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Archive for the ‘Bolivia’ Category

Can’t believe we’ve been on the road for exactly 6 months today!  We’re currently in Arequipa, Peru about to do a 3 day trek through Colca Canyon!

flippin

Happy May!!!!

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Week 21 - Little One - San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Week 21 – Little One – En Route to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Week 22 - .j.u.m.p. - San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Week 22 – .j.u.m.p. – San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Week 23 -  Untitled - Sal de Uyuni, Bolivia

Week 23 – Untitled – Sal de Uyuni, Bolivia

Week 24 - Pinky - Salt Flats Tour - Uyuni, Bolivia

Week 24 – Pinky – Salt Flats Tour – Uyuni, Bolivia

 

 

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To get a better understanding of how much money we’re spending on the road, Lisa created a spreadsheet, breaking out our daily expenses.  We’re aiming for $100 (US) a day, ($50/person), which is very doable, especially in some countries like Bolivia & Peru.  However, there will be other countries, like Argentina & Chile, that will be more challenging if we’re not careful.  We know that at times we’ll be over budget & other times under, so things should even themselves out in the end.

Bolivia should’ve been one of our cheapest countries & we definitely would’ve been under budget, had it not been for medical expenses.  Between Corey’s visits to the clinics & hospitals, and my trip to the dentist, we spent a total of $1,607 on medical expenses alone (this includes money spent on medication).

Daily Accommodation Average: $26 per day

For the most part, we attempted to stay in hostels in an effort to save money & also meet other travelers.  However, we did end up in a hotel for 11 nights in Santa Cruz, which definitely increased the daily amount spent on accommodation.  The silver-lining, we spent nothing in this department while volunteering in Samaipata!

Manhole in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Daily Food Average: $18 per day

We found that La Paz was one of the best places for street food & it was definitely very easy to find local, cheap options close to our hostel.  There were also cheap options in Santa Cruz, but once we got closer to the city center, those became harder to hunt down.  Plus, we’d already found a few places that we really enjoyed eating & found ourselves returning often.

Lorca – Favorite Restaurant in Santa Cruz

Tasty Treats

Tasty Treats

Daily Transportation Average: $6 per day

Taxis in Bolivia are super cheap, especially considering that you get to negotiate your fare before you even get in the car.  This took a bit of practice, but once we had the layout of each city, it was easy to tell if a driver was trying to take advantage of us & then haggle our way down to a reasonable price.  One thing we never did in Bolivia was take a local bus, so I’m sure more money would’ve been saved, had we attempted to use that mode of transportation.

First Bus - La Paz to Santa Cruz

First Bus – La Paz to Santa Cruz

Daily Entertainment Average: $5 per day

The following are included in our entertainment expenses: tours, souvenirs, park/museum admissions and any items that may cause us joy, but aren’t necessities (ie: clothes, headphones, jewelery, etc.).  We only went on one tour, while in Bolivia, mainly because we know we’ll be back in the new year for the Salt Flats tour.  Also, we didn’t find anything in the cities we visited that appealed to us enough to spend a lot of money.  However, it must be said, that in comparison to tours in other parts of the world, entertainment in Bolivia was VERY cheap – the Tiwanaku tour was only $25 per person.

Tiwanaku Tour

Tiwanaku Tour

Unique Church in Santa Cruz (only thing worth photographing)

Unique Church in Santa Cruz (only thing worth photographing in this city, besides the food!)

Do you think they'd notice if we took that dollar?

Do you think they’d notice if we took that dollar?

Plaza in La Paz

Plaza in La Paz

In the end, we spent 31 days in Bolivia, with a total of $3,502, which is an average of $113 per day.  Take out the medical expenses & we would’ve spent only $61 per day & that’s if you travel like we did.  You could definitely spend less than that, by always staying at hostels & eating local food everyday.

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Today we had plans to hike up the biggest hill in Salta, Argentina with a couple from France.  However, seeing as how it is pouring rain outside, we figured today would be a good day to write a post summing up our time in Bolivia.

La Paz

La Paz

Unfortunately, our time in Bolivia was marred by some lost days and hospital stays due to my weak stomach. Our first two days in La Paz were spent in bed sick with altitude sickness and involved a trip at 4 AM to the doctor’s office. Only a few days after feeling better, I tore a muscle in my shoulder & had some more stomach troubles which involved 3 trips to the doctor and finally a day + stay in the hospital. After a couple weeks of feeling great, we ended up with a trip to the hospital and a 2 day stay in there due to my troublesome stomach yet again! Although all the medical costs that we incurred were much, much less than they would have been in the States, they still have thrown our trip budget out of whack.

Hospital in La Paz

Hospital in La Paz

All in all we felt that Bolivia was a very nice place to visit, but we can both pretty easily say that we wouldn’t want to live there. Under the leadership of Evo Morales, Bolivia has made some strides of becoming more independent and developing it’s economy, but, nevertheless, it still remains a third world country. The people, for the most part, were very friendly and quite patient with our broken Spanish. Outside of fellow traveler’s, we only ran into 5 or 6 locals that actually spoke English, 2 of those being doctors.

Favorite restaurant in La Paz (Lisa & the owner, who spoke some English)

Favorite restaurant in La Paz (Lisa & the owner, who spoke some English)

Although the medical care was very cheap, it wasn’t as good as it should have been. We knew that going into the trip and, unfortunately, we got a chance to experience the deficiencies first hand. The hospital we were at in Santa Cruz didn’t do a single test to see what was really wrong with me. The doctor pushed hard on my aching stomach and had me stick out my tounge to come to the diagnosis of a stomach infection. He was probably correct in this assumption, but without tests how could he really be sure?

One of the best views of La Paz was in Corey's hospital room

One of the best views of La Paz was in Corey’s hospital room

In general, the food in Bolivia was pretty good. There are a lot of small restaurants/cafes/stands that serve local food and many bigger restaurants that had a more Americanized menu. Although the food was normally very tasty, we have yet to meet a traveler who didn’t get sick from the food or water in there.  We actually found mold in our sandwiches at a cafe in Santa Cruz!  Traveler’s Stomach is a pretty normal condition, but it seems to happen more frequently to travelers in Bolivia than in other South American countries.

Tasty pizza in La Paz

Tasty pizza in La Paz

BEST meal in Bolivia!

BEST meal in Bolivia! (Lorca in Santa Cruz)

As I mentioned previously, the economy and infrastructure, although improved, are still quite a bit behind compared to other Latin American countries. I don’t think we truly knew how far behind Bolivia was until we crossed the border. In Argentina, we immediately saw large-scale farming and metal, electrical and telephone poles.  In Bolivia, it was mostly sustenance farming and the electrical and telephone poles were just straight(ish) tree trunks. Bolivia also seems to still be pretty reliant on foreign imports.

Waterfall outside of Samaipata

Waterfall outside of Samaipata

Despite some short falls, Bolivia was still a very nice place to visit. We will never forget some of the things that we saw and the people that we meet. It was unfortunate that health problems kind of sullied a bit of our experience, but nonetheless, when healthy we had a great time meeting fellow travelers and trying to soak up as much of the La Paz & Santa Cruz as we could.

Our last night in Santa Cruz

Our last night in Santa Cruz

And, after everything there, we really are looking forward to our return to Bolivia to see the salt flats in Uyuni!

 

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I’ve been wanting to upload these for a while, but the whole computer situation slowed things down.  Moving forward, I’ll try my best to post the best photo of each week on a weekly, if not more regular, basis.  Without further ado, here are the best photos from the first 5 weeks of our South American adventure:

Week 1 - Little One - La Paz, Bolivia

Week 1 – Little One – La Paz, Bolivia

Week 2 - Reflection - La Paz, Bolivia

Week 2 – Reflection – La Paz, Bolivia

Week 3 - Las Botas - Samaipata, Bolivia

Week 3 – Las Botas – Samaipata, Bolivia

Week 4 - Untitled - Samaipata, Bolivia

Week 4 – Untitled – Samaipata, Bolivia

Week 5 - Untitled - Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Week 5 – Untitled – Santa Cruz, Bolivia

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In the course of planning for our trip, we knew that in order to extend it for as long as we were hoping to that we would need to make use of two programs. There is CouchSurfing, a site designed to link up travelers in need of a place to stay for free with hosts that allow them to stay in their house/apartment on their spare bed or couch. The second option is a program called WorkAway. This site is dedicated to families, people, hostels and other organizations who are looking for volunteers to help with projects big and small around their property. In exchange for that work, the volunteer is allowed to stay, usually for free or a small fee, on their property (either in the house or in a tent outside the house). In addition to this many workaway opportunities feed their workers for a least one meal a day, if not all meals for workdays. Programs like this allow travelers on a tight budget, like us, to extend their trip much longer, while meeting interesting people along the way.

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On November 14th, we left our hostel in Santa Cruz, Bolivia for our first workaway assignment. The family was located about 5 km outside of the sleepy, laid back town of Samaipata on 1 hectare-acre of land on the steep cliffs going down to the river that runs through that valley. Based on the workaway page, we knew they needed help clearing land and general help with house work. We definitely had some preconceived notions about what we would be doing. We knew ahead of time that we would be sleeping in a tent and that the family was vegetarian. We made the assumption that this tent would be right outside their house, that we’d be eating in their home, that we’d be able to shower (in their house) at the end of a day of work, and that when we needed to use the bathroom that we would be able to use the bathroom in their house. As it turned out, our preconceived notions couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

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When we were dropped off at their property that afternoon, we had to hike down their long dirt driveway. Where we met their other workaway volunteer, Ignaz from Germany, who was staying in a tent inside a mud hut on the hillside. He took us to meet Udo, also from Germany, and his son, Aoni. Christina, Udo’s partner and Aoni’s mother was in town getting supplies. After dropping off our stuff, Udo gave us a tour.

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To be honest, we were a bit taken aback by what we saw. The bus, which is pictured on their workaway page, doubles as their house. It has a small kitchen, table, and two separate bedrooms. It looks much nicer on the inside than it does on the outside. The shower was not on the bus, but in a cut out area in the brush. It was just a hose with a shower head on it, with hot water only for a few hours in the afternoon. The bathroom (see below) was a five gallon bucket with a screw on cap connected to a 1 gallon drinking contraption for liquids. The property in general was very, very beautiful, with great views all over, however, as we went to bed that night we didn’t know if we were going to be able to handle the absolute lack of amenities.

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The next morning we decided that we were going to suck it up and try to make it a couple weeks. On my end the work was actually quite fun. My first day I started work on another tier of their garden. Despite battling rocks all day, I did enjoy myself. The next day I helped Ignaz & Udo finish the barbed wire fence along the road. Although it was treacherous land to be working on – we all had the ground drop out from under us on a number of occasions & I was attacked several times by fire ants – I really had fun! Lisa, on the other hand, was not too enthralled with her daily duties. She ended up helping Christina around the bus, doing dishes (using as little water as possible), helping with meals, & doing general “house” work. In the end, she felt more like a house wife than anything else & thought she’d be doing more of the “hands on” jobs. She did get to work on their “tile” shower floor, which was a mosaic of flat rock & mud & she enjoyed that particular project.

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Breakfast was bread, tea/coffee, oatmeal and on 2 mornings eggs were available. Lunch was the biggest meal of the day, usually a casserole/stir-fry. Dinner was bread, tea/coffee & oatmeal. All meals were eaten outside by the campfire pit, with dinner being eaten with the fire going. After dinner we sat around the fire and talked. It took a bit, but we started to kind of get used to the routine. We worked 2 days and then had a day off. Although it was going to be tough, we planned to honor our commitment of 2 weeks. However, something came up that prevented us from doing so.

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First, I didn’t sleep at all one night, and then the same the next night. That third night, I don’t think I sleep at all either. I was really nervous about how work was going to go this day, but I ended up getting a reprieve. Some friends were getting together to swim at this amazing waterfall. Although I was still dragging, at least we weren’t working. We woke up the next morning, Lisa after a good night sleep, me having not really slept for the 4th night in a row. As soon as the sun came up, I knew we needed to leave, that I was going to be no help for them in the condition I was in.

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We both felt very badly, mainly because Christina & Udo were such nice people and they had treated us both like family from the first moment we set foot on their property. It took a little bit to sum up the courage, but after breakfast Lisa & I told Udo & Christina that we thought it best if we left that morning. They couldn’t be more understanding and both did their best to make us feel as good as possible about our decision to leave early.

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Long story short, our first workaway experience didn’t go quite as we had planned, but we’re not giving up on workaway. Around the beginning of the new year we are planning to do an assignment in Mendoza, Argentina. As long as they have indoor plumbing, I think we’ll be fine.

 

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Who’s got 2 thumbs & totally fixed our computer?

This gal!!!!

It must be said that we are just independent travelers.  We’re not getting paid by any hostels or websites to promote their services.  We just like to keep other travelers informed, in case they decide to visit the same places we do.  We put a lot of our trust on the reviews & recommendations of other travelers, so we’d like to pay it forward.  We’re so happy that we found Jodanga Backpacker’s Hostel on HostelBookers.com!  Before leaving La Paz, I did some research on accommodation in Santa Cruz (de la Sierra) & based on the many reviews that I skimmed, it was clear that Jodanga was the highest rated & it was pretty clear why.

Modern Design

Clean Facilities

Pool (yes please!)

Other Great Perks Include:

  • English Speaking Staff
  • Free WiFi
  • Pool Table
  • Kitchen
  • Food & Beverages Available
  • TV/Movie Room
  • Lockers/Luggage Storage

Jodanga was our first dorm experience together.  I’d done it before while traveling in Europe, but this was Corey’s first time.  We’re both super happy that all the double rooms were booked when we arrived, because we finally got to meet other travelers & we ended up making a few friends!

We originally planned to stay in Santa Cruz for 2 nights.  In the end, we spent a total of 4 nights at Jodanga Hostel.  Three of which were at the start of our stay in Santa Cruz & another 1 when we returned from Samaipata.  The only reason we didn’t stay longer was because of the Bolivian Census.  Basically, Bolivia does their census in 1 day & pretty much everything was shut down, including the hostel for 2 nights.  Luckily, we found another place, Hotel Bolivia & we’ve been there since (a total of 5 nights so far).  It’s more expensive & definitely doesn’t stack up to Jodanga, but the location can’t be beat, since we’re right in the city center!

We’re hoping to catch up with the blog as much as possible before heading to Argentina by the end of the week! Until then, enjoy this giant moth we found napping on a sidewalk in Santa Cruz:

(we placed a travel sized bag of tissues next to it for reference)

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