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The Jordan Roundup

14 Aug

*Right now we should be somewhere around Upper Pisang on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal*

The Statistics

Number of days spent in country –  5

Cities/towns visited – Wadi Musa (Petra), Wadi Rum

Number of different lodgings – 2

Flights – 0

Bus journeys – 3

Boat rides – 0

Combi/collective/taxi  journeys – 5

Days of rain – 0

The Budget

Total US dollar amount spent – $603.57

Average cost per day, per person -$60.36

Average lodging cost per night, per person – $14.29  We only stayed in one hotel (3 nights) and our 4th night was spent in the desert outside of Wadi Rum as part of a Bedouin overnight trip.  We had our own room/bathroom with just a fan in Wadi Musa (Petra), which was totally fine since the temperature drops significantly at night.  Breakfast was included.

Average food/drink cost per day, per person – $12.50.  Breakfast was included at the hotel, and they offered a great packed lunch service for about $5 which we took with us every day to Petra, and on the day we left since we had such a long bus ride to get to Amman for our flight. During our desert trip, dinner and breakfast were included.  We ate dinner out the other nights, at local budget restaurants.

The Best

Petra.  It’s just awesome.  This was the main reason we came to Jordan, and we were not disappointed by these ruins.  It’s got a hefty price tag, but it was worth it.  Do yourself a favor and spend at least 2 days exploring the site, but skip the ‘Petra by Night’.

The Treasury at Petra

The Worst

Wadi Rum and the Bedouin Meditation Camp.  We kept hearing about how great a trip to Wadi Rum was, and how we just had to go and spend a night in a Bedoiun camp.  I believe the words “magical” were used.  Yeah, well, we didn’t get it.  The deal is you take a fairly standard jeep tour of the area, then you kick back for the evening at a Bedouin style camp, have dinner, and sleep under the stars.  These trips don’t come cheap. The desert was nice enough, but not much different from some of the other desert landscapes we’ve seen.  Our guide was less than interactive, which was a huge bummer, and the camp itself was filthy with leftover food from the last trip rotting on the tables and counters, half-drunk water bottles strewn about in the sand, and used tissues littering the seating area.

The best part was sleeping out under the stars, which really is pretty awesome and on a clear night you can see basically the entire universe.  For the price, nearly $60 per person for less than 24 hours, we just didn’t think it was worth it.

To be perfectly honest, the other major problem we had, even in the very short 5 days, was the way I (Ashley) was treated by many of the men we encountered.  In the 110 degree heat, I wore long pants, and a long sleeve button up shirt the entire time.  Despite this, I was leered at nearly constantly, with the exception of when we were inside Petra.  In addition, many men did things like wink and lick their lips at me, or made mildly obscene comments as they passed me.  All of this was done right in front of Justin, who was angered, but didn’t really know what to do to stop it.  I want to point out that not EVERY man we crossed paths with behaved this way, but it was enough that I was ready to leave on day 3.

On the first day, we shared a taxi from the border of Israel, to Wadi Musa (a 3 hour drive into the desert where Petra is located) with two single girls, one of whom chose to sit in the front seat for the long ride since she is prone to motion-sickness.  At one point the driver reached over to her and began to stroke her hair and her neck, and we had to ask him to pull over so she could switch seats with Justin who was with me in the back.  She too was in a long skirt and long sleeved shirt.  It was wildly inappropriate, and I found it very bold that he would behave this way with all of us, including Justin, in the car.  We would have gotten a new taxi if we hadn’t been out in the middle of nowhere.

I was disappointed by these situations and felt a bit defeated, especially since we’d heard so many lovely things about Jordan.

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The Israel Roundup

7 Aug

The Statistics

Number of days spent in country –  12

Cities/towns visited – Tel Aviv, Haifa, Akko, Jerusalem, Bethlehem (in the Palestinian Territories), Eilat

Number of different lodgings – 5

Flights – 0

Bus journeys – 6

Trains – 3

Boat rides – 0

Combi/collective/taxi  journeys – 2

Bike rentals – 1

Days of rain – 0

The Budget

Total US dollar amount spent – $1,157

Average cost per day, per person -$48.22

Average lodging cost per night, per person – $22

Most expensive lodging – Our Airbnb stay in Tel Aviv was $33.50 per person, per night, but it was well worth it since two beds in a dorm room there would have been only slightly less.  Through Airbnb we were able to stay in our own air-conditioned room, in a fantastic area, in the apartment of a lovely couple who helped make our time in Tel Aviv so much better than it would have been on our own.

Least expensive lodging – $15.75 per person for a dorm bed at Corrine Hostel.  It’s got some crappy reviews on the hostel sites, but we didn’t think it was that bad.

Average food/drink cost per day, per person – $12.25  We had to really cut back on the food spending to compensate for the cost of lodging.  This doesn’t mean we ate less, it just means we didn’t go out to restaurants generally.  It’s super easy to grab cheap and filling shwarmas and falafel all over the place.  For dinners we mostly cooked for ourselves, which really means we ate hummus and pita by the kilo, and went to the market for fresh tomato, cucumber, cherries, apricots and olives.  It was fantastic.

The Best

Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem – This is the world’s largest Holocaust museum and memorial.  We went on a Friday morning since it was one of the few tourist things open on Friday, and our biggest mistake was not giving ourselves enough time.  We spent nearly 3 hours here before we had to leave because the museum was closing, and we could have spent easily twice as long.   It’s the most organized and thorough museum we’ve ever been to.  There are dozens of short video narratives given by a number of survivors, and those were really the highlight for me.  Their stories are incredible and heartbreaking.  In addition, the museum has amassed a huge collection of person items salvaged from the camps, or thrown from the trains that took the victims to the death camps.  They do a very good job of bringing light to so many individual stories, as well as providing a thorough historical overview. Give yourself twice as much time as you think you’ll need, and bring a package of tissues.

In Akko you can visit ancient underground tunnels that were only recently re-discovered!

Akko – A smaller city north of Haifa that not as many tourists include in their plans.  Akko has a lovely old city that’s really worth visiting if you’re in the area.  We went for most of a day as a side trip from Haifa and had plenty of time to see most of the old city.  We also had some fantastic falafel from a street vendor there.

Green Bikes in Tel Aviv – Tel Aviv has recently implemented a new bike rental system similar to what London has done.  There are bike stands set up all over the city and you can pick them up and drop them off at your leisure.  You can rent by the day, week, or month, and it’s very affordable, even on a tight budget.  For less than $5 each we were able to pedal all over the city!

Taking a dip in the Dead Sea – Incredible!  We had read all the stories about how you simply can’t sink, but to experience it for ourselves was so much better than we anticipated.  You really can’t sink!  We had a blast covering ourselves in the mud and watching crazy lines of salt dry on our skin.

The Worst

Eilat.  We had heard that Eilat was fantastic from a number of people, but honestly, we weren’t impressed.  We snorkeled one day, which was nice, but other than that, we found it kind of ‘meh’.  It’s a good stopping point if you are travelling between Israel and either Jordan or Egypt, but we didn’t need more than a day there as there’s not a whole lot going on and the beaches aren’t anything to get excited about.

Being Careful in India

31 Jul

Our mantra whenever we get off a bus or a train in India has been,

“Nobody here is trying to help us.  Nobody here is our friend.”

Do I like this mantra?  No, not at all.  Is it true? Yes. Absolutely.

We’ve had to be cautious upon arriving in new cities all around the world, but it’s really been taken to a whole new level in India.  We’ve never been so absolutely inundated by touts and scam artists as we have been here.  From the second we step off the platform, and in some cases even before we’ve done that, we are bombarded with cries of “Where you go?  You have a hotel?  You are going the wrong way! This way sir! Madame! Over here! You need taxi? Come with me! You need rickshaw? Exit this way!”

Rickshaw and taxi drivers will claim your hotel is full, roach-infested or burned down just to get you to go to a place of their choosing.  If you insist on your original destination, they often refuse to take you or double their prices.  On the occasions that we aren’t swarmed by drivers wanting to take us somewhere other than where we intend, we are quoted absurd prices for travel.  We once had a team of men attempting to get us to take a rickshaw to our hotel for 150 rupees.  After a few minutes of searching around, we found a driver willing to take us and use the meter for the rate.  The cost was 21.

At the New Delhi train station, one of India’s major transport hubs that has a fantastic foreign tourist ticketing office, the scams are so thick that the tourist office has signs all over the place warning you to not pay attention to those who attempt to lead you astray.

Scammers will attempt to steer you away from the tourist office and into a travel agency where you will be bamboozled into buying train tickets for far more than the actual ticket cost.  If you are particularly uninformed they may convince you that there is no train to your destination and you might wind up handing over absurd amounts of money for flights, luxury bus services, or totally unnecessary private car transport.  Another common scheme is to try to stop tourists at the security checkpoints and tell them that their train tickets need to be ‘validated’ for a hefty fee or you won’t be allowed to board.  There are dozens more tales of travelers being manipulated as they attempt to board trains – your train has been cancelled, your train is not longer going to this stop, your train is delayed 22 hours…come with me, I can help you make other arrangements!

Recently we had two separate sets of people attempt to tell us we were headed towards the ‘wrong’ exit for the train station upon arriving in Jodhpur, despite the enormous “EXIT” signs we were following, and the fact that literally everyone was headed the same direction.  Justin laughed heartily in the faces of these touts and we kept going our own way.

In another instance, we had gotten off a bus at a fairly large terminal, and I needed to use the bathroom.  As I walked up to the clearly marked women’s restroom, a man ran in front of me carrying a table.  He put it down right in front of me and demanded I pay him to go in.  I refused and walked away.  We’ve had to pay numerous times to use restrooms, but this time just seemed like extortion.  I really did need to go, so I went to the station manager’s office, asked where the bathroom was, and asked if there was a charge.  I was directed back to the bathroom I originally tried to use, and told that no, there was not a charge.  When I went back, the guy was nowhere to be seen so I went in.  As I was closing the stall door the man ran in after me and tried to come into the stall, demanding I pay him.  I yelled “NO! GET OUT!” and pushed back on the door harder than he expected, causing it to slam in his face. Justin came storming in as this was happening and dragged the guy out of there to the station managers office where he confirmed, no, we didn’t have to pay.

*I wrote this post and the next day we went to visit the Amber Fort near Jaipur and the bathroom thing happened AGAIN!  This time though, there was a huge sign right in front that announced it as a free bathroom, and a woman inside still tried to insist I had to pay her to go in.  Unreal. *

This kind of thing is both exhausting, and infuriating.

Hence our mantra.

One way to avoid the hassle of haggling with rickshaw or taxi drivers is to go to the pre-paid stands that are just outside most airports and trains stations.  Even then, you need to stay on your toes as we learned just minutes after arriving in Mumbai.  We had gone to the pre-paid taxi stand at the airport, where we were told it would be 480 Rupees to get where we needed.  It wasn’t until we were out of the terminal and into the taxi that we looked more closely at the receipt and realized it should have been 430.  The woman at the counter had written the ‘3’ so it looked sort of like an 8, and when we added up the charges, sure enough, it was 430.  Lesson learned – pre-paid services can be handy, but check the receipt CAREFULLY before you hand over your cash.

At this point, we try to always have a plan for where we are going before we even begin the journey to our next stop.  We contact local hotels and ask what we should be paying in a taxi or rickshaw to get to them.  When we’re in doubt or need help the ONLY place we go is to the police or the tourist office.  If someone tries to check our tickets, or charge an entrance fee for something, we only allow them to do so if they are in uniform, in an official booth, or if the guidebook says there is a fee.  If those things aren’t in place, we ask a security guard, police officer, or station manager if we should be paying extra.

It can be extremely aggravating, but by following these steps we think we’ve managed to avoid the worst of the scams, at least so far.

The Turkey Roundup

18 Jul

The Statistics

Number of days spent in country –  25

Cities/towns visited – Istanbul, Goreme, Kahta, Sanliurfa, Harran, Olympos, Selcuk, Kusadasi, Pammukale

Number of different lodgings – 9

Flights – 1

Bus journeys – 11

Boat rides – 3

Combi/collective/taxi  journeys – 13

Budget

Total US dollar amount spent – $2,445

Average cost per day, per person -$49

Average lodging cost per night, per person – $14.63 – We generally stayed in private rooms, often with our own bathroom, but in simple guesthouses.  In Istanbul we stayed in dorms because of the high lodging cost.

Most expensive lodging – Shoestring Cave House in Goreme for $22.50 per person.  This was our splurge because we wanted to stay in a cave hotel, of which there are zillions to choose from.  You can do this much cheaper if you want to stay in a dorm.  We ended up being upgraded for free to the penthouse room with our own balcony that looked out over the town and surrounding countryside.  There was a good breakfast included, wifi, and a pool.

Least expensive lodging –  Dorm bed at Red River Hostel for $11.00 per person.  This was a good little hostel, brand new, near the Galata Tower in Istanbul.  It’s a bit off the main roads, so it’s nice and quiet, but still right in the area you want to be in.  Breakfast was included, and there was wifi.

Average food/drink cost per day, per person – $13.50 – Breakfast was included everywhere we stayed, but we ate out for pretty much all dinners and most lunches.  The food was such an interesting change from S. America that we couldn’t help ourselves!  You could probably cut this number in half if you stuck to kebabs or wraps, self catered some lunches, and ate at really basic places for dinner.

Best

The beach at Olympos

Olympos – The tiny village of Olympos is on the southern coast, near Antalya.  The thing that makes it so great is that it combines two of our favorite things – Ancient historic ruins, and awesome beaches.  At the end of the main road, which is really just a string of lodgings on a dirt path, is the ancient ruined city of Olympos, which dates back to, well, a very very long time ago.  You can wander around in the ruins for a small entrance fee and at the end is a gorgeous stretch of beach on the Mediterranean.

If you’re there for a few days, buy the 10 entrance pass, it’ll save you a bundle since you have to pay to enter the ruins even if you are really just headed to the beach.  Many accommodations include breakfast and dinner.  We were there at the very beginning of June, just before the peak season hit, and had perfect weather, and a fairly peaceful stay.  We hear it gets slammed in the summer, so if you are looking for a more laid-back time you should stick to the shoulder seasons.

Muze Pass in Istanbul – This was the best deal we’ve gotten on sightseeing in ages.  The Muze Pass gets you into a heap of different attractions in Istanbul and is valid for 72 hours.  If you get to 5 places, you’ll get your money’s worth, and if you hit up at least 6, you’ll be saving yourself some cash.  You can buy it at any one of the attractions, and having it lets you skip the sometimes obscenely long ticket lines.

Vardar Pension in Selcuk – Most places we stayed in Turkey were pretty good, but we liked Vardar Pension in particular.  Breakfast was served on the roof terrace, which had a great view of the countryside.  They provided nice fluffy towels, each room had a little balcony space with ample laundry lines, and the mattresses were temperpedic-like and super comfortable.  Finally, the bathrooms were IMMACULATE.  That rarely happens, and I really appreciate having a bathroom where I don’t feel like I have to wear my flip-flops to shower.  It was also very well located, right down the block from where the bus drops off, a half-block to the local markets, and walkable distance to all the ancient sites in town. The family who runs it is kind and accommodating, which is just a bonus at this point.

Tomatoes and cherries – Literally the best tomatoes and cherries we’ve ever had.  We bought them all the time from the fruit and veg stands.  We were there starting from mid-May, so perhaps it was the right season, but still….amazing. You can get more than 2 pounds of cherries for about $1.50!!!!

Justin totally made friends with the fruit stand guys

Pictures are just so much easier…

Ozturk Restaurant in Istanbul – Galipdede Cad #72, near the Galata Tower – This is really a pretty standard type of place, but it has consistently good food (we ate there three times…) and won’t break your budget.  We were drawn to it initially because the menus are actual photos of the food.  Normally this would make me avoid a place, but when you can’t figure out what anything on the menu is, it’s a lifesaver.  The mincemeat pide is particularly good.

Getting scrubbed at the Hamam – Hamams are old-school bathhouses that are found all over Turkey.  They come in every variation imaginable, from the super basic local operations to uber-expensive spas that cater to wealthy tourists.  The gist of it is that you go in, get mostly naked (they give you a little modesty towel for walking around in), get a mud mask, relax in a sauna for a bit, lay down on a marble slab, get covered in bubbles, and get the top 14 layers of your skin scrubbed off by a burly Turkish woman (or if you are a man, you get a male attendant) who may or may not shake a mitt full of your dead skin in your face and chastise you for being so filthy. Afterwards you can usually go for a swim or another round in the sauna.  I know, it sounds odd, but I swear, it was fantastic.  You can also get massages and facial treatments at most places.

Triple scoop dipped in pistachio. Justin is in heaven

Mado Ice Cream – I am fairly certain their secret ingredient is crack.  Justin and I both agree that this is hands down, the best ice cream we’ve ever had.  That’s right, ever.  It’s a traditional ice cream made with goat’s milk, kept in a big metal bin, and dished out on a huge stick by a guy who seemed to hate his job.  There are LOADS of imposter ice creams that are served in the same fashion all over Turkey, but the original, and clearly the best (we know, we sampled…a lot) is Mado.  On our Mount Nemrut tour it was actually a specific stop in the little town it originated in to taste it at the source.  We weren’t supposed to stop there again on the way home, but we all begged the guide and driver and they finally relented.

Worst

We don’t have much to say here about places or activities in specific.  There were things that were just ‘meh’, like the tour we took to Mount Nemrut…and really that’s just because we had a lapse in judgment and forgot how much we dislike being with tour groups…but otherwise, nothing stood out as really terrible.

Perhaps the thing that annoyed us the most was how despite the fact that most of the tourist parts of Turkey are pretty well organized, there is still a huge issue with littering, especially on the beach.  People just leave garbage ALL OVER the beach.  It’s awful.  Beaches where you pay to have a chair have guys that pick up everyone’s trash, but we watched numerous sets of people just leave all their garbage behind on the free beaches (including newspapers, food scraps, soda cans, etc) when they left.  We picked up after a bunch of people, but it really pissed me off that we were at this amazing place and there was such a lack of give-a-shit about leaving your trash everywhere.

365 Days of Freedom.

28 Jun

A year ago today I wiped my classroom chalkboard clean for the last time, and walked out into the New York City summer as a truly free woman.

I had been waiting for this moment for what felt like eons.   We’d been planning to leave, in some form or another, for years, and I had been imagining this moment for nearly as long.  Don’t get me wrong here, I didn’t hate my job, I just knew that this part of my life was coming to an end and I was ready to move onto the next bit.

Honestly, it was a little anti-climactic.  Two days later we packed up the rental truck and drove what remained of our belongings back to a storage unit in Colorado, so at the time we were still in a bit of a frenzy.

Before we officially set out on this journey we took 4 months to decompress in Vermont, which was a lifesaver.  Living in New York City turns you into a different kind of beast, and I was ready to unwind and re-learn how to live slowly.

Not working is exactly as great as it sounds.  If we could do it forever, we would!  At the time, there were some murmurs of worry from well-intentioned friends and family.  People worried that we were leaving very stable jobs and benefits for something unknown.  People worried that we would have a hard time replacing those jobs when we were finished travelling.  People worried that we’d become lazy and not have the motivation to work.

The thing is, those were their big worries, not necessarily ours.  I’m not going to tell you we didn’t have some moments of doubt or fear along the way, or that we haven’t thought about the obstacles we may face when we return.   We’ve got a plan for facing the potentially difficult job market as well as a healthy re-entry fund, and that’s all anyone can really do in our situation.

The other day a friend posted this on Facebook:

There is incredible truth in that statement.  Anything you want that requires change is likely to be at least a little bit scary.  If you never confront that fear, you will never be able to make the changes.

We know that there are no guarantees in this life.  That’s exactly why we’ve spent every day this last year living with wild abandon even when, or perhaps especially when, it frightens us.  For the first time in my life I can say that I am living my life without regret.  I know that we may not ever get an opportunity like this again, and I refuse to let fear stand in the way.

Photo Friday – Spice Market in Jerusalem

22 Jun

The spice stall

Local markets are probably my favorite place to spend time in a new city.  You can learn an incredible amount about local culture by wandering around the market and seeing what’s for sale, which usually includes everything from local produce to local fashion.  Jerusalem’s old city has an extensive market.   Parts of it are geared nearly completely to tourism and you’ll find stall after stall of t-shirts, rugs and trinkets, BUT, if you wander off a bit down the side streets you’ll encounter the local market stalls.  We passed this vendor selling spices, clearly still close to the tourist center as the labels are in English, and the smells were intoxicating.  I want to bottle it up and be able to take it with me…perhaps a new flavor of scratch-and-sniff is in order?

Photo Friday – Produce in Turkey

15 Jun

This week I don’t have the most spectacular or artistic of photos, but it’s something that’s been very representative of our time in Turkey.  Turkey is the only country in the world that produces enough fruits and vegetables to feed its entire population.  The only one!  I am pretty amazed by that, and it certainly explains both the quantity and quality of fruits and veggies we’ve encountered here.  You can get a kilo (that’s more than 2 pounds!) of cherries or apricots for about 1.75…it’s unreal.  Breakfasts consist of tomato, cucumber, cheese, olives, bread, honey and in some places we also get huge slices of watermelon.

I’ve never seen tomatoes this consistently magnificent anywhere else in the world.  I kid you not, every veggie stand we pass has crates and crates of the most perfectly ripe tomatoes.  They don’t ever seem to be bruised, or picked too early, or worm infested.  I buy them sometimes just to eat whole, like an apple.  Mmmmmm.

Being Lost, And Found, In Strange Lands

22 May

Being in a foreign country, especially when you have a minimal grasp of the language, is both exciting and exhausting.  Travelling on a budget means that we pretty much never hire a tour guide, and we always go for the public transportation options.  Guidebooks are okay for getting a general idea of how to get around using public transport or our own two feet, but often the book falls far short of any real help.

Once in Valdivia, Chile we knew that we could get to a small park reserve by bus, but we just weren’t sure of the times, or where to catch it.  We asked our hostel, who told us a bus number that was totally incorrect.  We asked the tourist information office. Twice. They gave us the correct bus name, but couldn’t be specific about where it stopped.  We asked 7 different people who worked in the general area and they all pointed us in different directions.

FINALLY, the next day, we found the bus stop and, surprise surprise, it wasn’t anywhere near any of the places we’d been directed to.  Once we were on the bus we asked about specific return times since the reserve was nearly 50 kilometers outside of town.  We were told there were two return times – 2pm and 5pm.  As the reserve was the last stop, the driver assured us that this is where we needed to be to get picked up.

We were at the stop at 1:30pm, just to be safe.  We waited. And waited. And waited.  Finally, at 3, we started walking.  At 4:30 we managed to hitch a ride with a very nice couple who spoke zero English and didn’t seem to understand our Spanish very well.

Justin attempts to get us a ride on the long walk back to Valdivia…we had seen nothing but these sheep for 45 minutes.

Thankfully, they were able to drop us reasonably close to a town that had another bus that could take us back to Valdivia.  It was an adventure, to say the least.

My point is, sometimes getting around can be tough.  Every once in a while though, we encounter a stranger who helps us avoid yet another fiasco.

Today we were attempting to get to one of Istanbul’s oldest Byzantine churches, which is a bit off the regular tourist circuit.   We knew we could take a bus, but the place we had to get on was riddled with buses and we had not a clue which one we needed.  After asking about 7 different drivers, all of which just waved us towards the general direction of another dozen buses, we were approached by a man who asked (in English!) if we needed help.  We told him where we were going, and as luck would have it, he was also going that way.

Then we realized we couldn’t pay the fare in cash, we needed some sort of metro card, which we didn’t have.  The man paid our way with his own card and refused our multiple attempts at paying him back.  He then rode with us to our stop, got off with us, and led us for the 20 minute walk through winding streets to this little church.  There is no way we would have found this place on our own.

The whole time he’s helping us I was thinking, “What does he want? Is he going to charge us something for this?  Is he really dragging us to a carpet shop to try and sell us something?” but no, he was just really nice.  After getting us to the church he wished us a happy day and went on his way.

Every once in a while we are reminded that in this huge and crazy world there are genuinely kind people, and we are very thankful that we encountered one of them today.

Mas Grande – Feeling Like a Giant in Bolivia

30 Apr

Generally you can find anything you need for day-to-day life in most parts of the world.  Toothpaste?  Yup, even Colgate.  Shampoo?  We’ve found it everywhere.  Lotion?  Yup.  Fleece sweaters.  Check.

The one exception has been flip-flops for Justin in Bolivia.  We each have a pair of super cheap rubber flops for showers and whatnot, and they tend to wear out about every eight to ten weeks.  Justin’s had his current pair since we were in Puerto Varas, Chile way back in January, so he is WAY overdue for a new pair.  Not only are they almost totally worn through, but the little prong between the toes keeps popping out of the sole causing him to stumble and hop around like a maniac at random interludes.

Justin's busted flops

The problem is…he has gigantic feet.  Justin is 6’2″, not including his curly mop of hair.  His shoes size down here is a hefty 45.  We had looked for replacements in Salta, Argentina, but he didn’t find any he liked and eventually we ran out of time and needed to head out to Bolivia.

It turns out, he should have just bought the ugly pair in Argentina because we didn’t stand a chance of finding what we needed in Bolivia. We searched for days.  We walked into every store we saw that carried sandals, picked up a pair and asked “Tiene 45?”   We’d point to Justin’s feet and the vendor, astonished, would invariable shake his or her head and reply.  “No, el mas grande es 43.”

Defeated, we eventually gave up and continue to repair his sad little shoe with the duct tape we brought wound around a pen.  I suspect we’ll run into the same problem in South East Asia, so we better stock up before we get there.

Bolivia. In Theory.

18 Apr

In theory.  We’ve experienced this phenomenon in other places, but on our current trip it has hit us the hardest in Bolivia.  Things seem to be one way, until they aren’t, often for no apparent reason.

In theory your bus ticket costs 15 Bolivianos, until the driver makes you pay an extra 5 at the end of the journey.

In theory when the menu says “2 waffles” you get two waffles, until it is explained to you that by “2 waffles” they really mean one waffle.

In theory, spending nearly 2 weeks at altitudes above 4000 meters without incident might mean you won’t suffer from altitude sickness, until you almost pass out in your falafel one night.

The rockslide we encountered halfway between La Paz and Coroico.

In theory there is a paved road between La Paz and Coroico, until there’s a landslide, which apparently happens more than you might think.  In theory the road will be open in two hours, except that it’s BEEN two hours and no equipment has arrived.  In theory a 15 passenger mini-van shouldn’t plunge off the side of the road in an attempt to make an alternate route on a road meant for 4×4’s that clings to a cliff with no guard rail and is only wide enough for 1.5 cars, but it does.  In theory a massive tourist bus shouldn’t have done the same thing in the opposite direction, but it did and now someone has to reverse on the hairpin curves, cliff side, until there’s just enough room to eek by.

In theory the ticket you bought says the bus leaves at 1:15, but really it leaves at 2:45.

In theory the water you bought yesterday for 5 Bolivianos should be 5 Bolivianos the next time you go to that store, except that today it’s 7.

In theory a ticket on a bus costs a certain price, unless it costs 5, 10, or 20 Bolivianos more depending on how stupid of a tourist the vendor takes you to be.  In theory when you walk away without purchasing a ticket and tell the vendor you’ll just buy it on the bus, they would not make a huge scene like you’re the one ripping them off.

Electric showers in Bolivia

In theory the electric showers (yes, electricity and water – together!) are hot, but really they aren’t so for nearly two weeks your hair is washed in spurts in ice-cold water.

In theory the boat ticket to the lovely island on Lake Titicaca is all-inclusive, until you have to pay some sort of entrance fee 47 times for every little village you go through.

Bolivia is a beautiful country with spectacular landscapes and generally lovely people.  We’re a bit worn out with the inconsistencies of things right now, but we have really enjoyed our time here and would definitely recommend you visit.  Just be prepared for, well, anything.

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