Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I See a White Light......

We made it to Coroico in one piece, and were due for a chill place to rest our weary bones. We stayed at the Sol y Luna Hostel (an eco-lodge in the middle of the jungle). Our room was quite simple: two beds, a table and some nice big windows, one overlooking a magnolia tree and the other overlooking a mountain range. This was unlike the other hostels we've stayed because there was no communal TV (we haven't watched TV anyway), no hot water available for making tea and no hot showers (well, Monica lucked out and got half of one hot shower). This was not my favorite place, mostly because of poor management and not the type of customer service we're used to, but that's kind of Bolivia's thing: being moderately disorganized. It's not so disorganized that you never get to where you want to be, or that you never finish the tasks you set out to do, but just enough to push your buttons and really frustrate you, until things eventually work out... but these are the experiences we expected all along.

Monica chilling after the bike ride from hell.

The 20-minute walk into downtown Coroico from our hostel.

Cloud-blanketed mountain peaks.

Our friends from La Paz, who we met back up with in Coroico.

Downtown Coroico. It's rare to see painted buildings because, as we understand it, if the building is painted, it means it's finished, and if it's finished, you have to pay higher property taxes.

I have a lot to say about this photograph...

Lies! I looked in the trash cans and they were all empty... I'm only sort-of kidding. To back myself up, on the short ride from Yolosa to Coroico (20 minutes), the man sitting next to me finished what he was eating, opened the window of the van, and tossed out his plate, fork, knife, napkins, etc. onto the mountain road. I was pretty shocked because I am wholeheartedly against littering and this value has been so ingrained in me that I really don't even think about leaving trash on the street (or on a mountain), especially throwing it out of a van! A few minutes later, I saw a kid in our van do exactly the same thing. I thought to myself, "Why aren't any of the adults reprimanding this kid?" Then I remembered exactly how the kid learned it. I really had some angry thoughts running through my head, feeling like people who litter like this don't deserve the natural beauty of their homeland. I brought this up with our (American) friends from La Paz and one of the girls said she saw someone toss out a Pringles can on her ride up to town... But at least they seem to be trying to bring the trash issue up, with this banner in downtown Coroico(?). Who knows.

This is one of the gardens at Sol y Luna. With dense jungle comes TONS of bugs. My legs are covered in bites.

Our second day in Coroico, we decided to hire a guide to take us on a hike to a local waterfall with our two new friends, Katherine and Elie. I had no idea how difficult this hike was going to be ...

Our guide with some sort of leaf. I think this one is used to treat sensitive teeth.

It started off pretty good.

This is what a lot of the ground looked like.

Building a new crop. Coca leaves I think it was...

Oh man, nightmare! We had to cross on this tiny little ledge and it was basically just dirt so I felt like it could break away and send me flying down the mountain at any time. My fear of heights was kicking in at this moment and adrenaline started to flow. I made it to the other side, miraculously.

Getting closer to the waterfall. This is the Rio Negro.

We had to walk across this river. It doesn't look like it, but the water was flowing pretty intensely and we had to steady ourselves so as not to fall down in the water with our cameras and all our gear. Little did we know the rain was going to start on our way back and all of our stuff was going to get soaked anyway.

Walking on stones.

The waterfall! The water was freezing, but I enjoyed it after being so hot on the hike down.

The hike back up to the hostel was pretty uncomfortable because it started raining and it got pretty cold, especially after being in the cold waterfall. I was feeling pretty lousy and just wanted to be in a warm bed. Unfortunately the bed wasn't that warm, nor were the showers, oh well.

I'm really not too sure about this. Some sort of cemetery?

I never thought I'd say this, but I love San Francisco street cleaning! Give me a ticket if I park my car on the wrong side of the road; I'll take that over this any day.

Cat on a bed of bananas.

This was literally the light at the end of the tunnel.. I was heading toward that infamous white light.

We left Coroico earlier today and rode in a minivan with a mother and her four young children. The driver was quite possibly on some sort of medication (or maybe he forgot to take his meds)! Before we left, some police officers wanted something from him that really pissed him off and he floored it, not a great way to start what we thought was a 3-hour ride. Because of his lunacy, the drive only took a little over an hour. It was rainy, foggy--I'm talking zero visibility, and this guy was going 95 in a 40 (kph zone). He was passing huge trucks without waiting for a good moment, and it was overall wreckless driving. The rational part of me wanted to open the door and jump out of his van, but then I thought that might not be too safe either. Perhaps the cars wouldn't see me walking on the side of the road. I was so scared and mad that my whole life I've tried to make sensible decisions (I know you're thinking "Death Road??") but I am a very cautious driver and I never take risks when I pass cars or speed, especially on zero-visibility mountain roads. It was annoying that after a whole life of being sensible, this idiot could end it all with his maniacal driving. I started to tear up at one point, I got a crick in my neck out of being so stressed out, and I had to concentrate on breathing, otherwise--I noticed--I wasn't breathing at all. I could tell the mother in the car with us was also stressing out a bit. It was pure torture and the only uplifting thing on the whole ride was a CD that he put on halfway through. It was some band from Uruguay that I enjoyed. When we finally made it safe to La Paz, I asked him if I could buy the CD from him and he was psyched and handed it over for 10 Bs (a little over a dollar). So something good did come of it, and every time I listen to that CD, I'm going to think of that insane driver on his way to La Paz. I still don't know what was so pressing in La Paz.

To lighten things up, Bolivian cholas skirts back in LP.

Many of these stuffed animals are nearly identical, but not quite ... sort of mysterious in that way.
We're about to catch a flight to Buenos Aires, with a long layover in Lima. Wish us luck...