Saturday, February 21, 2009

I wish God loved an optimist

I hate the nation state concept, I decided this today after being denied entry into Bolivia. Now as a South African I am used to my passport sucking and being a hindrance to my life, but honestly, Bolivia! And what really frustrates me is way it happened.

I have already travelled all through Bolivia, and I wanted to go back for Carnaval in Oruro, which is apparently awesome. I had a pose of friends ready and plans made. All I had to do was get another Visa (Which I was assured would be a simple process when I got my first Visa). So I arrive in Puno, Peru (officially my least favourite place in the world) at 5 AM with a friend, Nicole, in tow. 3 and half hours later after a terrible breakfast (apparently in Puno you don´t use egg in an omlette) being told about 20 different directions I get to the Bolivian Consulate only to be met the worlds biggest Wanker.

To imagine this small time beaurocrat think of the Effiel tower and now imagine a giant hand jerking it off. Now maybe you get the idea of how much I disliked this man. My spanish is not great, but I can tell when some one is being openly insulting to me. This is why I only like dealing with women in governmental positions, men tend to use them as a constant machoistic cock-sizing competion. so after clearly beign told (for reasons I could not completely understand yet) that I could not enter Bolivia I left to fetch Nicole whose Spanish is far better than mine. Now Nicole is a young pretty little girl, and normally older men a polite to young women, but not this wanker. The long and the short of it is that he very rudely told us that we had to travel 11 hours to another consulate who maybe could help us, now clearly he could just stamp my passport, it doesn´t even require more than one page of paper work, but as I said he is a small man syndrome wanker. If anyone has some extra tiem to kill in Puno I highly suggest you spen it by burning down his house.

It turned out to be an open faced lie that we could get helped somewhere else in Peru, but at least the second Counsular we dealt with (a women I´d like to point out) was helpful and polite. She told me that I had to travel out of Peru before I could reenter Bolivia, now in theory this should not a problem, at this stage we were in Tacna, about 30 minutes from the Chilean border (which I hope I can enter with no problems, but that´s tomorrows story). The only problem is that almost all the Bolivian Consulates in Chile are closed cause the Consulars are all at the carnaval. So its impossible for me to get to Carnaval cause I dont have a free stamp in my passport and I haven´t crossed enough lines on a map recently.

I suppose it is a an unfortunate series of events, I should have organised this earlier but I couldn´t cause I had my wallet stolen and couldn´t leave Cusco (Be careful Cusco will destry your soul, I just got out alive). And I am sure that Visa´s are important (Thats a lie, allot of the time I think Bolivia is playing at being a country).

At this time I am reminded of what I was told by Robin Esrock , a travel writer and reporter for the National Geographic channel who I spent some time in brazil with. He told me that when traveling it is important to remember that "Where you are, is where you are meant to be" (He also told me that mot being able to speak the same language as a women simply removes the need for a chat up line, also good advice).

So maybe I am meant to go to Chile, Swim at a beach in Arice (thus swimming in both South Amercian oceans), and if I can I´ll get to San Pedro de Atacama (cause I need more desert in my life). And a 3 days bus trip acorss argentina can´t be all that bad right.

Anyway thanks allot to Nicole for traipsing around Peru with me trying to get a visa, hope you enjoy carnival. Sorry to Tiago, Daan and Jamie for not being able to meet you in Oruro, have a blast.

P.S. Spell check doesn´t work, the computer at the internat cafe is too old.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An update sort of...

I´m to lazy to write anything worth reading, and too apathetic to take pictures so all I´m gonna do in this post is list what happened since my last post and then link to some pictures that other people have taken. I think its an awesome plan.

  1. Went to Isla del Sol in Bolivia, 2 Dreamy days. Stayed in a hostel that cost US$2 a night, run by a 10 year old kid.

  2. Tavelled to Cusco in Peru, beautiful but more tourists than people.

  3. Went on a 5 day hike to Macchu Picchu. The Hike was awesome, Macchu Picchu was underwhelming. Especially considerring that we managed to get kicked out. (After being called vagabonds). The Hike took us up snow capped mountains, down into Peruvian cloud forests, across jungle rivers and down some train tracks. Some pictures taken by a friend on the Hike are available at The slideshow is below.

  4. Got back and had my birthday celbration. 6 Irish offering Tequilla and a dutch guy with quality vodka can do bad things to you. Woke up without my pants or my wallet.

  5. Spent all my time living on credit in the hostel until I managed to get the bank to allow me to re-enter the economic system.

And finally I should be on my way back to Bolivia for carnaval in Oruro.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

La Paz 25-01-09

There are certain days that can come into being only in exceptional circumstances during specific times. The 25th of January in La Paz was one such day for me. This specific day is exceptional because it was the day of the Bolivian referendum on adopting a new constitution, however this is not about politics, it is about my day.

The day starts like any other. I wake up, go to the bathroom, hock up a flem ball and notice that it's still blood red from some blood vessel I managed to rupture a few days ago. I consider being worried but apart from occasionally sneezing blood it isn't bothering me so much. I have my pancake breakfast and go gaze at the view for a while. One of my friends is writing an article about the elections for so I help with the English translation, from German, and fix some of his photos. After this we set out to town, this is where the day really begins.

La Paz is normally overly busy, traffic is usually a constant jam of micros (minibus taxis) and cabs trawling for passengers and fighting with private vehicles, the sidewalks are normally bustling with hawkers and walkers and balaclava'd shoeshine boys. This is the La Paz I know but today it was like a ghost town, no cars on the roads, no one selling anything, almost no one walking. The reason, of course, is that it is election day and by law everyone has to vote, in fact it is illegal for most people to work today, including all the taxis. The sight of an empty capital city is eerie, without people even the biggest city has the atmosphere of a small town.

With everything closed finding food becomes an obstacle, but strangely we bump into some old friends of my travel companions who point us towards a quaint, yet expensive, little tourist restuarant. The food is good, and on a happy full stomach we tryfinish off the meal with a version of hot chocolate. This type of drink is essentially hot milk with a whole stick of chocolate dropeed in so it slowly melts. Sounds delicious, well it is. Except that the chocolate is made with "manis". "Mani" is an important word to me, it in one of the first spansih words I learnt, it means "peanut", but to me it is a synonym for "Mortis" or death.

Remember how I said there were no cabs running, I meant it, nada. Compound this with Bolivian directions. Bolivians like to be helpful and make people happy, even if it means telling people the wrong information so as not to disappoint someone. Like telling them the hosital is two blocks past the stadium, not ten. Distances seem very large when one is considering dieing on the streets of La Paz. And taxi drivers seem very unreasonable when they cite the law as reason not to pick you up. Its a strange feeling to contemplate death while wandering down the streets of what seems like a ghost town. In the end I obviously found the hospital and got the medication I needed. Of course they didn't actually have the medicine at the hospital so my two German friends had to go to a pharmacy to buy it while I waited in the hospital ER. I was a bit worried about medical aid and stuff like that but in the end the bill for the medicine only came to BL3.5, about R5.

By the time I got out and started walking back, remember still no cabs, it was late evening. We went to go buy some ingredients at the market, where a few shops were open illegally. In one of the shops we saw Plaza Murillo on a TV. Plaza Murillo is the plaza with the presidential residence and various other government buildings. Apparently Evo Morales was about to claim victory in the referendum.

So just out of hospital I find myself in a massive crowd beneath the balcony of the presidents house. The crowd filled most of the plaza, but we were in the first 5 rows. Everyone was lively. Chants of Evo filled the air and after a while the presidential sound system started playing some local pop songs. A bunch of women arrived selling overpriced beer and some empanandas. The ever present large Argentinian groups started playing some music and passing around some harder liquor. Fireworks started going off in th each ground. In one hour the plaza went from empty to being a fiesta.

When Evo Morales eventually did come out he could hardly speak for the cheers he got. He was simply wearing a sports jacket, no suit, no tie, much like he had just gotten back from hanging out with some friends at a bar. After the national anthem which no one really seemed to know, because it seemed like almost everyone was Argentinian not Bolivian, Evo began his speech. It was short, good humoured, suitably full of quotable phrases, accentuated by fireworks and cheers, and rousing. Even I was drawn into the mood, I who am almost completely unaffected by the politics of Bolivia. When the speah ended the party started. A stage had been hastily set up and local bands as well as some from as far away as France began to play. The atmosphere became completely festive and for a while everyone was everyones friend.

When the bands finished the police politely informed everyone that it was time to go. I don't think they reaslly thought things through, trying to get a few thousand drunk people to do anything is never easy. So they resorted to the more direct measures, formed a barricade line and just started pushing the crowd towards the exits of the plaza. Normally this would incite a riot or something, but instead everyone seemed to just form this moving carnavale, with some drums and flutes and other instruments at the lead, playing some music while chants of "Evo! Amigo! el pueblo contigo!" (Evo! My Friend! The people are with you!) rang through the streets. We wound our way through the streets, this crowd of a few hundred now, we blocked traffic and jammed up highways. Rum was being sold and Cuba Libre's were flowing.

The crowd eventually stopped under the statue of Simon Bolivar, the namesake of the country and perhaps South America's greatest liberator. It felt a fitting place to stop, considering the magnitude of the change that had just taken place. I think by that stage we were the only gringos left, in a Bolivian crowd with a large splash of Argentinians. I looked up at Simon Bolivar sitting a top his horse and wandered what he would be thinking. After liberating most of South America, then dieing a pauper without even a shirt for his funeral, then slowly to become infinitely venerated across all of South America, and now to look over the drunken reverie of of a nation about to under go a massive change. We are told that before he died he said, "There have been 3 great fools in history; Jesus Christ, Don Quixote and I", I wonder if after all the history of South America that has since past he would still limit it to only 3 great fools.

The curious case of a movie in La Paz

I watched "The curious case of Benjamin Button".At the end of the movie I got up and stretched the mandatory post movie stretch. Then I realised, "Fuck I'm in Bolivia". It was a dichotomous feeling, it was at once exciting and slightly lonely. Watching a movie in English in a cinema was so reminiscent of being home that for a while I stopped feeling like I was in a foreign country. The experience underlines the way I feel right now, glad to be traveling but missing allot of home. Simple things like understanding most people when they talk and having a friend I have known for longer than a week. And then immediately after that I thought about this girl I had been traveling with. She had been living in Chile for a year and spoke Spanish. When I was traveling with her she kept on complaining about how she didn't like backpacking cause it was this really superficial experience of the different cultures and you didn't really get the traveling experience we romanticize about. I thought about that cause I was really thinking about the response I should have given. It's a game I invented in my head, its called imagine you're in Bolivia and you have a month to do what ever you want. Its a game that isn't so hard to enjoy. The travel mindset is not always easy to maintain. It can be easy to get tired, the effort required to interact the world often seems overwhelming. But then with a little effort there is so much to see and enjoy, and even the most mundane tasks can be exotic and interesting, everything offers the chance of adventure.