towards the 3rd ring road to get my bus and she went back to the bimodal terminal to scratch her non existant balls a couple hours waiting for her bus back to bsas.

i was lucky enough to arrive just as a collectivo to samaipata was pulling up, a mere 15 bolivanos (2.50$) later and 3 hours of muddy mountain roads later i was dropped off in the middle of the mountain. i walked the 2 km uphill between the road and the main plaza and i was there - samaipata.

it doesn´t look like much at first, a few streets and chickens and horses walking around, but when you get to know it it´s incredible.

i found a hostel and wanted to wander off to the market for some cheap food when an israeli backpacker interpelled me and asked if i wanted to share a cab to el fuerte, a ruin from the chané aazonian tribe, then the incas, and then the spaish colonialists. i decided i might as well get some culture in me so i followed. it was interesting but the misty mountain climat made it hard to see all the ruins.

came back to town and had a large yet overpriced dinner and a few beers with the israelis, when i heard "Hey Frenchy!" and saw pablo the crazy uruguayo artesano i met in santa cruz, we spoke for a bit and then i went back to my hostel to read a bit, wondering what the hell i coudl find to do here which wasn´t overpriced.. see i had originally come here to go to amboró, but no buses go there and it is a 25$ taxi ride to get there, or a 6 hour walk up the mountain.

a knock on the door announcing that sergio, the even crazier argentine artesano met in santa cruz with pablo was downstairs waiting for me, a big elfish grin proclaiming "Frenchy! you made it!".

samaipata is a little town lodged in between many beautiful parks and natural wonders, waterfalls and the like, where it would appear the only inabitants are children, taxi drivers, israeli backpackers and artesanos who don´t seem to be selling much.
it´s a really beautiful place, very magical, with tropical flowers and fruits and vegetables, everything is grown locally and 100% natural, no GMO or greenhouse labs around here. it´s the kind of place where you throw a seed into the grass and a year later you come back to find a plant growing there.

a large terrain here costs about 500$, with mountain views and everything, i can´t think of a better place to buy a farm to survive 2012 (damn you aprille. damn you.)

i met a wonderful girl from ile maurice who grew up in england, came here and stayed 3 years in bolivia. she still hasn´t gone home and isn´t thinking of going back anytime soon. she broke her foot in the winter and so has stayed in samaipata for 6 months, living in a delightful little house that she rents for 100$ a month, on the mountain with a large garden for her 3 dogs to play in.

this place is so wonderful, i love it, it´s full of little things that make me happy, like dirt roads and snot faced children waddling through the mud, waking up in candela´s garden to see a crazy columbiano doing telas from the tree overtop my tent, seeing all the artesanos work and all the animals, the horses, chickens, ducks, dogs, etc. i really like the countryside, and it´s doing me a world of good. especially living where i am, it´s like a big commune with childrena nd animals and artists. i love it.

yesterday sergio and i sat on the plaza drinking maté and conversing with the few like minded souls, he says i brought him luck yesterday, ahah.
it´s nice being somewhere were there´s nothing to do but look at the wind ruffling the leaves and the colours of the mountain changing with the sun.

i agreed to travel with sergio for a bit before going onto peru, he said he feels like we both have similar personalities and we get along well, he´s an elfish little thing and i´m " la cosita ", neither artisan nor juggler nor hippie, just a strange thing that exists and travels and cohabitates with everyone peacefully, apparently. we´re going to try and find a dog, and he says he´ll hold onto it for me when i leave.

our plan is to heard towards vallegrande, but we might go to trinidad in the jungle instead, who knows anyway.

i´m off to go eat a large segundo in the market for 80 cents and find the elf.


samba samba samba sim!

i decided that it wasn´t right to be in brasil and NOT go out, so i accompanied carlos and rafael (from the pousada) to a samba party on the outskirts of town.
i looked quite out of place with my dirty red pants and holey grey tanktop amidst the hoards of scantily clad brasilian beauties, but it was fun. i filmed it because there was a live band and it seemed so typical. i really liked it even though the women looked at me in horror (yeah well i´m not a citizen of the sexiest nation on earth, sorry, my ass is flat and pasty white, no point in wearing short skirts of tight pants!) and carlos made sure there was always beer in my hand.
i remember leaving, and that´s about it. apparently the door was locked and we were knocking on the window and i was coughing all night to the point where everyone in the dorm thought i was choking. interesting.

corumbá is a really pretty town on the pantanal and i hope to be able to explore it. the only problem is it´s already about 40 degrees outside and the minute i walk out i´m dripping in sweat and it´s almost unbearable - and it´s autumn here, i don´t even want to know what it´s like in summer.

it saddens me that i leave tonight at 7, i really would have liked to stay longer in brasil, but the fact that i´m ever so slightly illegal here and that my pack is in storage at the hostal in santa cruz are forcing me to leave the country.

it´s so strange, 10 km from here it is another world, this is the first time i have crossed a border and seriously felt the change. in la quiaca, even though argentina, it already felt like bolivia from seeing all the chiquitanas in the street, but here, it is a completely different world.

watching kids do capoeira under the shade of a tree in the street and hearing people play sambra rythyms while sitting at a terrace, fried pantanal catfish with feijoada and caprinhas, children playing in the street and the sound of football matches echoing through the city... yes, no doubt about it, this is brasil.

i just wish i could understand everything instead of 1/3! i can read it fine but listening to it is another story.

going to call delta to change my flight, i think june 1st sounds like a nice return date. right on time to pay rent!

i´mma go drink a caprinha (what? 11am you say? pff! i´m on vacation!) and walk around the pantanal now.


death train: part 1

we left santa cruz about an hour behind schedule, no surprise there, and settled into our faux leather seats and commenced our 22 hour journey out of the lowlands and into the pantanal.
an american in the peace corps told us last week when he took the train it derailed, so i had my hopes up for some similar deadly adventure but alas, none.
"the death train" is long a thing of the past, the tren mixto having been taken out of commission a few years ago.. essentially, there were no seats, people could jump in with cargo, people were standing in between wagons, and people died because of this, but also because of malaria, dengue and yellow fever. lovely!

speaking of dengue, i think i might have it, as i have most of the major symptoms: flu-ish, headachey (although not as bad right now as it was yesterday and this morning), aching muscles and joints, and rashes. really gross pus filled rashes. or maybe it´s just a bad cold and a couple rashes. in any case, i´mma take a lot of paracetamol and drink water and i should be fine.

anyway enough about me feeling like i´m about to die and back to the important matters, the dun dun dun.
the train is still a bit dodgy, going from side to side and bouncing on the tracks, sometimes giving you the impression that everything is going to fall over to one side. but we survived it, even though the heat was unbearable and the 7$ seats highly uncomfortable.
we met a brasilian with a heart warming smile named felipe who kept us company for a bit of the trip, inviting us to a joint as we tried to pressure him into drinking some of our cheap bolivian beer (which is prohibited on the train, apparently, because tomar en el viaje es peligroso...!). we kept opening the door despite the huge NO ABRIR LAS PUERTAS CON TREN EN MOVIMIENTO signs and the conductors kept yelling at us, once they were out of sight we would open them again to sit on the stairs and take in some air, it must have been 45 degrees in that train.

during the entire trip people would come in at one station selling all sorts of goodies, like lemonade in a bag (YUM), and empanadas, and asaditos, and hay pollo al horno pollo.. pollo al horno, and chicha fria, and what have you.. as usual i went against what everyone says and tried some asadito with yuca and had a few empanadas, and lemonade in a bag. at night it calmed down, when apparently if you listen closely you can hear the voices of those who perished on the train. i was sleeping with my head on the windowsill and at times i could hear faint noises that sounded neither like animal nor wind. i can´t say if it really was the ghosts of the death train, but at times it seemed a bit strange.

we arrived in quijarro at 11 and went to buy a ticket back to santa cruz but were met with a closed boleteria because there are no tickets left for today. well i suppose that´s alright, but what if we wanted to buy one for tomorrow?

so we thought about what we could do. technically i am not allowed into brasil for i am travelling with my canadian passport and require a visa and neither of us thought to bring our yellow fever inoculation slips, but we figured fuck it, let´s try it.

and so here i am in corumbá, brasil (pronounced brasiU), completely unplanned, completely surreal, in the heart of the northern pantanal.
normally i am allowed to stay 10 days, but i left my pack in storage at the hostel in santa cruz so that´s not really an option, and i want to get to samaipata and la higuiera.

my portuguese is non existant and they speak really fast but when they speak slowly i can understand maybe half of what they´re saying.

i think i need to learn portuguese next.

it´s really really really hot and my flip flops just broke and we don´t really know what we´re doing here or how to get out but hey!
this is what happens when you travel with me - you never know where you´re going to end up.


i almost died again!

52 hours (26 of which without a bathroom in the bus, argh, i won´t do the piss-in-a-bag-and-throw-it-out-the-window thing) and 14 hours waiting at a bus stop later, here we are sipping frutilla granitas in Santa Cruz, biggest city in Bolivia and main city in the tropical lowlands.

the road to get here wasn´t as bad as i expected, or maybe the driver was just a bit more careful, i didn´t hear any screeching tire falling off the cliff noises, but the gas tank started leaking last night and as a result we pulled over for an hour to check and fix it. if i understood correctly, the bad condition of the roads, all the bumping and rocks bouncing wear out the bottom and after a while the rocks start hitting the gas tank. apparently something similar happened with another bus company some time ago, and the bus exploded on a road. it´s a good thing the driver noticed the smell of gas, or else the same thing could have happened to us.
needless to say, long after the smell of gasoline had dissapated and the tank was fixed, i was still paranoid.
the bus was fairly empty so i was able to stretch out and actually sleep about 8 hours, which i really needed because i haven´t slept more than 4 maybe 5 since we left buenos aires.

it´s hot as fuck out here, and humid, but i guess that does without saying when you use the word tropical, although it doesn´t seem so tropical when you see the kilometres of lush pastures and cows, but does seem it when you see plastic looking leafy green trees and palms in above mentioned pastures.

it´s a very beautiful city, the centre is a mix of colonial architechture with small terracotta houses painted a variety of coulours, small dusty "cobblestone" streets lined with palm trees and flowers.

people here are apparently a mix of quechua and guarani, and they don´t walk around in traditional garb like pleated layered skirts, bowler hats and garishly colourd andean scarves - probably because we´ve left the andean highlands and altiplano and as such, the indigenous populations who inhabit it.

they also seem friendlier here, we´ve already bumped into a few people with massive stretches and even a guy doing piercings in the street.
we found a nice, clean, cheap hostel with perfect temperature water by following an indication in my guidebook (I LOVE YOU WHOEVER WROTE IT), 40 bolivanos for both for a room with two beds and showers, that´s about 12 pesos, or 4$, for two people combined. upon arrival an argentine juggler and a venezuelan artisan invited us to a joint and everyone was very friendly.

i like this place. i think i might stay on a few days after i come back from the DUN DUN DUN death train (which everyone knows out here!) because i can go to amboró park and check out some neat waterfalls in a jungle-esque setting, which means i´m going to push my ticket back, a week, maybe two, who knows, but i don´t want to leave bolivia just yet, as it is fast becoming my favourite south american country (argentina doesn´t count because argentina is argentina, dammit!)

superboliviana, indeed.


hi, i almost died in a bus last night

buenos aires - la quiaca: 1900 km, 28 hours.

the bus was an hour and some late leaving retiro and i do believe we might have been the only non-bolivianos on the bus.
a child kept popping his head over the seat and staring at us. i kept wiggling my finger and smiling and he´d hide his head, only to pop it out again five minutes later. i thought he was cute with his little black eyes and big puffy, rosy cheeks, so finally i asked him como te llamas?, he gave me his name but i can barely understand 3 year olds when they speak in my native tongue let alone a language i haven´t begun to master. after about three times kythe and i both understood that his name was nahuel, which sounds more argentine than bolivian but anyway, then he asked us our names, which we never should have given him : for the next hour and a half he kept screaming catalina! porque reís? callate! callate!
one day i will understand why people on buses in latin america think it´s a good idea to feed their children sweets and 2 litre bottles of soda and let them run around and scream and make everyone else in the bus´ life miserable. sugar = hyperactive annoying children. especially on a 28 hour bus ride.

we made friends with the bus drivers (they saved us from nahuel the horrible sugar baby) who shared maté with me and let me smoke downstaires (awesome) and i took about 200 pictures of the sierra de las 7 colores and all along the road of the quebrada de humahuaca, i tell you, i´ve never seen anything like it and it still leaves me in awe after the second time. and now you´ll be able to see why cause i have pictures, pictures, pictures, but i probably won´t be able to upload them until i get to lima.

we arrived at la quiaca around 3pm, took a 5 peso warm but not hot shower and then dragged ourselves to the border, jumping back and forth on the bridge saying "look! now i´m in bolivia! oh! now i´m in argentina! oh! i´ve got one foot in each country tee hee!" like the idiots that we are, we crossed into villazón where i promptly bought some hoja and bica because it´s just so good and LEGAL and really does help with the altitude. we then went to the bus station to find a way to santa cruz where we were told we´d need to go through tarija to get to destination instead of sucre or else it would be an extra 10 hours. we paid all of 5$ US and then went to find something to eat, walked around the market where i found something scrumptious for amélie, tried to find an atm but it wasn´t working, and then i steeped some hoja with my yerba and made myself some cocamaté before embarquing on the bus. i don´t know if cocamaté is something common but it´s hellagood and it keeps you awake and alert and keeps soroche away.

i look at my guide to see where we´re going, my map tells me that tarija is 189km from villazón but the bus driver says 7 hours.

that seems... strange, even for south america.

now i knew beforehand that roads in bolivia are generally unpaved, and most of the times resemble more dirt paths than roads, ferg had told me the first hour of bumpy roads and heads bouncing onto ceilings would be funny but then it would get tedious and annoying quite fast - especially considering there were 4 grown humans (i dislike the world adult because i do not yet feel i am one, nor will i ever be one if i continue sleeping in subwoofers in filthy blankets in the mud) and two children in a bench for 4 people with seats that didn´t recline. but that didn´t bother me, not one bit.
neither did the lack of street lights, well you´d imagine that there would be none on a dirt road, right?

what bothered me was as i looked lovingly out the window at the jagged mountains poking out against the clear night sky, thinking about how i would have rather seen the scenery at night rather than day, i peered down..

and saw the road under the wheel.

a one lane road about 2 metres wide atop a cliff with a 2500m drop towards a winding, dry river bed in the valley below.

my vertigo kicked in and i started jumping to the other side, perhaps thinking that extra weight on the other side of the bus would keep the bus from tipping over the edge, or make me feel better about the fact that i was literally peering down upon my possible death, and started hyperventilating.

i then understood why 189 km was a 7 hour bus ride.

every now and then you´d feel the bus tip to one side and feel the screeching of breaks: one of the back tires didn´t seem to be working so well and sometimes would just barely skim the edge and i could feel my heart leap out of my chest as if it was my last waking moment.

it was scary as hell but exciting in a strange way. how many times in your life can you say you drove through 2 metre wide hairpin bends going up almost 4000m in the andes in the black of night, only to go back down to 1000m and then go so far up all you can see out the window is clouds, clouds, and more clouds..?

wait! i can say it again! because tonight at 6:30 we jump on a 24 hour bus to santa cruz which is in the lowlands, but to get there you have to go through the central highlands (aka antiplano), at some 3500m, where the roads are apparently really, really, really bad, but also really, really, really beautiful.

i can´t even imagine what the la paz - coroico road through las yungas must be like.

aside from bus frights, it really is beautiful up here, and high up, and the sun beats down like mad and at night it´s not too cold but right now we´re only at some 1 500m. i´ll tell you if i´m cold in sucre where it´s 2 000m higher.

we had a nice little breakfast at the mercado central, a sort of bolivian funnel cake with honey and a cheese empanada and dear god people like their food fried - everything i´ve eaten since i´ve been here has been fried, and not because i´ve asked for it that way, but because it´s cheap and local and i like eating cheap and local. i know you´re not supposed to eat food from street vendors but PFFFFF to that.

i love the bolivianas, with their layered skirts and colourful scarves which they use for everything - carrying their children, as backpacks, as ponchos, etc.. and the hats! i want a hat like that.
although distinctly andean, bolivians have finer, less prominent facial features than their peruvian neighbours (i call it "the inca nose"), but they look so much more indigenous, dark skin that is tanned by a scorching hot sun, rosy cheeks and they come up to my belly button (well.. maybe not but you get the picture). i´m fascinated by them, they´re not what you would call aesthetically beautiful by our modern standards but they have something to them that i just can´t pinpoint. maybe because they´re still so traditional in the way they live and dress and speak - their spanish is very accented with some andean dialect, i´m hesitant to say aymara or quechua because there are so many others but it´s the first that come to mind.

that, and they have AMAZING handicrafts. amazing.

so tomorrow night we should be in santa cruz which means saturday we´ll be en route for quijarró on the (dun dun dun) death train and by monday night i should be back in santa cruz en route for sucre, from there uyuni to see the salt flat, la paz just to say i was there and i hope by next friday i´m in copacabana on the edge of titicaca so i can do a little tour of isla del sol (fabled birthplace of incan mythology) before jumping on a bus to puno so i can get back to lima on time for my plane on the 17th. i hope to arrive in lima the 14th or 15th so i can still cram in some last minute souvenirs and see moises my punk friend who has the BEST SMILE EVER and eat some ceviche and then goodbye, south amerika.

but not for long. and now - bolivia awaits!


waiting for my bus, all we´ve been doing is pigging out because it seems like it´s all there is to do here in tajira, oh my god the little indian woman in front of the bus terminal makes the most AMAZING empanadas ever, they´re potato and pea stuffed with spicy mined meat and drool, once again, screw you, people who say don´t eat on the street.

on another note, i was asked if this is the pg 13 version of my trip.

to you, i answer: me? do anything even remotely non catholic? never.

well. i won´t document it in a travel blog. i save the crispiest stories for home. like moustaches and weird looks in the morning.