Monday, August 29, 2011

you better believe it - moon boots :)

Oh yes - I've got new moon boots! The kind that you feel invincible in; I can go anywhere, do anything and my feet and ankles will not end up looking like this:

While in Santa Cruz I changed my front and back sprockets and chain to boot. 
I went from some very fine teeth on my front to...
Nice healthy teeth and a new beefed up chain!

As well as getting my pannier frames welded back onto the bike

And yes I don't always play helpless female. This is just giving my rear axle a clean before putting the brake in

Tomorrow is bye bye santa cruz - and all your crazy traffic and sweltering heat.

Philipe creating his own lane - the sidecar is just that little bit too big that it can't weave his way like the bikes

Tire anyone?
But before we leave, I think I need some of this :) You never know, I may NEVER get to eat sushi again! So better stock up now:)

Next stop - Jesuit Missions north of Santa Cruz, then up to Trinidad to delve our way into the Amazon...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

fundacion luz del mundo - open arms and laughing children

In the sweltering topical winter heat of santa cruz this afternoon, Philipe and I went to the Fundacion de Luz del Mundo, an organisation that helps out impoverished local children by providing a safe place to play, learn music and English, receive food and at times, have medical checkups. Today was special as the local rotary club had brought along doctors to administer medicines, as well as to educate the children for keeping their teeth sparkly. On both days (I also went along yesterday to meet and play with the children) - the first thing that literally jumped out was the open love that these children expressed. As soon as walking in they were open arms, kisses and hugs, and I can tell you that it is a very unique experience as a foreigner/traveller here. 

It is like a second home for some of the children; they can come here in the mornings 4 days a week before going to school at 2pm (school only goes in the afternoon) and learn to play with each other (the older girls and boys taking care and being little mamitas - "little mothers" to the younger children), and also prepare homework for school, and every saturday they have a proper lunch.

One of the most enjoyable things yesterday was the puppet show the older girls were putting on for the younger - when the little ones (about 3/4 y/o) were acting up and not paying attention, the older girls scolded them saying - "if you continue to be distracted, and not watch properly, we won't continue playing with you!". The age of children range from 3 to about 12; there's only really 2 adults (Gabriela, the lady who started the foundacion,, and her mother) that cook and watch the children - saturday usually have about 75 kids... I can't imagine cooking and managing that many kids!

So today after a rather stressful morning searching for rims (Philipe) and me for riding boots (got to check out my kick ass snow shoe like motorcross boots) we arrived at the fundacion - I had wanted to take the sidecar as I knew the children were really excited about seeing it, and meeting foreigners who actually rode motorbikes! When we arrived it was a bit of a inundation - kids asking to sit on the sidecar, trying on our helmets (they really looked like manga space invaders) and clambering around and chatting about where the gas was, saying that they also rode their father's bike and where we were going next.

After that attention shifted to the doctor and rotary club members; the children took tablets to prevent tummy worms, had checkups, received toothbrushs, did mouthwashs and then played some games with the winners receiving tubes of toothpaste and colouring in books and pencils.
Lining up to take medicines

"Pecho tierra!" - chests on the ground! One of the games...
This little boy spent quite some time studying his water cup (pic by Philipe)
Kermit took starring role in the puppet shows...(Pic by Philipe)

Gabriela is the woman who started and runs the fundacion (she is on the left, standing next to the sidecar)
It was an afternoon full of play and chattering and games - a very different pace and atmosphere to the more solitary travel on the bikes. Even though there is always a lot of interest from children when you stop in a town (especially from boys - of all ages with the sidecar) here especially the girls were really interested, and as we were all in a comfortable situation more clambering and play.

Philipe has summarised the funny and thoughtful moments of the day in numbers. I think it really puts into perspective both the reality of life here, as well as the trials and tribulations of maintaining a motorbike on the road. (yes 2 very different things but nicely combined in his post)

Oh as well of course there were many pictures from both days, and from yesterday a video of a song the girls were singing. It reminds me of the movie Children of Men - a world without the sound of children's voices is a world without pure and innocent joy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

yummy in my tummy

Santa Cruz has surprised me .. it's very much the most cosmopolitan (and definitely richest) city in Bolivia - more so than the capital La Paz. Lots of big flashy 4x4s, grand houses with bigger gates to match, pumped up young men who seem to have walked out from the gym in their tommy hilfiger and very tall beautiful girls clustering around them. I've not really had a chance to walk around town much as my foot is still on the mend, but did get out to eat (well perhaps gorge is a more appropriate term) at some pretty great restaurants. It's very hot here and many of the places have courtyard seating and tonight especially it was muggy and warm when we headed out. Met up with Kurt (one of the riders from the Salar) at the Irish Pub where I had a very very tasty and icy frappucino... and then onto Ken - a Japanese restaurant. I know it sounds like I'm not eating local, but most other days I am so when I get a chance to not eat roasted chicken, rice and soup or something fried, I'm jumping on that bandwagon.

Dinner was nice - I had chirashi sushi which is raw fish on rice. It sort of reminded me of my mum's dinner's ... although hers is much much nicer:) But an absolute treat to eat Japanese!

Today I finally fixed my sprockets - yesterday afternoon I managed to find sprockets that fit (difficult as my bike is not available in Bolivia) and today fitted new front and back, and a new, bigger chain as well. Might need to shorten the chain as it's a little slack and I've not much room to tighten it on the bike... tomorrow will check it out.

Tomorrow also going to help out at an organisation - Luz del Mundo (light of the world) - a charity that helps young children in La Paz. They have a fiesta on Saturday, so think they will get a real kick of clambering of the bikes, and especially the sidecar. It's always amazing to see the looks of some of young children - especially young girls when they see me as a woman riding a bike and travelling solo. For me it seems like what I just fell into doing - for them it is very different from the life they know.

So back to nursing my rather full tummy - but a happy tummy nonetheless!
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Can I already be slacking off the regular blogging?? No!!!

do I have a reasonable excuse?? um, it was cold, and so all I wanted to
do was stay inside my sleeping bag? not sure if that's going to cut it!
but it really was cold - after 2 steamy sunny days of lazing in hammocks
and munching herbs from the garden, it turned icy and cold, and we
quickly turned to hot choclate laden with rum to wake and warm up, big
campfires to try warm the old, 30y/o bones and sleeping in about 7
layers. Samaipata was still nice, but just cold and nice.
tonight we arrived in Santa Cruz - the biggest city in Bolivia. Driving
in with traffic was quite an experience - especially after the quiet of
back roads for the past couple of months. Weaving inbetween lanes, our
first traffic light in I don't know how long!! (and oddly - it was red,
but people slowed a bit, but then went straight through. I stopped for
it, then got honked at by the line of cars piling up behind me...)
As per the pic... on the way here today had a bit of a pannier problem -
essentially on the way to Samaipata part of the welding that holds my
panniers broke - and today the other contact point for the left pannier
to the bike also broke. with a rather regal dog looking on, we added 1
pannier to the sidecar and strapped the other to the back of my bike on
top - then Philipe went on his merry way cornering the way down to Santa
Cruz while i tested out how much I could lift the sidecar wheel without
tipping over on my right hand curves.
Tomorrow surprise surpirse is a motorbike day - I've got to get the
pannier frame welded on, buy some oil for an oil change/chain clean,
MUST by a pinon as my front one is nearly worn and is probably with
every km wearing down my chain, AND look for some motorcross shoes and a
jacket. Let's see how much actually happens - it's amazing how much time
you spend wandering between shops, talking to mechanics and hearing '
manana, manana - tomorrow, tomorrow'.

Friday, August 19, 2011

pathway to heaven... in a sidecar that is

i think i've landed in a piece of organic farm living heaven... somehow
in the very present but giving an inkling of what I want in my future.
Yesterday we made to Samaipata and are now happily installed in the
campground on the organic Finca (farm) called La Vispera. With terraced
vegetable patches, a herberia, cafe with tasty produce and good coffee,
little luxuries like gushing hot hot water, placemats on the table and
nice toilet paper you can really feel the touches of the Dutch owners
coming through.

3 days ago on the way to the waterfall in La Pajcha I dropped the bike
and managed to sprain my right foot - it's still hurting like a bitch,
and I'm doing a marvelous job hobbling around... but it's all well just
a bit frustrating.

The biggest upside though is that for the last 2 days I've been riding
Philipe's sidecar. It is enormous fun - and I get to ride with my right
foot elevated (yes remembering my rest ice compression Elevation) while
riding and downing ibuprofen. Because there's no worry about balance for
me it's more relaxing riding the sidecar - and really fun to manouvre mr
churchill (the bike's name) around. It's also odd watching Philipe ride
my little, in comparison, motorised bicycle!

Mr Churchill is really an enjoyable way to travel - it allows you pile a
lot more into it, and after seeing groups of parents and children all
teetering on one small rusty 200cc bike, I think much safer but just as
fun if you want to carry around kids.

Corning is not quite as fun, but you can do your fair share of butt
sticking out/leaning as I remember seeing Mark doing so some weeks back
when driving with Philipe to the sunday markets outside of Sucre. The
beefy sound of the engine also is a nice change from the sewing maching
putt putt of my bike - and sand finally is slippery fun instead of the
usual stressing out that I'm going to have to end up huffing and puffing
to pick up my bike after slipping off.

So Philipe - watch out! I think my foot is going to be needing quite
some resting in the days following - and Mr Churchill is hopefully happy
to oblige:)

This afternoon I'm going to have a chat to Margritte (one of theowners)
and ask her to show me around her herbs, garden and edible flowers.
Being here reminds me of watching my parents pick a colourful and
scented lunch from their garden of leaves, flowers and spices. There's
something about seeing people contented and happy in their surroundings
- and working with their hands and the land to create their own piece of

Now - for my piece of paradise? What shall I create for myself?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

a pensive day at the office

this morning i'm writing at a cascade - waterfall near between 2 small
communities of La Pajcha and Postrevalle just south of Samaipata.

Yeseterday was a tough riding day - and to top it off I dropped the bike
and sprained my right foot. bollocks. why do I keep wrecking my ankles
and feet? I think it stems from the fact that I don't fall gracefully -
instead of keep feet and other body parts free of a falling bike, I
somehow manage to be a tangle of limbs that get caught under and twisted.

Luckily we were about 5 kms from the next town, and so I rode Philipe's
sidecar and he my bike to the town where I went to the hospital. After
the not so friendly attitudes of the people in Vallegrande, I had a
really lovely chat with the doctor and nurses, and after getting my feet
wrapped and a shot of antiinflammatory, as well as some extra pills, I
was sent on my merry way for the princely sum of 29 bolivianos (about
US$5). Seeing Philipe on my bike (I was riding behind as the sidecar
creates more dust) was an odd sight - I kept thinking he was too tall
for the bike, and wondered how it could carry a person and all my
luggage. I suppose that you rarely see yourself from behind on the bike,
makes mewonder whether I look just as dubious balancing on the lil red

Back to the pensive day at the office - the office this morning is the
cascades, and the pensiveness comes from not being able to move (my
sprain is pretty much blowing up my right foot blue and is not so fun to
hobble around on) and being in such a tranquil location. Also Philipe
and I have had some interesting conversations about life, love, passions
and commitment - a combination of being back on the road (giving lots of
time to think while riding), learning about Che and his passions and
past and future relationships.

Not sure if we'll head onto Samaipata - it's about 70kms and about 3
hours drive for us... or just chill out at the awesome campsite we found
while looking for the cascades. Part of me wants to just chill, but the
other part wants to continue moving and actually reach Samaipata (just
as a point of comparison we have been on the road for 6 days already -
and Maciek, another rider, made the same journey plus more in 1 day).

ps... just realised... pensive in english I used in the context of being
thoughtful - pensar in spanish is the verb 'to think'. interesting huh!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Land before time country - and the itchy and scratchy show

I've often had the thought while on the bike in southern Bolivia - that
this is dinosaur / land before time type of country. It's something
about the scale of rolling valleys and high planes, the jurassic rocks
jutting out of mossy green shrub (well what I imagine 'jurassic' to be),
the empty open spaces. Even though there's some fencelines, and a dirt
track, the expanse somehow takes me to another time.

Especially with the lowering afternoon sun throwing shadows far into the
distance - that kind of light just heightens the feeling of lost time.
Tonight in Vallegrande - the town where Che was brought after his
execution - in 1997 a local admitted that he was buried under the
airstrip and he was exhumed and buried in Cuba.

And now for the itchy and scratchy show... somehow we got lots of bites
at a campsite 2 nights ago... the kind that seem to lie low, and then
strike with an extreme attack of itchieness. So now i can't keep my
hands and nails off them. it sounds somehow like a b grade porn show -
the sounds that are coming from the corner of the room as I
scratch....but i tell you the joy of scratching the hell out of these
bites -especially around my ankles... is totally worth it...
and now back to the scratching....

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Can I really do this? More regular blogging??

I'm pretty good at avoiding writing blog posts, and then in one big hit trying to recount countless amazing experiences and cramming them all into one mammoth post. So I'm going to try and change tact... from long
recounts, to shorter bursts of travel thoughts, experiences and tales.

It'll still be of the musing, rambling type of post, but hopefully it will give more of a day to day feel of how and where I'm travelling.

Tonight I find myself in La Higuera, the town were Che Guevara was captured and then executed on the 9 October 1967 (nonethess in their local school building). It's not a place we had really planned to come to, but on being here it makes you realise the passions of people, and those who keep the story alive. Often they are foreigners - and especially here in South America, there seems to be many French who have relocated and settled for various reasons. I really admire these people - from what they've told me settling, being accepted and successfully running a business here is difficult.

Today's the second day of being back on the road - yesterday Philipe and I started out from Sucre, and after making it past Tarabuco we were screeched to a halt at a road blockage. We thought it would be a 10
minute wait or so, but having a near physical altercation with a Bolivian woman about taking a photo, we found out that the road was in fact closed from 7am to 6.30pm every day for roadworks, and we could
only pass from 6.30pm to 7am. Bit of a shock that - especially as it put to a stop our first day being back on the road.

We did the sensible thing and turned back to Tarabuco and instead got up super early and made it before 7am. That turned into a 10 hr travelling day, and at that near desperate moment we found a campsite hidden from the road with the company of numerous bitey flyey type things.

Travelling with Philipe in his sidecar is definitely a different experience - if I thought I got lots of looks travelling loaded up as a solo woman, me and my bike were seriously feeling left out by all the looks that Philipe gets. I guess motorbikes are pretty much everywhere - and sidecars definitely not. The speed at which a crowd of boys and men (and some women) gather around him when we stop is amazing!
So the last 2 days have been quite some amazing scenery - from very dry open rolling hills around Sucre, to red rock pinnacle formations as we lowered in altitude, to blue lagoons seeping their way out of a seemingly desert landscape as we neared La Higuera.

I'm really enjoying being back on the bike - catching smells in the air, practicing riding standing up in dirt and sandy patches, rolling into towns for a cold sparkly drink and just enjoying moving again.

Going onto Samaipata tomorrow - from what people have said and what I've read in the lonely planet, sounds like a place we'll probably chill and explore for a couple of days. The route over the next month is slowly coming together - in early October my parents are coming to Peru so it's a good kick up the backside to get moving again. It stresses me out though - after my somewhat aimless rambling and no time pressure to travel, now having to be somewhere at a certain point is making me realise how much there is to do and just so little time! Yes I know - people go around the world twice in the time I've taken to get through Argentina and CHile, but I just can't seem to move much faster.

PS. there's a horse at our campsite - just had wonderful time chatting to him under a full moon - he / she / the horse had a very soft coat, and kept on sniffing my clothes (might have had something to do with the
orange I'd just eaten). I had caught the horse napping standing up - but he was chilled and seemed happy to have me scratching his ears and patting, well his left side of his face. A lovely interlude on a warm winter evening.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

sweet sucre

well firstly - sweet in spanish is dulce, but somehow sweet sucre has a true ring to it nonetheless. Indeed it was, for the most part.  Sucre was home for about a month - a beautiful city to stop in, with its big Mercado Central full of fresh juices, smoothies, spices, unrefridgerated meats, soy milk, dedicated banana, cakes, chorizo, potato and bread sections, and what else? - the amazing temperate climate (middle of winter = blue sunny days of skirts and t-shirts and mild nights), a great group of friends, regular bars to hang out in and a relaxing hostel. Sounds like paradise no?

Well it sort of was, and sort of wasn't. For some reason pretty much everyone we knew who came though there got some sort of stomach bug - we think it's from the water somehow, even though we were generally drinking filtered water. But suffice to say that we all had these sort of weird 24 hour bugs that reoccured every couple of days/each week, and now after 6 days on the road I've been totally fine. Lets just say we had numerous conversations and theories about our bathroom habits...But enough about bodily functions...:)

Sucre was also where I went to school - it was about bloody time, and I'm proud to day that since leaving I've done absolutely ZILCH except for struggle to rememer some  of the verb conjugations while riding. That's not completely true - my Spanish has improved a lot, and I've expanded my vocabularly as well, but just not putting in the effort to study and practice every day. Again - why don't I speak more with other travellers and people I meet? Is it just pure lazieness or a fear that we won't be able to communicate? I think back to a German couple that I met in the Eco Yoga Park - they were speaking Spanish together and I think it really was impressive that they forwent their native tongue in order to practice with eachother. Respect.

Somehow the time passed in Sucre - between classes, endless visits to motorcycle shops for parts, getting rabies vaccination, visiting the bathroom and getting over the tiredness from learning (by golly it's hard) the time seemed to pass very quickly.

Part of this perhaps was the hostal - it was a great setup complete with colourful hammocks, a sometimes chaotic shared kitchen, vibrant bouganvillia, lush jasmine and a plethora of travellers (mostly French) and also other motorcyclists/car travellers. Also the family had great pride in keeping the hostal ship shape - with particular focus on the kitchen. Often the grandmother and Martin, the young boy who did pretty much every job including letting in partying travellers at 4am a bit bearly eyed, would start preparing their family meal at lunchtime, discussing daily topics and talking to the travellers while chopping and peeling and stirring. Tina was the main girl who did the cleaning - she was a bio chemistry uni student, that spent 6 mornings a week (including public holidays) cleaning rooms. Often she would eat alone in the kitchen - I asked her once why she ate alone and not with the family, and she said she preferred it. Didn't want to prod but perhaps it really was more relaxing in the kitchen.

I'm forgetting to tell you all about the foray into the Jungle - we decided to split up the study and go with Mark and Bridget to the jungle - Las Yungas - north east La Paz on a rafting trip. It was fun - actually pretty relaxing and I definitely had my fill of wading through canyons and wet feet. I actually wrote up my trip in Spanish, so I'm going to put this here....some of it is a bit of a repeat from the La Paz post...

Salimos del hostal a las 7 en la noche y cuando estuvimos comprando los boletas dicidimos a cambiar a una cama silla. Era mas comodo de una semi cama porque podimos domir mas y nos relajamos durante del viaje. Lllegamos en La Paz a las 7.30 en la proxima manana. La mas impressionanta vista fue cuando estuvimos llegando. Verlo de muchas direcciones; de un dirrecion una cresta de cosas naranja con ventas brilliantes, en la otra dirrecion montanas majesticas con nieve.

Despues cuando dejemos nuestras equipaje en el hotel, caminaba en el calle principal y jugabab con algunas ninas con una cuede. Vimos "Harry Potter" - en 3D! y comimos comida Japones por la primera vez en Sudamerika. Encontremos nuestros amigos de Australia - Mark, y Luke tambien.

Las primeras dias en la selva acampamos al lado una rio verde. Hablaba mucho con las personas en nuestros grupo, y aprediamos sobre cada persona. Cada manana mientras nos levatabamos las guias preparaban desayuno. Porque hubo muchas Isralis, normalmente la comida fue una mescla de comida Boliviano y comida Israli. Por ejemplo por la primer desasuno comiamos "shakshuka" - era huevos, tomate, cebolla y muchas comino. Los sitios para camping eran lindo, pero que lastima fue habia basura. En mi pais, Australia, la gente es muy conciente sobre de medioambiente. Muchas veces en Sudamerika veia basura en los senderos y caminos mientras estaba trekking y sentia pena. Normalmete los extranjeros no tirabamos basura pero en nuestro groupo, ellos hacieron Es una locura,

La proxima manana haciamos una balsa de neumaticos y madera de la selva. En las proximas dias navegamos el rio verde y cada noche acampabamos al lado del rio. Tres veces visitamos canones; caminamos en el rio hasta el punto cuando no podiamos caminar mas! Ademas nadamos! Siempre hemos estado mojados cada tarde. Ademas 5 dias en la selva, regresamos a La Paz. Estuvo muy contendo y feliz por salir la selva y volver hacia las montanas altura! Pero traje 68 regallos (bichos!) con migo a La Paz:)

So... Sucre was a mixed blessing - a wonderful place to relax but by the end our feet were itching to hit the road again... that's the way travel goes I suppose! A wonderful end to our stay there was celebrating my birthday, and then the Bolivian independence day on the 6 August. A celebratory end to a celebratory stay.

Now off to Samaipata, Santa Cruz and down into the lower elevations before heading to Peru to meet mum and dad in October. More jungle time on the near horizon!