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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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Even though it isn’t the most beautiful city, La Paz has really grown on us . . . here are some photos from our many walk-abouts:

We still have a few posts to write for La Paz, but tomorrow we’ll be taking our first long bus ride to Santa Cruz de la Sierra . . . wish us luck!

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As some of you already know, we didn’t exactly spend our first few days in La Paz as we originally expected.  We arrived quite late into Bolivia, in the early morning hours of October 31st. We were on the last plane that landed that night and we also ended up being the last two in line to get our Visas and take care of all immigration related things.  We both pretty much went straight to bed upon arrival at our hostel despite our excitement.  The following morning is when things started to turn bad.  We both woke up with massive headaches.  I soon felt nauseated and felt the need to run to the bathroom.  My nausea was soon followed by Lisa’s and she too had to run to the bathroom.  Altitude Sickness was getting the best of us. Although she felt pretty much like crap the rest of the day due to a bad head ache, she ended up much better off than me.  I proceeded to have nausea related issues for the next 24 + hours.  It actually got so bad on our 2nd morning that we decided I should see a doctor ASAP.  Luckily, the person at the front desk called a cab and pointed us in the right direction. I ended up seeing a doctor at around 5AM.  Despite some break downs in communication, he was able to give me a shot of something and he prescribed 3 medications. Here is the craziest part of our the whole experience. The doctor visit plus the 3 prescriptions cost us a grand total of $20 and the best part is that it all worked and I’m feeling much better. We both are, so much so that we decided to take our first “sight seeing” trip yesterday to the most important archeological site in Bolivia, if not the whole of South America.

Bolivian Countryside

Tiwanaku was one of the sites that I most wanted to see on our trip. The ancient city of Tiwanaku was discovered in 1549 by a Spanish conquistador, Pedro Cieza de León and since then date has caused nothing but questions for archeologists and lay people alike. The conventional wisdom says that Tiwanaku and people that inhabited it were just simple, but mysterious Pre-Inca civilization that started up as early as 1500 BC. There are other, fringe researchers that believe the site to be much, much older, possibly dating back to around 15,000 – 10,000BC. These researchers feel that the people who lived here were also much farther advanced than most archeologists give them credit for.

Our first glance of Tiwanaku

There is another set of researchers and lay people who believe that the creation of this site, along with many others around the world, is the work of “Ancient Aliens.” One of their many understandable reasons for alien involvement is the shear size and weight of the stones and blocks used at a number of these sites including the Great Pyramids and Tiwanaku. Puma Punku, a site very close to Tiwanaku, is based around huge monoliths (carved stone blocks) weighing more than 100 tons. Despite sciences and modern technologies best efforts, neither have been able to explain or duplicate how to move these massive blocks, even with cranes. I guess we may never truly know how and why and by whom Tiwanaku and Puma Punku were built.

Tiwanaku Ruins

Our day started off with a 1 and a half hour mini-bus ride from La Paz, through the Alti-Plano (the very, very poor high plans above La Paz), to Tiwanaku. We booked the trip the evening before through the travel agency that works with our hostel. In our group were 5 friends from Chile, 2 friends from Belgium, and a middle aged pair of “friends” from America, who did their best to hold together the stereo-type of the obnoxious Americans. Once we arrived at Tiwanaku, our guide showed us around the two museums on site. Although we were not allowed to take any pictures in the museums and guards did a pretty good job preventing people from doing so, Lisa was able to get a shot of the coolest exhibit in the museums, one of the mummies found at the site.

After our museum tour, our guide took us out onto the site. We first climbed to the top of the remains of a 6 level pyramid. The climb, although short, left everyone pretty winded due to the altitude. Next, he showed us around the main site, the cemetery, main worshiping area, and another cemetery/ritual area. At the main site, the last place our guide took us was to see the Gateway of a Sun. Maybe the most important artifact at the site, the Gateway of the Sun in huge arch carved out of a single monolith with an as yet un-deciphered hieroglyphic language. I had seen many pictures of it in some of my reading material so it was very cool to be standing in front of it.

Our last stop on our tour was Puma Punku, the site I previously mentioned that contains the gigantic blocks and some interesting tool work of other blocks in the site. Our tour concluded with a local lunch, which was OK, and the 1 and half bus ride home.

Huge monolith rock at Tiwanaku

More ruins at the main site

All in all, we both really enjoyed our first true day out. After being sick and cooped up for the first couple days of our big trip it was great to be out and enjoying our time seeing South America!

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So, we’re down to our last month in the States.  We’ve got 2 more weeks in Wisconsin & then we’re off to North Carolina for another 2 weeks.  Our employers have been notified and the trip actually feels like it’s within reach! Here are some of the things we’ve been up to lately:

Moving:

We’ve been out of the apartment for about 2 weeks now & living with the senior Waller’s, aka Corey’s parents.  John, my father-in-law, and Jared, my brother-in-law, have made many improvements our old apartment & Corey even did a back-splash in the kitchen.

John & Jared are in the process of putting in a new floor

Corey’s back-splash in our old kitchen

Selling:

We’ve placed lots of items on Craig’s List – if you’re in the market for some furniture drop us a line.  Between that & the 3 rummage/moving sales, we’ve already made about $800.  Who knew & we’ve got 3 more days left to sell: today & next weekend.  Wish us luck!

moving sale

We’ve also made several (at least 15) trips to Good Will in the past month or so, which is where we’ll send most of the stuff we can’t sell before we leave.

Some photos from our 2nd rummage/moving sale

Need a bed or a desk set?

Buying:

I think we’re finally done with all of our trip purchases . . . Tickets to Bolivia? Check! Travel clothes & gear? Yup! Electronics? Squared away! Kindles books? Downloaded!  There are some items that need to be exchanged, but that can be taken care of in one quick trip to REI.

Skyping:

This is something that I’ve been anxious to do for a while now.  I spoke with a friend on Skype once, he was in South Korea & called me on my cell phone.  I wanted to make sure that we’d be tech-savy enough to make the call on our end.  Turns out that its super easy.  Got to talk to my parents yesterday & they could see & hear me!  Pretty cool considering that the last time we saw each other in person was almost 2 years ago!

Other Miscellaneous Trip Stuff:

We had a super fun photo shoot with our best gal pal Lisa!  She’s responsible for 3 of the 4 photos in our new blog banner and her photos are on our leave behind cards!

This is one of our favorites from the shoot!

Leave Behind Cards

The bank account we’ve been using for 5 years has been closed & we opened up an account with Charles Schwab.  After doing tons of research on banks, it became clear early on that we’d be going with Schwab.  All ATM fees will be reimbursed?  Heck Yeah!

We’ve purchased Inter-American driver’s licenses.  For just $15/license we can drive anywhere in South America.  We want to keep major cities as hubs & take day trips while we’re on the road.  Plus, it can’t hurt to have another form of ID.

Time’s flying and, for the most part, everything’s been running smoothly.  Right now we’re focusing on enjoying the time we have left with our loved ones & trying our best to get everything taken care of before we leave.  We can’t wait to hit the road & share our many mis-adventures with you . . . Happy Sunday!

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For starters, we’d like to apologize for how quite it’s been lately.  We’ve been so busy preparing for our big adventure that we’ve neglected the blog.  If I could, I’d promise that it will never happen again.  But, to be honest, things have been pretty hectic & it’ll probably happen again!  Every week night we try to do something travel related, which includes some of the following activities: read travel books & blogs, post belongings on Craig’s List, add things to our never-ending “To Do” list. 

So me big-ticket items that we can cross off the list include:

  1. Purchasing our flight to Raleigh (no longer driving due to high rental car fees)
  2. Purchasing our flight from Raleigh to La Paz, Bolivia
  3. Booking our first 2 nights in La Paz 
  4. First round of vaccinations (Hep B for Corey, Yellow Fever & Typhoid for both of us)

As you can imagine, our weekends have been pretty crazy, as well!  We’ve gone through our stuff the past 3 weekends & made several trips to Good Will.  We’ve taken photos of every possible item we can imagine that someone might want to buy & put together a list of prices that we think we’ll be able to get for them.  Only 6 of those items have actually been posted online, because our computer kinda stinks.  Which brings us to another item we’ll be researching soon: a lightweight computer for the trip.  We went to Best Buy back in June (just to look), but we’ll need to make this decision soon & I think it’ll be one of the harder choices to make.  We’ve had horrible luck with computers in the past, so any suggestions are welcome!

bonfire from earlier this summer

We had a faux camping trip last weekend & I didn’t even take pictures!  That’s right, zero photos from our pretend jaunt deep into the Waller Wilderness (not that deep & not really wild).  We had a campfire (photo above from another campfire), set up the tent & camped under the stars (photo below from 2 weekends back).  We did end up making a few trips back to the apartment, but all & all it was a good experiment.  We learned two great lessons for future trips: 1) we should always clear the area before putting up the tent & 2) we should always make sure that our heads are not facing downhill while we sleep!

shooting star from bonfire earlier this summer

It’s been a bit chilly, so we even got to test some of our warmer clothing & we’re definitely happy with our Smartwool long johns & socks! 

We really are hoping to keep you guys as up-to-date as possible on our activities, but there’s just a LOT going on right now.  Feels a bit like we’re living double-lives.  And, as crazy as things are now, it’s only going to get more hectic as the trip draws near.  Stay tuned and for now we’ll leave you with this photo of our silly cat, who apparently wants to be sold along with this lovely basket!

cat not for sale

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We’re not big on timelines & countdowns.  We are super pumped about our trip & we can’t wait to go, however, we’ve always found that countdowns make the time pass by even slower!  Similar to the effect of watching water boil.  So you can imagine our frustration with the handful of friends who keep reminding us how close our trip is.  At around the 8 month mark Corey’s co-workers started saying stuff like, “Hang in there, it’s just 6 more months” to which I responded, “No, it’s not!” 

April 15th was the official 6 month mark, but we only figured that out because someone asked back in March.  Today, July 7th, marks 100 days!  That’s 100 days left before departure, which is 85 days until we quit our jobs or 3,400 hours of work.  I don’t know about you, but that still seems like a long way to go, which is why we hate countdowns! 

As the trip has gotten closer, we have made some changes to the original plan.   From our readings of other adventurers doing a trip like this, the plan usually starts out with: I (We) want to explore the world & come back a better person (people).  I’m pretty sure that was our train of thought as well, but our main goal has always been to search for a new home overseas.  Corey brought up a touchy subject one day in April.  It went something like this:

Corey: What if we don’t go all the way around the world?

Me: Uh, what are you talking about?  I’m confused. . .

(No, that’s not Lisa, however, she felt that the photo above accurately displays her expression during the trip plan revamp convo.)

To make a long story short, we’ve always known that the final goal for us was to live somewhere else.  I’m sure from Corey’s political rants, it’s pretty obvious that we’re not very proud to be Americans.  Sorry to sound so blunt or if we’ve offended any of you, but it’s true.  All along, our biggest fear was to come home after our around the world trip and end up stuck back in America for 5, 6, 20 years.  After much conversation, we decided that, for us, it made more sense to shorten the trip in order to make it possible to move immediately.  And, after a lot of research, we feel that South America has been calling us.  The new plan is to take in as much of the continent as we can & stay in as many countries as we can for longer periods of time.  We’ll travel for about 9 months to a year to determine which place we want to settle in.  We’ll come back to the states, tie up any loose ends & embark on a road trip to our new home, wherever that may be!

We’ve decided to share our to-do list with you.  This won’t be the whole list, but some of the major things that need to be taken care of before we head out on our big adventure.  You may remember a similar post from last February, in which we covered the following subjects: subletting, vaccinations, route, gear, travel membership(s), bank/credit cards and passport/visa photos.  Anything crossed out is either done & practically finished.  We’ve decided not to sublet.  We’ll be switching to Charles Schwab later this summer.  And, thanks to the suggestion from our fellow blogging buddies at 80liters.com, we’ll get our passport photos taken care of at epassportphoto.com.

What else is on our list?  We’re glad you asked!

  1. Purchasing our tickets: our first destination is La Paz, Bolivia.  Towards the end of November we’ll be volunteering with a family we found on workaway.  In the meantime, we’ve been searching the internet for the best flights from North Carolina to Bolivia.  For anyone new to the blog, we’ll be driving from Wisconsin to North Carolina to meet up with the rest of our family before heading overseas.
  2. Learn Spanish: there’s no way we’ll be bilingual by the time we’re in South America, but we would at least like to get by.  The plan is to practice at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes & try our best not to speak English to each other while we practice.  We’ve also purchased cds to listen to while we drive to & from work.  Once we get to Bolivia we plan to do a 2 week homestay & immerse ourselves in the langauge.
  3. Prepare Norma Jean: soon we’ll be doing test drives close to home to get Norma used to car travel.  She’s pretty good in the car, however, we want to get her acclimated well in advance for our drive from WI to NC, where Lisa’s parents will be taking care of her.  We also need to look into the driving route, rental car fees & find some pet-friendly hotels along the way.
  4. Gear Tests: we’ve been doing hour-long hikes from our apartment to the park near us.  With each trip we’ve gradually added more clothes & weight to our packs.  So far, we’re both happy with our choices and for the most part, we’re just getting our bodies in shape for the longer travel days we’ll have to face while on the road.  Overall, we plan to travel pretty slowly, so chances are we may only have 10 or so days of extended pack carrying .  We just want to be prepared!
  5. Vaccinations: the nicest thing about this new plan is the money we’ll be saving on vaccinations.  We’ll still need to get a few and take malaria pills in the destinations that it’s more common, but we won’t have to get a laundry list of shots.  Yes, we have tattoos & we should be well equipped for this sort of pain, but it’s not something we’re looking forward to.  

6.   Downsizing: getting rid of the stuff we really don’t need.  At the start of August we’ll create 3 lists: things to keep, things to toss, things we’re not sure about.  We plan to utilize Craigslist and possibly eBay to get rid of most of our things.  People are really big on rummage sales up here, so (if the landlord, aka Corey’s dad, allows it) we’d also like to have a yard sale. 

7.   Pack up & leave: we’re lucky to have a lot of areas to store possessions & members of Corey’s family have graciously offered to help.  We plan to leave our car (we’re selling 1 before we leave), books, DVD’s, bed, computer desk and non-travel clothes.  We’re hoping to have everything squared away by October 12th & leave that night or October 15th at the latest.

We’ve got plenty of other things on the list, but those are the big-ticket items.  October 12th can’t get here sooner!

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