Tag Archives: South America

The 2014 Bucket List

I just HAD to interrupt the continuing story of my 2013 National Parks Road Trip for this —

Check out: Buzzfeed’s Astounding Backpacking Trips All Over The World

Torres Del Paine perfection

Torres Del Paine perfection

GAWDAYM. I really, really wish I wasn’t in school sometimes. And…I wish I was married to some rich guy who also likes to travel. RICH MEN, COME TO ME.

So as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been debating all the things I want to do now while I’m free as a bird (albeit in debt) and single (and childless – which may be forever, or not…)

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South America Travel Diary: Personal Reflections and Conquering Challenges

Every time I come back from a long trip (okay, I’ve only done two in my life, but STILL), I’ve found solo traveling to be a great time for reflection and realizations. Each trip has had its own themes. My first trip to Southeast Asia was all about learning how to live in the moment, accept the present, and have faith that I can make things work (my motto from that trip became: “F*CK IT! Who cares!”).

South America was a very different trip for me, however. Just a year after my last trip to Southeast Asia, I found this trip to be all about becoming a more resilient person. I also learned how to be successful with whatever challenge or hardship that came my way. Traveling’s also great for gaining a better perspective on your own life at home.

handstand

Despite all the great, life-changing, and downright AMAZING times that I had during my travels throughout Peru and Bolivia, my trip to South America wasn’t easy at first. NEVER assume that you will have fun. Traveling can be  hard at times. It can get lonely, it can be overwhelming, it can be dangerous – just like anything else you experience in your own life back home. Traveling, however, at best, is all about gaining a better perspective and understanding, and being grounded – in all senses of those words.

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South America Travel Diary: The So-Called “Dangers and Annoyances”

(I got this title from the Lonely Planet books because that’s what they called this type of travel advice.)

So far, all I’ve written about are all the amazing things about certain countries in South America. This blog post, however, will be about some of the things we can do as travelers to be more mindful. There are many reasons why various social problems exist in other countries (especially those in the Global South, AKA “developing countries”), and most of the time they’re rooted in various political and economic issues on different scales (let us not forget the deep legacies of colonization or the impacts of unfair trade agreements). Most travelers have an incredible amount of cultural and economic privilege that gives them the ability to visit other countries – which often creates certain dynamics that may even be the reasons for the types of crime that may occur against us.

Of course every country, every city, and every situation is very different. Half of the time it’s about prevention and awareness, and half the time it’s just about luck.

Shopping all day in Las Brujas, La Paz

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The Best of Peru: My Top 10 Places to Go and Things to Do

Since I only spent about three weeks in Peru total (including transportation time), these are just a few recommendations that I’ve been able to compile with my limited experiences there (I have a new rule now: minimum 1 month per country. If you haven’t done so before, travel abroad for a month or longer and you’ll see why…!)

In no particular order:

1. El Camino Inka to Machu Picchu

Experience some gorgeous and amazing (4 days of) hiking while learning more about Peru’s Incan history and their temples along the way. Just make sure to respect the environment as much as possible and take it all in as a spiritual journey too. (Warning: All fitness levels are allowed, but not all make it to the end. And altitude sickness is about genetics, not physical fitness!). While it can be tragically way too touristy at the “end”, (AKA Machu Picchu) the history there goes deep. Those stone stairs on the way there are pretty rough, though…

day 1

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The Peru and Bolivia Travel Diaries: The Logistics

A lot of readers have been asking me specific questions about how to travel about from city to city, what to budget, what to bring, what to expect, etc. I’ll attempt to use my limited traveling experience to give my opinion on some of those questions. But don’t just take my word for it – ask around! And as always, check out the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum for all your questions!

Check the exchange rates, but when I was traveling, $1US = $2.5 soles (Peru) and $1US = $7 bolivianos (Bolivia)

When llamas are angry their ears go back

Llama llama llama…

BUDGETING

If you’re really on a budget (I mean, REAL broke-style), here’s an estimate of what to expect to pay (without tours, which range from $15 a day to $100 a day, depending on how hardcore they are)…IMHO:

PERU: $25-$40US a day (without tours)

  • Lodging: as low as $35 soles a night (for hostels)
  • Food: As low as $20 soles a day)
  • 1L bottle of Water: $2-3 soles / A soda = $2.5 soles
  • Taxi around town: $3 soles to $12 soles
  • Bus: $1 sol to $2.5 soles
  • Public bathrooms: $1-3 soles (sometimes offer you toilet paper when you pay)

BOLIVIA: $15-$25US (without tours)

  • Lodging: as low as $20 bolivianos a night (for hostels)
  • Food: As low as $30 bolivianos a day (usually more)
  • 2L bottle of water: $6-10 bolivianos / A soda = $4 bolivianos
  • Taxi around town: $3 bolivianos to $12 bolivianos
  • Bus: $1.5 bolivianos or more
  • Mini-van taxi: $2-4 bolivianos
  • Public bathrooms: $1-3 bolivianos (sometimes offer you toilet paper when you pay)

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From Lima to San Francisco: Going Back to Cali (and My Minor Lessons Learned)

The night before I took my final flight back home (SO SAD), I went out and decided to eat dinner at a restaurant in the alley near my hostel (there’s a whole bunch of restaurants down there that cater to both locals and tourists). I sat down at one that was playing the Knicks game (I hella missed basketball!) and decided to take a risk and get a caesar salad and a chicken consome soup – I really missed eating fresh raw vegetables. I asked the waiter if the salad was washed in “agua purificado”. He said it was – or, at least, I thought he said yes maybe he didn’t hear me, who knows.

My chicken consome soup

My chicken consome soup

The dinner kinda sucked. Well, the soup was okay and I did appreciate the food; however, it was very expensive (I really don’t like paying US prices for mediocre/bad food). It was also hella hard to overlook the fact that my caesar salad was a salad with a bad cheese sauce and pieces of lunchmeat ham instead of sardines (for the most part, don’t get Italian or American food out here, it’s probably not going to be worth it. Unless it’s a decent pizza joint – or it’s Ekeko’s in Puno, where EVERYTHING is good). To say the least, the salad was not good.

Not caesar salad

Not a caesar salad

To add insult to injury, I got really sick from the food that night and pretty spent an hour in the bathroom on the toilet (good thing my roommates were either asleep or out!). It was incredibly painful – it felt like I was turning my sphincter inside-out.

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Three Hot Days in Nazca

After a day and a half in Lima, I was pretty much over it. Since I didn’t have anyone else to hang out with for the rest of my days there, I decided on a whim to make a short trip to Nazca to see the infamous Nazca lines. If I had time, I also wanted to hit up Ica/Huacachina to go sandboarding, but I wasn’t going to push it. Didn’t want to miss my expensive flight back to San Francisco in four days!

On the way to Nazca

No Man’s Land: On the way to Nazca

I took a Cruz del Sur bus (the most reliable bus in Peru, so I’ve heard) past a few tourist cities (like Ica) and finally ended up in Nazca at about 9 pm at night. The trip down there however was kinda nuts. It looked like Mad Max land out there! Nothing but desert and brush with some homes (and sometimes in villages) out on the plain by themselves. Very end-of-the-world-ish-looking.

When I got in, the Nazca Inn hotel owner was waiting near the bus station to bring guests to his hostel. He was really welcoming and friendly – a local Nazcan who went to school in England for a little bit to learn business, who then returned to his hometown to run his family’s hostel. We spoke back and forth in Spanish and English, which made communication easy and fun. He took me on a short tour around the main strip and dropped me off at the hostel. Which, by the way, is AWESOME!

Hallway at the Nazca Inn

Hallway at the Nazca Inn

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Later that night me and the hostel owner got drinks on the main drag…however, after getting completely drunk after one drink, I had to go out to get a burger so that I wouldn’t be completely embarrassing. I ate in his car while we drove around town and met his friends…

Yeah, I can be a bit of a sloppy drunk. So sue me.

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What’s Good In Lima?

I asked my cyber Facebook friends about what I should do in Lima. The responses:

“Not much”

“Manorca Beach in the north!”

“Hang out in the Barranco District at night”

“Museo Larco!”

I have to say that my first impression of Lima was not the most positive – only because perhaps I expected Lima to look more like the rest of Peru and less like Los Angeles (I have very mixed feelings about the city of LA). But with 8 million people, what can one expect. At least the weather was sunny and humid – I missed that feeling! Beats being around cold rainy mountains with low levels of oxygen.

Kennedy Park in Miraflores

Kennedy Park in Miraflores

Despite many technical difficulties (including not knowing how to make international calls from my Peruvian cell phone), I finally met up with Angela and one of her travel crew friends, Mel. I couldn’t believe we finally connected (first through this blog, and later in person)! Despite the fact that the restaurant that we were going to eat at was closed (Punto Azul is supposed to have EXCELLENT ceviche, but doesn’t open on Mondays), we quickly found a bus and made our way back to central Miraflores to find a place to have lunch. It was pretty hard. It’s hella touristy out here. There aren’t many good food options – and they’re all kinda expensive.

After making a huge circle around town, we finally settled on a chain restaurant called Rustica near my hostel. It was pretty good…

lunch

Mel, Angela and me

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From Bolivia to Peru: The Journey Back to Lima

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve cyber-met a handful of other travelers (through conversations on this blog!) who have also been planning their trip to South America and wanted some travel advice. One such traveler mentioned that she would be in Lima on the 17th of February, so I said that I’d try and see if we could meet up on that day.

Best hot dog ever (with mashed potatoes) at my stopover in Cochabamba

Best hot dog ever (with mashed potatoes) at my stopover in Cochabamba

Since the buses out have been such a crap shoot, I was pretty tired of attempting to take the long (and dangerous) overnight buses. Barely missing a deadly bus accident by a day on my way to Tupiza was enough for me. I took a TAM flight from Sucre to La Paz and spent the day trying to recover from a really bad flu or cold – or whatever. It was so bad that my coughs were non-stop and guttural, as if my body was trying to turn my lungs inside-out each time I coughed. I almost lost my voice completely. While I had high hopes of doing the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” trip through the gorgeous Yungas, I knew that I had to take care of my health if I wanted to enjoy the rest of my trip in South America.

Shopping all day in Las Brujas, La Paz

Shopping all day in Las Brujas, La Paz

I spent most of my day in La Paz buying gorgeous scarves, hats, jewelry, and other Bolivian goods for all my friends back at home. At night I attempted yet again to try the Asian food out here and settled on a sushi joint on Sagarnaga St. (it was “Valentines Day”, why not?) It was HORRIBLE.

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Travel Diaries: The Top 10 Bad @ss Things About Bolivia

la paz

Before I made my plans to go to South America, I told my friend Darrell that I was planning to go to Peru, and then fly to Argentina to see Patagonia. I had no other plans to visit any other countries, because I only had two months.

“You have to do Bolivia”, he told me.

“Why?”

“Just because – it’s awesome.”

Yeah, Bolivia was AMAZING. I want to go back. I didn’t even make it to Argentina on this trip because I spent so much time there.

ANALOG GIRLS’ TOP 10 THINGS TO DO/SEE IN BOLIVIA: (Dedicated to all my good folks out there right now)

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