Bolivia is destroying my stomach and my offline gmail.

22 Feb

Ah, Bolivia, the favourite of backpackers.  It’s not hard to see why.  The gorgeous salt flats in the south, the jungle, dinosaur parks, glaciers–this place is stuffed with treks and is cheap, to boot.  For 30 cents, you can get a cup of fresh-pressed orange juice.  For $20, a stylin’ pair of fake Pumas.  For $50, a biking adventure down the World’s Most Dangerous Road, where you need to wear a face-mask so your face remains intact when you bite the dust and that doesn’t cover you when you fall off the cliff.  And these prices include the ubiquitous and odious gringo tax in South America.  (Gringo = 5x price of locals on airfare and all things tourism.   But I suppose gringos are 15x richer than the locals, so we can’t really complain.)

I went snowboarding on a 4,000m-tall glacier near La Paz for $15 (including gringo tax).  It was amazing.  There’s usually not enough snow in Bolivia (not a single ski lift exists here), but silver lining to the terrible rain in La Paz was that it created a temp layer of snow on a glacier, which Club Andino spotted on GoogleEarth.  And so at 4,000 meters above sea level, we huffed and puffed up the hill to ski down, trying to avoid gritas.  (You could be walking and suddenly fall down a crack [because it’s a glacier and not a ski mountain] and possibly never get out.  Luckily, some people only got half-way stuck in gritas and could fish themselves out).  I could definitely feel the altitude–my heart was racing like a rabbit after every 10 paces or so.  As a side note, the son of the Iranian ambassador to Bolivia also came (he spoke Farsi and bits of English and Spanish) and lent me a pair of sunglasses. Really nice of him.

Sheethal and Maurice at the base. By the afternoon, all this snow was gone.

I don’t know much about politics in Bolivia, but it can’t escape your notice that Bolivia doesn’t have the best relations with America United States (keep forgetting!).  For starters, there’s a $135 visa fee for Americans (free for S.Americans, most European countries, etc.).  Grafiti in La Paz tells USAID to go away.  Bolivia is an interesting country–like Africa, many things can go awry here [food, for one.  Only place where I’ve gotten sick for so long.  And the slowest internet, for another.], but people are extremely nice here and very proud of their local culture.

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