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never too many Pisco Sours or coca leaves

From high in the Andes to the pristine beaches of Colombia, I’ve been fortunate enough to discover a part of the world I have not yet conquered. Land that is rich in culture, history, and most importantly coca.

A walking tour in La Paz, a walking tour in Lima, and another one in Medellin. A river boat ride in the Amazon, swimming with caimans and pink dolphins, salsa dancing in Cartagena, sleeping in hammocks in Tayrona, taking photos of the many statues of Simon Bolivar on his horse, (in every single city), wearing lots of layers in the largest salt flats in the world, being out of breath in the highest capital in the world, eating quinoa soup at the highest navigable lake in the world. Hiking to Sun Gate on Machu Picchu, eating too many huevos fritos, not drinking enough Pisco Sours, enjoying lots of pineapple, mango, and papaya, and drinking plenty of agua sin gas. Amazing food (did you know I love ceviche), interesting cultures, stunning landscapes, prehistoric animals, great friends, and new adventures.

What I learnt the most throughout my travels is that there are many styles of travelling and it doesn’t matter whether you travel for one week or one year, fly or take a bus, use a suitcase or a backpack, stay in hostels or in hotels, or if you are 19 or 75. You will see the world, meet amazing people and most importantly create your own experiences. My trip was the break I needed and I accomplished and saw what I wanted to see. One of the most important things I bring back with me, especially from Latin America, is my new appreciation for my home. It’s not until I visit foreign places that I realize how lucky I am to live in a city like Montreal and a country like Canada (aside from the politics of course and the -40 degree winters). To live in a country that is safe, clean, and where you don’t have to worry about being taken advantage of at every moment, is something irreplaceable. Being able to walk around freely and always feeling secure is something that I will never take for granted and I will therefore always remember how lucky I am.

I have a million new memories, lots of new friends and a slightly increased Spanish vocabulary but it’s now time to come home. I am not sure if I am more excited to throw out my soggy toothbrush or be able to flush toilet paper down the toilet. Regardless I am most excited to see my friends and family and enjoy the rest of my summer in Montreal.

Adios, it’s been fun

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salsa is passion

I arrived in Cartagena for two more nights before reaching my final destination of Medellin. There were two things I wanted to do before leaving. Salsa lessons and try a sushi restaurant that had good reviews but was full the first time I passed by. I Googled “salsa lessons Cartagena” and found a school in the Getsemani district which was only a 20 minute walk from where I was staying. It was better than I expected. During the first class we learnt the Merengue, the Salsa, and Bachata (which I’d actually like to forget since it was the most awkward thing ever!). Once the class was over, I asked the teacher if I was good enough for the next level and he responded yes (maybe he just wanted me to spend more money), so I signed up. That night after class, I met up with some friends and walked around an artistry market. I had street food for dinner (well fair food so one step above street food) where I tried a cheese arepa.

The next day I just walked along the cobblestone streets and visited the shops. At night I took my second salsa class where I was happy to see that some of the travellers from the night before returned. I thought I might be ready for a salsa club but decided instead to try the sushi place.

I had an early flight to Medellin and had booked a walking tour for the afternoon. Since Medellin is a big city and a bit unsafe, I thought this was a great way to see the Centro part of the city. I realized I was in a big city when I took a taxi and was all prepared with my speech: “cuanto cuesta (how much), oh muy caro (too expensive)” and then realized the taxi drivers here actually use meters!

The tour guide, who was born in Medellin, did his masters in France, travelled the world and lived abroad in Europe for 4 years, was very proud of his city. He taught us about the unforgiving history and the bright future of Medellin. He is from the Paisa culture which were a group of people, who during the Spanish Inquisition came to the mountains around Medellin mostly from the Middle East and parts of Europe. They were mostly Basques and Sephardic Jews. Though most of them eventually became Catholic. The Paisas have contributed a lot to the culture of Colombia and have helped improve the city of Medellin over the years. We also learnt about how up until only a few years ago Medellin was the most dangerous city in the world. Our guide made sure to tell us we could relax, just not relax too much, this is known as the rules of Papaya; don’t give thieves the opportunity. I took the praised metro system, visited the court house, city hall, the governer’s house, some beautiful churches, saw Botero statues (named after the artist Fernando Botero) and of course another statue of Simon Bolivar. Medellin has evolved and was even chosen this year as the most innovative city in the world due to its recent advances in politics, education, and social development.

The rest of my time in Medellin was spent relaxing, reading, reflecting on my last two months, trying to take it all in. In a couple of days I will be back home and back to reality.

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a city full of Latin music, romance, beauty

The old gated city of Cartagena is a city of romance with its white horse drawn carriages, colorful houses lining the small spiral cobblestone streets, salsa music playing from the many bars, and people dancing in the streets. The city is still protected by a large wall making everything happening inside seem that more magical. I met up with my brother’s friend from Montreal and his girlfriend. It was a nice treat because she is Colombian and grew up in Cartagena so it was as if I had my own private tour guide showing me the sites. I was staying in Bocagrande which has more access to beaches (though they are typical city beaches), so they decided to take me around the other districts. We explored Getsemani and Centro (the old city), they showed me some churches, statues, the Caratgena University (which looks like a castle), different squares, and La Bovedas which are vaults built as dungeons. The vaults were used as prison cells but now used as street vendor stalls.

Cartagena is on the Caribbean sea and I read somewhere that the sand around Bocagrande is actually volcanic sand making the water look muddier. It is very humid but the ocean breeze makes it quite comfortable. When walking around the city and beaches, you really feel like you are in the Caribbean. There is always music in the streets, vendors trying to sell you things, and juice stands everywhere. A typical dish on the beach is fish with coconut rice. And the fish is most certainly served full with the head and scales.

On my second day in Colombia, I took a boat with some friends to Playa Blanca which is your beautiful white sand, turquoise water type of beach but since it’s close to Cartagena it is very touristy and the vendors almost make the experience not enjoyable. But the water was warm, lunch was tasty, and the company was great. We met a family from Cali, Colombia and hung out with them the whole afternoon. We danced salsa in the water, danced some more on the beach and played Latin music from our smartphones. At night I wondered back to the old city to walk around and have dinner.

After staying in what was probably the worst hostel of my trip, I treated myself to a nice hotel in Santa Marta. Santa Marta is another town on the coast that is about 3.5 hours from Cartagena. However, due to some blockades, it took us 8 hours to arrive. We didn’t mind because we were just happy we made it through. At one point we almost turned back and when we chose another longer route and asked the driver how safe it was, his response was 50% 50% ….great. The blockade was actually due to Taxi drivers who were on strike so what they wanted most was money and tried to bribe the cars to pay them to cross. Though luckily we found the other route, didn’t have to pass through the blockade, and didn’t get robbed (always a chance in Colombia). The staff at the hotel were able to read the expression on my face when I arrived and greeted me with a glass of wine. It was at that moment I knew I would like Santa Marta.

Santa Marta is like a smaller version of Cartagena. The streets are small and colorful and lots of music and dancing everywhere. I spent the day at the beach and some time at the pool.

I decided to take an overnight trip to Tayrona national park where I was promised the beaches would be picturesque and the water pristine. I was not let down. After an hour on a sweaty, squishy, loud rap music playing bus ride, we made it to the entrance of the park. You bond quite quickly on buses when you are sitting on the lap of someone you just met. From the entrance of the park, you have a choice of about an hour mini hike through a jungle path or you can opt for a horse to bring you to the campsite. I obviously chose the horse seeing that I’ve never really been horseback riding before. My horse, whose name is Maruha, was on the smaller side so I felt a bad that she had to carry me in the heat. We still managed to get along quite well until she decided to run a little. Fabien, the guide, taught me how to talk to the horse in Spanish, however Maruha did not quite understand me with my accent.

Once I arrived at the campsite, I was impressively surprised at how clean and organized it was. There were cabins, tents and hammocks. I chose the hammock.

The beaches were beautiful. There were not that many tourists and absolutely no vendors. In fact there were times I almost felt like I had the whole beach to myself. Many of the beaches were not swimmable with signs letting you know the number of deaths that took place in those waters, just in case you want to test the odds. The waves were huge and the beach was long and opened making the ocean almost seem violent, but the places you could swim were paradise.

During the night I made some friends, had dinner and we went to the beach to look at the stars. Though nothing will ever compare to the sky I saw that night in the Amazon, it was still a beautiful night.

On the way out of the park, I chose to walk seeing that I already had my horseback riding experience. The walk was pleasant with jungle and beach views but in the 45 degree weather, we were dripping by the time we arrived back at the entrance.

My last night in Santa Marta was quiet. Met up with my Russian friend from my hotel and walked around. I headed to sleep early but was woken up at midnight by fireworks that sounded more like gunshots or a plane flying into a building. However it was still better than being woken up at 4am by Islamic prayers like was the case in Tanzania. Luckily they didn’t last long and I was able to sleep until 6am when the city bells started going off. The city that never sleeps!

Off to Cartagena for a few nights of Salsa lessons before I head to Medellin, my last destination.

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good food and even better friends

Before leaving Cusco, I made sure to treat myself to an afternoon at a Peruvian spa. The couple who own the spa, built it within their home which had a Peruvian feel of stone walls and floors. Of course I also made sure to return to Jack’s cafe a few more times for my Strawberry, Lime and Mint smoothie.

My Irish friend, who I had travelled with from Uyuni to Sucre, showed up in Cusco so we got to hang out and do touristy things together. Since it was his first day and my 6th day in Cusco, I was able to show him around (felt like a local). We visited the Inca museum, headed to a food market (which I was warned about before entering that it was a bit graphic and by that I think they meant the full size pig just lying dead on the table), had a Starbucks, and of course took him back to Jack’s cafe.

After my final day walking around one of my now favorite cities, I headed out to meet my friends from Chicago for one last dinner and of course we made sure to do it right. We went to Chi Chi which is run by the famous Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio. We went all out ordering appetizers, main dishes, desserts and drinks. The ravioli was delicious and so was the seafood risotto. Though I am not sure if it beats the amazing blue cheese and gooseberry pizza we had the night before.

Saying goodbye is always tough, whether it’s to a great city that you probably won’t ever visit again or great new friends from around the world but we all have new things to do and new places to see.

My flight to Lima was uneventful, arriving in the morning, which left me most of the day to go out and venture around. Many people say not to spend time in Lima, but I didn’t mind it. The weather is not warm and it’s quite cloudy and smoggy in the winter, but it’s a nice city. I walked around Miraflores and noticed the large malls, busy shopping streets, and ended my evening at the famous Larcomar shopping center. The mall is hidden from street level but once you cross over to the other side of the road, a structure appears that has been built into the cliff overlooking the ocean.

Lima has great food. I’ve never eaten so much seafood and so much variety of it. Sushi, ceviche, cooked fish, it was all delicious. I ate sole, octopus, salmon, tuna, scallops, shrimps, squid, crab, and probably more (I just didn’t know what I was eating). Being back at low altitude brought back my appetite and almost got me going for a run once I was finally breathing in normal amounts of oxygen. (I chose eating over running.)

A highlight of my last few days in Peru was visiting the chocolate museum and taking a workshop. I learnt quite a lot about cacao (not the same thing as coca), how it’s grown, where, and what to do with it. We took the dry beans, roasted them, crushed them, and created tea with the shells and hot chocolate with the crushed beans. We then took refined chocolate poured it into molds and added our own toppings. Too bad I have to finish all of them by myself before getting to Colombia where they will melt in my bag.

That evening after my chocolate lesson, I went to a well recommended sushi restaurant. Just like the rest, this food was wonderful. It helped that while I sat at the bar and ate my dinner, the sushi chef let me choose piece by piece my favorite types of sushi. I ate like a queen.

My last day in Lima, I was joined by my Canadian friends who I had previously met in Samaipata and then bumped into in Copacabana. We booked a walking tour so that we were able to see the historical and beautiful part of Lima.

Our guide Edwin picked us up and drove us for a personalized city walking tour. We visited the Monastery of San Francisco, where we got to see catacombs (way too many skulls for my liking) and an amazing old library which used to be the social meeting point or as our guide like to call it, the Facebook of those days. We learnt about the Spanish Inquisition and the impacts it had on the Peruvians, we walked around streets with original balconies that survived many large earthquakes, we saw the white governmental buildings, visited the first bar to sell alcohol in South America that supposedly Hemingway once visited (Bar Cordano), took pictures of the bar where the first Pisco Sour was invented, and tasted some Humitas (think corn doughnut) from a street vendor.

We ended our night by trying to find a restaurant near the famous Bridge of Sighs, which ended up being closed, and so we settled at another one where I happily drank my last Pisco Sour in Peru.

Till the next post which will hopefully be from a beach with warm weather.

(Most of my good city pictures are on my camera so unable to upload at the moment….stay tuned).

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llamas, pumpkin soup, and Machu Picchu

Best bus ride to Cusco ever! I sat next to another Montrealer and I slept better than in my hotel – so much that I was too comfortable to get out of my seat when we arrived.

I knew I would like Cusco right away. Yes it is touristy, yes everyone speaks English, and yes it is super expensive, but after travelling in a pretty underdeveloped part of the world, I welcomed the ease of this city. I decided to book tours while I was here so that nothing would go unmissed – of course on the first day the tour company forgot to pick me up. I didn’t think I was off to a good start, but once I arrived at the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in Plaza D’Armas, I joined my group and made friends – thankfully because I honestly couldn’t understand a word our guide said (and she was speaking English). I do still think the tour was well worth it because I got to visit different Inca archeological sites, the cathedral, an alpaca factory (with overpriced items) and I got to meet wonderful new friends from Chicago, Lima and Turkey.

In Cusco, like in Lake Titicaca, when the sun is out it is beautiful and warm, but as soon as it leaves it gets cold fast. It was during the sunset that I was (of course) standing near the market stalls with locals selling alpaca or (probably fake alpaca) sweaters and I couldn’t resist buying another one to keep warm. My bargaining skills in Spanish are improving quickly and I therefore convinced my friend to get one too. I had an awesome day around Cusco but my adventures did not stop there. Since it was Friday night, I was talked into visiting the Chabad house for Shabbat dinner. I was reluctant at first, since it is really not my thing, but figured I am all about new experiences so why not give it a try. The Chabad is a place where Jewish travellers can come together. Since my tour ended late, I missed the prayers (worked out well) and I was just in time for the Shabbat meal. It was mostly young Israelis but I sat next to a couple in their 60s from California. Thankfully so, because I hardly remember any Hebrew and couldn’t follow any of what the Israelis were saying. There was also another couple at the dinner who ended up being on my Machu Picchu tour but I only learnt this a few days later. The food was surprisingly good. Chopped egg, coleslaw, chalah, soup, guacamole, salad, and chicken. The most interesting thing for me was that we sang songs which I knew from elementary school and we all sang them the same way. I am not sure if I would be a regular attendee, but it was a cool thing to do in Cusco and it’s nice that I was welcomed there.

My next day in Cusco, I woke up early to join another tour to visit the Sacred Valley. I was the only English speaker on the bus since everyone else understood Spanish – they were from Mexico City, Barcelona, and Brazil.

We made various stops such as a market, a shop where they taught us about silver making (a way for them to convince us to buy in their shops), and visits to more ruins in Pisaq, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. We enjoyed lunch in Urubamba at this really nice hotel lodge. We dined outside in the gardens facing the river and it was absolutely stunning and Zen like. The buffet was quite fancy with ceviche, sushi, alpaca, salads, soups, and more. I wasn’t feeling well so I didn’t take full advantage of the food, but I made sure to taste the alpaca. I am not a fan and it tastes nothing like llama. The one last dish to try in Peru (which I won’t) is guinea pig. I stop at llamas.

Since I wanted to visit Machu Picchu (MP) first thing in the morning, I decided to sleep in the town Aguas Calienetes where the buses leave for MP. The second to last site on my Sacred Valley tour was at the Ollantaytambo ruins which also happens to be the train station to MP. The train was interesting and packed with tourists. I enjoyed my free snacks and hot manzanilla (chamomile) tea.

Other than my tour forgetting to pick me up the first day, they are otherwise pretty organized and as soon as you get off the train or bus there is always someone waiting for you with a sign to take you to your hotel. For once it was nice not to have to plan anything, book any tickets, or look at a map. Since I had been lacking sleep and wanted to get to MP first thing in the morning, I had a quick non exciting bite to eat and headed to bed. I tried to wake up for 4:30 am to catch the sunrise, but snoozed until 5:30 am and luckily so because it was cloudy anyway. I arrived at MP around 7:00 am and waited to join my tour. Since many tour groups arrive during the day from Cusco around noon, it wasn’t that crowded when I arrived. In fact even with all the thousands of people, there were no line ups. I was surprised a bit at how touristy it was. It reminded me of a ski hill or a North American waterslide entrance – with a snack bar, restaurant, place to check bags, etc. In Bolivia or in other parts of the world like the Serengeti, or national parks, the entrances to the sites are far less touristy.

MP is quite a spectacular site and a lot bigger than I expected. Of all the ruins I have ever seen, this was the one the made the most sense to me – It really looks like a city. 70% of the area is original Inca construction and 30% is new reconstruction. I won’t go into the Inca history, nor MP because you can just google it, but to see the detail of the stones and the reasoning behind much of how and why they were built, was a-m-a-zing. Most of what they tell you are just assumptions since the site was only officially discovered in 1911. The site of MP is where the Andes meets the jungle so the nature around the mountain is stunning as well. One thing the Incas did like are stairs! So after walking around for 3 hours up and down the ruins (mainly up), on Machu Picchu mountain, looking at Huayna Picchu (the famous one from the pictures), a friend I made in the group and I felt we needed to walk some more! We decided to make our way up to the Sun Gate which is the famous point where the Inca trail trekkers arrive at MP and see the ruins for the first time. Wikipedia calls the trek a fairly strenuous one about 1.5 hours straight up and then 1 hour back descent, so once I reached the top it didn’t matter that it was raining and I had zero view of the ruins, I was just happy I got to see the Sun Gate and that I trekked 2.5 hours on the original Inca trail. I brought all the right things with me to the park because it was hot, cold and rainy all in one day. I spent 7 hours at Machu Picchu and definitely made the most of my time there. They say the train to MP is the most expensive train per km in the world and it was well worth it indeed. We took a bus back to Aguas Calientes where we awaited a train back to Cusco.

Aguas Calientes is nice for about an hour. It’s very touristy and all the restaurants and shops are the same. It is pretty much used only as the entrance point to MP. Unfortunately we had about 3 hours to kill until train left – so what else to do in Peru but walk around yet another market. I think I’ve officially seen enough markets.

Since I really like Cusco and met those girls from Chicago who are visiting for a few more days, I decided to extend my time here and just relax and enjoy the city. I’m now at this restaurant called Jack’s cafe where I just ate the best pumpkin soup ever! Nothing better for a rainy day in Cusco. So much for the dry season! Next stop Lima.

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fresh trout, a lake, new friends

My journey from Rurrenabaque to Copacabana, Lake Titicaca, was quite the adventure. Picture me on the back of a scooter with my not so small backpack riding on the bumpy road to the airport field to catch my 25 minute flight to La Paz. Fast forward a few hours later to getting on a “water ferry” crossing over the lake and the only Gringo in site. I debated using the bathroom before getting back on the bus, knowing my backpack was underneath the bus and should I miss it, I would lose my bag. I took the risk, ran back to the water and barely made it. I was the last one back on the bus.

Copacabana is a small town with a few touristy streets. It is on Lake Titicaca which is the highest navigable lake in the world. The lake is divided: 40% Bolivia and 60% Peru. Supposedly you can cross into the other country by boat without going through border patrol. The largest island on the lake is Sun Island (Isla Del Sol) on the Bolivian side and the Peru side is known for their many floating islands.

While relaxing at a coffee place, I made a friend from Washington who I spent the next few days with. My time in Copa was relaxing as we slept in, hung out, took a paddle boat out onto the lake. But it wasn’t completely uneventful as we had a little run in with the Bolivian police. The man who we rented the paddle boat from wanted to charge us twice and we, being determined tourists trying not to get scammed, insisted we let the police settle the situation. My friend is a Spanish teacher so she helped defend us and luckily we won our case (and saved paying $3). Of course I couldn’t leave without asking the police to be in a picture with us. So we pulled out our iPhones and snapped away yet they seemed even more excited. Once we were done, they pulled out their smart phones to do the same.

Lake Titicaca is known for their trout so I definitely made sure to enjoy some. For $5 we ate a full course meal including a huge mushroom soup, rice, trout, potatoes and ended with the popular Bolivian dessert of bananas with chocolate sauce.

After saying goodbye to my friend, I boarded my 3hrs bus ride to Puno which is the town on the Peru side of the lake. This bus ride seemed like first class compared to Bolivian buses, I already felt transported into another world. After arriving in Puno, I was quite surprised how much of a real city it was. Lots of shops (modern ones too), fancy restaurants and most importantly hot showers! I decided to book a tour right away to visit the floating Uros islands. These islands are literally built with the weeds from the lakes. The people on these islands live in huts and I am not sure how they do it overnight with the temperature dropping below zero. Every 25 years they need to move and rebuild a new island since the old one will be uninhabitable. The tour also included visiting Taquile island. This island is 2.5 hours away from Puno by boat. The indigenous women welcomed us into their homes (huts) and let us take pictures. They even managed to speak a tiny bit of English. They rely on tourism so I didn’t mind buying a bracelet in order to help them out. After all they were very friendly, answered all our questions, did a little song and dance, and were impressively interested in our names and where we came from. We stopped for lunch on the island and had fresh trout and quinoa soup. Quinoa is grown in the Andes due to the high altitude so it is often found in most dishes here. This has probably been one of the best soups I’ve ever had.

At night I met up with my new friends from the tour for dinner. One of the guys (who had been living in Cusco for 6 weeks) was super good a negotiating so managed to get us a great deal on dinner at a quaint little restaurant and happy hour prices on drinks. So I finally caved and had my first Pisco Sour.

Many travellers say to skip Puno and visit the lake only from the Bolivian side, but I quite enjoyed my 2 days in Puno. Next stop Cusco, Sacred Valley, and the magical Inca city of Machu Picchu.

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my own Disney fairytale (minus the prince…)

As I was landing in Rurrenabaque, in a field in the middle of nowhere, I knew I’d like this place. After a short 25 minute flight from La Paz, we were transferred by small bus from the middle of nowhere, to the small office of the airline to collect our baggage. Definitely no security here. I arrived at my hostel and forced myself to be outgoing so I wouldn’t have to eat dinner alone. I made an American friend and the two of us headed off for a good meal of Chicken Marsala (Bolivian style), rice and fries. Rurrenabaque is a small village with lots of shops selling hammocks and flip flops amongst other items. The village is on the Beni River, one of the many rivers making up the Amazon River. Rurre (the shorten name) feels kinda like the beach town of the Amazon.

I had already booked my tour prior to arriving and I chose to go with the company Mashaquipe (means united family) and I selected the Pampas tour. There is also a Jungle tour but since I love seeing animals, the Pampas one was the recommended tour to take. A car picked us up and after a 4 hour car ride and 10 minute river boat ride, (of course we had a delay due to a car getting stuck in the mud), we arrived at our destination. A lovely retired British couple joined with me, but only for 1 night and the second part of my trip I was alone. My own private guide through the Amazon Rainforest. Luckily another 2 girls from France showed up who I was able to eat dinner with.

The “camp” is right on the Yacuma River and is made up of cabin huts where we eat and sleep and of course hammocks where we can rest (after our very strenuous river boat rides). Lunch is a hot bowl of veggie soup with meat, rice, and some sort of potatoes, while dinner is chicken with rice and potatoes. You cannot eat a meal here without potatoes. Always ending the meal with fruit or dessert. Breakfast is served by candlelight since the electricity is only used at night making for quite the romantic place to be.

I spent 3 days going up and down the river spotting many animals including: capybaras, sloths, turtles, caimans, iguanas, Howler, Capuchin, and Squirrel monkeys, anacondas, and of course the famous pink dolphins. I kinda feel bad for the dolphins since I really think they are missing out by not being in the blue ocean waters. What really stood out were the birds. They were “prehistoric” birds reminiscent of the dinosaur age. I couldn’t believe my eyes as we floated through the river. I really felt like I was in a Disney movie. The landscape was out of a book. Unlike anything I had ever seen.

As mentioned in one of my other blog posts, this trip was about stepping out of my comfort zone and I definitely did this in the Pampas. I jumped into the brown waters of the Yacuma river and swam with the dolphins. Well they didn’t really swim very close but we needed them there to protect us from the Caimans, which were right around the corner. The other unlike me thing to do was go fishing for Piranhas. I didn’t catch any, but watched Christian, my guide, catch a red belly one. At this point it was just him and I relaxing on the boat, fishing, breathing in the fresh air, and talking about our lives and how different they are. His dream is to buy a house since rent, which costs about $75 a month, is too expensive. He has a daughter and wife and he would like to move to Chile for a while in order to earn a better salary. However, he will have to make the 3 day journey to La Paz each month in order to renew his visa. That means every month, 1 week of travel by bus, just in order to be able to stay in Chile. When I explained to him that my job consists of sitting indoors at a computer all day, it didn’t seem much better than his situation. But in the moment, we both seemed quite happy just sitting in the boat listening to the sounds of the animals. Him of course all covered up in a jacket and long pants, while me being Canadian and trying to take advantage of the heat and sun, in my tank top and flip flops.

Night time is always interesting as the first night, after being trapped inside my mosquito net with a mosquito, a huge ant, and a moth, I decided that wouldn’t work. After asking another girl who was also staying at the same camp for support while I killed the ant, and then the moth and then the mosquito, I was finally able to sleep. Until of course I woke up numerous times to the loud sounds of…pretty much everything… thinking I was not alone. But once I shined my light to make sure they were in fact outside of the net, I was able to get back to sleep.

The second night was just another usual night, you know… going down the river while it’s pitch black outside with the millions of stars sparkling in the sky. Doesn’t everyone go looking for the eyes of caimans during nighttime?

On the last day we did one of my favorite activities. That’s right, we went searching for anacondas. This is one of those things that I could have totally done with out, but since I am here to experience new things, I figured it was a must do. So Christian and I headed out to the swampy fields. Him with his machete and me in the lovely pair of rain boots they provided. We spent an hour and a half under the scorching heat which felt like 100 degrees and I finally caved and told him not to worry, that really I would be ok if I didn’t see any anacondas….I mean really! Luckily some other visitors, a Bolivian woman from La Paz and her son were also ready to go back so we all returned together. And guess what, as soon as we all arrived at our camp, we saw a huge lime green anaconda!

When I think of Bolivia, I think of the Amazon, the jungle, the rainforest, the animals, the sounds of nature. These last 3 days was exactly what I was expecting and what I wanted to see when I came here. One more week in Bolivia and then I continue my journey to another country. Each week has been so different from each other and I cannot wait to see what the next destination brings.

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