Sunday, 24 February 2008

Friendly Bolivia!!!

If there is one thing that pops into my mind about the last weeks, it is that the Bolivian people are friendly people. Although we don´t understand each other often because of my lack of Spanish, I always get the biggest smiles of beautifull happy people. They seem genuinely more happy than a lot of other people, although they have absolutely less material things in life.
The second thing is altitude sickness. Knock on wood, but I was really worried about getting it because I heard so many horror stories, but the only thing I´ve experienced is a ´high´ feeling while waiting at the Bolivian border at 3600 metres and a light head ache the next morning at the same height. In the meantime we´ve been to more than 5000 metres and no worries...thanks to the coca leaves probably!!

Sara and I have been discovering Bolivia in a steady paste. We started of in the South, at Uyuni. We did a trip to the Salt Lakes, the impressive vulcanoes, their colourfull lagoons, the flamingo´s and that was an amazing start. The scenery was stunning, the people in the villages were shy but lovely and the people in our tourgroup (yes, the only way to get around...) were hilarous. Not to forget our excellent tour guide. So we were very lucky all together.

Next stop was Potosi; one of Bolivians most important miners towns. There we took a look deep down. An old miner told us about the ins and outs of the mines, he showed us the rituals and took us down to the fourth level which meant crawling on our hands and knees in pitch darkness...Absolutely irresponsible of course (yes, dad, I know!), but very impressive and interesting. Life expectanty of an average miner; 45 years...

After that we headed to Sucre, one of Bolivians most beautiful cities. Well, that´s what they say. Sara and I have our doubts. Maybe it had to do with the fact that everything was closed on Sunday (so all the amazing musea, the stunning cathedrals etcetc were shut) so don´t be culturally active in Bolivia on a Sunday. Or maybe it had to do with the fact that both sara´s stomach and mine decided to go on strike. Who knows, but we were happy to go to La Paz!!

La Paz was relaxed. My stomach was playing up badly but stomach expert as I am after China and Cambodia, I decided wisely that my body was not coping on its own (yes, Guusje, I am learning!!). So after having three days of medication, my food stays in for longer than an hour. Thank God for the miracle-powder (whatever it was...)
Anyway, La Paz. Since we used coca leaves while being at a high altitude, Sara and I wanted to know more about it and after the interesting visit to the coca museum we have decided that we better not chew too much anymore...we didn´t really realise the leaves are the basics for cocaine...Ignorant or stupid, or just plain Dutch?

And how could we not mountainbike in La Paz. Sara raced the famous ´Death Road´ as a true maniac (ok ok, a very experienced maniac) and I followed her ofcourse, but in a more Maaike-paste. Absolutely loved it, I can truly recommend it!

We left Bolivia via the magnificent Lake Titicaca to arrive safely in Peru where the people are less friendly (10 points for the Bolivians!) but we found the most generous hostel owner who makes up for the grumpy Peruvians we met so far. The next 2 weeks are full of outdoor activities, but more about that in 2 weeks!

Sorry no pictures, but I hope Sara is willing to be a guestwriter in 2 weeks time when she is back in the Netherlands!

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Chile now, Bolivia next

Just a quick note to let everyone know I arrived safely in South America. One day later as planned (after spending a night in a very posh hotel in Auckland) but happy to be on the road!!

My friend Sara and I were reunited in Santiago: after the big hugs we went off arranging stuff straight away. Santiago was ok, but not nice enough to stay long. Moreover, it´s Bolivia we want to go to!!
So no time for the lazy: it took us several hours and several busstations later to find a ticket to Calama, a city near the border. Happy with the ticket we had a next challenge: book a hotel room. So I rang (yes, people, I rang) a hotel and arrange a room IN SPANISH!!! I am so damned proud of myself...Sara and I notice that although our Spanish is probably not grammatical correct, we all seem to understand each other. Great stuff!

First impressions of Chile are great. Loads of men with long hair (remember my fetish for guys with ling hair when I was 16...) and all the women dress very very sexy. Besides that we are just cruising along and heading to Bolvia this sunday. Probably no or slow email there, so no news is good news! (take note to that, dad...)

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Change of plans...

New Zealand is coming to an end...With a huge stone in my stomach I am packing my bag. Yes, I am truly looking forward to move on, but I am sad to leave. So you might read some sadness in between the lines in my two new posts although I have very much enjoyed both Hopewell as my last trip!

So what's the plan Maaike? Well, I was suppose to be in Tahiti at this very moment, but I am not...I changed my ticket because it turned out I could fly straight to Chile instead of via Tahiti. And I didn't like the sound of Tahiti to begin with (honeymoon island, very expensive and wrong season to go). So new plan: I am flying to Santiago tomorrow where I will start my South American adventure. Hopefully with enough Spanish (I can say my name, say what I do for a living, order drinks, ask for directions and say how many children I have...) but certainly with heaps of energy and excitement!

So next post: either Chile or Bolivia!!

Last New Zealand

After spending 6 weeks in the middle of nowhere in Marlborough Sounds, coming back to Christchurch came with a package of mixed feelings: I hated the smell of the city, the crowdedness, the concrete...but I loved watching people, going to the art gallery and cinema, admire the cathedral and drinking nice coffees. But I was not staying for that long because as a goodbye trip, I went on another hiking trip with Patrick to some wonderful hot pools along the Otehake River near Arthur's Pass.

The hot pools were completely different than the ones on Welcome Flat (with Eefje); the pools just happened to be in the middle of the river...Quite incredible and very very hot...(can you see the 'boiling' water?)

While being in the pools it rained a lot (who cares?!) and the trip to and from the pools was very pleasant too. We had to cross some rivers (see picture: I am about to go in and the water came ABOVE my waist) and along the way there were some classic New Zealand picture moments...I guess you understand why I am going to miss New Zealand a lot...

On our way back Patrick decided to do some caving too: we went into Cave Stream. It was truly impressive. Getting into the caves you had to go through water, again halfway my waist, and then we had to continue walking in water, climbing up here and there, falling here and there and all this in pitch darkness (thank God for head torches!). And leaving the cave on hands and knees...I wasn't sure whether I was claustrophobic: turns out I am not...I never knew caving was that much fun!

Mmmm, yeah, New Zealand is a keeper...

Hopewell in a pictureframe...

View from the house...

View of musselfarm in sound (one of my mountainbike trips!)

One of many kayaktrips...

'Flessenpost' sounds so much better than 'messages in a bottle'...Anyhow: the view of Marlborough Sounds at Pete's Peak (one of the hikingtrips)

How is that for a sunset?

Collecting mussels from a musselfarm: Phil (Mike's brother)

Musselnight: the green shelled mussels after I attacked them...

Result after an evening fishing with Sam, one of the locals. My catch: red gurnard, snapper and a blue cod. How is that for a first time?!

Part of Hopewells scenic reserve: their 'back yard'