Thursday, 29 December 2011


So, after approximately 13 hours in Bolivia, I know what the Spanish word is for testicles. It's criadillas. Could've done without that helpful lesson so early in the trip, but there it is.

But let me back up- maybe I should start with our arrival in Bolivia. Actually, I'll start with our departure from the States. We left my parent's place yesterday, saying our goodbyes and using our backpacks for the first time. Here's us right before we left, with our gear on our backs, looking super dorky.

We flew into Santa Cruz this morning on an uneventful flight from Miami (the most eventful thing that happened is that I got sick, but I always get sick, so it's hardly worth mentioning). As we flew overnight and didn't get a ton of sleep on the plane, we went straight to our hotel room (yes, I said hotel. I'll explain in a second) to rest. We were able to check in early, take hot showers and pass out for a few hours, which we desperately needed to recharge our batteries before exploring Santa Cruz. The plan wasn't always to have a nice hotel. We actually had booked a hostel for tonight, but I had some airline miles that were about to expire, so we decided to use them for a comfortable hotel to start our trip off right.

We spent the afternoon exploring Santa Cruz, which, in all honesty, was not that exciting. There is little to see in the city, so we just wandered through the streets and people watched. One of the cooler things we saw was this nativity scene, where the wise men are bringing baby Jesus corn instead of frankincense and myrrh. Personally, I'd prefer to be the Bolivian baby Jesus; frankincense just doesn't sound that tasty...

And here's my favorite wise man, who looks pretty pissed that he only brought one ear of corn while his buddies both brought whole baskets full. Embarrassing...

We also found some good stuff to eat. We tried chicha, a drink made from fermented corn, which is sweet and milky and delicious. We then had some surprisingly good fried chicken and rice, which, in addition to two pints of beer each, set us back a whopping $4 a person. Bolivia is ridiculously inexpensive when you go to the right places.

However, when you go to the wrong places, you end up eating bull testicles that cost twice as much as the fried chicken. Which is exactly what we did this evening.

When we were walking today, we saw an adorable restaurant with a veranda and a band playing tonight. When we returned this evening and sat down, we realized that the restaurant was pretty expensive by Bolivian standards. In order to keep to our budget, we ordered the cheapest main course: los criadillas de toro. The way the name of the dish was handwritten on the menu, it looked to us like griadillas, which looked like the French word grillade. We thought we were ordering grilled bull steak. Boy, were we wrong... The realization that we were clearly eating something we would later regret, coupled with the music from the band, which ended up being terrible, ended our day on a lower note than we would have liked.

So here we are after our first day on the trip, burping up bull balls, but still pretty happy and excited about what's next. We head to Samaipata tomorrow and will spend three nights there. We've read that it is beautiful, with tons of hiking trails through the mountains. I think tomorrow we will feel a little more like we are in Bolivia. Santa Cruz is very tropical and hot, so we feel like we are in Mexico, rather than the cold, high-altitude Bolivia that we've read so much about. Can't wait to see what the rest of the country is like, bull balls and all!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

'Twas the night before...

Well, tomorrow is the day.

After a month straight of visiting family and friends before our departure, we are finally leaving tomorrow to start the trip. In 24 hours, we will be on the plane to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, with nothing but a backpack and a plane ticket going everywhere but home. Crazy.

For the past few weeks, we have been asked, "Are you so excited?" by everyone we see. Those sweet, caring souls are always disappointed by our answer:

No, not really.

We aren't so excited. We want to be, believe me. But we just aren't.

It's not as if we don't want to go, it's simply that it still hasn't hit us that we are actually going. It feels like we are leaving for a vacation or a short trip and that we'll be back in a week or so. I don't think either of us realize that we are actually leaving for a year. Backpacking around the world. Realizing a dream. Finally embarking on an adventure that we have been planning for over a year.

I hope to document our experience as much as possible the first few days, as we start to realize what we are doing. I'm curious to see how we will react and when it will actually hit us. I also can't wait to start writing about our travels, rather than the trip preparation. We've been planning this for 14 months and it's finally here.

Oh my god, we leave tomorrow!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Testing our goods

Spoiler alert: I froze my a-- off and I hate my pants.

Today V and I went for a hike up the Luberon mountains in southern France and took the opportunity to equip ourselves solely with the gear we are bringing on the trip. The idea was to test our clothes, shoes and day packs at low altitude in the sun at the start of the hike and then later at a higher altitude where it would be much colder.

We both wore multiple layers and brought even more in our day packs (along with our awesome picnic lunch of pasta salad and juice boxes). I wore one of my two t-shirts, one of my two long sleeve shirts, a light weight zip-neck long sleeve shirt, my convertible pants, heavy hiking socks and my heaviest walking shoes, bandanas around my head and neck, and sunglasses (and a bra and undies, but we don't need to go into those details, do we?). In my day pack were a scarf, a micro-fleece and my rain jacket/ wind-breaker. If you are really interested in all of this stuff, go back to this post to see pictures of each item.

As we started up the mountain on our hike, it was sunny and around 55 degrees. About ten minutes into the hike came my first discovery: I hate my pants. My convertible pants for the trip, besides making me look like a total dude, have no stretch in them and are frankly too tight to comfortably hike in. I had tried on a larger pair at the store and they were too baggy, so I went a size down. Seeing how unhappy I was with the pants after only five hours of hiking, I certainly don't want to be stuck with them for a year. I'm now on the look out in the next three weeks for new pants.

So, on up the mountain we went. As we reached the top, a massive wind swept over the summit and clouds rolled in from the other side of the range, covering the sun. The temperature dropped from 50 degrees to probably around 35, maybe lower with the wind chill. This is where I made a huge mistake and my second discovery. To combat the cooler temperature, I added the rest of my layers, except the scarf. Those five layers of technical, carefully chosen tops should have kept me warm in 30 degree weather. The problem was that my sports bra and t-shirt were humid from my sweating (I know, I'm such a lady) during the ascent, so regardless of the extra layers, I was still cold.

At the summit, V and I took shelter from the wind and had our picnic. The combination of my wet base layers and no longer moving pushed my discomfort to another level: I was freeeeezing. I complained enough in between sips from my juice box to make V hurry up so we could get moving again. To my dismay, V kept stopping to take pictures of the view as I danced around and hugged myself like a crazy person, trying to warm up.
Me on the summit, hating everything.
Finally, after walking a bit more and giving my shirt time to dry, I started warming up, but not before learning a seriously valuable lesson: if base layers are humid in cold weather, TAKE THEM OFF. I would have been far, far warmer without my t-shirt under my heavier layers than with it wet. While I suffered a bit today, I'm so glad I figured that out before I find myself at 12,000 feet in Bolivia with a wet t-shirt.

At the end of the day, we had a great hike and are both feeling good about the gear we are bringing on the trip. So I'll leave you with a picture of us, feelin' good:

Friday, 2 December 2011

Buh-bye Switzerland

Well, that's done.

We have finally moved out of our apartment and have officially left Switzerland. After more than a week straight of packing, moving, cleaning and traveling (we are currently in southern France at V's dad's house), I am too exhausted to write anything clever or profound.

It has not hit us at all that we have actually left and no longer have a home- it still feels like we are on vacation and will go back in a few days. I doubt we will realize that we aren't going back until we are packing our backpacks and flying to the States.

Even when we left the apartment for the last time, we weren't that emotional, simply because it hadn't hit us. We were a little sad, but it was more like, "Bye dude, it's been great," than, "Waaaaaaaah!!!" We were both so tired and stressed from the move that there was little room for much else emotionally. Here's an idea of how we felt during our last 30 seconds in our empty apartment, where we spent three wonderful, cozy, comfortable years in a place we loved:

Bye, Switzerland, it's been great...