In the last post I was in Buenos Aires, and now I’m in Bolivia. Right-right now I’m lounging back in a wooden chair on this rustic red porch of the Quechua Inn in Sucre, overlooking some apartments that look as much decrepit as they do rustic Spanish Colonial and ready-to-crumble. I’m talking with a girl from school on Facebook trying to figure out how I can work the ski season in the French Alps this winter, which I figure to be more social and presumably safer than spanning Morocco overland, and then crossing the Sahara Desert overland via Western Sahara and Mauritania (I got this idea from this kid’s blog–sounds legendary and epitomizes adventure–but the visa situation seems tough so this idea is really just in the idea phase) and then solo-backpacking West Africa for maybe 10 weeks, where nobody backpacks, and I wouldn’t meet anybody. It’d be the swelteringly polar opposite of a picnic, but I’d figure out a way to enjoy it I suppose, well I hope anyway, and come out all the better on the other end. I’m listening to Florence and the Machine again because she gets me going, and I’ve lately realized that while writing good is, well, fine, writing bad is good as well. In this post, I envision doing a bit of both. Cheeky cheeky.
So yea. Some stuff. That I the writer has did recently. I’ll start with Shabbat. I’m Jewish, and we Jews, as most will tell you, we Jews like to eat. So Shabbat, if you don’t know it, is when Jews gather on a Friday after sunset and eat some food and sing some songs. There is a small religious context as well, but we’ll leave that one unmentioned for this post. I was in a bar about a week prior to this dinner, and I met this kid, Kevin, very nice, Jewish, who invited me to have Shabbat dinner at his house, preceded by Shabbat services at one of the Buenos Aires Chabad houses. Very nice offer. So yes, I went. I wore the nicest thing my backpack could muster, jeans a flanel shirt and hiking boots. I was showered in fact showered though! The sermon was in Spanish of course, and then our beloved Hebrew, and it was the liveliest Jewish prayer session I’ve ever been apart of. People essentially line dancing throughout the room, the women and the men separated, and members waltzing around a table singing songs and banging on the table. It was awesome. And super cool that the sermon was in Spanish. I guess this makes sense though. That’s what they speak in Argentina.
Then I went to dinner and Kevin’s friends house, with his family, girlfriend, the friend’s family, and all of the related siblings and spouses etc. Maybe 20 in total. Jews sometimes have money, and this apartment was drop dead gorgeous. Super huge, super white, super gleamy, glorious and super, food prepared by a “helper,” and it was all just awesome. I was treated incredibly well, and had a ton of food. The dinner started with the friend’s Dad breaking off pieces of Challah and like throwing them across the table so everyone had a piece. It was an awesome experience, and a beautiful meal to boot. Thanks so much again, Kevin, to you and your family and everyone. Hope you can follow this post. I hope native English speakers can follow this post.
After a month in BsAs, I left. It was sad because I really, really enjoyed that city. I was really happy in BsAs. I took a 20 hour bus to Mendoza, and since I had the entire top half of the bus to myself for the last 4 hours, I had a huge solo dance party when the Andes came back in sight. The Andes are just epic. They stretch for like 4000km or something and they just loom magnificent and awe-inspirational.
In Mendoza, I spent a week. It’s a pretty small town with not much to do, except drink wine. And I went to a CouchSurfing intercambio event, where the English speakers speak Spanish and the Spanish speakers English and we all drink beers. That was great. But yea, so one day, we rented bikes, maybe 6 of us, with myself and my Dutch buddy Jan sharing a tandem bike–
–and we just biked around and went to wineries and drank wine and tastes liquors and chocolates and spreads and mustards and beers and empanadas. I tried a shot of tobacco liquor, and green pepper liquor. Both gross. Great day. Then we went out that night to this big hostel conglomerated party, with all the kids from all the hostels in Mendoza, the night happened to be May 30th meaning my birthday was next, so once maybe 330am hit and the place cleared out me and Aussie Melbourne Clare and Jan went to this like punk rock club across the street, and wailed and jammed to Blink and Linkin Park and stuff like that until 6 in the morning. Then we got hot dogs, and went to bed.
After about 4 days in Mendoza, I decided I wanted to hike, even though I was still pretty sick from enjoying the BsAs nights until 8am frequently recently, so I took a bus out to this tiny town of maybe 50 people called Los Penitentes. I stayed in this wicked cool snow lodge wooden cabin hostel, I was the only one there, and then basically just started walking down the road the next day, with the Andes towering on each side, in the direction of Aconcagua National Park, which is the home to the tallest mountain in both North and South America. I walked maybe 8km, felt sick still, had my tent thought I’d camp, ran into a kid from the hostel in Mendoza in the National Park, but then met this couple in the National Park as well, who first offered to drive me back to the next town over (Las Incas, maybe 2km down the road), and then all the way back to Mendoza, maybe 2.5 hours away. I accepted the latter offer, and 3 hours later I was back in Mendoza. Ran the whole situation in Spanish too! I Speak spanish these days. I’m going to spend time in French-speaking countries later on, France or West Africa, and I should hopefully come back to the USA fluent in 3 languages, maybe hopefully functional in a fourth as well. This is one of the goals for the trip. The journey.
I spent two more days in Mendoza, just resting. One of those days I literally didn’t leave the hostel once. Two days later I left, took a 6-hour bus to Santiago, Chile, freezing my rear off as we passed by more of the drop-dead-stunning Andes, arrived in Santiago, everyone was kind of just mean to me, got a hot dog, some groceries for the bus ride, then got on a 24-hour bus to San Pedro de Atacama in Northern Chile, which is the gateway to the Atacama Desert, and the scenery quickly changed to entirely sandy steamy mountain sweaty desert. Most of these bus rides are basically sight-seeing trips–South America is gorgeous.
One quick thing: I love these buses. I thank Bose partly. But I just bump music, stare out the window, watch the world go by, come up with new ideas and inspirations and philosophies and theories and literally just feel so incredibly lucky and happy and energetic and inspired and want to do this forever and ever. I also realize that while travel slow is the better, I like moving. Like I actually enjoy the travel part of travel. The awful trains that take 20 hours. The buses that take 30. The planes that take 15. Bryan Kirschner doesn’t understand it and maybe I don’t either. But if I had a real physical antiquated engine this would be one of the things that really turns it. The tuk-tuks and the matatus and the dalla-dallas the whole thing. I love just thinking and staring and smiling and realizing there is quite literally no other single specific general hypothetical or concrete thing or situation I’d rather be involved in, just nothing else whatsoeverever I’d rather be doing with my life right now, and no other way I’d rather be doing it. I would like new music on my iPod though. Although Florence just ROCKS. Does she have a new album out?
Anyway, I got to Atacama, feeling GREAT, I mean really great, 30 hours out of the previous 34 hours on a bus and I feel GREAT–imagine that one? Anyways, it’s dark, the town looks like some 1940’s Western town with dirt roads and 1-story clay buildings, I just have an address, I put on my headlamp, I walk into some small guest house and talk to this probably 90-year-old lady, ask for directions, she’s clueless, I walk to the town square, get more information, to the end of the road through the parking lot past the cemetery and finally find it, an adorable hostel tucked away to the side and under the stars, and meet up with my buddy Clare from Mendoza. Then we meet Phillip and Laura, great people, cook dinner, Laura’s from Colombia so we watch this Vice documentary about Scopolamine in Colombia which is this incredibly scary drug which keeps you super lucid yet helplessly compliant, and allows people to drug you and then convince you easily to willingly clean out your apartment and hand over your valuables. Crazy stuff. I’m going to spend like 6 weeks in Colombia–my last country in South America.
The next day, Clare Phillip and I rent sandboards and bikes, strap the boards to our backpacks and bike out into the desert, dear god life is good, go sandboarding down this dune which was awesome, and there was a car there as well as there were other sandboarders, and the car was bumping more punk rock. Sand dunes in the foreground, snow-capped mountains in the background–stunning.
Fast forward to the desert. We did a jeep tour, that’s what you do, the jeep takes you through the drop stupid dead other planet where in the hell are we desert for 3 days, its super quiet and just beautiful yet cold, one night we slept in some shack kinda place, freezing even with our sleeping bags and heavy blankets, and the next in a hostel/hotel made entirely of salt, yes the bricks were salt the bed frames and tables and chairs salt, the floor salt, it was awesome. This was on the shore of this, the most well yes it was just a really very pretty lake see for yourself:
Laguna Colorada–incredible. I’d post more pictures, but this internet is slow, and while they are already edited and JPEG-rendered, I just don’t feel like waiting. Friend me on Facebook to see them! I’ll accept you. www.facebook.com/willw9. Always willw9.
The next day, we went to the fabled Salar de Uyuni, the biggest salt flats in the world, 80,000 square kilometers in total, all white all serene. Super beauty lots of fun. Took those funk whacky perspective pictures, where it looks like you are holding your friends in your hand or they are standing on your head and you can lift up cars and things like this. I’ll put those pictures on Facebook shortly.
The tour ended, we arrived in Bolivia, I got a llama steak, watched Zoolander in English (!!!), had a sleep, sat on a bus for 10 hours, more smiles and life, arrived in Sucre, and now I’m in Sucre. Sucre is a very Spanish Colonial looking town, with lots of narrow streets and haphazard organization. The Bolivian women are adorable, wearing flowing skirts and top-hats and shawls and stuff, honestly they all look very old and wrinkled, yet adorable nonetheless, and very kind. I’ve had some great conversations with some of them at the market. The market here is actually my favorite in the world I think, I’ve been to alot, its just sacked and saturated with fruit and spices and smells and colors. And it’s cheap! Today for lunch, haha, let’s see, I first had an chicken empanada, then two cookies, this is all fresh homemade in front of you, then a chorizo sandwich with some veggies, then a chicken sandwich with veggies and salsa and plantains, then a fresh made mango smoothie, then a piece of fudge, then two more cookies. I spent 3+1+7+8+4+2+1 = 26 bolivianos, which is just under $4. And that was a big not healthy at all lunch!
Anyways, I like this place and this country a lot, I need a night out I haven’t had one in maybe two weeks, and then I think I’m going to head to the countryside for a hitchhiking/hiking/camping/interacting with whoever lives in the tiny villages trip for a few days, starting tomorrow or the next day. What could go wrong? Probably the next day though–I need a night out.
Smiling still and forever always, wishing this life on anyone on everyone. Just a plane ride away–you to me and this, and me to you. Man do I miss bagels.