We did manage to get a few hours of sleep our last night in Calgary! Not sure how – I still think it hadn’t entirely sunk in for me yet. At least not until the alarm went off. Then all of a sudden I was consumed by thoughts of my “lasts” – that was our last sleep in a queen sized bed, last really nice hot shower, last visit to Timmy Ho’s at the airport!
After an uneventful 12 hours of flying and a quick stop over in Toronto, we arrived in our first foreign city – Lima, Peru. I wish we had more to report on Lima and had some time to explore, but we got to our airport hostel at 11pm and were out before 10am to catch our next flight. Just enough time to sample some Peruvian beer and send the all important emails back home to let everyone know we at least made it this far.
This was our first hostel experience, so we had nothing to compare it to! The owner speaks very good English and was extremely hospitable. The whole place is painted in garish yellows, oranges and reds. It overall seemed decently clean, except for the slight smell of pee in our room! The bed felt like sleeping on a piece of plywood, and my tired paranoia caused me to feel like I was being bitten by bugs all night (which I was not). I suppose that is what you get when you pay $30 a night in a highly touristy place.
Onto La Paz the next morning, via Santa Cruz (which, if you look at a map, means a lot of backtracking!) As soon as we got off the plane in La Paz, we felt ourselves short of breath from the effects of the altitude (La Paz is at ~12,000ft above sea level, or more than three times as high as Calgary). Customs was thankfully a breeze – all Pete had to say was “noventa dias?” and we had our visas extended for 90 days, which should hopefully be enough time to explore the country and learn Spanish.
The ride from the airport to downtown La Paz was incredible! One quick turn around a corner to descend into the city and a blanket of red clay buildings opened up throughout the valley and up the mountains on either side. Our taxi driver kindly pulled over so that we could take some pictures!
Then into downtown La Paz – where street vendors lined the narrow cobble stone streets, and our taxi driver weaved his way around the many vehicles and people crossing, constantly honking his horn to let people know he was coming (Pete LOVES that and is going to try to bring that custom back to North America). The poverty of the city is very obvious – yet it is so beautiful! No Starbucks, no Pizza Hut, nothing North American. This is what we came here for!
One other thing about La Paz – for a city of 3 million, it is awfully QUIET! Like, unbelievably so. Almost eerie.
Our second hostel was much nicer then the first – more brightly lit with big windows and the bed was much more comfortable. We had to walk up four flights of stairs to get to our room and were completely out of breath when we got there (damn altitude)! Although, I wish that was all the trouble the altitude caused for us…
I got sick to my stomach. And then again. And then one more, time – just for good measure! I felt like a big bag of poop, complete with an intense headache. Pete sat with his head in his hands, nervous that we would be returning home sooner then we thought! I crawled into bed at 6pm, and save for a few nauseating trips to the bathroom, I slept most of the night. We were both praying that it was just altitude sickness and not something worse. Thankfully, by morning, I was feeling better. We ate the breakfast that was provided and were back at the airport again for our final leg to Sucre.
Pete still thinks we’re high rollers, apparently. While I was agonizing in bed trying to sleep, he was downstairs on the internet booking our final flight. Not being able to navigate his way around the Spanish website very well – he accidentally booked us in first class for the 45 minute trip! Thankfully we figured out that it only cost us ~$50 more, but that still works out to one expensive glass of fresh squeezed pear juice and a newspaper we can’t read yet!
And now here we are in our final destination, Sucre! All nausea and headaches have passed, as Sucre is only at about 7,000 ft above sea level. We got here at 11am so weren’t able to check into our room right away, but the hotel owner sat with us instead and explained many of the sights and things to see in the area (Jackie is from Switzerland and speaks very good English, thankfully!) We set off exploring the downtown for the afternoon, stopped for some lunch and local brew (only about $1 a piece!), and then enrolled in our Spanish classes.
Monday morning at 8:30am we start with 4 hours of instruction every weekday. They made us take a Spanish test to first see what level we should start at. We both laughed our way through the test because I think of about the 100 questions, I probably got 2 right, Pete probably got 20 (nerd). Both Jackie and the Spanish instructors believe that in 2-3 weeks with constant instruction we should have a very good understanding of the language, and in 2-3 months, we’ll be fully fluent. Perfect!
We are unsure as to our accommodations for the long term as of yet. The place we are in now is quite nice and spacious, and comes with a shared kitchenette. Jackie will also make us a very good deal if we stay beyond 2 weeks (would be 100 Bolivianos per night, or ~$18 CAD). The option to stay with a family is a little more expensive (another $10 per night), so we might just stick with where we are if these first few days work out okay.
Our room in Sucre
Overall, despite the nauseatingly rough start, we are VERY excited!! This city is exactly what we were looking for, a very relaxed vibe and is considerably safer then a lot of other options we could have chosen. The only downside we can see so far is that WiFi is not really an option, anywhere! There is a place just down the street that does have Skype set up so we can arrange for calls or even just get on the computer when we need to. Our school also has internet access so if we are there everyday, we should be able to stay in pretty good contact!
Until next time…much love to you all!! xoxo
P.S. We are trying to upload pictures to Facebook for all to see, but it is painfully slow. Will do it as soon as we have a faster internet connection, and then post the link here!