This is the literary version of me emerging from the depths of jungle shrubbery after two and a half weeks of being MIA with sticks in my hair and a wild look in my eye, not knowing where I am. In reality I am in Bolivia and have not been anywhere near a jungle because neither Laura nor myself felt it was important to fill our malaria prescriptions before venturing to South America...eeeee. We're sorry mom's and dad's.
Get ready people, a lot has happened. Let me just start with this: I've heard Cantaloop's "Flip Fantasia" more times since arriving in Bolivia than ever before in my life. Which was kind of a lot because I had to do a choreographed dance routine to it in seventh grade for musical theater. If you haven't heard the song, download it, it's a great jam. Moving on...
Laura and I were accepted into Bolivia which, rumor has it, is a great place to start a revolution (I'm looking at you Bryan Maxum). I honestly don't know how it happened. Laura and I showed up with less than half the documents and/or accessories we needed for our visa applications and after a little fancy verbal footwork on the part of our Argentinean friend Gustavo and $130 dollars we were visa-stamped and ushered out into streets lined with enormous bags of coca leaves and lazy dogs.
Bolivian landscapes are incredible, remote and diverse. We won't be venturing into the lush jungle lands of Eastern Bolivia because of the whole "no malaria pills" situation but I'm assuming they are equally as mind blowing as their mountainous counterparts on the western side which we've had the pleasure of perusing. Yep, we are sticking to the highlands, hoping mosquitoes don't dig thin air and adjusting to some serious altitudes. I've never properly appreciated sea level until now.
Bolivia is the coolest place I've ever been. Landscapes started getting cool in Northern Argentina with the Seven Colors Mountains (please see below) and it just kept getting better after we crossed the border.
Hokay, I'm going to get sectional on you real quick:
VILLAZON AND THE BORDERWe crossed into Bolivia through the border town of Villazon which turned out to be a little gamey so we weren't really trying to stick around for long. We thought we'd be catching a train that afternoon to Tupiza but, like everything in Bolivia, that didn't go as planned. The train was scheduled for the next day, not in accordance with the info provided on the website. We ended up having to take the bus, which we were sort of trying to avoid, and it turned out that was for good reason. It was terrifying. Laura and I were not ok afterwards and it took a few days to really be able to talk about it lightheartedly. It wasn't one thing in particular but a combo of suspect aspects that made it soooo bad. For instance: The bus looked like it could have been part of the big, rusty ship in Waterworld starring Kevin Costner. There were no shocks and no road. At one point our driver used a river as a solution to running out of "road". We teetered along precipices, swaying fro m side to side, going entirely to fast. Call me Grandma NoFun but there is no reason a bus needs to be going over 15 miles per hour under such conditions. We made it safe and sound to Tupiza albeit emotionally scarred for life.
Maybe it was because we were so thankful to be alive or maybe Tupiza really is as glorious as it seemed, all I remember is being sooooo happy with everything in that sleepy little town nestled amongst low mountains in Southern Bolivia. Our hostel was amazing and we signed up for a four day jeep tour of Southwest Boliva through them immediately upon arrival then enjoyed two days of aimless meandering around the town and slowly started feeling the effects of being up at 8,200 feet. (Sidenote: someone is practicing "I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In" on a peruvian pan flute outside. Feliz Navidad sir.)
THE JEEP TOUR
Wow. Wow wow wow. Four days in a jeep in the Bolivian outback was more intense than I anticipated it would be. I pictured something akin to a post high-school Seattle to Cali road trip. It was probably more like what I think trying to survive on the Oregon Trail would be like. Bolivia doesn't just let you enjoy things comfortably, you have to work for them. And we worked through altitude sickness, headaches, sand all up in and around us, monsoon washed out roads and middle of nowhere jeep breakdowns to enjoy the most incredible landscapes on the continent (I know I haven't seen the whole continent but I'm sticking by that statement), meeting llamas face to face, witnessing the sun rise over the salt flats and taking off the chain optical illusion pictures.
Laura and I could not have lucked out more in the travel companion department. The three people we were traveling with were as glorious as everything we were seeing and experiencing! Somehow we convinced our friend from Buenos Aires, Gustavo, to accompany us on the tour (as well as spend his entire two weeks of vacation time following us around Argentina and Buenos Aires). Our other two traveling compadres were Jon and Joanna, a couple from French Speaking Belgium who were super fun and way better at packing and traveling in general than Laura and I. They inspired us to downsize our backpacks and get dirtier (not in the pervy way, you sickos!) during our travels.
Our guides were super fun, our meals were basic, delicious and didn't give us food poisoning and our housing ranged from mud hut to hotel made entirely of salt. When I got sick our cook made me stick my head in a pot filled with hot coals and herbs and breath in all the smoke to make me stop barfing and IT WORKED! Just a little Bolivian magic to sooth the crying white girl in the corner. In my opinion those four days were the best and most trying part of our trip so far!
We ended our jeep tour in Uyuni, a town I am hereby declaring to be the stupidest place in Bolivia. It sucked balls and the only redeeming aspects were revealed in the matching Super Sonics hats we found for $2 and the matching towels provided to us by the 8 year old running our hotel. Initially, Laura assumed they were matching Disney Princess towels and then we opened them to reveal that they were in fact matching (and classy) nudie towels.
We left Uyuni as soon as we could since it blows goats and hopped on a bus to Sucre. Laura and I were pretty nervous right out of the gate considering our last Bolivian bus experience but to our surprise and pleasure our bus was relatively sturdy, the roads were mostly paved and never ran out suddenly and our bus driver was sober. Yahtzee! We did have a fellow pasajero who was three sheets to the wind standing RIGHT next to us for the whole second half of the seven hour ride. At one point he dangled his beer can half an inch from Laura's face and asked if she'd like a sip, she passed and the foamy can was shoved into my face. I passed too and after slowly contemplating our denial of his generous offer he accepted it and went back to yelling something about Evo. Luckily, he got tired and had to have a sit down in the aisle and eventually passed out, spilling his unfinished beer everywhere. Naturally. I have a new appreciation for Joe Metro.
Anywhom, we are here in Sucre, stationed at a sweet house with a huge sun deck, learning Spanish, teaching english, playing with orphan babies and working with Bolivian youth. This place is awesome.