Disclaimer:

The views and opinions expressed on these blog posts are solely those of the original author, myself,  Amanda Cox. These views and opinions do not represent those of any company, government, or organization I may be affiliated with.

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Walking in the Footsteps of the Dinosaurs: Day Trip in Sucre, Bolivia (Part 1)

When I first arrived in Sucre, I was so excited to visit all the interesting local sites. Unfortunately, time flew by, and I still haven’t visited many of the famous tourist attractions that the area is known for! Since I’m only here for another month, I’ve decided to make the most of my remaining afternoons and weekends. A few weeks ago, Steve and I decided to combine two excursions into one. In the morning we went to visit the famous dino park, and in the afternoon we hiked up to the seven waterfalls.

  

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Don’t flush the toilet paper! – Access to basic services in Bolivia

Moving to a new country is never easy, but it’s a lot easier if you have the “creature comforts” from your home country. It can be a big adjustment to go from living in downtown Toronto to living in a small room, full of cockroaches and ants, washing your clothes in cold water, by hand, in the dark! However, these adjustments have one positive thing about them – they are great learning lessons! They help you to understand what other people encounter on a daily basis in their lives in different countries. They make you grateful to what you took for granted back at home. Most of all, they’re a good character builder, and teach you a lot about being patient!  Thankfully, this is not the way I’m living here in Bolivia!

    

Left: Beautiful, precise landscaping in the parks and plazas of Sucre. Right: Eating hot chicken soup on a cold, rainy day.

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Travelling as a Picky Eater

If you know me, you know that I’m a picky eater. I’ve always made an attempt to try new things, but there are a lot of common ingredients which I just can’t stand.  On top of things like spicy food and fish, I also don’t eat common vegetables like mushrooms, onions, or peppers that are common in dishes around the world. So, what do I do as a constant traveller? Well, I make do. I haven’t starved yet, though my diet is a lot less interesting then most. Almost every country has at least one or two staple starches that I can rely on for calories (but usually not flavour).  Some of the usual suspects are bread, potatoes, noodles, pasta, or rice. In some countries, like Ghana, they like to serve two to three carbs on every plate, which works perfectly for me! All the foodies of the world are probably shaking their head in dismay that I travel to wonderful exotic places but don’t enjoy all the foods that they would love to try. Sorry guys! I wish I loved eating spicy curries, and that I could shove any empanada in my mouth without worrying about the contents – but it’s just not my cup of tea!

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Day Trip in La Paz, Bolivia – Valle de la Luna and Mount Chacaltaya

While in La Paz for Carnival, we weren’t really sure what to do. We knew that museums and other tourist attractions would be closed, and we found out that almost all the restaurants were closed as well – not ideal!  We normally try to do activities on our own, but had no ideas, so we looked into a group tour instead.  I’m super glad we did because it turned out to be a really fun day!

  

Left: Steve and I on the road leading up the mountain. Right: Alpacas here are as popular as cows in Canada.

We talked to our hostel (Hostel Pirwa in Sopocacchi) to find out which tours were possible in just one day, given the season and the carnival festivals. Some weren’t available at all, or we had already done, so we chose this tour.  Unfortunately, our hotel said that we needed four people and we were only two. So, when we went out for lunch and shopping near the Witches Market that day, we decided to go in a bunch of tourist agencies.  They all had basically the same tour for exactly the same price, so we just chose the one that would pick us up closest to our hostel (they wouldn’t pick us up there because it’s not on their list of hotels). When we got back to the hostel, they said they could do it for us with just two but we had already booked so we just declined that tour.  We also booked the tour that didn’t include the entry fees. This was because the tours normally include the “foreigner” entry fee, but since we have a residence card, we can get the “local price” instead.

  

Left: View of the city of La Paz from Mount Chacaltaya. Right: Snowball fight!
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Why Bolivia (a land-locked country) is so obsessed with the sea!

Even though Bolivia has no ocean, they’re completely enamoured with the idea. Everyone from young to old feels passionate about the need for access to the sea. Bolivia once connected to the Pacific ocean between Chile and Peru, but lost the land over a century ago in The War of the Pacific. However, Bolivians are still not ready to accept the result, and feel it is a great injustice that they don’t have the land that was theirs when “their country was born”.  I’ve become completely fascinated with this event, and took time this past week to do some digging into the history of this country that I currently call my home.

  

Boats are definitely the theme of the day! Everything from giant boats on top of cars with oceans of blue tarp to teenage boys with paper sailboat hats.

Yearly Celebrations for Day of the Sea

Day of the Sea is celebrated on March 23, commemorating the day of the Battle of Topater (the first battle in the War of the Pacific) in 1879. The Bolivians were trying to defend the town of Calama from Chile. It was in the battle that Colonel Eduardo Aboroa died, making him into a national hero. You can still see streets named after him in every big city in Bolivia, and one of the main squares in La Paz is also name Aboroa.  Every year on this date (or at least 3 full days this year in Sucre), the whole town is excited. Thousands of people come out to the main square to watch the spectacle. Politicians come and speak about important issues on a stage in front of hundreds of flags. Every marching band in town shows up in blue to navigate through the central streets. School children with hand-made signs march through town in blue to show their support.  Music videos are made about the sea and shown to spectators who sit for hours watching them on the big screen – nodding along and cheering in agreement whenever someone states (or sings) about Bolivia needing the sea. Everyone in the city shows up with pride to share their support in the need for Bolivia to regain access to the Pacific Ocean.

  

Left: Aw, what a cutie in his little sailor costume! Right: Boris and Julie found me these great paper flags with the Bolivian naval flag – yay parades!

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Pujllay: The Harvest Festival in Tarabuco, Bolivia

Bolivia loves festivals of all types! The Pujllay festival is a wonderful festival in the city of Tarabuco (just an hour outside of Sucre, Bolivia).  The area is known for its Yampara culture, and people from far and wide flock to the city for the yearly festival.  The main part of the festival is the parade, with dancing groups in amazing costumes visiting from 60 nearby cities around the district. Last weekend, we were able to take a day trip to Tarabuco to join in the excitement!

  

History of the Festival

Meaning – The word “Pujllay” is a Quechua word (one of the most spoken indigenous languages in Bolivia) for play or dance. The festival signifies the harvest season, when the wind plays with the clouds in the sky and the blossoms dance in the fields. This time of year in the central Andes of Bolivia is a time where the rainy season is coming to an end and the crops are ripe for harvesting.  The festival begins with a Quechua mass, followed by a marching progression of dancers in costumes.  Quechua doesn’t translate perfectly to English and is more of an oral language, so you’ll often find alternative spellings to all Quechua words on various signs around Bolivia. Pujllay (the word for play/dance) can sometimes be spelt phujllay, pugllay pujhllay. or pukllay.

  

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Enjoying the Caribbean Beach in Cartagena, Colombia

When you think of Colombia, you probably think of busy South American cities full of empanadas and beautiful fabrics (and maybe drugs – but let’s not get into that right now…). However, Cartagena is not a bustling metropolis, it’s more like a beach town. With a combination of hot weather, old forts, and tropical fruits, Cartagena is more like a Caribbean Island than a South American city. It’s a great break from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires or Lima, and gives you a chance to just relax.

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Arriving – December 24th, 2016

From the airport in Medellin, we took a quick plane ride to Cartagena. After landing, we could feel the heat and humidity right away – a big change from the other cities. Thankfully, the airport is really close to the city, so we hopped in the official taxi line-up and took a taxi to our AirBnb. Because it wasn’t a hotel, and was in a residential neighbourhood, our taxi driver had to ask a few people for directions, but we found it eventually. He was super nice and helped us carry all our heavy bags up the stairs. Eventually we found the neighbour who let us into the apartment – it was nice to be able to settle in.

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