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sunny 28 °C



Today, with our companions on their way back home, we decided to plan an excursion to get out of the city. We hired our guide Juan from the past few days to take us to the town of Coroico, which is 3000 meters lower than where we are now and in the jungle. It is also much warmer.

Not long into our trip, I got a text from Lorna saying when they got to the airport, the airline insisted that all Sharon’s flights were cancelled. She ended up buying a ticket to Lima to try and straighten things out with Air Canada there because Avianca wasn’t helping. Then a few minutes later, another text, Lorna had lost her passports. No doubt from the stress of leaving her mom behind in Lima. She could not board her next flight. She did find the passports left on the previous flight, but not until after missing her flight. At present, they all have reunited in Lima and have new itineraries home tomorrow.

Nevertheless, it caused me some panic and so I texted Sherry back home to get online and on phone to make sure we had flights. She is the best agent, she even checked us in. So fingers crossed, things will be straight forward for us.

Our adventure wasn’t terribly exciting although the views through the Andes were lovely. We stopped at what they call the summit at 4700 meters above sea level. The road was crazy. They wanted to take the old road known as death road but I insisted on the new road. That freaked me out enough as it is. As we were driving out of town, Juan is telling me about all the accidents even on the new road. Now only bikers used the true death road.


The summit


While at the summit we could see fire pits everywhere from sacrifices. There were two female shaman there to assist with sacrifices and even our driver gave a sacrifice of alcohol and coca leaves to Pachamama ( the god or mother of the earth).


When we got to Coroico, we had a quick look around but there wasn’t much there. We did have a really nice lunch at a cute little restaurant.

We visited a waterfall. The roads were brutal and it was so dusty.


I had hoped to visit a Coca plantation but we did not and the Coca museum was closed. I am fascinated by this leaf that is used by tourists in tea to manage altitude sickness and is chewed constantly by locals. It is the same leaf that is used to manufacture cocaine. I am not sure why I was surprised that the tea is stimulant and was keeping me up or that the poor use it to have energy and not feel hungry, which makes it appealing. We can’t bring it home and the only way to get it there is to start a cocaine habit which doesn’t seem like the best idea. We did see it growing everywhere though. Apparently the chronic chewers are addicted to the leaf.


The best part of my day was when we saw the potato farmers drying and dehydrating their potatoes and I asked to pull over. It was so cool. We got out and talked to them. This one couple showed me how they spread potatoes for 3 days so lots of frost gets in them, then they stomp them with their bare feet over a few days to get all the water out. This dehydrates them so they can store them.


Another kind was soaked in sacks in the river for three weeks.


This lady , my new friend, wanted to know if she would be on Facebook Canada.


It was a nice day. Relaxing. But we are tired and we don’t go to the airport until 12:30 am and fly at 3:30 am. I guess that is a first world problem.

The chicken that joined us for lunch


Posted by curlygirl 18:22 Archived in Bolivia Tagged la bolivia coca paz coroico Comments (2)



sunny 22 °C

After a very busy couple of weeks exploring Peru and Bolivia we finally had a day with nothing on our schedule. This is actually the last day for our travel companions as they leave very early in the morning. We fly after midnight tomorrow night.

Since we were all exhausted we opted to take the morning to relax at our hotel which was great. At lunch time, we headed out on a little itinerary planned by Lorna. We started by heading to a restaurant for lunch, only to get caught up in a local protest. It was harmless minus the constant firecrackers. The protest appeared to be by medical professionals and along the sidelines were local protesting against them. It was without incident.


After lunch we returned to San Francisco Cathedral hoping to get inside. It was still locked so we decided to visit the church museum. This turned out to be awesome as we ended up guided through alleys that took us to the balcony overlooking the inside of the church and to the bell tower and even up to the rooftop. The tiles on the roof were actually molded by the thighs of the workers. It was gorgeous and a complete surprise. It is definitely underated in the guide books.


Next was a stroll through the market and some last minute shopping. And of course some Chola or Cholita stalking ( one week it is the geisha, next the cholitas). Lorna sent me a great article about the history of this dress code and their role in society. You can actual watch them wrestle on Sunday nights. I checked it out on YouTube and I don’t think we missed much.

If you want to read about the Cholitas, click here


Can you see the wad of coca leaves in her cheek?


We came back to the hotel to relax for a few minutes and then the adults went to a nearby museum that featured a textile exhibit, mask exhibit, traditional hats, history of the people of Bolivia, artifacts from the region and much more. Very well done.


We came back and fetched the kids and grabbed a bite at the museum restaurant. I have barely had time to write anything about some of our impressions but I can tell you that we have been less than impressed with the food. Both Peru and Bolivia have over 22 types of quinoa and while I love it, I don’t care to see it for a very long time. The other local favorite is potato and it can appear in any of the over 100 varieties, not all good.

Then it was back to the hotel to say our goodbyes.

Six years ago, I traveled alone with my son for the first time. I was nervous. I booked my first ever tour, a family adventure through Costa Rica. I wasn’t sure I would like a tour. I wasn’t sure how Isaac would manage with other families, being without his dad. But fate took over. Our tour was unique, off the beaten path and showed us things we would have never discovered on our own. It was fun, it was relaxing. More importantly it was shared with just one other family. A single mom, Lorna with her two kids ( Kajal and Jackson), both slightly younger than Isaac and her mom, Sharon. Two incredibly strong smart ladies who shared so many interests with me. After two weeks, we were the best of friends and were already planning a second trip together in 2 years. That trip was just as successful. Vietnam and Cambodia remains one of my favorites and believe it or not, we were once again the only 6 booked on that tour. Two years after that we traveled to Kenya and Tanzania and decided there that we should tackle a 4th continent together. Well that trip is now complete and I have just said good bye to this special family. There are no future trips planned. Isaac is off to college in the fall and so life is about to change. I can only say that I am so grateful that this family was in the right place at the right time and I will never forget the special memories we have created together.


Posted by curlygirl 18:28 Archived in Bolivia Tagged san francisco la paz chola chilota Comments (1)



sunny 22 °C

This has been a crazy, hectic and surreal day as we crossed from Peru in Bolivia.

Our day began at 7 am and we made our way to the bus terminal for the long journey to La Paz, Bolivia, the highest administrative capital in the world, resting on the Andes’ Altiplano plateau at more than 3,500m above sea level.

Our bus was lovely and we had front row seats on the second level so enjoyed a really nice view. It was well organized and about 2 hours in we stopped just prior to the Bolivian border to change money. This is what $200 usd got me, 1350 Bolivianos. Then we moved on to Peruvian immigration which was quick and easy. We then walked 5 minutes across the border into Bolivia and visited immigration there, which was equally as quick.


Immediately upon crossing into Bolivia we knew were in a very different place. Bolivia is the poorest of all the South American countries and it shows. But the landscape and houses looked different too.

After another 20 minutes, our bus dropped us at Copacabana, Bolivia, where we had 15 minutes to eat, pee and transfer to our Bolivian bus to La Paz which was vastly different. It was run down with no bathrooms and very little leg room ( although the back of the bus said we were VIP). 45 minutes in we had another stop where we were told to get off the bus, pay 2 Bolivianos and take a boat across a little river while the bus went across the water on a barge. We barely had time to pee when they were yelling at me “meesus, get on da bus, now!”. We were no longer being pampered as we had been in Peru, we were cattle being moved along. We then had a 3 hour drive to La Paz that turned into 4.5 hours.


Approaching La Paz there was major construction and later tons of traffic due to a festival. Today is a holiday, Independence day for Bolivia. We were stuck in traffic forever and I really wondered what kinda dump we were coming to. Ironically every now and then you would see a couple that looked so done up they reminded me of a fancy scene from a movie in the old days. One thing I noticed immediately is all the woman in the Bowler hats. Introduced in the 1800s by the British, they were somehow adopted by the woman and not the men.




Finally, we caught the most spectacular view of the mountains and La Paz sitting deep in the valley. I hope we get a chance to see that view. It any case, it gave me hope.

We were met by our transportation agent who brought us to our hotel and we were blown away. It is simply gorgeous. It is a colonial house dating from 1832, with a Colonial style architecture, located in the historic center of the city of La Paz. It is restored retaining 80% of the original construction. It is like stepping back in time with antiques everywhere. Many important figures in Bolivian history lived in this house. Our room is gorgeous but Lorna and Sharon have a loft, one with a bed and stain glass windows. Isaac says it is our best hotel ever.


We finally get a sleep in tomorrow, staring a city tour at 9:30 (we have changed time zones so are now only 1.5 hours earlier than Newfoundland). Tomorrow night at 9pm, we take an overnight bus for 12 hours to Uyuni. We have been assured that will be a better bus. I definitely won’t be posting tomorrow but will when I can.

I did not take out my camera today but I grabbed a few shots with my point and shoot and through the bus window.

Otherwise all is well and we are feeling better with the altitude. Hopefully we have finally adjusted. We are very excited to experience Bolivia.

Apparently they eat llama here.


Posted by curlygirl 23:08 Archived in Bolivia Tagged la bolivia paz copacabana Comments (2)



sunny 30 °C


I cannot believe where I am as I write this. A quick 90 minute drive from Buenos Aires has brought us to the most amazing place. I know I think lots of things are amazing but this is really amazing. We are in the middle of the countryside at the most beautiful and elegant Estancia and I cannot express how blessed I feel.

An estancia is a privately own gaucho ranch. A gaucho is a South American cowboy. We arrived at the gate of La Bamba and were greeted by a beautiful native Argentinian on a beautiful horse. He led the way until we arrive at the main entrance where were met by all the staff who welcomed us, shook our hands and provide fresh towels. We could not contain our delight. When we walked inside the first building where we in complete awe. It is spectacular. After a quick drink and check in, we were given a tour. The grounds and building are beautiful and Ellen nearly lost her mind when she saw all the horses, llamas and dogs. Ok, so there are no llamas but that what poor little Ellen was calling the sheep. Easy mistake. We knew we were in for a night of real pampering especially when they showed us each of the four locations where we would be served lunch, cocktails, dinner and breakfast, each completely different. The next delight was the fresh empanadas. Sherry sighed because she loves empanadas but can’t eat them because she is a celiac. Or can she? Yes, it was true, hand delivered on a single separate plate was a steaming hot gluten free empanada. Sherry was sure this was going to be a great way to celebrate her birthday. Furthermore, they assured her, she could eat everything here. Her smile was as big as her face.


We took some time to explore the grounds which included stables, a pool, a main house with our rooms that have towel warmers for our bath towels, or rather bath sheets. Sigh. Then another main house with an amazing sitting room and a library. You get the idea. Sherry and Tony even get their own room with Ellen across the hall. Happy Birthday Sherry!


Next was lunch. A BBQ that included everything you can imagine slow cooked over coals. We had salads, and bread (gluten free too) and chicken, pork, beef, sausage and grill vegetables. There was no end. Oh yes, there was. It was the hand charred dulce de leche crepe. Good grief! Oh ya, all beverages are included too. That means Malbec.


Following that was a presentation by a horse whisperer next to the pool. In complete silence this guy completely calmed the horse and with no words had him in a trace and the two intertwined for 15 minutes. Beautiful.


We took an hour to chill before heading out horse riding.


I do not know how I managed to stay on the horse because I can’t not remember the last time I laughed so hard. Let’s just say we were not all naturals. Besides hearing Isaac squeal with delight when his horse started running, the funniest part was watching Isaac get off the horse. The poor guy was the last to get off so had to endure us all watching, laughing and videotaping. I am such a kind mother. I would be posting the video except that the file is too large. I really am not under any illusion that I looked graceful on the mount, ride or dismount.


Cocktails were served at 8, followed by dinner (beef tenderloin) in the formal dining room. There are thirteen guests here at the ranch from Argentina, Brazil, and England. One of the Argentinian gentlemen spoke perfect English and he reiterated the desperation they feel in country and are hoping for change with the October election. I will be watching.

The evening ended with a special gluten free dulce de leche birthday cake for Sherry. It was covered with meringue. This was in addition to our dessert. Homemade dulce de leche ice cream with chocolate sauce. I think I have had enough meat and dulce de leche in the last 24 hours to last me the rest of the trip.


It is just another wonderful day to put into our collections of memories. Ellen says this is the highlight of all her travels.


Posted by curlygirl 20:20 Archived in Argentina Tagged la estancia bamba Comments (7)



sunny 29 °C


My first text of the day was from Sherry saying that they had finally arrived in Buenos Aires but were busy filling out baggage claims. Could anything else go wrong? Well yes a few more things but at this point things had turned into to a complete gong show. Still we were delighted to see them arrive as we went down for breakfast this morning. To be honest, they looked good and were in great spirits and were determined to make the most of the day.

We met our guide Bernadette and she was determined to help the Gabriels but she could not make the bags magically appear so we headed out for a very short tour of the city. It really reinforced the value of Marcelo on Sunday because although she was informative, in four hours you really only have time to drive around and not explore. We did get to visit the Recoleta graveyard again, which I love, and I got see the neighborhood, La Boca. But as my mother says, “it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good”. Because the tour was short, I had time to attempt to reschedule my photo course and Bernadette was most helpful in sorting that out, making calls between stops.

Argentina is known for protests and we saw a peaceful one by dance students today who were losing their funding


Tango dancers


We got back to the hotel in time to grab a quick lunch. I went for the closest restaurant and almost had Isaac in a “house of ill repute”. I didn’t get very far before I notice this place had only woman, lightly dressed, and none were eating lunch. So we opted for a sandwich from the food court across the street. I gave Isaac a 30 minute rest before dragging him off to our photo afternoon but he will tell you it did not disappoint even for him who has no interest in photography.

We took a rather long ride with our lost taxi driver back to La Boca to meet up with my course instructor, Lisa. La Boca is not a neighborhood where you want to get lost or just jump out of a taxi. Although it is considered quite safe in the day, that safety net only extends to about a 2 block radius which is filled with most of the tourist attractions. The area has a distinct charm with its bright colored houses, the sounds of live music and the unique characters moving about the streets trying desperately to make a peso in any way possible. The area is quite poor as it was originally settled by the immigrants who came primarily from Italy and Spain with nothing except the promise of jobs. They built homes from scraps, including the tin from the boats and used whatever left over materials to create a home for their families, although these homes rarely amounted to more than a room in a community structure. They remain the same today. The bright colors arose from the left over paints from the ships. It is truly spectacular. I felt so blessed to have the opportunity to explore this place with my camera.


So my street photography tour was with a company I found on trip advisor called Foto Ruta. I had originally booked a private tour for Isaac and I which had been cancelled because of the strike, so when we rebooked short notice we were joined by a lovely couple from Zambia, Ian, originally from Kenya and his wife Sue who hails from the UK. Our instructor Lisa, was a charming and knowledgeable young lady from Germany. Lisa began by giving us some pointers on things to look for and challenged us to work differently that we normally do. For me, that meant shooting entirely in manual. It was a great learning experience and while it was challenging getting the shot while fumbling with new settings, I do think this is something I will continue to work on. I may not love all my pictures but I loved the experience! Not only did we get constant advice, we got great explanations of the history of the place. Awesome.

Ian and Sue


From there we jumped on a bus and made our way to San Telmo which you may recall is the neighborhood once occupied by rich but abandoned during the yellow fever outbreak. Isaac and I were here on market day which was amazing but the feel today was also incredible. The architecture was elaborate but the streets had a much more bohemian feel. Houses once occupied by one family, now house many sharing bathrooms and kitchens. It really saddens me just how spectacular this city must have been in its prime, as the 8th richest country in the world, to now where locals can barely make ends meet. Health care and education are free but the government can’t support it so the entire system is failing and the city is at risk of crumbling both economically and aesthetically.


Our tour ended with a coffee and a lovely traditional coffee shop and a review of our pictures. It really was a great experience for both of us and I am already trying to find time in Santiago for another half day. The company operates in Buenos Aires, Santiago, London and Barcelona.
We ended up walking home because no taxi would take us. Thankfully Lisa was around to explain when the taxi driver refused to take us (did I mention there is virtually no English here?) because the roads were blocked into the city center so no more cars could enter. Isaac guided the way and it only took about 20 minutes. His sideways feet are holding up brilliantly.

Our fantastic day ended with meeting up with the Gabriels, who had just gotten their bags, and enjoying a spectacular meal at a nearby restaurant discovered by Ellen. Can you say MEAT? I had lamb and had enough for 4. Isaac was delighted to be reunited with his travel buddies and we all look forward to many relaxing and fun days ahead. We are off to the ranch in the morning. Yee haw!


Posted by curlygirl 20:56 Archived in Argentina Tagged san la buenos aires boca telmo Comments (9)

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