Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Bolivian Adventure

Jess, Hayley, and I arrived in Puno tired and hung over. Puno is a scrappy little town on the shores of Lake Titicaca. It's also the centre for the miners' strike that's been taking place along the Peru-Bolivia border. Besides its ridiculous name, Lake Titicaca is famous for being the highest commercially inhabited (e.g. more than the odd hut, there are actual towns) lake in the world, at 3811m above sea level (12000ft). After we found a hostel we hastily planned our Lake Titicaca trip and attempted to book transportation out of Puno, which was easier said than done with the strikes going on. Basically, the Peruvian miners were pissed they weren't getting paid enough, so to get the government's attention they blocked major roads, most of which have bus routes on them. This is a huge pain in the ass to those of us needing to take one of these routes, which just so happened to include me, Hayley, and Jess. So off we went for two days on Lake Titicaca not really knowing how, exactly, we were getting to our next destination. Personally, I was too hung over to care.

Floating Island, Lake Titicaca
Our Lake Titicaca experience started with a trip to the floating islands. They were fairly impressive. The islands are built out of a crap load of reeds all tethered together, and yes, they do really float, you can often feel the ground sink beneath you with every step. Although real families do live on the islands, their main source of income these days comes from tourism, so it's, well, touristy. Still, it's quite a sight to see, these yellowing reed globs all bobbing merrily together. Perhaps the coolest thing about the islands is how the locals there deal with neighbourhood disputes. If a disagreement arises and you wish your pain in the ass next door neighbour would just go away, no problem! All you have to do is grab your trusty machete, cut them loose, and away they'll float! Ha! And don't worry about them too much, they'll most likely find a new island community to anchor to.

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca
Next we arrived for our home stay on Amantani, one of the largest islands on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. A cute little lady in traditional skirt, shall, headwear, and braids met us at the port, and no, they don't just wear this stuff for show. In fact, all over Peru you can see the flared and ruffled skirts and rainbow coloured shawls, although less in the big cities. Ugly, in my opinion, but I'm sure they think the same thing about some of my outfits. Anyway, she led us off through the farmers' fields, past slightly disheveled cottages, and to her quaint little home with garden out front and lake view. Not bad, except for the 5 minute walk to the out house, lack of interior heating, and really, who doesn't have internet these days? We were fed and walked up to the highest peak of the island for 360 degree views and sunset. At dinner they gave the three of us the table while the family huddled around the kitchen floor, which was slightly bazaar, since there were six chairs. We tried to have a conversation, but the language barrier made things a little strained.

The next day we returned to Puno after a bit more island hopping. The strikes were in full force by the time we got back with protesters marching through the street, breaking bank windows all over town (another way to get the government's attention), and forming a full out mob in the main plaza. It made us a bit nervous, not because we thought they would turn violent, but because we had places to go dammit! Luckily we met the world's best 'travel agent', a.k.a. lady who lurks around the bus depot and smuggles tourists across the border. Now this may sound shady, but I swear to God she was the best damn person I've ever had working for me. Not only did she get us where we needed to go, but she came to our hotel room to give us minute to minute updates, scoured town looking for us when she needed to inform us of an urgent change (we were eating dinner, she tracked us down in a restaurant, in a town of over 100,000 I might add!), and was even there in the morning to make sure we were up and let us know our buses were going. She should win some sort of award for customer service, this woman. If you ever meet Betty in the Puno bus terminal, say 'yes' to whatever she tells you, and give her a hug from Jess, Hayley, and Jordan.

La Paz, Bolivia
We had to get our passports stamped in a sketchy unidentified building by what I assume was the police the night before we left. We had to dodge protestors and rallies in the street. We had to cram into an unmarked minivan to get to the border. We had to maneuver around the rubble that still littered the road from the strikes. But for the love of God we were getting to Bolivia! Because she needed to catch her flight the next day, we left Jess with her fingers crossed that her bus would leave for Cusco. I think we unknowingly had horseshoes up our asses because we all made it to our destinations without trouble. 

And so we entered into Bolivia. One of South America's poorest nations, it is bone dry, chilly, and so high in elevation half the country is oxygen starved. There's a lush tropical rainforest too, apparently, but I didn't go there, so it's the cold desolation that remains fresh in my mind. Bolivians haven't quite figured out hospitality in the way that Peruvians have. Oh sure, they'll happily take your money, show you around, feed you maybe, but they're not going to inconvienience themselves by pretending to actually like you. I guess if I lived in such a thin aired, parched wasteland like they did, I'd be a little grumpy too.                                                             

Me and Hayley in La Paz
Our bus pushed its way through chaos as we made our way into La Paz. Traffic lurched as drivers battled for space on the road, horns were pounded aggressively. Swirls of particulates of all sorts of nastiness flew through the air as people jaywalked their way through town. As we finally dipped into the city centre I could see all of La Paz before me, a tangle of bricks clinging to the hillside, sliding their way into the valley bottom of high rise buildings. The snow capped mountains towered over the city, casting their mighty shadow over suburbia. The town itself bustles with people, crunches with traffic, and smells like exhaust mixed with fried chicken. There are cool activities to do in and around La Paz, if you have money. We didn't, so what's cool to do in La Paz if you are on a budget? Well my friends, a beer at a gringo's pub is $2. Wine is also cheap. Turns out, so is cocaine, which I heard through the commonly discussed grape vine you can buy for under $20 a gram from your bar tender. For those of you not up to speed on these things, that's dirt cheap. So when in La Paz you party, and party we did. We unfortunately experienced the most horrible bar of all time - Blue Lounge. All the hostel crowd goes there, but do yourself a favour and save yourself from the ear splitting music, hired male dancer whose signature move is the fist pump, and 40 minute wait at the bar. If you do want to go to La Paz's famous Route 36 Bar I can tell you it's not as sketchy as you might think, although expect an inevitable level of dodginess. I assume the police are being comfortably paid off to overlook the various illegal activities that occasionally (ok, sorry mom, frequently) take place there. Someone even told me the police have a share in the place, and I wouldn't be overly surprised if this were the case. Still, I have an inkling that Bolivian prison would suck big time, so party with caution. Compared to most we were almost prudishly conservative, and avoided any attention from law enforcement.

On the salt flats
 Tiring of the urban scene and La Paz's smoggy streets, me and Hayley booked our bus tickets to Uyuni and a two day salt flats tour. We first had to survive the 12 hour overnight bus ride which was horrendously cold, long, and bumpy. A few hours after we left the La Paz the road turned to gravel and I'm pretty sure the bus didn't have shocks. You can't sleep when you are being rattled out of your seat. You also can't sleep when it's so cold the condensation on the windows is turning to ice. A girl puked in the isle, motion sick from the jostling I imagine. It added to the enjoyment. We arrived in Uyuni at 7am feeling a bit wobbly, confused to be back on solid ground, and wishing for a bed. No time for that though, we had to quickly book bus tickets, eat breakfast, and get to our salt flats tour before it started in 2 hours. 

Our guides were as lovely as most Bolivians and didn't bother to introduce themselves when they picked us up in their 4x4. To be honest, I'm not even sure they said hello. We were warned that they would not speak English, we were not warned they were going pretend that there wasn't six of us crammed into their back seat. And crammed we were. The first three seats were ok, but the trunk seats were made for Bolivians, a.k.a. for someone 4 feet tall. Since all of us towered far above that, the unlucky 3 whose turn it was in the back got so crunched their knees were practically in their armpits. Comfy. The 4 foot tall guide/cook rode comfortably in shot gun, the ENITRE 3 days. Bitch. Maybe it was the miserable bus ride, or the grumpy guides, the shit seats, or perhaps the altitude, but I felt ill the entire tour to differing degrees of severity. The first night I got heart burn that radiated burning up my esophagus until I puked, and this has never happened before in my life. As this was not a commonly occurring problem for me I had nothing to treat it. I rummaged through my bag looking for something, anything to help. Sure that a hole was about to burn through my chest, I desperately swallowed globs of calcium enhanced toothpaste. Miraculously, it helped. Still, I barely slept for the second night in a row and I chugged 'antiacido', purchased at the hospital the next day, for the rest of the trip. I generally felt exhausted, queasy, stuffed up, disgruntled. And it was fucking cold! Wind chill of minus a bajillion, I swear. Why the hell do I sign up for this shit, I wondered, irritated. I just wanted a warm bed, a good movie, and 5 gallons of hot chocolate. I did my best to hide it and felt bad for Hayley as I feared she was with me at the unfortunate moment I was coming down with a bad case of travel burn out. On the positive side, my lack of appetite meant that I didn't have to worry about not liking the food - I wasn't going to eat it regardless.

Same truck on the salt flats, looking tiny
Truck on the salt flats, actual size
The fact that I STILL enjoyed myself and came out with a positive experience speaks to the wonder and beauty of the region. And thank you Hayley for not killing me in my bad tempered lethargy (although I thought I restrained fairly well from being a total bitch - correct me if I'm wrong). The first day we spent on the great white expanse that is the salt flat, the biggest in the world I believe. I'm not going to bore you with the details, but in short, the flats are what's left of a ginormous prehistoric lake. And is big and white and flat and, unsurprisingly, salty. So much so that your eyes don't really understand the expanse of it, things are magnified and minimized in strange ways.  

Incahuasi Island with Cacti, Salt Flats
There are also islands that punctuate the salt flats. Well, they're ancient islands, there's not so much in the way of a lake covering this part of the salt flats these days. Even in the prehistoric days the 'islands' were actually submerged corals or underwater volcanoes, so what I'm really saying is they were never actually islands at all. But they appear that way today, 'shoreline' and all. On our first day we stopped at one such island, called Incahuasi, and it was definitely a strange sight to see. Rising out of the white salt was a massive hunk of reddish rock that was entirely encrusted with massive, orange-spiked cacti. Despite feeling as if I would like to die, I couldn't help but climb to the top (I'm slightly obsessed with climbing to the top of things, I love a good photo op., and I hate doing things halfway - incase you hadn't noticed) and it was by far worth it.

After a painful, esophagus burning night in a salt hotel (literally a hotel made from large, pure salt blocks) we continued south away from the salt flats. The terrain here is completely unworldly, so desolate and barren I felt as though I'd been plunked down on planet Mars. It was also painfully cold, with a cutting wind that made even a few minutes outside unbearable. We stopped at several salt lagoons, half frozen and seemingly lifeless pools of brine that were skirted with snow dusted mountains. Except for they were not entirely lifeless, flamingos actually attempt to scrape out a living here, and they must be eating something. My best guess is algae, which I assume could survive the hyper saline and ridiculously cold conditions. At certain times of year the flamingos flock to the lagoons in great numbers to breed. We were not here at this time, but you could still see a few baby pink clumps wading in the distance, bravely bearing the icy winds.  


Sunrise over steaming hot springs
On our last day we were up and out before sunrise. The day was filled with more extraterrestrial experiences as we contemplated strange geomorphic formations, steaming geysers, bubbling hot springs, and wide desolate expanses of reddy brown earth. It was also the day that I almost killed our driver for his horrible taste in music, which he had cranked on repeat ALL DAY. Now, the Peruvians have their flute music - which is mildly annoying,  especially when some kid follows you through his village attempting to play the wretched thing and then tries to demand a tip for his 'performance' (Yes, this happened more than once). But what the Bolivians have done with a synthesizer is just plain unholy. It should be illegal. Imagine, if you dare, high pitched electronic ditties reminiscent of 1990s video game music, but on crack. There is absolutely no base, and they beat is EXACTLY the same for every song, so that you're not even sure it IS a different song. All this it set against a winey Enrique Inglesias style voice - but ten times worse. At least Enrique, according to popular opinion anyway, can actually SING. These people cold not. Then imagine sitting in a SUV for hours on end, with your knees crunched to your shoulders, altitude sickness raging, and this abomination being blasted over the speakers. My normally calm, placid demeanor was wearing thin and even with earplugs, I was close to loosing my shit. I was on the edge of a loud and aggressive meltdown that involved beating the unfriendly Bolivian driver to his death. In a slightly insane last resort I instead pressed my head to the window, which with the earplugs vibrated through my skull creating a large and soothing buzz that blocked out any other noise. I took deep breaths. My Zen and sanity took a serious test out on those salt flats.    

Geomorphic formations, steaming geysers, flamingo lagoons

It took me a few days to recover from the salt flats. I had come down with a serious cold, completely lost any signs of an appetite, and my energy levels were suffering. I needed warmth and I needed oxygen. A few days in Sucre, more than 1000m lower in elevation, was a perfect place to recover. Sucre is Bolivia's capital and is lined with pastel coloured colonial buildings and shady trees. I don't have much to say about it, because we didn't do much. We read our books on sunny benches, sipped wine, watched movies on our hostel's TV, and ate ice cream. Ahhhh. After I was on the mend we also went climbing, which was a first for me. Initially terrifying, once I learned to trust that the rope would, in fact, catch me if I fell, I had no problems scaling the cliff face. Since Whistler and Squamish are climbing meccas, this may be a hobby I take up when I get home!

Then it was time to say goodbye to Hayley. She left in a taxi for her flight back home and I stood on the curb waving her off. After she was out of sight I lingered for a moment. Everything seemed quiet. Alone again. . . 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Girls Run Wild in Peru

Paragliders at sunset, Miraflores, Lima
With excited squeals and a group hug Hayley, Jessica, and I reunited in the Lima airport, the three of us together for the first time in half a year. We waded together through the busy airport nearly bouncing up and down we were so excited. A few hours from now we'd be on a plane to Cusco and the girls trip adventure we'd been talking about for months was about to begin. . .

A few days prior I was alone and fighting of culture shock resulting from my extreme ignorance of the Spanish language. I literally arrived in South America knowing 'hola' and 'gracias' and nothing else. Not so smart. I was travel weary from a month of bush camping in Africa and now I was lost in a world in which I could barely communicate - it left me more than a little uninspired. But then, a few days later Hayley came bounding out of the arrivals gate, massive smile on her face and arms waving wildly at me, and it didn't matter. The girls were about to conquer Peru!

Plaza de Armas, Cusco's center
Hayley not only saved me with her glowing positivity, she also surprised me with a night at the Sheraton in Lima. Because we are employees back home we were upgraded for free and spent our 24 hours of luxury stuffing our faces with all-you-can-eat buffets and drinking free champagne and pisco sours. We explored central Lima before it was back to reality - and back to the backpackers hostel.

Lima didn't really live up to it's badass reputation for me. It's big, it's smoggy, it's somewhat shabby, but even central Lima didn't feel dangerous. Once we moved to Miraflores by the beach you could barely even tell you were in Lima, everything was clean and shiny and new. On our last evening we watched the paragliders soar along the coastline and into the fading sun. We tried to NOT watch the many couples getting it on on every park bench available. For some reason, this seems to be the thing to do in Lima!

Girls in Cusco, Peru
Soon we met Jess and were off to Cusco. I had high expectations for this city and I must say they were met. Cusco's cobbled streets and stone and clay buildings have the feel of Europe for the price of the third world. It was definitely touristy, but it didn't take much of a walk past the main centre before the hawkers were gone, the buildings were more tattered, and you felt like you were in South America again. The best of both worlds, in my opinion. Cusco is also a high city, at 3400m (11150ft) we dragged our asses a bit the first day and found ourselves gasping as we hiked the steep hill to our hostel. To compensate we chugged coca tea by the gallon - which to be honest I'm not convinced actually does anything - but I guess I can't argue with 1000s of years of local knowledge, and it definitely didn't hurt.

Horseback riding near Cusco
We warmed up for our Machu Picchu trek with and excessive amount of good food (including alpaca steaks, which were extremely delicious) and a day of horseback riding in the hills surrounding Cusco. Our guide was a cute little Peruvian who spoke next to no English and let us do pretty much whatever we wanted. With years of riding under my belt I was in heaven (unlike my terrifyingly hellish pony ride in Lesotho where I was pretty sure I was going to die). We could see the city below, painted perfectly into the valley and across the lower hills. We trotted through little villages and crumbling Incan ruins. I also finally fulfilled my lifelong dream of galloping at top speed through the open fields like a real cowgirl. Hayley followed merrily behind me but Jess was not so impressed - But what are friends for if not to push your limits and terrify you from time to time? Jess, you know you loved it and you weren't going to fall off anyway!

With saddle sore legs (maybe all that galloping the day before a 5 day trek was poorly thought out, oops) we got up at 3:30am to make our way to the bus stop to begin our trek. We were excited to be with other people, but as dozens of gringos were herded onto the bus I got a little nervous. I thought this was supposed to be the less traveled route? The last thing I wanted was to be nose and nose with 100s of other tourists, which is why I really didn't have a problem doing the alternative trek and never setting foot on the Inca Trail. The first day was definitely a bit crowded as several trekking groups walked the trail together to the first camp, picking our way up into the hills and past the last of civilization. As the mountains peeked their white tops above the fading green hills, however, I stopped caring, and didn't take the guides long to separate us out into groups so that we were more spread out. I don't know if Jess was still traumatized from our horseback ride or if she was having trouble with the altitude, but she struggled a bit the first day. She hung in there like a trooper though, and made it to our camp on night one.

Although I was initially grumpy about so many people, once we had established our groups it wasn't so bad and, admittedly, the social factor ended up being one of my favourite parts of the trek. With Belgium, Holland, the UK, South Africa, Canada, and the USA being represented, along with the Peruvian guides and cooks, we were a truly international crew. We huddled around our dinner table the first evening and got to know each other as the chill of the night crept over the campsite. Shortly after an exhausted Hayley, Jess, and I piled into our tent and cuddled together to keep warm. Even with the body heat it was bitter cold and I buried my head deep into my sleeping bag and thanked myself for purchasing the thermals that were currently keeping me at least mostly warm. I learned my lesson after nearly freezing to death in Nepal!

Salkantay trek, 4600m above sea level
We were up for an early start the next morning at 5am. The cooks woke us with a lovely delivery of hot coca tea right to our tent door. We sat and sipped the hot liquid in the dark, reluctant to enter into the frosty morning outside our tent. The day ahead was meant to be the hardest of the trek, not only the longest day in terms of time, but it also included the most elevation climbs and falls. We started with a steep ascent into the high mountain pass. The high elevation here made breathing difficult, I was pulling at the air as hard as I could, trying to bring as much of it into my lungs as possible, but the breaths just felt shallow and unsatisfactory. If I stumbled or lost my rhythm it literally felt like the air was being sucked from my lungs and I'd be left gasping for oxygen. Every so often though, I'd grip just the right amount of air and I could feel all the cells in my lungs licking it up, absorbing every molecule of the much needed oxygen into my tissues and sending a wave of relief over my entire body. We hiked up through the jaggedy white mountains and into the alpine, reaching our highest elevation at 4600m. The views here were stunning and the mist lifted just the right amount to expose the massive mountain tops, caked in ice and snow, as they reached into a glimmering blue sky. We paused to take a few photos, to thank Mother Earth in the Incan tradition, and to sufficiently let the searing wind freeze our sweat so that we were ready to run back down the other side of mountain.

As always I struggled with the food. I had to lie and tell the cooks that I was allergic to cilantro so they wouldn't put any of that nasty herb anywhere near my meals since they seemed to love to sprinkle it over every single dish. It's always discouraging to be extremely hungry and incapable of eating whatever is put in front of me. My anxiety always raised before meals as I waited to see what it was. If I didn't like it, I tried to force myself to eat it anyway, to shove spoonfuls of whatever it was in my mouth, but my throat literally closed and I would feel nauseated. It's extremely frustrating to be this way, but I don't know how to change it. My savoir was my stash of snacks I brought with me and what the cooks called the 'happy hour' after we'd completed our trek for the day. At this time they would serve up huge plates of biscuits, popcorn, and hot chocolate and I would fill my face and then dinner became just a bonus snack. So thank you happy hour for saving me from starvation!

Our trekking crew at the hot springs
 The third day was the most fun. Not only was it the shortest in terms of walking time, we were also down lower so it was a lot warmer, and our efforts were rewarded with hot springs. With three days of accumulated grime and sore muscles, the springs felt amazing. There were local ladies selling snacks and beers on the water's edge and we relaxed into the mountain setting and enjoyed ourselves. That night we had a big bonfire and the three of us girls shared a few bottles of delicious Argentinean wine they sold at the campsite store for $10 each. We stayed up past our usual 8pm trekking bed time, all the way to 11pm. Rebels, I know.

I've officially donated my piece of shit hiking boots to charity and I apologize to whoever receives them. Three treks and 100s of kilometers walked and they still gave me blisters. Those stupid boots have almost caused me more than one trek melt down. I resisted my flip flops for days, then with one toe so raw it was bleeding I finally changed footwear - and then ended up walking through a river of mud and gravel that would never end, down a steep slippery slope, covering all my open foot wounds in random jungle sludge and almost falling on my face. I was so pissed off by the end of it I almost punched my favourite little Jessica in the face when she took a picture of me struggling down the hill. I also debated throwing my mud covered flip flops at lovely Hayley, who was laughing. I blame my hiking boots for all of this, by the way. Luckily, I will never have to see them again and our friendship survived the incident.

By the time we reached Aguas Calientes, the town nearest to Machu Picchu, we had been eaten alive by flies, hadn´t showered for 4 days, had more than a few sore muscles, and I personally never wanted to see another trek meal again, ever. I almost jumped up and down when I saw our hostel with hot water and restarants selling pizza! I had the best shower of my life that night and the best pizza, also.

Wayna Picchu is at the back right 
 You know that mysterious looking, steep, jungle encrusted rock in the background of every classic photo of Machu Picchu? It´s called Wayna Picchu and our group was extremely determined to climb it. You need separate passes to get onto this rock, and you can't get those in advance. They give 200 away for each time slot and they are on a first come, first serve basis. So, up we got at 3:30am and speed walked down the dark street through hoards of other hikers so that we would be first in line when they opened the gate. Once they DO open the gate, you don't get your tickets there. Oh no, no. It's a race from the valley bottom up the wickedly steep mountain Machu Picchu is located on. They then sell you the tickets once you're at the top. We waited for the gate to open, trying not to get antsy in the ever growing line. At 5:00 when they started letting people through we rushed along with the crowds, resisting the urge to push and shove, and began our climb. It usually takes at least an hour to get up the ridiculously intense hill. It took our group 40 minutes. We practically sprinted up the trail, passing the more weak left and right, resisting the urge to rest, barely able to breathe, dripping with sweat even in the cool darkness before dawn. Our group was within the first 20 to the top, and I'm pretty sure Jess, Hayley, and I were the first girls of the day. All 15 of us got our Wayna Picchu passes without trouble.

Sitting on the top of Wayna Picchu, Machu Picchu below
We spent the day exploring Machu Picchu and, of course, climbing Wayna Picchu. In the early morning the mist floated throughout the ruins and since we were there so early we nearly had the place to ourselves. I was too caught up in the setting to pay any attention to our guide's tour of the ruins. I spent most the time trailing behind the group or running around alone, daydreaming of ancient Incan civilizations, and not wanting to be disrupted by reality. Despite the early morning marathon up the side of the mountain, we were all excited and energetic to climb Wayna Picchu. With the cliffs edge threatening just beside you, you wind and climb your way up a steep ladder staircase. At the summit you feel like you are at the top of the world, with Machu Picchu barely more than a tiny patch in the forest below. By midday the tourist buses have arrived and the place is crawling with gringos. We snapped a few final pictures in the warmth of the afternoon sun, and then began the climb back down to Aguas Calientes to catch the train back to Machu Picchu.

You would think after a 5 day trek, then an extremely early morning start at 3:30am, with a long day at Machu Picchu and a several hour journey back to Cusco, we'd be too exhausted to do anything but sleep. . . And true, we were tempted by our beds, almost thought about climbing in them. . .But then our entire trekking group was going out to celebrate our 5 day conquest . . . And we couldn't miss out, could we? Hell no! So minutes after we arrived back in Cusco and dumped our stuff, off we went to meet the rest of our group at the bar. The bars in Cusco are evil and stay open devilishly late. After being up for 25 hours, 4:30am is the time we arrived back at our hostel (and we left before the bar closed, by the way!). 6:30am is the time we had to get up to catch our 10 hour bus to Puno. I can tell you right now it was not fun. To make things even more enjoyable, we had splurged on a special tourist bus that stopped at all the sites along the way. It turned out to be a total waste because we felt so awful we wanted to cry every time the bus pulled over, had absolutely no interest in the sites, and almost vomited when we saw the massive lunch buffet provided for us. Good times. Despite the pain and agony, we did eventually make it to Puno.

Before I wrap up I just want to say a word of warning for others about the company we booked our trek with. While the trek experience was great, the booking company was absolutely horrible. They were called Peru Inka Intertravel and you can find them online, but don't. The deceived us into thinking we were getting an upgraded trek, but once we got there we realized that we had actually been downgraded to a cheaper route that we paid double what everyone else did. Not only that, they were extremely disorganized, forgot our hostel bookings, sent us on a wild goose chase, and left us with more than a bitter taste in our mouths. When we confronted them about the situation they were vicious and said we would 'certainly not get any money back'. There's no place to leave feedback on their website - probably for a reason - but still, we are going to do what we can to bring them down! So please, NO ONE BOOK WITH THIS COMPANY! They are more than assholes!

I'm currently in Bolivia and admittedly, more than a little behind on my blog. Sorry for the wait! Hayley is leaving me in two days and I will once again be travelling alone, which generally leaves me with more free time. I'll fill you in on everything that's been going on then :)