Long time since I posted anything. The intention is there not the time. Sometimes procrastination, sometimes fear. I might have lost my touch, I am a fake writer…then I remember..this is to share my thoughts and be grandiose enough to think people actually want to know. The thoughts were cooking and maturing. Ripening. There is a Hindi word for it पनपना.
I was coming to the end of my hospital runs, eighteen months in a hell where love and empathy are at the bottom of the list, and I needed to go somewhere to renew myself. I had two weeks paid leave (that I’d applied for months in advance), dreams of losing myself in a new adventure and finding the purpose of my existence again. I mean I know the purpose of my life but it requires reiteration from time to time. Especially when you are coming out of a black hole called hospital that has sucked your life blood and left you purely in survival mode existing day to day. I had just been to India (post about that later), I love Asia but it is not out of my comfort zone; Asia is home. I could have gone to Europe again but I am comfortable there too. The U.S does not interest me yet and anywhere in Africa is too far away.
I don’t know where and how South America came on my radar but the more I looked at it the more I liked the idea. The original plan was to do Chile only. Santiago is a direct thirteen hour flight from Auckland. However Chile is a vertical country and it was going to be either the North or the South.
So it had to be Bolivia, a square-ish country. That I did not speak Español or that Bolivia had/has the reputation of being dangerous did not deter me one bit. If I could survive Shanghai knowing only three sentences in Mandarin, then Bolivia was a cakewalk.
I read Lonely Planet and blogs about Bolivia. It is not an easy place to access. My travel agent Shane Lust (yes you need one to do these out of way places) and I went back and forth working around dates and flights. Even then he could not book the domestic flights in Bolivia. Amaszonas is the only airline that you can book from outside Bolivia. There is a government airline but it is unreliable. I spent many anxious moments trying to confirm flights and pay online. Then I phoned their call centre and the process was smooth after that.
My travel doctor not only gave me my yellow fever shot but also advised me on how to plan my itinerary. La Paz, the highest capital in the world, was where I should spend time at the end of the trip; I had to avoid altitude sickness. So it was going to be La Paz-Uyuni-Sucre-Rurrenabaque-La Paz.
It was winter in New Zealand and winter in Sud America. The temperature drops to 0° in Bolivia but it was going to be hot in the Amazon rain forest! I had to buy a new backpack because I’d given my old one to my niece who was going on a school trip to Japan. Buying a backpack is quite an exercise. There are many, many helpful articles from other wanderers/travellers. Since I had gone through that process once I knew what to get the second time. It was easier because I found a really cheap one at Kathmandu. Next on the list were woollen socks, a light merino jacket and other bits all from Macpac. The idea was to take 4 pairs of clothing such that I could wash and dry locally in laundromats. Layered winter clothing is essential, as any New Zealander will tell you. Then there is sunscreen, lip balm, a hat, gloves, beanie, scarves. All essential whether winter or summer. That I would not get clean water in Bolivia was a given but I worried about my environmental clutter buying bottled water. Until I discovered this beauty.
Simple, easy to use and carry. A life long investment for travellers like me. Of course I also took water purifying tablets and coffee filters to strain water.
For this trip I upgraded myself from hostels to airbnb accomodation. I also decided to forego my laptop and only connect with my phone.
One last thing, the most important thing. Travel insurance. Medical students getting ready to go overseas on their elective told me about World Nomads. Cheap, effective insurance. I even got myself air evacuation, just in case. Another thing, on par with insurance, was to register on safetravel.govt.nz a New Zealand Ministry Of Foreign Afairs and Trade initiative that not only offers travel advisory but are able to count Kiwi heads via local embassies and consulates in case of emergencies. They will come looking for you even if you are deep in the jungle. Because they know. After what happened at Bataclan in Paris I will register wherever I go, except Australia. I was all set to go wandering, again.