Monday, April 25, 2005

Pesah, Spanish and plans ahead

Lel Haseder at the El Lobo Hostel...


Peash in La paz was a unique experience for me, when over 150 Israelis did the Seder and some of them read aloud the Hagada in the "El Lobo" Israeli restaurant. Yesterday was my last Spanish lesson for a while and Ill try to converse with the locals from now on.

Saturday night was the big night! Yep, my first Seder abroad promised a very unique experience and I was ready for anything…Before the evening, Me and Sam was wandering around the market and we met two Israeli nice guys (Gil and Dror) that were also staying in our Hostel. It seems that Oded was trying to sell his ticket to the Resturant´s Seder because he planned to do it with his friends in a 5-star hotel. Earlier Gil bought the ticket thinking Dror would want to go to the Lobo, and things were not as he tought…So, after failing in selling the ticket, Sam took the invitation ticket and at 19:30 we entered the Lobo. There was enough place for everybody, and the seder was performed more or less according to the tradition…It was quite funny, as this was the first time for me to realize how many kinds of ways there are to read this Hagada… Even in the army don´t remember so much mess in reading one 2o something page book…
The food was nice, and more than that, it was more than enough. Sam was asking lots of questions (after he looked at the Hagada up side down…It was quite hilarious!) and enjoyed the feast…It was a nice experience for him and also for me, and we returned to the hostel to reorganize for the Saturday night party. I´ve met Hanna in the hostel and together we walked to Mungus, the bar we were last night (Gerald flew that morning to Quito, Ecuador, in order to meet his brother there..) and drank a nice White Russian, which I didn´t drank for so a long time..! Things started to warm up near midnight, and we danced on the totally cramped dance floor…it was so cramp, that you could feel everybody were dancing together as one unit and it was so special (even though now one would have said no for an additional half a meter more of space…). It was an amazing total loss of control, while the wood floor was cranking under several dozens locals and tourists, drunken and semi drunken jumping up and down to the tunes coming from the numerous fine speakers…
At approx 1:30 am Sam, Holi and Luke came in after out side for 20 min (!) for there was no room for nobody!
At 3:00 me and Hanna decided that´s enough for us, and went to say goodbye form Holi and Sam, as they took off the day after to Copacabana, on the shores of lake Titicaca, near the border with Peru. It was a very emotional moment, and a sad one too…we were doing a lot of stuff together and it was quite hard to part…
The day after was a cool one, while I was trying to plan what Im gonna do the next day after finishing my last lesson, which was between 18-20 in the evening…After the lesson, I´ve met with Roman, an Australian guy, that plans to climb the Huayna Potosí, a 19,974 feet (6.088 m) mountain with a tour agency..Ill see what happens and were things are going…
Chao for now

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Partying, partying, partying


Trying to recover from two parties last night, Im preparing my self to the upcoming SEDER feast at the El lobo resturant

Ha, what can I say...Last night was an amazing time and a very memorable for sure..
Before we went to the party, me, Sam, Holy and Marcelo went to meet with Anjel, a veteran mountain bike guide, at a local high key bar not far from our hostel...Anjel was in good mood (after a couple of beers) and invited us all to the popular Bolivian cubes game....Now, this game is notorious for the ability to get drunk after only several rounds of play...On the table there are one six-face cube, one leather case and most importantly, infinite number of beer bottles...One set of rules goes as follows: Each player rocks the cube in the leather case and throw the cube to see his fate: 1-the cubes pass to another player, 2- the player have to invite another player for a drink 3- the left player have to drink, 4- the right player must drink, 5 - the player that threw the cube have to drink and 6 is also a pass...
The first round was performed with out me as I was reluctant to participate (saying Im an Israeli...poor me for my excuses..) but after one round I joined happily...It was a real nasty game, and after 6 bottles of 1 liter beer we were all good...As a souvenir, I bought the case and cubes..
Returning half drunken to the Hostel, we found the rest of the international gang also drunken quite fairly...Two other Brits, two Swedish girls, one Ausi (name Luke, and we will return for him soon), Israeli guy name Gil and of course, all of us returning from the local bar...
W squeezed into two cabs and dropped at the Sopochachi district, near the Octopusi, a local Dance bar...partying was good, while in the background Bolivian and American Hip-Hop were vibrating the air...From all of us, Luke was the most drunken (200% drunk..), swaying to the music on two non-stable legs, bumping into passing locals, walls and polls, all smiling with his one brown, one green eyes...
One and half hour past, and we decided to move to another nice bar, Mugus, which is a tourist place that a lot of locals also find the international atmosphere appealing..and there was good vibes in the air, that´s for sure! The place was packed to the ceiling, and the floor rocked as hell! Good damn music (if a little jumpy from numerous nights of DJing) and the feeling was alive and wild, people dancing one on another, drinking, smiling and basically, having a damn good time...At approx 4:30 I saw Sam dragging Luke, still smiling and swaying, saying that we gotta leave coz Luke starts to mess with local girls and he was afraid for trouble...One look at Luke, and I immediately help Sam thaw this 100 kg drunken Ausi out of the joint into the cold air..It took something like 10 min only to get him into a waiting cab, and we went off back to our Hostel...
While Sam was getting into his bed, a spontaneous after party was going on in the small room of Luke, now a little more IPOD was pulled out with a couple of amplified speakers, and the music continued on for god know how long...At 5 I was cozing in my Sleeping bag, with ear plugs tucked real nicely oblivious of the party, only 5 meters away...
That´s it for now...gonna check what happens with the seder at the Lobo...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Ruta de la muerte (The Death Road)

Five minutes after I flew from the bikes, the bike mechanical man came to aid, with not too much success, I must add...Asaf Chen is on the left, checking his bike just in case...


Notorious for it´s death toll, the Death road is one of the most common attraction in La paz, and even though I tried as I could to deny my involvment in such a crazy ride, a nice couple managed to convince me it´s all about pure fun. Turned out that they were absolutely right!

OK, there is so much to say and i've just entered the hostel 10 min ago but I had to convey the sights, voices and most importantly, the feelings of this unusual trip...Hannah and Gerald, an Austrian-french couple, have decided to this tour and asked me if i'd like to do this trip with them...Even though most ppl of this hostel have done this gig, Ive decided this is too much to go over the edge of the common sense...but, when this nice couple told me that, I have started to think...and even though I was more worried about my family and friends (and less about myself), i've thought about it, and after one hour i've decided that I would do it! I've talked with my spanish teacher the next day and announced her that I will not be coming on Thursday, as Im gonna do the Death road, or, Ruta de la muerte.At 16:00 I've met the two in the 'Downhill Madness' agency and after a shot explanation and pictures I've went straight for the signing agreement...This form releases this agency from any responsibility to anything that would happen to me (or my equipment) while doing this tour...Very reassuring, I thought for myself...After signing this form, we chose which bike we would like to have: the more sophisticated, the more you pay, of course...Hannah and Gerald chose the cheapest, with from suspension. I've decided that if im gonna risk my neck here, better be with good equipment (would you go to a battle with a pistol or a machine gun??). I've paid 13 USD more, and got similar bikes but with hydraulic brakes instead of regular cable brakes (both with discs brakes, of course). The difference is in the comfort of use: Hydraulic brakes need only a slight squeeze in order to brake while the cable ones need more force...Now, think that you are suppose to break constantly for 5-10's very tiring, and might even be dangerous...Today at 7:15 we left the hostel and went for a fast coffee and fruit salad before going to the agency...At 8 am there were lots of ppl, mostly german, and the bustling countinued on in the garage, where we were equipped with helmets, nylon trousers and biking gloves...with that, we climbed the bus, and at 9 am we headed north toward La Combre, a high Andes pass situated at 4670 meters. We stopped by a nice lagoon, near the starting point, which is an asphalt road that connects with the dead road. Like a gate to some forgotten place, this downhill start was located between two hills, on the left was a saint statue with his arms spread asides, and on the other a cross..and in between, a void with clouds swifting fast across, a reminder of the height of this place...After 30 min of reorganization, safety rules and acquiring the bikes themselves, we started the 1st part, which was the asphalt part. Excitement was in the air....This section was of course, very fast, zooming down hill at about 60 KMH (max) past locals, some houses and beautiful to imagine scenery of the immense cordillera mountain range..the paved road was in good condition most of the time, and not long, and I was forgetting my fears and concentrating solely on the road and of keeping my profile low in order to lower air resistance and gain more speed...a thrilling and pure one instance we (the leading group, mostly Israelis..ELA MA?!) were stuck behind a truck, and our guide found an opportunity, and darted past the truck, all of us right behind him, shouting like crazy ppl on two wheel metal machines...Near the second part, things got a little bit tougher, as we had to climb for a couple of km (4 km, actually) and this was a hard job to do, if remembering the height of this section (somewhere above 4000 m)...In the last climbing part, I was so breathless, that I've got off the bike and started walking with them in hand....Till noon I've still felt the ache of my torso...We had a long stop at the highest point and some snacks before continuing..clouds were all around us and it seemed like a dream, where a couple dozen bikers were trapped within...This clouds were the beginning of a heavy shower followed by wind, that took us on the downhill ride, with clouds closing on and limiting visibility for ten meters away at most! the heavy shower on my sunglasses was bothering even more, as looking through those water droplets was a nightmare in this dreamy-gray world...Finishing this leg, we came upon a T junction, full of trucks waiting for the unknown...The death road starts from here...more safety tips (riding on the left side, closer to the edge of the cliff!) and the first group (again, mostly israelis, but also me, Hannah and Gerard..) started her tricky part of this tour...It was not raining, but clouds were still hovering around us and the mars of last rain was visible by the very muddy, I indeed felt what is it like to ride on two 3 cm wide wheels near the edge of a straight 500-1000 m cliff...IT WAS FUCKN FRIGHTENING!!! the width of this cursed road was not more than 5 meters wide, at most...when visibility was for a 50 m we slided to the center, but most of the time the cloudy green abyss looked at us, indifferent to our existence, and we dared not to look at her back...As it was dangerous, it was amazingly beautiful...
Amazingly, theoretically the bike needed only 30 cm of path, but practically, riding 20 kmh on slippery mud and on the very edge of an ever green forest was beyond any logic and was the mind who controlled everything, and it was the one who eventually would lead you to safety or to oblivion....I dared to look at scenery as much as possible, sometime getting too close to the edge...But things were not really that smooth...From the start, I gripped that my bikes are not that much good as I had some problems with the switching of gears (which is less important on downhill, but still..). The major problem, however, was something like an hour into the death road section...I was going down the road, talking with an Israeli name Asaf Chen (coincidence??) and took a slippery left turn..Im not sure what happened when at the center of the curve the bike slipped under me and I was thrown hands forward into the center of the road landing on my two hands and rolling over my backpack which took most of the blow, luckily...I was on my feet in a second, feeling great, as this fall was with no scratch at all (damn good gloves!!)Asaf pulled over and check with me...after I have told im cool, I wisely checked the brakes front brakes were dead...Im not sure whether the brakes went dead before the fall (and causing it..) or after but it didn't matter and still doesn't...We were trying to figure what to do when one of the tour agency mechanic pulled beside us...after several tuning and checking, I was Informed that the front brakes were broken and I must change bikes..the only problem was that the backup bikes were on a car 20 km up road, and it would take it a lot of time to get to my position...the guide offered his bikes, a less equipped bikes (like the standard ones that most bikers used). Reluctantly, I agreed, as going down this road with only the back brake was true madness, as if unfortunately you loose the back ones also you gonna find your self deep deep in the forest, 1000 m or so under the road...I took his bike, and found that the sit was too high for me (I know, im problematic and pedant...such is life..):)As some unseen force wanted, the guide didn´t had the right tool to open the screw of the seat, so, I had to manage with unfamiliar bikes, hard brakes, unadjusted seat and even better, riding all the way to the next stop point with no guide and rain that started few minutes before me and Asaf left the mechanic with my cripple bikes...It wasnt dangerous as it seemed but I was alert and maintained most of my attention to the road, as in any case, i couldn't see too much for the rain on my glasses...It was one of the least parts that I liked because I had no trust on this bike (they served me good, but they were not comfortable at all!).
BTW, every possible error happened to this bikes: flat tires, chains broken, front and back brakes broken....but except for my self, nobody hit the ground (to my best knowledge..)Finally, we found our group stopping at the memorial stone of Mor Shoam, a 31 Israeli, that went over the nearest curves due to malfunction of here brakes (sounds familiar..?). This is a stop point for many agencies doing this gig, mostly to remind all of us that death is near and the abyss are patient more than we when going zooming down the dirty road with waterfalls splashing water in your head...Talking with the leader guide, I understanded that I would have to suffice with this bikes till the next stop....And, we continued on really hard ground, and It was quite hard for me (braking and also the quality of the front suspension was questionable...)...Luckily, on our next stop in addition to our branch (12:30) I got a new bike...The way from here on was wider and less dangerous and by 15:30 we were at a nice lodge, having a nice shower, good buffet and some relaxation..we left back to La paz at 18:00, near sunset via the death road, only now up and in the comfy minibus...Although most ppl says this is the most frightening part, I was awed more than afraid, as I have seen the abyss really really close..We breath much better when we left the death road back to the main road...Well, that's enough for one time...picture are also supplied so finally u gonna see some pics...Chao for nowChen

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Too less sleep, too much alcohol...

Puerta de la Luna, taken at the Tiwanaku excavation site, near La Paz


Partying with the Brit gang was a life time experience. Tiwanaku Inca site was nice, not more than that and Stefan ended his tour in South america at a rave party in Valley de la luna.

So, it's 1:30 am and I'm talking with my wonderful and lovely familyover the messenger...I'm a lucky man to have such a family!!I miss u all so much...Next week is pesah, and I'm going to check whether i could do it at the'El Lobo' joint (The wolf in espanol, an Israeli well knownestablishment..).Last night, I've gone with the Brit gang (Sam, Holi, Noami and James)and Ben, a great man which as i wrote before is a mountain bike guide(and now also a hang out guide?). We went to a night club 20 min southof the center of La paz (in the zona sur area, for those who arefamiliar with La paz..). All of us (literally!) squeezed into a 5 YOtaxi and crawled our way through the narrow and steeply night streetsof sleepy La paz...The policemen at the checkpost were indifferent to our overloaded poortaxi and we quickly continued zooming down the road further south intonew areas that I have never been there (even though I'm already a weekin this week...)Finally, we were at the night club (Omnibus) at 24:30...Shamelessly,this night club was totally EMPTY!!! Disappointed, we climbed intoanother taxi and stopped at a high-fashion, American style, lounge barwith 3 body guards at the entrance and lots of WASAH all over theplace...Quickly we got the notion that we need invitations...this was,of course, a pile of crap, as well-dressed youngsters were enteringwithout any difficulties (showing only driving license...). We, ofcourse, came with our best outfits, SHARWALS, slippers and worn outT-shirts...After planning several army-style maneuvers, we decidedthat force won't work here (3 big gorillas...One needs a tank to knockthem down....) so we climbed on another taxi..this time we found arespectfull place who was willing to accept us, not too far from thecenter of town (5 min drive). This was a very nice club, with localsdancing on every piece of earth or chair...the music was mostly oflocal performers but sometimes an English, well known performer wasbooming out of the speakers...I was bloody tired close to 2:30 am(with not too much alcohol..) and at that instance three local girlsmade a move and asked for a lighter...Sam and James moved for the kill,while i just wanted a god damn bed...i was starting to think aboutmaking my way to the front door, when one of these girls (maybe 20years old??) tried to convince me to drink some beer...yeah, right!BED, not BEER!!shit...well, with my poor espanol i tried to explain the young ladythat I'm too tired to even try and exert my little grey matter behindmy eyes and she better find another chat partner...The American hip hop boomed all over and the international gang wentdown full of energy for the rocking wood floor...As you know me well,I'm not missing a good vibration, but this was too late formyself...shouting over the speakers and four dozens locals shoutingand having a good time, I excused my self from the gang (which triedto keep me there but with no too much help..). So, I've rocketed myself out of the door and took a cab to the hotel (i was not drunken orcrazy enough to try to get to hotel by my two feet...)Ive made it to 9 am this morning when Stefan entered the room, quietlyas he didn't help, though, but no matter...We went later tothe Bolivian Inca excavation site, Tiwanaku, which is located 70 kmwest of La paz. After 1 and half hour of drive (with a long stop atthe El Alto market), we got to the site...we were amazed when theclerk at the museum charged no less than 10 USD as an entrance fee(both LP and the footprint hand book stated 3.5 at most! they'll hearfrom me!)I was really pist off (and you know me, fellas!) but nothing could bedone...or to take a bus back to La paz, or to eat this outrageousprice...Stefan was wiling to pay, sensibly, and i followed so, as myaim in this trip was to see sights and experience events, and not totry to spend as little as you all know me, it took mesometime to reach this conclusion...It was actually funny, becausestefan commented to me that only yesterday he was pist off aboutBritish airways that charged him with 7 USD for a confirmation for hisflight...then I was assuring him, and today he was assuring me...It'sfunny sometime, how we are so alike and still so different in ourmentality...The Inca site was nice (not me nor Stefan were awe struck) with stonesstrewn around, couple of real nice statues and one floor of a greatInca pyramid...after 2 hours of wondering around, taking some time forour selfs, we climbed on the upcoming minibus and went back to Lapaz...After We finished our meal at the lobo (they have a connectedresturant) we met Yossi from the Uyuni seems, he and moranwere just back from Rurrenabaque, a little village north of La paz,near the amazon basin, after a week in the jungles...Indians, riversand mosquitoes, it seems he had it all, and he was quite happy doingit...Ill get there too, i presume, but i have my time... :)So, now im wrapping things up for this day...Me and stefan went for anice beer at a nearby nice little place which served nice beer, goodinternational music and best of best, great thin sliced pizzas...itwas so delicious!! (and at the ridiculous price of 3.5 NIS...)...I wasthinking of going to the shower, when Stefan decided to join the britgang to another wild night (this time, the wildest..). The biggestrave party (trance, techno and house) was taking place 20 min driveout of La paz once a year, and it was the talking subject of manymuchillers in the last days...Eitan, an Israeli that i've met in thehostel and was living for the past 5 years in the US was going to havecouple of sets behind the DJ controls..I must say, i've learned alotabout Trance music in the nice hour we chatted together...The brit gang was of course going, and stefan at the last minutejoined them...As Trance isn't my cup of tea, I headed to theshowers...Wonder how it was...That's quite enough for one entry...have a good week fellas!ChaoChen

Friday, April 15, 2005

Night life experience, La paz

Some drinking before going out: Second from right is Hanna, Sam is fourth from left near the two Death Road mountain bike guides (with the caps)


OK, so this is another yet issue I have not dwelt into...As I told before, Sam and Holi have done the mountain bike gig several days ago, and Sam, which is an excellent friends maker, have fixed a night outside with two Mountain bike guides from the agency he met on the tour: Anjel and Mauricio (I think). At the same day sam and Holi did the mountain gig, we (Sam, Holi, Liran, an Israeli I met at one hostel and myself) met both guides for a throat pre-warming prior to a visit to a night club. The agent was a low-end Rum (which was actually pure spirt with the addition of some color chemicals). Needless to say, the we made it to the bottom of the bottle in a couple of aching shots...As Mauricio had to do the mountain the day after, only Anjel joined us for a couple too-much beers...As you might understand, Anjel was quite drunk after his second glass and was insisting that we all (except Liran, which passed the beer drinking but was at the scene...) gonna have two liters more of beer (!)...hmm, so we had to finish the two liter beer, too much for all of us...bringing him back home , zig-zagging Anjel insisted on standing on the sidewalk and not wanting to enter the casa we were before drinking the Rum (whicfh had a bed inside...). This was, of course, after he peed all over one by standing car.....So, after we seen there was nothing we could do about his stubbornness standing, we left him there, saying good night and heading back to our hostel (little zig-zagging by ourself, actually).A similar gig was repeated again last night, when Sam fixed a meeting with Mauricio and also with another guide name Ben..Ben, unlike Mauricio, had quite good english and I must admit it was fascinating talking with a kid (no more than 20 at the most!) that was for the past six months been biking down the most dangerous road in the world...A couple from england (James and Noami) came along and we performed similar pre-warming Rum rounds with the company of more brits from other hostels in the area that Sam has met in his wandering trough the city (yeah, he is really good!).So, at 2:30 or so Sam and Holi picked the reminiscence of the ppl in their room, and we all headed to a night club that the Ben and Mauricio recommended. We got free entrance (dont know how, really)...We were Sam, holi, James, Noami, Ben, Mauricio and myself, of course...Salsa music was all around and ppl were dancing on the old-fashioned dancing floor (with the lights changing on the floor..). A singer sand some nice music, and Sam and holi started with a salsa more than 10 min, and a Bolivian girl approached james (an 18 YO brit...) and suggested him to come with her to the dancing floor....Another 10 min, and half-drunken James was exchanging liquids with this girl....(As u might understand, James is only a companion of Noami...her boyfriend is at england at moment, working). The hot couple came back to the table beside the blazing dance floor and sat with mixed feelings: James looked like a drunken brit who wants to go to bed, and the bolivian girl was looking dully at nothing, maybe waiting for a thing that was not coming...). James would have to excuse me, but it was quite amusing....Me and Naomi tried to figure what´s going on with this cross-Atlantic couple, when not too long we both were dancing a Chen-Naomi salsa style to the amazed eyes of the was quite hillarious! After another round of beer pitcher, Sam was caught by a tall-slimmed girl, which rocked Sam with smooth salsa movement...Holi from time time harassed poor sam for laughter (and the bolivian was not happy with this, as can be expected)...Near the end of this night, the music changed abit to Dance-trance tracks which anded in a romantic-slow tunes...this was the time when both couples were already sitting in the dark and holi was impatient with the all situation...less than half of a minute talk with Sam, and we (Holi, Naomi and me) were out. Before the guides left for their home, they asked me to take a taxi, just in case. Back at the street, both half drunken birts chicks were boled and darted down the street, not listening to my demand that we take a taxi. Trying to get them to listen to common sense, both grabed be in both sides and hauled my ass down the road...what can I tell you, a very embarrassed, not macho Israeli male was walking at 4:30 in the morning with two brits the end, we were at the hostel (after a quicky meal at the 24 hour food stalls). For those who are curious to know what happen at the end of the night with Sam and James..well, they returned without any conquering any bolivian hills and valleys, but as it was seemed yesterday, they didn´t looked like looking for such action...In any case, at least Sam got a wood carved heart necklace from his girl...nice memory from La paz...Putting this aside, walking on the streets this noon I´ve stumbled into who if not Stefan...!It was quite amusing and I have took him for a tour in the city (good place to eat, drink and buy all kind of stuff...)..we ate the notorious 'El Lobo' restaurant, which is an all Israeli compound, with pictures and comments of 21 YO israelis (lots of naked ones in the Salar...)...It was very weird to hear so much hebrew in one place (the waiters also, of course) and to read a Hebrew menu! Even though this place is expensive in comparison to the local simple resturants, we both decided it will be nice to remember how is the taste of HUMUS...Yep, stefan stil remember the good HUMUS in Kathmandu, Nepal...The meal was fine...We both thought that it´s amazing that the two major nationalities travelers (German and Israeli) were hardly been seen mixing together (like me and stefan...)...It might be because both travelers are usually go in groups of 2-4 (israeli even go up to 6!) and not alone.So, I think im gonna go back to the hostel....hope you all have good going to a party again this night...Take careChen

Thursday, April 14, 2005

La paz II

Traffic in Avenida Santa Cruz - count how much taxis and combis??


Well im back on the comp here at La paz...One thing I haven´t commented yet in regard to La paz and it is the word can described this issue: HORRIBLE!three factors leads me to this word: first of all, the road´s condition really sucks, with holes and twisted sidewalks, then there is the fact that pedestrians are for some reasons invisible to the Bolivian driver and the worst thing about the drivers - they don´t know how to drive! I have told you about the road of death, but im telling you all, the reall road of death is the main street or boulevard here in La paz (Santa cruz boulevard). I had to many close ones now adays when trying to cross this damn street...The thing is that these maniacs don´t try to stop, counting that you agily and hastly will cross the road and avoid any unwanted collision (or else...). It´s totally crazy.The Spanish classes are quite nice, even though today was a very tiring class and I felt totally wasted...It is a very energy consuming gig, i can tell you...That´s it for now...Chao

La paz


Im only 3 weeks into this tour, and it feels like 3 years have past...unbeilieveable..meeting all the ppl from Chile is so good and brings lots of spirits into my soul. three days ago, Ive met Shani and Oded on there way to their hostel. They have just returned from a tour into the pampas, north to La paz, and were full of recommendations. Holi and Sam returned two days ago from their tour to the 'Death Road' on a mountain bike, a pure adrenaline ride down 4000 m of bumpy and muddy road which 30 year old busses passes continously up and down this road...not for the faint of heart, that´s for sure....I don´t think of doing this gig as reading one review about this tour left me too sad (for those who like more details, email me and i´ll send you this link)Putting this aside, yesterday I have started my first spanish lesson and it felt quite good! I have another one in 30 min and next week from monday to friday, 3 hours each time. In the mean time, Im hanging out in the streets of La paz or chilling out at the hostel (Austria, if I didn´t said before...Tel 2408540).

PPL have good time, and ill keep you up to date on my future experiences...ChaoChen

Monday, April 11, 2005

La paz...what a CITY!

The main street, Avenida Santa Cruz, with the San Fransisco church in the background


La´s really hard to find the exact words to describe this unique megacapital...Topographically, it´s center is located at the bottom of a reddish mass of houses that cling on the edges of the hills surrounding this city. At night, looking up through the smoke of the vehicle´s black exist and the numerous power lines, one can see a beautiful sight of numerous blue, orange, and yellow street lights that surround the city like the stars. Under this 'stars' and the real ones, the street life of Bolivia is a continuous buzz of people selling, buying and moving in all the possible directions. Moving from the Chilean cities to this bolivian capital was a tremendous boom in the face, as poverty and life´s simplicity are so apparent and are so shameless...After dropping my packs at the Austria Hostel (near San Fransisco plaza), I went first to eat something and then did some surveying in this big city center, all full of different markets...actually, La paz is a big market, full with every merchandise you can even imagine that can be for sale: clothes, shoes, music discs, souvenirs but also some bizarre stuff (like corpses of dead llamas) or live animals...Its one of the most things that hitted me in this city: the fact that everything, but i mean, EVERYTHING is for sale only shows how much are these poor people are desperate to make a living...and im not even talking about the uncountable show shiners, that stray the streets with their low baseball cap and sky mask, looking for dirty shoes to clean and talking about the people that sell the pope photographs or a hand made statue or figure...this is their life and that`s what hold them above the first i was ashamed of being a western, a gringo, that passes through their city, looking for fun and other leisures, taking advantage of their cheap life style and continue on, leaving only dust and couple of dollars in their pockets...I found comfort with the fact, that even so, I fueled their life with my foreign money and also did numerous tourists that swarm the broken sidewalks...Sitting in the lounge of the hostel, I was surprised a tap on the shoulder showed a familiar face: Sam Gibson, a brit from New castle! Following an email from him, and my reply, he took a city map and found me in the Austria..It was a nice moment, and I put on my down and we head for the streets...Sam and Holi, both were in the Land cruiser with me when we toured the Salar, were in La paz for only one day. I suggested we meet Stefan,if he is awake..turned out that he was asleep and the manager of the hostel woke him up...Opsss...In any case, he was glad to see Sam and after 15 min we left him to sleep and went looking for a nice place to drink beer and close the gap of our experience in the past week...on our way, i was amazed to view people piss in the main street (!) without any shame or any recognition of the environment....Sam commented about this and said that it is very common and he saw this behavior several times during his 36 hr in the city....This was such a shock for me, it took me some time to believe my own eyes!!we found a local place on the main street, which was full of totally drunken locals...and im talking ABSOLUTELY drunk people...A funny thing about this bolivian drunken locals was the fact that they looked for attention and hugged us numerous times, mumbling in an uncomprehensible espanol (well actually for me it was uncomprehensible...)..we moved back to my hostel and we decided to meet the next morning, this time with Holi...I woke up at 7.30 in the morning, full of energy, and darted straight to the warm shower...I have decided to move on the spanish lessons and trusted on the lonely planet (LP) recommendation of a nice spanish teacher...while waiting for Sam at the lounge, Ive called the teacher and fix with her a meeting in the Austria at 3 pm...She charged 3 USD per hour for group lessons and 5 for private the LP book said this the average, i sufficed with that (which is not that good...always look if there is a lower price..always...). Sam and Holi came a few seconds after that and we went to but some food for breakfast (eggs and bread...) and in their hostel i prepared some nice plain omelets...There I met an Israeli girl name Liran, which was looking also for some spanish, I said, a spanish teacher is due to visit my hostel at 3 pm, u can join...I left Sam and Holi (which decided to move to the Austria also..) and went to buy some stuff and returning to the hostel, i was surprised to find the teacher leaving me a message...Ive fixed with her to start this Wednesday and Thursday 3 hours each and in the following week also...Later, Ive went with Sam and Holi to find the Coca museum, which is hidden among the different alleys of La paz...It was an educational experiment, as Coca was found to be a very controversial plant and a key factor in the economy of Bolivia and Peru in the mid 20th century...An hebrew translation of the commentaries of the pictures added some nice feeling to all this compact museum...Me and sam returned to the hostel after a nice meal (Holi was busy doing her haircut), and approx at 7 pm Elizabeth and Heinrich showed at the lounge...Heinrich and Elizabeth are a very nice Austrian couple Ive met in San pedro de Atacama and had some real good conversation. They have done the Salar de Uyuni also (stopping on the road to climb the 5960m high Licancabur volcano...) I also understanded that Mattias, a cool swedish fella which belong also to the 'san pedro gang' was with them, climbing this protruding peak...Cool!In any case, I have to finish in 5 coz they close this place... :( Will be continued....

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Lauca National Park II and crossing back to Bolivia

Parinacota peak reflects on lago Chungara in Lauca park


Lauca national park is a dream park for those who seek to watch wildlife from a meter away (and i shit you not..i took a shot ofstefan standing only one meter from a cute rabbit (which i can´t remember it´s name now, but no matter..).In any case, in the national park is situated one of the highest Lakes in the world, 4500 m (!) with lots of Vicunas (llama´s wild stain), ducks and other water birds. Overlooking this lake (lago Chungara) is the twin-double peak Payachata twin volcanoes, Parincota and Pumerane. At that time of hour, the Parincota peak was reflected almost perfectly on the surface of the lake, a heavenly scene...We then crossed the border with Bolivia for a short period to witness the last mintues of a little feria (market) situated in between the Chilean and the bolivean border...back in Chilean teretory we went on to see the lovely Cotacotani laguns (which were abit grayish due to the heavy hail storm and grey clouds that were hanging over our heads at that time...)...We continued on to the little village Parinacota, which was in fact a plaza sorounded by tourist shops ans suveniers (and one 18th century old church)...the guide said that it was not allowed for women to climb and ring the four bells at the bell tower (only 5 meters high or so) and that it may bring bad luck to them... men, however, were allowed (how expected) i just went up the very claustrophobic stair was quite nice. We finished our tour at the hot baths near Putre - an hour there was a healing period...great clear hot waters although there were additional two outdoor baths, one reddish and the other greenish...the hottest was 42 degrees! entering them was like being a tomato in a tomato soup...:) The following morning me and stefan woke up at 6 am in order to climb the mountain near Putre (called Tota camario, peaking a 4200 m or so). This was actually my first trek/'ascent' (600 m high) so i was quite excited..We started by crossing a deep ravine that was located at the base of the mountain, and then started to hike toward the south face of the mountain (which was said to be easier for climbing...). However, soon the path was not that obvious and soon we started walking in the direction of the mountain, crossing through rich low growing cactuses which there spikes did hell to our legs...the climb was though for me (stefan progress was quite good), especially because i took an overloaded pack (why not take a marmalade for a nice breakfast at the peak!?) and wasn´t in shape...Our final approach, two hours later, was abit easier mainly due to the visible path...the scenery was worth everything, that i can tell you...Putre was at the foot of the mountain and i could even see hour guest house...A little lower than the peak, a cross is situated with concrete mirador and the flag of Chile waving above (of course). It was nice background for my breakfast (not the marmalade..)...after 40 min we started our descend, which took quarter time...we returned to Putre dirty but quite happy...our last day at Putre was tranquil, reading and writing mostly (and drinking Chilean wine..).This morning, me and stefan packed our things, said Adios to Putre and walked with all our stuff 4 km (!!) to the road junction where we were supposed to pick up the bus to La paz..our luck was on our side and after 1km of climbing the paved road, a Chilean MAAZ person stopped beside us and gave us a ride to the junction....The ride to La paz was lovely, crossing wide and wild scenic bolivian is unbelievable how much difference there is between Chile and Bolivia (the richer and the poorer in SA). coming from the south, La paz is an amazing and huge city..the road to La paz from the south is going a 400 m straight down ride, which enables a magnificent view of this city and we were both awed but the sight...We reached La paz at 1730 local time and our paths again parted...Stefan goes tomorrow to Copacabana (on the shore of lake titcaca) and im gonna learn Spanish here in Lovely La paz..

Friday, April 08, 2005

Arica, Putre and Lauca national park I

Juan Marcos and Isabella


Hello amigos!
Im currently in Putre, a small vilage 150 km east of Arica, located at the eastern border of Lauca national park, north of Chile (20 km east of the border with Bolivia).My last day in Arica was quite nice and it turned out that another day at this beach resort town was quite positive (and u´´ll soon understand why).Early in the morning (7 am) I woke up and went to the beach to an half-isle called Isle del alacran, which has a nice light tower at its western tip and a group of conders just sitting there and watching surfers getting high waves and good time. At this hour (about 9 am) there was heavy fog from the sea, but still it was amazing just sitting there and the pacific waves bashing into the rocky shore..I then (12 pm) went south to a beach (playa) called Corazona this beach is situated 7 km south of the Isle...i said to myself, heck i´ve done this before no pro..a nice hike and back...after half an hour of walking i stop by a nice kiosk near another beach (La lisera) and bought my self a coke..the nice women (isabella) who sold me the coke asked me in Espanol where I headed, and with my shameless espanol i told her Corazona beach...and she was going like 'LOCO, TU LOCO!!'...and all mumbeling and all worried...all saing im going with negro clothing (my thermals where on me..) with this hot wheather and all, that im gonna fall of my feet and with this big Muchilla (actually it was my small one, but it was stuffed real good!) she adviced me to take a taxi...the lonely planet said something about taking a taxi or bike (not mentioning any waliking all the way..) so i guessed walking all the way isnt that smart at we sat there, having a semi espanol semi gestures conversation waiting for a taxi to come (the public telepone was not operateable...) when all of a sudden she rose up and said something about a friend coming...i rose to and saw a policeman (Juan Marcos) on a shiny heavy BMW motorcycle coming up the road...seems like they are good friends and not a half a minute past and the policemen called a taxi station and ordered a taxi for me!!! I was like...WOW! that´s really nice! and this lady doesnt even know me and she´s all maternal and all...was absolutely surprised, and of course have a nice corner for all the chilean in my heart, that´s for sure!in any case, 10 min after the policemen drove away the taxi arrived and was willing to take me to the beach, tour around and back for 4000 peso (approx 8-9 US$) first reaction was that it´s quite a high price and then the lady looks at me and says, no it´s quite good...and then it hit me...MAN, THEY ORDERED ESPECIALLY FOR U A TAXI AND U R ARGUING?! ARE U OUTA YOUR FUCKN ISRAELI MIND?!?! so i grabbed this offer with both hands and after 15 min we came to an isolated, rocky and amazing beach with condors, cormorans and sea gulls flying all around with several caves and holes in the rock...a mountain ridge was landing right into the sea and it was amazing...! the driver came with me and we manage to talk with my two-way english espanol seems it was a nice place for alot of chilean suiciders and quite alot of crosses were posted all along the nice path...really sad, actually...Sea lions, however, was hard to view as their Island was something like 500 m from the place we were standing...after 30-40 min of hiking we got back to the, i would have stayed there for a the least!! it is so virgin, so clean and isolated from the tourists humming time (if there will be a next in northern chile) i would go for the bike we came back the nice kiosk and i invited the cab driver (which his name is Vladimir, believe it or not!) and had a talk with an american fela who was couple of days in Arica...he was on his way home, having the last days in Arica...early this morning i was awake at 5 am so i can take a cab to the station for Putre that leaves at 6:30..and who i meet coming up the street? Yep, Olle Steffen coming with it´s Muchilla all grinning...sure thing, we both hoped on the taxi and headed for the station. The way to Putre was marvallous passing the desert mountain range with green valleys and khaki colored mountains all sorrounded with was amazing and exciting, as Berry Sakharof was doing it´s live performance in my CD....very emotional...Putre (3600 m) is so quiet and peacefull im thinking about staying here a couple of plan with Steffen is to do 2mmorow a tour into the Lauca national park and the day after, climb the Tota Camario, a 4000 m mountain rising south of the village with the cruss de mayo at it´s peak and a blazing Chilean flag...hope we gonna make it to the peak...


Monday, April 04, 2005



Yeah, instead of going to La paz and then to Arica, we decided it´ll be shorter and much nicer to visit Iqueque and Arica beach towns in northern Chile, and then go back to Bolivia while visiting the Lauca national park. SO, we have arrived at Iqueque last night at 21:30...half an hour and we found a nice hostel near the center..the following morning was nice and clear skies greated us. Steffan wanted to chill out alone (and also decided 10 min ago he liked it so our paths part..) so i hit the streets alone but to to my backpack...Iqueque is a port city with a rocky beach and lots of 3 meter wing-long Condors shitting all aroundthe beach area...there were also lots of Cormorans to help with the holly and dirty work, and thus most ppl in Iqueque are looking up just checking nobody shit on their head...As im an Israeli, i had to look both up, straight and back so i wont be shitted from any direction...;) In any case, after having nice time at the beach, i went to have lunch at a nice resturant near the market place and afterwards climbed the bus for Humberstone. Humberstone, founded at 18-something, boomed at the 1940's and closed and departed at the 60´s, is a small ghost town 45 km west to Iqueque. I went there at the afternoon for a nicer view of town as the sun isless intense. I knew that i was going for a kind of an adventure as: A)im alone B) i don´t know shit about espanol. but i said what the was a challange and i took it by both hands...after an half an hour driving i litteraly jump out of the bus and headed through the small gate. Parting from a 1000 peso, and im in...all by myself, but the wind howling all along, like representing a 100 year or so of ppl living and was a bit friethening to be there all alone, but i focoused on the old and rusty buildings that stand there like after a leathal gas attack...metal junk was strewn here and there, and all the buildings were empty, as expected...Hotel, High school, swimming pool(!), tennis court..u name it, they had it all...they were closed due to the nitrate industry collapse...well, at least the buildings were still standing there for evidence...amazingly, i have stumbled into a couple of german man and a french women touring the city...although the German was more sympathic, the women drawn him away and thus a distance was any case, i prefered also to survey this city alone, as it added to the atmosphere...few minutes into the sunset, i was on my way to the exit, and also the couple was...we didnt speak even outside, waiting to the bus when the wind strengthens and the skies are colored with wild red, orange and purple mixed with overcasting clouds...the sun kept setting down and we were still there, waiting...finally, the couple have made a move and crossed the road to the other first i didn't understanded why, but not for long. a bus stopped by and i darted like a a man with flames to check what´s happening..there is nothing more serious than being stuck alone in a dark, cold forgotten place. there was somekind of negotiation and the couple got into the bus...with my instincts, i stepped into the bus, not knowing were the hell it is going...the couple,i guessed, was headed toward Iqueque, but they stepped on a bus to Arica, which is in the other direction...after talking with the German guy i understanded that the bus driver was kind enough to drop them in a town that has a bus station to Iqueque...well, not quite, but i sufficed with this we kept on driving west and then north bound, the sun kept sinking, i was getting agitated...where the hell are we headed?? As much as i tried to keep it cool and think positive things, it was almost impossible...thinking that i should have tried to hitch hike at humberstone, for every vehicle driving east was bound to go to any case, after 30 min of driving we got to a check point, which every vehicle bound east must pass...nice location to hop on a bus...after 10 min, a commercial mitsubishi stopped by (colectivo) and we headed back north and thenwest toward Iqueque...finally, at 20:30 i got to the center...SO, that´s it...2mmorow me and steffan are heading to Arica, where our paths will part...have a great day and week

Chao from Chile


Friday, April 01, 2005



So, im in Uyuni Bolivia after 3 days 4WD tour in the bolivian Salar. First of all, i wish i could show you my pictures and share with u all the unbelieveable experience i´ve been through in the past 3 days. We had a great tour, with a very nice driver (which is highly important as he is the guide/shef/driver/middle man in this tour (a key factor in the tours sucess..).The Salar is by far the best thing i have ever done in my life. In three days, you see more than u could chew (even for you, David s.!).Efrat, remeber the picture i show you of the Salar? well, it's the same thing (and even better!). you see lagons, flamingos, snow peak mountains and the best of the best, the wet Salar at sunrise, a breath-taking view with high reds/orange and yellow colors! the sky is perfectly reflected over the low water salt lake...The group, btw, was excellent with 2 israeli couple, 2 germans (one is steffen) and two english couple...there were laughs all along! SO, my next plan in short is to take the night train 2mmorow for Orruro and then a bus to La paz, the capital of Bolivia. I hope all is Ok and having fun as much as possible...when i´ll have pictures, i´ll send you some...
Chao from Bolivia