new year journeys
Hola queridos! A lot has happened since I last posted in November. I made my way down the Atlantic coast from Ecuador to Chile (4 countries, 20+ cities, and at least that many bus rides), met many new friends, reunited with old friends, made ascents to high altitudes (Potosí, Bolivia- highest city in the world at 4000+meters!) visited expansive deserts, salt lagoons where you can float effortlessly and salt flats where you feel like you are at the end of the world, experienced the wonder of Macchu Picchu and the Andes, ate delicious Peruvian ceviche, and continued to drink refreshing fruit juices and shakes of all varieties (yummmm!)
The highlights have been breathtaking – Machu Picchu and Salar de Uyuni are magical, but there have been challenges as well. My body had a difficult time acclimating to the high altitudes in Bolivia and I continued to feel sick even in places that were less than 3,000 meters. Despite feeling tired much of the time, there is something special about being in such a high place- the clouds are unreal! They’re so close it feels as if you could reach out, grab a fluffy white piece and rub it on your face! I love how the sky can look so different depending where you are in the world.
I was grateful to spend Christmas and New Years reconnecting with a good friend of 14 years, Sarah, in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where she lives in the tranquil countryside with her boyfriend and adorable dog. I then spent a few weeks in Sucre hanging out with a friend I made in Cuzco and other fun travelers. One of the best things about traveling is meeting so many interesting people from all over the world, but one of the saddest parts is saying goodbye to so many interesting people from all over the world. I’m getting better at that though, and enjoying the brief connections and inspirations that come out of these interactions.
Bolivia is a fascinating place. It’s the second poorest country in the western hemisphere and as a traveler you can feel that; many roads are in bad conditions and there is a feeling of chaos, particularly in the bus stations, that is more pronounced than in other countries I’ve visited.
Bolivia’s population is 70% indigenous and there is a strong history of political activism. Protests are a daily occurrence, sometimes even when they don’t make sense. One day, I tried to visit an important museum about the history of silver in Bolivia, but it was closed for the day due to a national holiday that no one knew about. The long line of Bolivians were very unhappy about this unexpected closure and in protest they moved into the street to block traffic. The police responded by simply detouring traffic another way. Gotta love that sense of empowerment and activism.
On a more serious note, a hot topic in Bolivia has been protests about the government’s proposal to build a road through an indigenous Amazon area called TIPNIS. This article gives an overview of what transpired and the current political situation with Evo Morales- http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2097142,00.html
And even more impressive to me is the following story about disabled people marching 1400 kilometers, or in wheelchairs in some cases (!), from Trinidad to La Paz to protest social stigma and a lack of state benefits- http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/jan/11/disabled-people-march-for-equality-bolivia\
When I arrived in Chile a few weeks ago, the differences between the two countries could not have been more apparent. The moment you cross the border, the roads change from dirt to pavement, there are shopping malls and in general everything feels more Western. There is still a distinct Latin feel but with more amenities, which I am very much appreciating (toilet paper in the bathrooms- I don’t have to carry it around with me!)
A highlight of Chile is the gritty, charming, bohemian city of Valparaiso. Full of hills, murals, artists, cafes and views of the picturesque bay, it feels like a dream. My dear friend and vecina from my old job, Maggie, is hosting me; we are sharing many talks and laughter over tea, spending time with her family, reflecting on our lives and the meaning of our experiences in child welfare, and doing my new set of morning yoga exercise routine together (the Five Tibetans, which were introduced to me by a new Dutch friend. Check it out, they are giving me tons of energy every morning- http://lifeevents.org/5-tibetans-energy-rejuvenation-exercises.htm).
All this traveling has been inspiring and exciting, but exhausting too! After much deliberation, I decided to move to Medellin, Colombia and will arrive there by the end of February. It’s time to get back to some of the things that I have missed while living out of a backpack- community, a feeling of groundedness in a place, yoga and salsa dancing. But first I will head to the beautiful Lakes region in Southern Chile for a few days, explore Santiago, and party in Barranquilla for Carnaval. Then who knows– a bed to call my own for a few months, a kitchen, some routine…maybe even a cell phone!
I hope to post more frequently as I find out what life has to offer around the next bend. Miss you all. Sending lots of luv and hugs from Chile!!