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Eight Hours to Charazani

view from my bus window

The eight-hour bus ride to Charazani was uneventful. It was not a modern tourist bus like the one we took to Copacabana. This bus was at least as old as me, if not older. There was no heat and it was very very cold. The people who shared the bus with us were wrapped up in warm blankets – they’d known how cold it would be. They were not tourists, but native Bolivians traveling for work, traveling for family, traveling for Festival, traveling for a better life somewhere else.

I slept most of the way and when I wasn’t sleeping, I watched the landscape slip past the window. I tried not to look down because when I did, I saw nothing but the steep slope of jagged mountainside. The road we traveled was narrow and our bus hugged the edge so that it seemed one sharp turn would send us spiraling down the mountain in a flurry of stone and dust. Every few miles we came upon a herd of cattle and more than once I was sure we’d barrel right through them, but they always scattered in time. Two hours in we made a stop for food and toilets. Dave and Mike got off the bus to pee and came back with fried chicken and french fries. Possibly the best fried chicken and french fries I’ve ever tasted in my life. After that, the bus only stopped to let passengers off and never for more than a moment.

waiting for a different bus

roadside cattle

sheep grazing

8 hrs to Charazani

Midway through the trip they played a movie on an ancient little television. An American sci-fi movie dubbed in Spanish. A little boy, maybe six or seven, stood in the aisle gripping the armrest of Mike’s seat, eyes glued to the television as it lulled him into enchantment. His eyes were so wide, so full of awe, his mouth hung open just slightly and when the bus hit a bump and he lost his footing, he’d grab Mike’s shoulder or arm and hang on, eyes never leaving the television screen. I wanted to scoop him into my lap, bury my face in the top of his head, nibble the sugar at the back of his neck.

road to Charazani

Charazani from above

We saw Charazani long before we reached it. A cluster of brick buildings pressed into the mountainside. The closer we got, the less inviting it looked. When we finally pulled into the town square, my whole body was tense. I told myself it was because I’d been on a bus for eight hours – I just needed to get off and stretch my legs. But that wasn’t it. It was the people in the square who stopped what they were doing to watch the travelers disembark. Who froze in their tracks with slack faces and cold eyes and stared.

It was hot and I was sweating. Tired, hungry, bladder bursting, and sweating. We pulled our gear off the bus, now crusted with a layer of dirt, loaded it onto our backs and started walking. We knew there were three hostels in the village. The first one we tried was locked up, deserted, so we moved on. I only wanted a clean place to pee, a hot shower, and meal. After that, I didn’t care what happened.

L.A. to Mexico City to Tapachula…

…to Lima to Santa Cruz to La Paz

La Paz = Love

Cementario del Distrito


Isla del Sol en las Fotografias

Trekking Isla del Sol

Trekking Isla del Sol, One Step at a Time

Evening in Yampupata

The Village Awakens

Trucha Frita

Back in Copacabana (Finally)


El Alto

Dinner in La Paz

In the Hours Before Dawn

Where’s Mexico?

I know I said I probably wouldn’t post again before we left, but I was just looking at the map of South America from yesterday’s post, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where Mexico was. Why wasn’t it pictured in the map?

It’s not that I’m stupid. Honest. It’s just that I spent my entire junior and high school career writing notes to my bffs, napping, and reading the novels I hid in my text books. And now I’m a grown-up married woman who didn’t know that Mexico isn’t part of South America.

So then I looked up a map of North and South America and I’d be lying if I said my stomach didn’t fall out of my butt when I realized how far away Bolivia is.

map of north and south america

I found this map here.

We’re practically going to the end of Earth. Ok, not really, but still.

As long as we come home healthy and well, with all our limbs intact, this is going to be a really wonderful adventure. I am still slightly terrified, but I get more excited with each passing day. Do me a favor? Say a prayer for us, think good thoughts, keep your fingers crossed that we stay safe and whole. It would mean a lot to me.



Other People’s Photos of Bolivia

This is something we might see in Bolivia. A shop vendor and her child at the witches’ market in La Paz. They are selling dried baby llamas for good luck:

La Paz

Please forgive me, I can’t remember where I found this photo. If it’s yours, let me know so I can give you credit.

I found some beautiful photos of the trek we’re doing, the Apolobamba South, on Flickr. I won’t post them, but you should check them out. I’m still really nervous for a million little reasons, but oh my goodness. As long as we are safe and healthy the whole time, this is going to be an incredible trip. (I might be starting to get a little bit excited.)

Seriously Neurotic

I’m really sorry I haven’t been posting. I hate to start out with an apology, but I need do. I’ve also been an asshole friend lately, I know. Tonight? I totally flaked out on Thursday Night Family Dinner. I pretty much suck.

But my goodness, I need to take a minute and breathe. There is so much going on right now that when I think about it I want to cry. I’m completely freaked out about a million different things and even though I know, I really know (or I desperately hope) that everything is going to be ok, there is a part of me that’s terrified.

I cannot believe I am going to Bolivia in two weeks. Two weeks from Monday. I honestly don’t remember how I got roped into this, but somehow I did and now I just hope I make it through the twenty-hour flight without vomiting. I really hate vomiting. If I don’t vomit or have diarrhea on this trip, I will consider it a success. Of course, I also hope we don’t get raped and none of us are murdered, or killed by wild animals, or maimed in some horrible accident. But if none of those things happen, if we make it back to Los Angeles with our bodies intact and none of us ever having vomited or experienced diarrhea that shoots out of your bum and won’t stop, I will consider this trip a rave success.

We have eleven doses of Cipro, a water filter, and a stockpile of pro-biotics. Eleven is my lucky number and the rest of that stuff is for good measure.

I know we’re going to be fine.

And then I’m nervous about money. I hadn’t factored in the loss of income when we saved up for this trip, so it only occurred to me yesterday that perhaps we can’t quite afford this. I mean, we can, it’s going to be fine, things are just going to need to be a little bit tighter when we get home. It’s not a big deal, these are first-world problems, I know. In this economy, the fact that we can afford this trip at all is proof that we are doing just fine, but I’m the kind of person who really prides myself on having good financial management skills, so when I realize that perhaps I didn’t quite plan the finances as well as I thought I did, my ego hurts. (You can tell how upset I am by the run-on sentences.) Then I think about how irritated our employers are that we’re leaving for three weeks and suddenly I think I might have diarrhea so bad it shoots out my bum and won’t stop.

Mike and I had a major heart-to-heart last night because I’ve been very vocal lately, mostly during our training sessions, about how much I hate this and that I don’t know why the (expletive) we’re doing this. He told me again that I don’t have to go, that I really can stay home. He’d said he’d rather I stay home than come along and be miserable.

And I thought for a minute, I really took a moment and thought about it. The thing is? For all my anxiety and terror, I am pretty sure that, even though there might be some really horrible moments, even if we get robbed and we need to take an anti-biotic to stop the shooting-from-bum disease that is travelers diarrhea, there will most likely also be moments that are life-alteringly-beautiful. Yes, I realize “alteringly” isn’t a word, but I think this trip is the sort of thing that can help shape a person’s life. It will build character, as they say. I just pray to the Lord Almighty that we are re-shaped in a healthy emotional way. As in, we make it back to L.A. closer as a family than we were before, and with all our parts attached.

wiener dog

I’m betting you’ve missed the wiener dog. How could you not? Look at that face!

Nervous Wreck

I have about fifteen minutes before I need to get back to work, but I wanted to pop in and say hi. I’m not going to bother editing this after I write it, which is something I have not ever done on this website ever. Not once. Please forgive the grammar, language, spelling, or other resulting ridiculousness.

We are very busy getting ready to leave for Bolivia – we leave exactly one month from today. I am nervous. Incredibly nervous. We haven’t done much training since Mount Wilson. I’ve practiced yoga a few times and we’ve been running three times, but that is not adequate training for a three week adventure in one of the poorest and least developed countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

Then there’s that. We’re about to spend three weeks in one of the poorest and least developed countries in the Southern Hemisphere. I’m all pissed off right now because we can’t afford health care, but you know what we do have? Two bathrooms. Air conditioning. Indoor plumbing. Paved streets. Weekly trash collection. Urgent Care clinics on nearly every block. We’re going to be staying in “hotels” in towns with fewer than six hundred residents and dirt floors. And none of us speak Spanish. Which actually doesn’t matter, because these Bolivians don’t speak Spanish either. They speak Aymara. Ironically, we’ve been advised not to talk to anyone who approaches us speaking English because they are most definitely a criminal who will take you to a pretend Official Looking Building where pretend police officers then force you to hand over your wallet, your passport, everything but the clothes on your back. Then they let you go.

We could have gone to Peru instead, but then we found out that in Peru, they don’t let you go. They cut your throat instead.

Anyway, I’m a little nervous. The good news is that the crimes happen in cities, not in the Andes, which is where we’ll be. We’ll stay in La Paz for a few days, but these crimes generally happen to people who are traveling alone. There are three of us, we will not ever separate (seriously, Mike is planning to accompany me even when I have to go to the bathroom – we’ll have reached a new and unfortunate level of intimacy after this trip) and because we are aware that these (and other) schemes occur, we’ll be more likely to avoid them.

I’m lucky that I’ll be traveling with two tall, strong, smart, careful men. I say “tall” and “strong” first because sometimes burly strength is more important than smarts. Sometimes.

Anyway, I’ll say it again. I’m nervous. I’m nervous about crime, I’m nervous about the altitude, I’m nervous I won’t have trained enough, I’m nervous about leaving work for three weeks. Ohemgee I am nervous about leaving work. That singular thought alone turns my stomach upside down. I’m a bit of a nervous wreck. How many more times do you think I can say nervous in this paragraph? Nervous. Nervous! NERVOUS. Ner-vous.

And…. that’s enough. Thanks for listening. I’m going to go do a couple of sun salutations.