November 30, 2010

Bolivia: Sucre

{ Sucre, Bolivia }
On the bus Laura and I met Eveline and Claire (Amsterdam) who we had seen at all the other Loki's and the four us spent the next few days together in Sucre. Sucre was gorgeous and there was so much to explore and see. Wish I could study aboard here or teach English. This town deserves a few more months.

{ Tarabaco, Sunday market outside of Sucre }

November 27, 2010

Bolivia: Death Road and San Pedro Prison

{ La Paz, Bolivia }
Death Road
On my birthday Laura and I mountain biked down Death Road, known as the world´s most dangerous road. It is a road that is very skinny and use to be the only road connecting La Paz to other towns. There were a number of deaths every year by trucks driving off the edge. Now a new road has been built and Death Road has become a must for tourists in La Paz. I almost did not go because I was terrified of riding off the edge. I actually had nightmares the night before, but at the end of the day I just couldn't miss out, FOMO. Turns out it wasn't as bad as I had expected and before I knew it I was cruising down the road. The scariest part was when you had to break going around a corner, hoping you did not slide off the cliff.

It was a great way to spend a birthday and a very memorable one! That night the whole bar at Loki sang me Happy Birthday.

San Pedro Prison
The day after Thanksgiving Laura and I went to the front door of San Pedro Prison. We had both just finished reading Marching Powder so we had to go see the prison for ourselves. San Pedro is located right in the middle of La Paz. It is a prison for mostly drug traffickers. Each prisoner has to buy their own cell and because of this it is common for the entire family to live in one cell. This keeps the family together and is the only affordable way for most prisoners. So there are wives and children within the prison as well and they are able to leave whenever they please, for example, to go to school or to the market to buy produce. The cells can range from small apartments to cement holes depending on your wealth. Inside the prison there are restaurants, pharmacies, stores... everything one could need. The prisoners who have apartments have kitchens and cook their own meals. In the basements of the prison there is a laboratory for making cocaine. The purest cocaine comes from within San Pedro. Anything goes with in the prison as the police never come inside. This is also another La Paz tourist attraction- the prisoners give tours of the prison for a high price.

November 24, 2010

Peru and Bolivia: Puno to Copacabana

Sunday afternoon Laura and I arrived in Puno, the boarder town before Bolivia. Puno is located on Lake Titicaca and has tours to the Floating Islands where the indigenous people live. As we arrived in Puno we heard, from Oli who owns a number of different bars and hostels in Peru and Bolivia, that the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca was much better. So we decided to skip Puno and head to Copacabana, Bolivia.

At 5:45am Monday morning I was woken up by our dormmates at Bothy Hostel packing and rushing out of the room to catch the 7:30am bus to Copacabana. At 8am Laura and I woke up to go to the Bolivian Consulate to get our visas (required for Americans only). We heard that at the consulate the visa was only $100 instead of $135 at the boarder. We arrived at the consulate and they said, "no it is the same at the boarder just go and pay money, no problem." After that unsuccessful attempt to save $35 we went to book our bus ticket. Turns out there are only two buses to Copacabana, one at 7:30am and one at 2:30pm. Dang it! We should have chased our early rising dormmates to the 7:30 am bus. So we had to waste an afternoon (not much to do in Puno) in Puno just floating around when we could have been enjoying Copacabana. After spending the afternoon at an Internet cafe uploading pictures we went to the bus station. At 2:19pm I realized I had left my iPod under my pillow on my dorm bed at Bothy Hostel. As I frantically ran around asking in my "fluent" Spanish if I had time to take a taxi back to Bothy the bus driver went back and forth between yes, we have time and no, no time. I even asked if the bus would stop at the hostel. That was a no. We drove away from Puno with only my memories of my pink iPod case and my iPod under my pillow.

Bolivia and the US are not friends. Americans (and only Americans) have to pay $135 dollars to get into the country. And yes the fee is only accepted in US dollars. We arrived at the boarder crossing where we had to fill out a very long visa form (we skipped the box that asked for our social security number). As we handed over our visa form and passport to the immigration officer he through it in a pile not even looking at it or our Yellow Fever Vaccination form. The immigration office did not even have computers to scan our passports. It was weird but we had made it to Bolivia and we can come back for the next five years for free.

We arrived in Copacabana shortly after the boarder crossing. Copacabana is on Lake Titicaca (the highest lake in the world) and there are islands off the shore that are suppose to be beautiful. As we arrived in Copacabana and hostel shopped we found out that there is only one ATM in town and it is inside a bank that is closed almost always. It is open for three hours a day in the afternoon. Great, we have no money but have just paid $135 dollars at the boarder, how ironic. Laura and I frantically started to look over our cash situation, we had $15 and about 40 soles ($10). We exchanged every sole we could find into Bolivianos and realized the Isla del Sol tour was out of the question. We had just enough money for our hostel room, a shared pizza for dinner, and our bus tickets to La Paz. So glad we missed the Floating Islands in Peru for the amazing islands on the Bolivia side. Traveling- what a day.

November 20, 2010

Peru: Arequipa, Flora Tristan and Colca Canyon

Wednesday night Laura and I took a Cruz del Sur night bus to Arequipa. Thursday we spent the day walking around town and signing ourselves up for Friday and Saturday activities. We have already been so much more production in Arequipa then we ever were in Cusco. Loki made us lazy.

Friday afternoon we volunteered with Traveler Not Tourist. We took the public bus to Flora Tristan to help with construction and teach English (our specialty) at a local school. The school is located right next to a gravel pit and the community is made up of the smallest rock houses with dry brown dirt every where. The first two hours at the school were spent sweeping the class rooms and doing some general cleaning. Every day the classrooms fill up with dust from the gravel pit. Sneeze. The kids arrived at 3:30pm and English class started. Since it was Friday, it was game day. The other permanent teachers pretty much sat back and let Laura and I play our English games that we learned in Vietnam. The last hour was spent outside while the girls played with chalk and the boys played soccer. An exhausting day and a day that only needed to happen once but the experience was well worth it.

{ The school }
{ The classroom }
{ Flora Tristan }
On Saturday we did a day tour of the Colca Canyon. This was the worst day Laura and I have had in South America. We spent five hours driving to Colca Canyon which we have decided is not a canyon, at least where we were. It is more like a mountain with a valley. We did see a condor which was cool for a second. We then spent a few hours driving to Chivay for lunch and then three more hours back to Arequipa. Ten hours total on a bus for a day tour... no thanks, never again. We did team up with a couple from Germany which made our complaining much more entertaining. I think if I were to do it again I would do the canyon trek, I hear that is much more fascinating.

{ Condor at Colca }
{ Lunch in Chivay with the Germans }

November 18, 2010

Peru: Machu Picchu

After our last weekend shift at Loki Laura and I went to Machu Picchu. On Monday morning we took a car to Ollantaytambo where we caught the train to Aguas Calientes. The drive to Ollantaytambo was, of course, breath taking. Every time I see a mountain my jaw drops. I am pretty sure Laura is sick of me saying ¨wow! look at those mountains, they are amazing." I say this with a very slow drawn out tone. There were even snow top peaks off in the distance. Aguas Calientes is a town solely built off of tourism. The train even arrives in a market. Start shopping, tourists!

Tuesday morning started at 3:30am. To be able to climb Waynapicchu (which is the mountain behind the Inca ruins) you have to be one of the first 400 visitors which means you need to be at the bus stop at 4am to get in line. You can either hike up (two hours) or bus up (30 minutes) to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes. The first bus up to Machu Picchu is at 5:30am. As we arrived at the entrance to Machu Picchu there were about 50 people already waiting in line very sweaty with their shirts off (these are the hikers). We arrived in layers as it was very cold that morning. At 6am the gates open and you get your stamp to climb Waynapicchu. There are two climbing times, we climbed at 7am.

{ Laura and Tiffany with their Waynapicchu stamp }
Waynapicchu is pretty much straight up with cobble stone steps. The views, however, are worth all the huffing and puffing. The jungle goes on forever.

After a very sweaty morning  climb we spent the rest of the day exhausted but loved exploring Machu Picchu.

That afternoon we hiked down to Aguas Calientes, if I ever see a step again.

{ Aguas Calientes }
Tuesday night we returned to Loki Cusco. We had missed it and honestly wanted to stay because turns out we are the type to get sucked into Loki life and if we did not have a bus ticket our of Loki on Wednesday night we probably would have never left. Loki does become a type of home; smoke, cough, cold and all.

{ Last day in Cusco with Alyssa }

November 12, 2010

Peru: Pisac Road Trip

{ Laura, Alyssa and me at a view point on our way to Pisac }
Alyssa, Laura and I ventured to Pisac, a small city about 40 minutes outside of Cusco. We took a taxi which ended up making our day. As we drove along listening to American pop songs and singing along with our driver we got to see breathtaking views. I can not get over the landscape here. Huge, very steep green mountains. Pisac was a wonderful small town in the valley between huge mountains.... it was great to get out of Cusco, we were starting to get cabin fever.

November 7, 2010

Peru: Eight Shifts

After four shifts this week it turns out that Laura and I will be very ready to leave after our minimum commitment of two weeks. There are some pros and cons to working at Loki and the cons seem to be catching up with us. We sleep, eat, work and socialize all in the same 20 yards with the exact same people every day and every night. I thought we could be the type to get sucked into Loki life but turns out we are not. In just over a week we will be back to traveling, starting with Machu Picchu.

November 5, 2010

"The same"

I have forgotten to write about how everyone everywhere thinks Laura and I are twins or even the same person. When we were in Lima at the market Laura entered a store and was quickly approached by the owner asking if she needed help, as she turned around to walk away she saw me a few steps behind and yelped "the same!" We honestly scared her. Here at Loki we get asked a couple times a day which one we are.... Laura or Holly. Doesn't help that we were matching Loki t-shirts/ outfits.

November 4, 2010

Peru: Cusco, Our Duo Has Become a Trio

Halloween was our first night working at Loki. We dressed up as Tom Cruise from Risky Business and washed cups for 6.5 hours. We had yet to be trained to do bar work and they needed extra help, which meant bussing tables and washing dishes. After three years of college without a dishwasher I am pretty sure on this Halloween night alone I washed more dishes- my nails were very clean though. It was a busy night for us.

After Halloween Laura, Alyssa and I moved into the staff dorm (right now, however this changes regularly, the staff dorm consists of four Americans, three Brits, a guy from Israel, a Peruvian and a French Canadian). Alyssa is from Denver- our duo has quickly become a trio.

{ Cusco trio, San Blas view point }
Our first "real" shift wasn't until Wednesday night so the three of us spent the next couple of days exploring Cusco- market shopping, seeing the famous 12 point stone and eating at some delicious restaurants. Cusco is a great old city with small cobble stone streets and old Inca stone walls. It is also the perfect size, we are able to walk everywhere which also means we are constantly winded. The altitude definitely puts a spin on what activities we look forward to doing. We always feel out of breath, even climbing up the ladder to my top bunk sometimes takes it out of me.

On Wednesday morning we ventured out of Cusco, with other Loki staff, and went horseback riding in the country. For the next several days it was hard to sit on the bar stools, however, totally worth it because the scenery was beautiful.

Wednesday night we served drinks and took dinner orders. We work four shifts a week and in return we get a free bed, a free meal and 40% off our tab. As of now we plan on working at Loki for a month, however, the minimum is two weeks. We will see how long this bar job lasts.
{ lounging in the courtyard hammocks }