A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: holaguapas

Sucre, my home for a month

By the time I got to Sucre, Bolivia, I was well excited to just chill somewhere for a bit as I'd been running around like a chickenhead for two months. Natalie had informed me of how nice it was and one of the best and cheapest places to learn Spanish. It's a city that's very colonial, very Spanish looking and very white, all the buildings, fences, white. And I was SICK of nature (lol) but it defeated me in the end when my hostel group went to the 'Siete Cascadas' aka Seven Waterfalls on my last weekend. How nice is it that cascada means waterfall? It truly is a romantic language.

I arrived at 5am, Thursday the 31st of March, after catching an overnight bus from Uyuni. The bus smelled like off cheese and had a broken toilet that had a 'don't use' sign taped on the door. Even after I specifically asked approximately 3 times for a bus with a loo, as I was still kinda sick. In my next to nothing Spanish I vented to the kid who was letting people on the bus and wasn't hiding the fact that he couldn't have given two shits 'No banos?!' (pointing to the lady inside) 'Si banos!' NO BANOS? SI BANOS! Not to worry, he promised there would be a few stops so we could all get out and relieve ourselves in the middle of the night. Nek minut, I'm squatting next to a farting cholita on a roadside dumpheap in the dark. Aaaaah South America.

This very attractive Brazilian woman, my age, named Raquel, (lol) overheard me when I was complaining re no toilets and we made friends, she was so intense and hilarious but so sweet. She was also up in arms that there wasn't a working toilet on board 'WHAT?! WHY DO THEY LIE??' 'Are you travelling by yourself?' she asked, shocked, 'Isn't it dangerous?!' She said her and her husband were on the top floor of the bus and to let them know if I needed help with anything during the trip. So when we got in at the station, I asked to share a cab (Solo cab rides when it's dark creep me out) They agreed, and were already sharing with this Irish couple, so it was all 5 of us. WELL I don't think this cabdriver quite got the concept of what his job was. We'd all given him addresses of our respective hotels, but he still seemed to want to drop the Irish couple, the first to get off, at the wrong location, meanwhile the loco Brazilian couple are all intense and yelling at him in what sounded like PortuSpanish, he eventually spits us out in the central plaza of the city. Amazing. Meanwhile, we're all flustered, trying to look on the map, I trip over a jet black street dog, not seeing him, Me: 'FUCK?! WHAT THE FUCK?!' Thinking I was about to catch rabies if he bit me, turns out he was the most chill dog ever and would end up hanging out at my hostel a lot of the time, he was so pretty, I wanted to take him with me. This Dutch guy happened to be walking past on his way to work as a tour guide - 'Guys, do you need help?' He ended up walking me and the Brazilian couple a few blocks to my hostel, Kulturberlin, cuz he was staying there as well. I ended up seeing this guy about 3 weeks later, at my new home, the Beehive, and I was like 'Can you remember when you helped me and this crazy Brazilian couple find a hostel at 5 in the morning? He was like 'Oh my god, yes that was a few weeks ago, wasn't it?.' (You often run into the same people while backpacking because we're all either going up or down what they call the 'gringo trail') He was actually very cute, only 22 years old, and HAD THE EXACT SAME SPEAKING VOICE AS JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE (a lot of euros when they speak English sound American, probs cuz of all the movies) and also looked a liiiiiiittle bit like him, his name was Phillip, but of course I only ever called him Justin. I think he was pleased with this, and yes if I had common sense I would have made a move on him, but guys that are approx 10 years younger than me, just aren't my thing, not for now anyway, well look, never say never. Maybe when I'm 50 and I date a 40 year old. For an open minded person why am I so hung up on age? (Lol)

A few days of first being in Sucre, I move to the Beehive, pretty much my fave hostel ever, it had this hard to find mixture of a social community vibe, but not too party party and a bit chill, a great view of the mountains from the second floor patio, hammocks to chill in, attracted a late 20s crowd, the best breakfast of oats and fruits, and had cheap Spanish lessons on site. I did one week at this group spanish school, and then 2 weeks of lessons with an indeterminably aged Bolivian woman, Fabiola. She was very good and thorough, and had a very high status but very calm presence. You wouldn't wanna fuck with Fabiola, I could tell. 'MMmmmuuuyyyyy biiiiieeennnn' she would say to me in this low and smooth tone when I got something correct. Turns out Spanish is a wee bit harder than I thought, here's optimistic me saying, I'm gonna be fluent by the end of this trip! Apparently it takes 2 years to get a language, yowzers.

Of course this wouldn't be a post of mine if it didn't again mention something disgusting, but hey, I can't help it, if these things are gonna keep happening, I gotta keep talking about it.....
So one Friday night at say 3 am I woke up to this noise of someone spitting, post vom spitting specifically and this Irish voice saying 'go to the baaaathroom' repetitively. Long story short this American guy got home wasted, peed in the middle of the floor, and then spewed in the corner of the room. The entire dorm woke up, all ten of us, Joukje, who I'll talk about soon - was like, 'What the FuCk?!' she was worried he'd peed on her backpack (he hadn't luckily) I thought this was hilarious cuz she's normally so calm. This north American lass, Steph, dealt with it beautifully, she calmed everyone down, was very sweet to the drunk guy trying to see if he was OK, and even got him a bucket. Maeanwhile the rest of us were like 'Fuck this guy, get him out!'

The next morning when Mr Pees on the floor awoke, I could hear him frantically packing his bag and he hightailed it out of there, never to be seen again, he was clearly embarrassed, someone had also found his soiled jocks in the bathroom, but he DID buy the hostel two cheesecakes to apologise, one for the staff and one for the travellers, and a message through his friend that he would pay for anyones laundry if they needed. So he had impeccable manners, for a guy that pissed on the floor. Meanwhile, Steph his caretaker didn't get any cheesecake in the end, hilarious............Just last week on an overnight bus, this guy comes up to me, asking some questions while we were making a stop, I was like, I know you from somewhere! And then it clicked, it was him. He looked at me, puzzled, he didnt remember me, I quickly changed the subject as I didnt wanna embarrass him!

The list of nationalities I ran into whilst at the Beehive, and at any hostel for that matter: Dutch, Irish, English, French, Arrubian(?), North American, Canadian, Greek, Brazilian, Taiwanese, Kiwi, Danish, German, Swiss, Colombian, Spanish, it's like being at the bedhopping Olympics. And of course, a few Aussies thrown in for good measure. I was sitting in the courtyard one day having a good chortle to myself as this family of 4 Aussies arrived, Mum & Dad in their early 60's with their two daughters. It was a real novelty for me to listen in on the two oldies chatting away, sounding like Kath & Kel, made me miss home. 'Awwwrr loook, I can do moi tai chi in the morning on the patio' 'Oh look, oats and fruits or eggs for breakfast, gee that's noice'

I even took a wifey at the Beehive, Joukje from Holland and I've now got such a soft spot for this girl, she's a true chiller. We decided to buy food from the market and cook together for a whole week to save some dosh, we made this incredible vegan celery & green pepper risotto twice and both couldn't believe how good it turned out, no butter or white wine in it, just coconut oil, garlic, stock and less rice than I normally use. (If you want the recipe just holla)

My favourite time of the day there was breakfast, I would sit, eat and chat for an hour or two at the beginning of each day and unwind, so I was a bit bummed out when the Spanish lessons got booked in the morning and took over special breakfast time.

Joukje/Dutch wifey was volunteering at this baby care centre where all these cute as lil Bolivian señors and señoritas were at, I went along with her one day, and I changed a nappy for the first time in my life! And I grew up second eldest of six kids - go figure. It was fucking disgusting - the employee there was laughing at me as I was useless, I even got the kids feet in it. And they used actual fabric old school nappies, I remember Mum used to use them in the 90s lol, old Eils is a greenie. But what I was good at was loving them up. They were so CUTE and of course touched your heart cuz they were from tragic backgrounds, with a mum or dad that was unable to care for them, one of them was an orphan. I misted up several times and squeezed the crap out of as many as I could, got some oxytocin going on.

I left the hive a week ago once I'd felt I'd learned enough Spanish, to backtrack through Peru, to fly out of Lima to Bogota, Colombia, where I'm writing this now. I miss it already, and most of all, the bad bees from the hive, and of course Dutch wifey!

Posted by holaguapas 06:32 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Food poisoning russian roulette

Luckily for me, and unlike many women I know, food and fear do not go together. Except in South America, it´s food russian roulette. Sucre´s not too bad actually, I haven´t been sick here once yet, unlike La Paz. And the thing is, you can´t pinpoint it on anything because different strands of bacteria take different amounts of time to manifest. Was it the quesadilla that did it? Or the guacamole, which is, I read recently, falsely presumed as an innocent. A lotta people get sick from guac apparently.

So after a week of lying in bed, at the Wild Rover hostel in La Paz (the worst place to get it, with every early 20 something running rings around you and shotting tequila) with no energy, no appetite, having to crawl down from a tall bunk bed in the middle of the night to go to the loo, using your mobile phone as a torch so as to not wake your dorm mates, restless legs from severe natural electrolyte loss, I´m scared, literally shitless to eat anything.

But this is only when you´re feeling dodgy. Once better, you kind of forget what it felt like, kinda like the way women forget childbirth, and you´re ready to go out and EAT again! Oh the joy.

But I feel, better to go balls out and just eat without fear, and hey, at least I wasn´t that poor british girl that got the works on my salt flats tour. She had to regularly ask the jeep driver to pull over so she could vom and take a watery dump. MMmmmmmm travelling.

I miss Melbourne food so much. Particular shout outs to my local vegan haunts: Fina´s and Smith & Deli. I´m fantasizing about y´all the same way I do about Charlie Hunnam! <MMMmmmmmmmmm

Posted by holaguapas 13:57 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

My bro

I read a quote once that you can take certain people with you wherever you go. At the moment in South America, I sometimes have my younger brother Patrick with me, well in my heart and my mind. We´re 10 years apart in age, he´s 21 and myself, 31, and he´s still in Australia.

Around 5 years ago, when he was 16, he started spiralling downwards into depression, suicidal thoughts and social phobias. He´s still this way, separated from the world, living with my parents, who are his only company, plus his 5 sisters, myself included. He´s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but then had that diagnosis taken away, had numerous mental health rehabilition sessions at hospitals throughout the years, tried many pills, but he usually takes himself off them before they take effect, much to my parents concern. He´s even had electrowave therapy or whatever the hell you call it, around 2 years ago now, which made me feel sick when I found out he was getting it done, I had that sad and scary image in my head, American Horror Story 1950´s style, of him being strapped down in a bed with violent electric currents shooting through his body. But it´s not like that at all, since he had it done I´ve talked to people about it, and a lot of them have relatives that have received the treatment and its pretty gentle and safe in comparison to the nightmarish situations your mind concocts.

To add insult to injury, he was diagnosed with diabetes type 1 at age 19, which is suspiciously late to be diagnosed, so now the poor little bugger has to face a life of injecting insulin every few hours. This was the last thing he needed.

My parents are beside themselves with worry, but my Mum has the most beautiful faith in God, (I´m envious of it in a way) and she says she leans on her a lot. We have every faith and hope that he´ll get better. In my mind, he will. I have to believe he will. I have to admit I don´t understand his depression one little bit. Before he got sick, he was the most popular kid in school, full of life, charm, humour, good looks. All the boys wanted to be him, or at least be his friend, and all the girls had crushes. He´s still gorgeous to this day and my sisters and I laugh that certain girls (family friends, his only connection to the outside world) still are attracted to him, even with his ´depressed hair´ the only way to explain it is ´Heath Ledger goes dark and doesn´t wash for a while´Him and I have a very similar sense of humour, humours a big one in our family, and that´s still my biggest connection with him. We watched on repeat the wise wizard scene from this stupid movie ´Your Highness´ approximately 20 times, nearly wetting ourselves with laughter. He´s hilarious, deadly funny. He´d do stand up comedy far better than I ever could. He´s also becoming one of the most idealistic little turds you´ll ever meet, holed away in his room watching activist videos on what´s unfair and fucked up in the world, the establishment, corporations, conspiracy, and then ways to enhance the world, refugee policy, permaculture, veganism, Bills Hicks and George Carlin stand up videos. Any time you´re sitting down not doing anything, he´ll come up with his laptop and force you to watch a video on how evil Nestle are and how they´re trying to privatise water. I agree with everything he shows me. Pretty much all of the family share his views, and most of my sisters are turning/have turned LOLZ into hippies. I can´t help but be proud of the people that they are, and to this day I crave their company and humour, their lightness. Dey´re my best mates!

So it´s in South America that I´m taking Padsy boy with me. I imagine his heart bleeding on the pavement every time he sees a stray dog, he would adopt so many I reckon, and become the pied piper of stray doggies, not caring about the rabies risk. I can just see him getting so worked up and UPSET at the poverty. I can see him hugging trees on hiking tours. I just want him to get better so bad, my family and I say, that once he´s better, he´ll be a saint. Having experienced the depths of depression, he´ll be so compassionate and use that charm and effervescence to afflict change in ways that I sometimes dare to dream. His pretty power! I used to shut it out, avoid it. But now I´m open about my sadness that this has happened to him, and I´m starting to pray. Will you pray with me?

Please let Patrick find his right as a human being, the right to wellness and to participate in the world. I´ll see you Pads, when you get here, I´ve saved a seat for you at brunch. Xoxo

Posted by holaguapas 13:54 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Hurricane Natalie

Roughly a month and a half ago when I was still in New York, my good friend Natalie, and so much a good friend of my family that she´s practically included in it, asked me about my travel adventures. I didn´t really have anything juicy for her. I´d been laying low, eating out at vegan restaurants (the highlight of my days - LOLZ) and just recently looking around for rental properties, as I was planning to live and work there for 6 months. Something didn´t feel right though, there was no passion. The whole thing felt like a luke warm rehash of 6 years ago when I was doing the same househunt game in London, only I was a lot more scared and wet behind the ears back then (I hadn´t even rented a house in Australia, my home country, let alone big ol´London, and by myself to boot, I had one friend, Matthew, who gave me a rough estimate of the ballpark rent I should be paying per month) I was so scared during that time that I would burst out in tears whilst scrolling through gumtree, but I was also a lot more EXCITED and motivated, and I was planning to stay for 2 years. Why was I not feeling this way about New York? The answers came to me as soon as Natalie asked me from South America, where she was at the time "Dude, tell me some funny stories" that I realised I kinda wanted to jump ship and meet up with her. I blurted this out, I wasn´t even consciously aware that I felt this way, and I was testing her because some months earlier she´d said she wanted to travel alone, and face the loneliness, but ultimately the sense of achievement of loving being by yourself and realising that there are no strangers, just friends you haven´t met yet. "Katie you should blow all your cash and come and meet up with me in South America!" After 2 days of contemplation and consulting with my family, "I´d go where the fun is Kate" said Dad. (lol) You know what, Dad´s can be SO RIGHT. I felt a slight twang of ¨Katie are you sure you wanna be doing this, I mean you´ve been planning the states for a whole year now, quit your job and moved out of your home" But the thing was, it wasn´t actually about the states, it was just to take a hiatus from my life, and fulfill a soul journey that I´d started just over 2 years ago when I turned 29. I´d gotten my first national commercial and things on that front were going really well, but I fell into a depression that set off a series of self finding efforts. I know this is sounding very eat pray love, but we all need to do this I think. My heart and mind needed some massaging, some good ol fashioned pleasure, and after working soul sucking day jobs just to support my ambition for acting and stand up comedy, switching off my emotions and behaving like a robot just to get by, enduring hellish houseshare situations, I needed an out, I needed to change something. But I didn´t really know what was wrong. Some of it is far too personal to get into here, but looking back I think a lot of the numbness and despondency was loneliness. I mean I had a lot of friends, but I was living alone in this delapidated and creepy St Kilda east house that I could only access from the back door HAH, and working only 2 days a week (I missed being part of a team) I was doing this one year government programme thing to start my own ¨acting & stand up business¨(lolz, only in Australia) and that gave me money.

So I quit stand up for a while, and took a much needed break, to take a step back from my life and look at it from afar and try and work out why I was feeling sad, and with a panic disorder to boot, which manifested after exhaustion of doing 22 or 24 or something shows, 6 nights a week, at the 2014 Melbourne Comedy Festival

Soon after my first panic attack on a tram, 2 days after my last festival show (lol) which at the time, I was convinced I was having a heart attack, and it came on whilst listening to an ENYA song no less, ah mi, the irony, I targeted my two problem areas, love life, or severe lack of it, and career. A psychologist really helped with the former. The career thing I´m still working out. But this time I´m not trying to force the answer out of myself, I´m just putting the question out there to the universe, and seeing what comes out at me. Do I still wanna do this whole acting and comedy thing? Watch this space I guess.

SO, back to Natalie, how would you explain her? She´s just turned 26 and works as a special needs teacher in Australia, with her first years spent teaching in London (she´s attempting to get back there as she fell in love with the school, and ´her boys´) My parents tell the story of the first time they met her, when she visited our house during a high school play date with my younger sister Grace, which is how we met her. It was bed time, Mum and Dad were laying in their bed reading, Natalie jumped in between them, all of 13 years old, declaring "Let´s share our deepest darkest secrets!" Dad retells this story with his inner monologue "Who IS this girl?" I call her the golden child, because he absolutely loves her.

I think most people still think this to themselves when they meet Natalie, and this was one of the reasons of the appeal of dropping NY for South America. Natalie is just such a ball of silliness, cheekiness and fun. She´s one of my favourite people to hang out with. Life´s never boring with her. Sometimes it´s, well, always embarrassing (that is if I were to actually give a shit) and full of mischief. Every day is April fools day for Natty, you have to constantly be on your guard. And whatever you do, do NOT leave your facebook logged in around her. She has a real skill for drafting realistic profile status updates on your behalf. Her method is to make it not too outlandish, so it´s realistic, but with just enough lameness to be peculiarly humiliating. Something along the lines of "I´m so happy I´m travelling South America, I´m finding myself in each of the shining and smiling children´s faces on every street corner. The sky´s the limit!" Something lame like that.

One night is a particular highlight in Peru, we were on a tour of Machu Picchu with approximately 20 other gringos. (What we all call whities over here) both of us had a Spanish 'insult off' ie learning vile sentences from the Spanish speakers on our tour and then interrupting peoples meals at the dinner table. We did it wedding speech/toast style, clinking our glasses 'Excuse me everyone - but I'd just like to say (in Spanish) ´mi amiga tiene un coño enorme!´ which roughly translates to ´my friend has a baggy pussy!" (That one was proudly mine) Straight away, Natalie would bounce back with: ´My friend is a prostitute!´ Cue horrified looks and giggles. This went back and forth for approximately half an hour by the way, each insult a different one. I know this sounds incredibly immature, I´m 31 years old, but then again, who cares? It was fun. Natalie would have kept this going for the rest of the time we had together, so I had to ask her the next day to stop it, as it was exhausting me being on my guard. She reluctantly agreed, but seemed very disappointed.

We were hanging out with these two lovely early twenties London girls, Thea and Fran, they had these sexy posh british queens english accents, yet were still down to earth and with a sense of fun. Natalie had met them on a salt flats tour in Bolivia a few weeks earlier and they continued to travel with her for a while. Well, on our last night, just before we were to get up in a few hours to climb Machu Picchu we were at another restaurant (always at restaurants, it´s the best chance of public humiliation) we had this particularly cheeky and kind of skeazy Peruvian waiter, but not in too much of a creepy way, he was teddy bear like. Well, at the end, when we were sorting our bill, Natalie grabbed his hand, LIMP hand mind you, he didn´t really put up a fight, the girls noticed, and rubbed it all over Thea´s er......vulnerable? parts. Thea went all weak and unable to breathe, kind of like when you´re being tickled, finding it hysterically funny but also painful.

This is Natalie. She´s also the owner of one of the biggest hearts in the world, is beyond generous, and lives for her friends and family. It´s been interesting watching her grow from a turdy teen to the affectionate and, well, erm mature? person she is now.

Another highlight is when she accused me of masturbating in front of the entire tour group, to explain my absence of the medicinal plant lesson that very afternoon, but I couldn´t help but laugh! (I was actually sound asleep I´d like to add, THAT´S why I missed it)


Posted by holaguapas 14:16 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

South American miming

So I'm about to head to Sucre and bunker down and learn ze español. I'm really frothing for this because I'm one month into South America, I feel like a spoiled western gringo talking like a slow Spanish 3 year old, (senior cholitas with braided pigtails and bowler hats, (as it seems like only 50+ year old ladies wear these hats, I've coined them the ¨menopause¨ hat) at fruit stalls are particularly peeved with me, when I ask them to show me with their hands how much that half a watermelon costs) plus it's been on my mental bucket list since one of my best and gorgeous friends, Melinda, said she wanted to learn it some years ago, and I thought, 'ME TOO!'. I admit, it´s mainly due to the impressing people factor. I'm a shameless showpony. I can´t wait to casually unleash my fluency or lack of in Melbourne someday, when I run into a native Spanish speaker. "Wow Katie, you speak Spanish?!¨Okay, okay, I admit, it´s not just for the showing off, I´m genuinely interested in the language and I´m craving the stimulation. I´ll miss the miming though - why just today I was at a La Paz chemist, animatedly showing a la Jim Carrey style to the poker faced and apparently unimpressed pharmacist chica that I HAD FOOD POISONING LAST NIGHT AND NEED SOME DEHYDRATION DIAHHROEA CRYSTALS. Yep, just as you can imagine, hand gestures demonstrating all the good bits.

Moving swiftly on! So I'm about to polish off 3 nights of partying at the infamous 'Wild Rover' hostel in La Paz, Bolivia, (this place is known for it´s party culture, ie free shots poured straight into the mouths of backpackers, stripteasing/dancing on the bar, why, just last night I was awoken by a 23 year old Canadian vomming into the hostel room bin - bless) and next Sucre - be a nerdy devotee to español, study it for a few hours a day for couple of weeks. This is so good, I´M almost jealous of me!

Posted by holaguapas 14:18 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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