Thursday, September 27, 2012

Potosi - Will We Ever Be Able to Leave??

Hello again from Potosi. Since we last communicated with the outside world, we have had quite the adventure. On Tuesday we were a bit tired and sore from our little walk the day before, so we decided to walk around town a little bit and check out the Casa de La Moneda. This is a musuem that was the original mint for Bolivia, it also houses some of the treasures and interesting machines that made there way to Potosi while this town was at its height of glory. Since silver was discovered in the sixteenth century, this city acquired great riches, much of which was taken back to Spain, but it still maintains a sense of its prior glory.

In the musuem there are some of the original machines used to flatten the silver and then pound the coins into their appropriate shape.

Originally the coins were not round, they were just whatever shape the silver happened to form into, and people started to cut off the edges of the coins to use the silver for other things. There are machines that were pulled by donkeys to make the silver flat enough to be used for coins, as well as various stencils used to mark the coins as the final step in the coin production process.

Also, the musuem has some interesting relics from the wars that Bolivia has lost.

There is also a large hall with a variety of ores, rocks, stones, minerals, etc from all around Bolivia and the world, literally thousands of samples.

They have a collection of mummies and some other items found around Potosi.

In all, it was interesting to see some of the original machines, the tour itself could use a little work, although that may have been our fault. Tours are offered in English, French and Spanish, depending on demand. We opted for an English tour, however it would appear that either the English speaking guide was much less informed than the Spanish guide, or she just didn´t want to put in the effort to give the entire explanation. If we were to do it again, we would opt for the Spanish tour.
Yesterday, we took our tour of the Cerro Rico mines. Not to worry, despite engineers saying it´s going to cave in, we were fine. The tour starts out with a trip to the miners market. Basically there is an area of Potosi with a bunch of little shops selling items miners would need, everything from beer to dynamite, headlamps to shovels. Additionally, there are no restrictions as far as who can buy what, so if a 10 year old wants to buy a stick of dynamite and a fuse, and can come up with about two dollars, expect some explosions.

Here we bought some gifts for the miners. Then we go to another small market where we buy coca leaves for the miners. Again, for less than a dollar, one can acquire a large back of coca leaves, no age restriction whatsoever. Our guide did not let us buy dinamite for us to set off as apparently there have been accidents involving tourists in the past and it is frowned upon by the authorities(who obviously regulate the the sale of dinamite...). Then we head up to the mine.

Keep in mind that Potosi is more than 4000 meters above sea level, so the air is pretty thin, as we enter the mine, it starts to get warm, and in many places there is no ventilation. The miners start at about nine or ten in the morning and often work for 10 hours or more each day. They work as a part of a cooperative, and have to pay a 15% levy to the cooperative, the cooperative is then responsible for paying government taxes, and provides some basic accomodations outside of the mines for the miners. We started on the first level of the mine, and as we descended into the bowels of Cerro Rico, it started to get really hot and humid. The temperature easily climbed above 100 degrees and it was so humid that pictures were coming out foggy from the moisture on the lense. I had quite a lot of trouble getting through the second and third level as the shafts were very narrow, at times I was on my hands and knees, and even slithering along on my belly just to make it through.

The shafts are held up with wooden supports, however many of these are broken, and often not replaced. Eventually we got to the fourth level, and chatted with some miners. These miners were working in much the same way that miners have worked for hundreds of years, hammers, chisels, and a giant ball of coca in their cheek. They don´t eat while they work because if they consume the dust in the air, it can cause illness. As it is, there is a great deal of sulfur dust in the air as well as other chemicals, including lead and cyanide. The dust did not make it any easier to breath, especially in combination with the altitude and heat. Some of the miners work in small teams, and we watched a team push a wagon with about two tons of ore in it. However, eventually all that ore will be carried out on their backs as the shafts get too small for the wagon to make it all the way. The life expectancy for miners is much lower than the average Bolivian, 45-55 years, mainly from inhaling the poisonous dust. However, because they can basically earn as much as they can mine, many of them earn much more than they would otherwise. The average Bolivian makes about 1000 Bolivianos a month ($145) and the miners can earn up to 5000 Bolivianos per month. Many of the miners we met started when they were teenagers to help support their family. In retrospect, this tour was extremely physically demanding, I am still quite sore the next day, and amazed that these miners can do this every day and carry out hundreds of pounds of ore on their backs over and over again.

Today we decided to rest up after our mine tour, and originally we planned to head down to the bus station so that we could buy tickets to Uyuni. As we were walking down to the station, we realized that we were walking in the middle of the street and there were no vehicles in sight. We realized that we have hit another protest of some sort. As we got closer to the bus station, we saw a lot of banners and talked to a shopkeeper only to find out that a workers´ union of sorts is protesting at least for today and tomorrow. She thought we might still be able to get bus tickets, but wasn´t sure, so we kept on walking. When we got to the station, it was definitely closed, no buses, no offices, we couldn´t even get into the gate since it was padlocked. Needless to say, it looks like we will be here a bit longer. In the meantime, we will probably watch a dubbed version of Finding Nemo in 3D. In other news, we discovered an awesome cheeseburger stand just down the street from our hotel. For a mere five Bolivianos one can get a cheeseburger with all the fixings as well as french fries. Hopefully the quesoburgero is not one of the striking workers!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bloqueo Numero Dos: Sucre a Potosí, una adventura!

Hello, finally, from Potosí, dear readers! Our last two days in Sucre were somewhat uneventful. We hung out in the park, talked to some Austrians who now live in Bolivia, and generally took it easy. Unfortunately, Matt has been having some stomach trouble, and add that to no sleep on Saturday night due to the club next door playing music from 3 AM until dawn, we decided not to head to the market on Sunday, and instead, loafed about town. This morning, we packed up for Potosí, the mining city, as our destination. We got the last two seats aboard the 10 AM bus, but just as we were leaving, a police guard warned us there was a bloqueo about 20 kilometers outside of Potosí. The bus headed out anyway. Since we had been in a bloqueo before, in Mexico, we figured this would be similar. (Quick reminder, in Mexico, we were able to simply walk around the protest and catch a bus on the other side. Though we ended up going through some other small cities we didn´t expect, it was fairly easy and unstressful.) Unfortunately, the bloqueo was a little different here. You may know that last week, several miners were protesting in La Paz over wage disputes with the government. Apparently, a miner died due to police action against the protests and the bloqueo was a a result. But this wasn´t a simple blocking of the street in one place. Several highways were cut off and on our route, we were stopped 25 kilometers (15 miles) away from Potosí, at altitude (around 4000 meters above sea level), with our bags. Luckily, our packs are relatively manageable compared to some other travellers we walked with. The highway was shut off with rocks in the road, patrolled by miners, for almost all of the 25 km to town. We ended up walking about 10 km before a minivan, seeming to want to avoid the patrols, picked us up and took us to the end of the bloqueo. We then had to walk another 20 minutes past the other side of the bloqueo, where several taxis waited to take people the final stretch into town! So instead of arriving at 1 PM as planned, we finally checked into our hostel at 4:30, exhausted from the walk and hungry, as we´d only had a roll of bread, expecting to eat lunch on our arrival. We´ve now had some dinner and plan to relax today before heading to the Coin Museum tomorrow and take a tour of the mines the day after. We will update you soon!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sucre and Some Musings

Hello, dear friends and readers, from Sucre, Bolivia! Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia and still home to the Supreme Court, even though the seat of government is now in La Paz. And no, it does NOT mean "sugar" - Sucre was Simon Bolivar's number one general, who fought for independance from Spain throughout South America! We've been very busy here, so I apologize for not writing sooner.

The bus ride from Cochabamba was interesting, as the road was mostly unpaved, very bumpy and somewhat windy. We didn't get much sleep. However, the bus arrived earlier than expected, around 5:30 AM. We decided to stick around the bus station until the sun came up so we wouldn't be walking around a new city in the dark. As we made our way into town, we had a lot of trouble finding a room - almost every place was full! It turns out, we had arrived to the Feria de la Virgen de Guadalupe, a very large celebration that attracts Bolivians from all over! We were able to get a double room in a recommended hostel, with the promise that we could move into a more comfortable room when one opened the next day. The feria was crazy! Thousands of people marched in a giant parade throughout the center, wearing bright and sequined regional outfits, dancing and walking to various marching bands.
The marchers were all pretty organized with their dancing and outfits, so it reminded me of Samba Schools in Rio or Mardi Gras "crews" from New Orleans - groups that must practice all year for this parade.

The next day the city basically emptied out as people returned home in preparation for the week to come. Since then, we've spent the week touring different sites and museums and spending some quality time in the central park, which is quite lovely. On Monday, we went to "Cretacious Park", a site just outside of town that featured real dinosaur footprints that were found in the mountains by the workers of a nearby cement factory. The museum guide explained about the four different types of prints to see: carnivores (like the carnasaur, which looks like a smaller T-Rex) who walk on their toes, large herbivores who walk on four feet, one foot at a time, bird-like dinosaurs (like raptors!!) who had pelvises like chickens and walked by rotating their hips, and plated dinosaurs, who walked on four feet, two feet at a time. We could also see by the prints if the dinosaurs were walking or running, or if they had beeen injured. Because of plate tectonic and volcanic activity in the Andes, the prints appeared to be going up the side of a mountain, even though they were originally made on flat ground.

We have also visited the "Casa de la Libertad", the former Jesuit temple turned University where Bolivia proclaimed its independance and signed their Declaratioon of Independance, MUSEF, a ethnographic museum with an interesting collection of masks worn in various parades and festivities, and the Museo Textil Indigeno, which featured woven clothes made in various regions of Bolivia. At this last museum, we learned of a Sunday market that takes place not too far from here which we plan to visit this upcoming weekend. We even made plans to visit the home of our guide from the Museo, who will return home for the weekend, and for me to take a short class in the weaving techniques of his village from his wife and daughter. This is something I have wanted to do since Guatemala, but never found an opportunity! Sucre is warm during the day, due to its location in the valley between the two Andes ranges, but quite cold at night as it is located at 2900 meters above sea level. While lower than Lake Titicaca and La Paz, it is certainly quite high! (Though not as high as Potosí, where we head on Monday, which is 4000 meters!!!!!)


We finally bought tickets to return to the states from Rio de Janeiro after New Years. It is sort of a strange feeling to think that most, of our trip is now behind us, even though it seems there is still so much to see! Until now, we have travelled with the feeling that we have infinite time to take in all the sites, but now we realize we may have to move at a quicker pace to do everything we have planned. For those of you in Los Angeles, we return home January 4, 2013! We've gotten a little behind schedule in Bolivia, somewhat intentionally to save money, as it is very affordable here. Our general plan going forward is: Monday to Potosí, Wednesday to Uyuni to begin our tour of the salt flats there, which ends with us crossing into Chile. We will go quickly through northern Chile, spend about a week in Santiago, then have some VERY long bus trips to the south with the goal of getting to Ushaia, the southernmost city in the world, by late October. In Ushaia, we are going to try to get on a cruise to Antarctica (!) but only if we can get a good deal. Then we come up through Argentina - if we do go to Antarctica this will also be rushed, stopping mainly in Cordoba and Buenos Aires, once again, some VERY long bus rides, because we must be in Uruguay by Thanksgiving to meet our mothers who are coming to visit! At that point, we will be back on our original timetable through our departure. Wow! When I say it like that, it seems like we will be back in the states sooner than you can say "Estados Unidos de America"!

I know I haven't written any thoughts like this in a while, but being in Sucre brought up some things I have felt in many cities we've visited, but because of the feria, have been so much more "in your face", I really wanted to share. The topics are: city cleanliness, specifically public urination and littering, and begging, both young and old people. It is not uncommon in almost every country and city we've been to so far to see men urinating on the street. While some cities have public restrooms more available, the problem exists everywhere and, in my humble opinion, it's just disgusting. The stench that exists from it can be naseating, especially in very hot temperatures, and it also gives a general unsanitary feeling. Now imagine yourself in a giant feria, with lots of happy drunk people in a city with no public bathrooms. On Saturday, I saw people pissing on nearly every street corner - and not just men. You also parents holding daughters over the gutter to pee, little boys watering the sides of cars; you can't seem to avoid it. And while it might feel good to relieve yourself in that instant and return to the festivities at hand, the stickiness that lasts throughout the week takes away from everyone's enjoyment of the city. I think all large cities should have well located public bathrooms that cost a small fee to keep clean and stocked. To go into a somewhat smelly public bathroom for the 2 minutes it takes to pee is way better than walking through a smelly town all day.

When it comes to littering, it seems to me that there is somethign both cities and individuals can do to take care of their home. Cities should have trash cans, if not also recycling bins, easily accesbile throughout town, making it hard for individuals to have a reason to throw things on the street. In our experience, cities that had trash cans on every corner, like most cities in Colombia, or Leon, Nicaragua, and nearly no street litter, while cities that have very few public trash cans, such as San Salvador or here, Sucre, find the streets literally filled to the gutters with plastic bags, wrappers, bottles and cans, bits of food, and other trash. Even within this city, the main square does have trashcans and is much cleaner than other areas. By the city placing trash cans in public places, it sends the message that trash in the streets is not acceptable. It also creates jobs for sanitation workers. Individuals need to do their part, too. Today in Parque Bolivar, a teenager dropped his cup of juice from a top the "little Eiffel Tour". He didn't seem too upset about losing his drink, but when he came down from the jungle gym, didn't even bother to pick up the plastic cup and throw it in the trash can five feet away. Despite this being one of the places with ample trash cans, there was a significant garbage pile in the water fountains and grassy areas. I ended up picking up the cup and trashing it, then purelling my hands. As a tourist, it makes me not want to visit this city, even though there is a lot to love here, and if I were a local, it would make me want to move.

Lastly, begging. This is an issue I've touched on before, but mainly in regard to children. It seems that here in Sucre, there is an army of elderly beggars moving through the center. Many pick a spot on the sidewalk and hold out their hand or hat, while others walk around the park or market walking up to people asking for money. Some may try to sell you some trinket, but if you say you are not interested, they will just ask for money without a purchase. It seems that if one learns you can make more money begging than working, why wouldn't you? Or, if you begged as a child, you may have never learned another trade and only know to beg. While it seems there are a few organizations supporting children, there seems to be no safety net for these elderly people. At the same time, there are almost no beggars in the streets after dark, so they must have somewhere to go. Are their adult children sending them out to the streets by day? I have no way of knowing, but still believe the best way to help the underprivleged is through a leigitimate organization and never through handouts on the street. But what troubles me the most is the view of tourists as a free source of money. Regular citizens, walking down the streets, will see obvious tourists and just hold out their hand and ask for money, because, hey, why not? Having been poked, grabbed, and otherwise molested by several elderly beggers this week, I can say that they are frequently much more aggressive and persistent than their child counterparts, oftentimes beyond to the point where I am forced to move away (which is frustrating if I'm reading on a nice shady park bench) or say, perhaps more forcefully than I would like, to please leave me in peace (Dejeme en paz!). As I've said, I don't believe direct handouts are the way to help someone in this unfortunate situation, but I never want to be rude to anyone, even a beggar, which can be frustrating in such situations. Bolivia is not a wealthy country, but when children shine shoes after schools to make money for their families, elderly men and women sell everything from fruits and vegetabes to plastic chairs and batteries at the market, women with babies in slings sell popcorn and chips on the corners, and teenagers sell newspapers table to table in restaurants on weekends, there are so many ways to earn those few Bolivianos, that begging and giving money to beggars, just doesn't seem necessary.

These are just some of my thoughts, I'd love to hear yours! Until we write again...

Friday, September 14, 2012

More Cochabamba

Hello again, and happy Cochabamba revolution day! Today is the 14th of Septiembre, celebrating Cochabamba's independence. Aside from our normal tourist activities we have watched numerous parades and marching bands go by. Since we last wrote, we have caught up on some local musuems. We went to the Cochabamba archaeology musuem which had a lot of neat fossils, as well as some very well preserved mummies! These mummies looked to have been folded with their knees tucked under their chins and put into baskets. We have heard that families would sometimes carry their dead like this for quite some time and to large family gatherings so the dead and the living could all be together. Sarah even remarked upon how short these ancient Bolivians must have been. After seeing the mummies we decided to update ourselves in the musuem of medical technology. This has numerous tools and machines dating back to about 1920. They have all kinds of x-ray machines, EKGs, dental drills, doctor bags, etc that have been in use in the region. It seems that Bolivia buys a lot of used machinery as some of the machines have labels in Spanish, some in English, some in Italian, and many other languages.
Yesterday we went to the musuem of natural history, which has replicas of many of the animals of Bolivia, and a few frogs. There is a very neat looking frog from Lake Titicaca that smiled at us! We also went to the movie theater in the wealthier area of town and saw the Bourne Legacy. Due to the holiday, there was quite a lot of activity yesterday and Sarah got her picture taken with a Bolivian Air Force representative.

We also saw two parades, with marching bands of questionable quality. This morning we went down to the bus station to buy our tickets to Sucre for tonight and on the way back we bought another local delicacy, taguatagua. It's a sort of fried pastry lightly covered in caramel and obviously delicious. Anywaya, tonight we catch the bus to Sucre, should be an interesting 12 hour ride with no baño on board. We will let you know how it goes!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Buenas tardes from Cochabamba. Since we last wrote, we have been taking it easy. It would seem that we have finally travelled far enough from home to lose immunity to the common cold, and we have been slightly slowed. On Saturday we went to La Cancha, which is a large open-air market here in Cochabamba. Allegedly it is the largest in all of South America, but I am not even sure it is larger than the market in El Alto. That said, it was quite large, and slightly better organized with some set stalls and electricity. As usual, you can buy virtually everything from power tools to parts for your Commodore 64. Despite being at a fairly high altitude, we didn't have any trouble walking to La Cancha, Cochabamba is relatively flat, or we have just become accustomed to the altitude. Sunday morning we took the tourist bus, which the city provides at no cost. Basically a bus takes you around the city for an hour and a half and the tour guide talks a bit about the city. The strange part is that the bus stops in a neighborhood called El Pueblito and everybody gets off to walk around for 40 minutes. This neighborhood is supposedly where some important independence-related documents were signed, but otherwise is rather unimpressive. The bus tour did help us get a layout of the city in our minds and we did see some areas that we will check out again, like the Prado. We also passed through various parks and plazas.

That afternoon we took it easy as we were both starting to cough and sneeze a bit, we caught what two of the kids at our hotel had. Yesterday we also took it slow, just went to the local farmacia to get the Bolivian equivalent of dayquil and nyquil. Our colds have put a slight damper on our fooding, however we did manage to try some api, a sort of corn drink made from both regular corn and purple corn, served hot. It was quite good, and paired nicely with a very poofy cheese empanada. Of course, the standard fare of empanadas, salteñas, salchipapas, etc. continues.

This morning we went to a french cafe and had crepes for brunch before visiting Cristo de la Concordia, the highest and tallest Christ statue in the world (debatably, there is a statue in Poland that is taller when the base isn't counted). It is quite large and the holes in each piece are visible from when it was constructed. It is at the top of a little mountain, we we took the cable car (one of the seemingly less-sturdy cable cars of our voyage) up to the top.

This also provided some excellent views of the city which seems to have expanded to fill the valley.

Anyways, we grabbed some ice cream on the way home as it is quite warm here, and tomorrow the adventure will continue with some museums.

Friday, September 7, 2012

La Paz to Cochabamba

Good morning from Cochabamba! Since we last wrote, we have recovered from the minor tear gassing in La Paz. That afternoon we took it easy and relaxed. On Wednesday we went to a mirador, or lookout point, called Killi Killi. This is in a non-touristy area of La Paz and provides a great, near 360 degree, view of the city. Being a mirador it was high up, so we got some excercise climbing up the hill to get there. On the way we also got to see some of the real La Paz, where regular people live. The photos above were taken at the mirador.
Yesterday we got up early and headed for the main bus terminal in La Paz, which is conveniently located about two blocks uphill from our bed and breakfast. Apparently Bolivia regulates the price of long distance buses and next to the terminal information booth there is a list of price maximums for different levels of service and destination. Needless to say, since we were taking a day bus, a cama seat was unnecesary, and for 20 Bolivianos each we were on the 9:00 AM bus to Cochabamba, a 7 hour trip through the not so beautiful Bolivian countryside. Our bus ended up leaving closer to 9:30, pretty standard for this part of the world, and we arrived closer to 5:00 PM. After doing our usual tour of the city looking for lodging, we found a place to stay close to the market and the city center. After unloading our bags, we decided to search for food, which entailed walking around the block. After walking around one corner, we saw a clefero! A clefero is a glue-sniffer, and according to the various travel warnings, cleferos often move in groups and can attack and rob people. Apparently in a country where coca leaves can be bought on every corner, the local junkies have switched to sniffing glue. Anyways, this guy didn't look capable of walking up a staircase, let alone even attempting to rob another human. So we continued on and found an empanada shop with some interesting new flavors. Sarah had an empanada with spinach, cheese, and egg, as well as a chicken empanada, and I had a chicken and beef empanada and one filled with charque. Charque comes from the Quechua word charqui, which is where the English word jerky is derived from. Here charque is llama meat that has been dried and baked. Normally it is also fried, but since this was in an empanada, I think that step was omitted. Needless to say, it was delicious, although it did have a rather unique texture. In case you haven't committed our itinerary to memory, we mention that Cochabamba is known for having the best food in Bolivia, and we will be providing ongoing reports. We will keep you posted!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

More Fun in La Paz - Tear Gas is Uncomfortable

Hello again from La Paz, Bolivia. The day before I wrote the Peru by the numbers, we had actually gone to the San Francisco church here in La Paz. We were given a guided tour of the facilities and got to see the choir area, and the large arrray of bells in the bell tower. There is also an excellent view of the city from the top of the church.

Additionally there was something of a law enforcement/public services fair going on. There are at least six or seven different arms of law enforcement here in La Paz and they were all present talking to the citizenry, taking pictures with grenade launchers, giving brief demonstrations, etc. Sarah was able to have her picture taken with a "police dog."

Sunday was a national pedestrian day, basically meaning that the city was closed to vehicular traffic, and the streets were eerily silent and empty. Oddly enough, compared to other pedestrian/bicycling days we´ve experienced in other places, La Paz didn´t seem to really take advantage of it. Although there were a few kids in the streets and here and there we saw people walking or biking, the geography of the city makes it hard to walk a lot since it is so steep on all sides. It seemed to us that the pedestrian day was more of an inconvenience for most people than anything else. That said, we had plans for Sunday night, we were going to see some Lucha Libre. Here, the female luchadoras are called cholitas, which is a modern take on what at one point was a derogatory term for the local indigenous people, and then became a term of pride over time (has nothing to do with a Mexican cholo or chola). We saw seven matches in total and the locals really got into the emotion of it all. We were slightly delayed in arriving as normally the matches begin at 4:30, and the pedestrian day ended at 5:00, however the organizers took this into consideration and began a bit later, since it was too far for people to walk from the city. For those of you who don´t know, lucha libre is professional wrestling. This lucha libre took place in a small gym complex in El Alto, which is a poor suburb of La Paz, where the city sprawls out of the valley and into the flatland. The fights were complete with drama, interference from the referee and announcers, and drunken fans throwing popcorn and who knows what else into the squared circle. There were matches between men, matches between women, and coed matches, which seemed a bit unfair, but the cholitas garnered the support of the crowd. Chairs were smashed into heads, chalkdust thrown into eyes, all the same tricks you see on TV in America. In the end, it was a lot of fun, and I am trying to convince Sarah to stay until next Sunday so we can do it again.

Yesterday, we took it easy, paid our travel agent for our trip to the Salar de Uyuni coming up in a few weeks, and bought some gloves, something which we have been lacking in our travels. We also discovered an excellent new dinner which was hidden right in front of our noses. Across the street from our Bed & Breakfast, at night ladies set up small carts and sell sandwiches and hot dogs. Little did we know that they sell steak sandwiches! Turns out the steak sandwiches are quite delicious and only 6.50 Bs, or a little less than a dollar. They are also kind enough to keep a fryer going with french fries which are generously salted. Anyways, I think I know what we will be doing for dinner tonight before we get our free beer from the hotel.

Today we went to four musuems that share a common ticket and are all on the same street. We saw some pre-Incan gold and silver, lots of clothes from Bolivians over the past few hundred years, as well as a lot of maps and memorabilia from the war with Chile over Bolivia´s old maritime border. Based on what we saw in the musuem it would appear that Bolivia is none too thrilled with the fact that they are now landlocked. We also saw the home of a past president of Bolivia. All the musuems were fairly small, but they were in a pretty good state of repair considering that it only cost 4 Bs for a ticket that was good for all 4 musuems, and for Bolivians it is even cheaper. We went back to our tucumana lady for lunch, the tucumanas were delicious as always, and then we started climbing back up to our hotel. We met a couple who is also staying at our hotel when we were passing through the San Francisco Park and explained to us that there had been some sort of march going on down the main street and had just turned off of it. As we were talking we heard some loud explosions which sounded like standard fare fireworks for this part of the world, but they told us that the police were tear-gassing the marchers. Turns out they were right, as we climbed up the hill, we could smell it in bits and pieces as the wind blew it our way. So, needless to say, our sinuses are slightly burned and very clean right now. Not to worry, we will stay safe, and keep in touch!!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Peru by the Numbers

Sorry for the delay folks, due to long posting times from ATM withdrawals and being too occupied with eating choripan, I have finally finished the Peruvian by the numbers today. Peru was an interesting country in that for the first two weeks or so we were under budget pretty much every day. This was primarily due to being at beaches and not doing a whole lot. However, once in Lima, we were basically at budget every day, and Cuzco really started to put us over with the extremely touristy stuff. The bus tickets from Lima to Cuzco alone were over $50 US per person. On the whole, we entered Peru with $72, withdrew $2796, and then exited the country with $321. You might ask why we left the country with so much money, we needed to buy visas to enter Bolivia at the border, and they only accept cash, $135 per person. So our total spend in Peru was $2548, which comes out to $59.25 per day across 43 days. That said, if you come to Peru to just visit the beaches you could easily spend a lot less, if you come to Peru and only do touristy, Machu Picchu type stuff, you could easily spend a lot more. Either way, I think we got a great mix of ruins, beaches, culture and ceviche. And here are a few pictures from Machu Picchu as a reminder.