I am almost a month late to post about my New Year's vacation to Iquique, Chile, but better late than never.
We left early the morning of the 27th, if I remember correctly, for an all-day drive across the gorgeous Bolivian countryside. The travel until Chile was probably the most amazing part of the entire trip for me. Of course, paved roads are nearly nonexistent for a trip like that, and Jorgito and Viviana were taking that the hardest. Drinking a big glass of strawberry milk before a day of rapidly swinging your body around sharp curves and being shaken to the point of headache due to bumps in the road is not exactly the smartest thing to do. Jorgito didn't know any better, and consequently, we stopped constantly throughout the morning for Jorgito to--well, I don't think I need to tell you what he had to do. Somehow, I did not feel sick even once. And I downed a big glass of strawberry milk as well. The scenery was simply too stunning to waste time on feeling sick. Sadly, I have zero photos of the scenery. Had we stopped every time I wanted to take fotos, we would have been traveling for over a week.
As we left Sucre, we spent a good hour and a half driving down through the mountains. After the descent, we remained at a somewhat-constant altitude until we met the bridge between Cochabamba and Chuquisaca--two of Bolivia's nine departments. From there we took an unpaved, dirt road for a good 1.5 hours throught the lower and warmer parts of Bolivia. There was one point on that leg of the journey in which I became teary-eyed. Jorge definitely likes to drive fast, and I was fine with that until we were swerving around the curve of a one-lane road atop a very steep and high cliff. At that point I just decided to loosen up and enjoy the ride. It was literally off-roading. Insane. I think I actually got some good exercise on that part from clenching my muscles and leaning left and right. It was interesting and fun. After that part of the trip, we started climbing back up through more mountains. These mountains were different. Much wetter, grander, and more impressive. When we reached the top of those mountains it was drizzling. The extensive view was just incredible. I was literally just flabbergasted(that is a great word). All you could see were mountain-tops until the haze erased them in the distance. And once again we made a descent from those mountains to our destination: The city of Cochabamba. During that descent we passed some tiny colonial town that was just right out of a movie. Well, I mean that quite literally. Jorge told me that some movie was actually made about this town. It was a pretty neat place. We finished the descent at last and pulled into Cochabamba around 4:00ish. Cochabamba had a very United States-ish feeling to it. A big and wealthy city...with a three-story shopping mall! Oh yeah, and a Burger King. That was the friendliest Burger King I have ever been to in my entire life. I found it strange that the city wasc completely absent of any signs of the english language. Sucre is full of English, yet it seems so incredibly South American. Weird. Anyway, we stayed the night in my Uncle's apartment and headed out early the next day to make it to Chile at about 8:30 at night. That drive was equally amazing, but I much prefer the Bolivian landscape. Enough of that waste of a paragraph, and onto better things of which I have photographic evidence.
We traveled in a group of 4 vehicles, and all the ladies got dropped off at the local supermarket. It was Chile's version Super WalMart. Exactly like WalMart. So we all run around like chickens with our heads cut off as the store is closing while the men go to confirm hotels and apartments and do all that manly stuff. For some reason, that task required 3 hours. When the ladies and children finally made it out of the supermarket, we ended up sitting on the curb for a good 2 hours. Of course, our cellphones don't work in Chile, so there was no way to call the men and scream at them like any good wife would do. So we relaxed and watched the boys race shopping carts around the vacant parking lot and smash 'cucharachas.' Cucharacha means cockroach. That was thrilling and amusing. At long last the menfolk arrived and we dragged ourselves to the car only to wait another hour in front of the hotel for reasons I will never understand. Somewhere in there I found a bed and fell asleep. La dee da.
We reconvened later the next morning in a little beachside café. It was perfect timing because all the paragliders were ending their flights and landing directly in front of us on the beach. Immediately I knew I wanted to do it, and a family friend was thinking just the same thing. At that, we had a nice little chat with the instructors and packed up the next morning for a little thrill. All the young adults on the trip participated and three of the fathers. I can only say that it was pretty awesome, and I am glad I did it. The trip was promised to last 30 minutes, but I only got 10 or 15 minutes. That was enough for me. Surprisingly, I was not completely terrified. I still have no idea why I so automatically wanted to do such a thing. Seems like that should be scarier than any rollercoaster or Disney World's Tower of Terror, but at the time it didn't seem so. I simply had the urge to do it, and so I did it. After running off a cliff, I just sort of floated. I literally felt like a feather. Like, the flight is not at all fast or jerky. You just sort of gently drop and then lurch right back up a bit. Very interesting sensation. That was pretty cool, and I got hit on by all the other paragliders on my beach upon landing. My instructor was súper grouchy because I didn't understand him at all. Whatever. One experience down, a million more to go.
I suppose the next big eventful moment after that was New Years' Eve. That was interesting. My parents told me I was free to drink as I please, so I did just that. Apparently I pleased four very strong whisky's with Coke, and one fruity guayaba beverage. Again, this was permitted by my family here and I am of age in Bolivia, so there is no reason to be alarmed and think I am some stereotypical devious 19-year-old. So the drink's just started getting stronger throughout the evening as my friends mixed them for me, and that evidently showed in my dancing technique. I don't dance. But apparently I do if I have whisky in my system. I finally got a little dizzy and stepped outside for a bit. It all went downhill from there. I randomly burst into tears and kept saying, "Vivi's gonna kill me!" in Spanish...and English. I don't know why I did this, as my parents had already told me I could drink on this one occasion. Each time my friends convinced me everything would be fine, I stopped crying and burst into hysterical laughter. I went back and forth between laughing and crying hysterically for a good hour or so. Eventually, Jorge arrived at the scene, which only made things worse. I was an absolute mess. Balling. I could not look him in the face as he laughed at me with everyone else. Somehow he convinced me to sit upstairs with the adults, and I just continued sobbing there while staring off into the pitch black ocean. That was great. And of course my friends had to come check on me, at which point I started crying harder and snotting excessively. Again. That was great. I get some cute Bolivian boy giving me supportive hugs and I am drunkish and snotting on the sleeve of his shirt. How romantic. So, that was an experience that I am glad I experienced. One time in my life. I must say that only convinced me of my previous dislike of alcohol, which is why I am happy for the experience. I can understand if someone wants to feel that drunken sensation on occasion and in the right setting. I cannot, however, understand casual drinking. I don't know. That stuff tastes horrible. I don't see myself ever opening a beer for pure enjoyment, but I never imagined myself drinking underage on New Years' Eve on the coast of Chile either. I can wait until the age of 21. Gladly.
After that experience came the beach. Actually, the infamous Morning After came first, but it wasn't so infamous for me. I slept like a rock, showered at 10:00 A.M., and then slept like a rock again until 4:00. It was a pretty wonderful Morning After for me. Anyway, the beach. After a day wasted in bed, we finally made it to the beach. I was in heaven. The water was unbelievably cold, but the temperature warm and comfortable. I spent a fair amount of time helping the boys bury Ale in the sand. That proved to be some great exercise.
The day after that we did MORE shopping. My mother likes shopping. She loves it. So much that she literally spent the ENTIRE day shopping. From 9:00 in the morning until at least 9:00 at night. This is not sarcasm. Fabiolah, one of the family friends, is like an infectious disease. You get her in the right store with Viviana, and they are different women. Like, vicious. I felt like I was watching Mean Girls. They don't worry about the kids. They don't think about the fact that everyone else might want to eat until it is 2:30 in the afternoon. They just shop. And they went back to one store at least five times during the trip. They will see something one day and hate it, but when they come back the next day they just adore it. I don't get it. Never will. But they like to spend their hard-earned money, so have at it. Thank goodness they brought the nanny's along. They just dumped the kids off at the beach with the nannies every day. I guess everyone was content.
Thank our good Lord Jesus that the men were sick of shopping by the next day. I headed to the beach with the dudes and children again. This was a different beach, and it was packed with people. All the cool surfer dudes made their way out really really far in the water, so I decided to check it out. Little curious blondie with the big fish. That was almost as cool as paragliding. Once you swim out so far, you get past where the waves break. So this huge swell just kind of lifts you up and passes right under you. After it carries you so far, it leaves you behind and crashes into shore. Then, as it comes back out to sea, that undercurrent kind of sucks you back out to sea with it, but not so far that it scares the daylights out of you. By then, the next big swell has come for you and starts the whole cycle over again. So it was actually quite relaxing. If you just kind of let the water deal with you instead of fighting it, everything works out. Super cool. After that day at the beach, I remember being very very cranky. Jorge is the man. He is the head of the house. He gets the last of the food and beverage at the dinner table. He decides where we go on vacay. He decides what we do on vacay. He is The Man. You listen to The Man. So after I spent a day in the water and left the beach with sand crammed in all kinds of places, we spent the rest of the evening sitting in a friend's apartment. He was quite comfortable as he had not gotten wet and was not covered in sand. I was just a little irritated at having to sit in a cold hotel room covered in sand while all the men sat there drinking and trying to speak to me in English. Not a fun evening. At this point on the trip everyone started to get annoyed by everyone else. It was kind of funny actually.
I don't remember the next thing after that, which means it must have been more shopping. Probably at the Zofri Shopping Center. This was the weirdes mall of my life. It was just a bunch of tiny square rooms packed with random things. I swear every other store offered all those products that you see on infomercials. And every fourth store was selling televisions, clothes washers, and DVD players. Very strange place. We went there three times on the trip and literally just walked around looking at the same stores. We just walked. And looked. At infomercial stuff. Oh, and Fabiola nearly convinced her husband to buy her an obscenely expensive watch. Vivi and Fabi probably spent 45 minutes at that little watch stand until I gave up and sat in the food plaza sipping a mango juice with milk. They both walked away with watches.
Somewhere in there we decided to stay a couple days extra to see the Dakar Car Rally that would be passing through Iquique. For some reason, we waited until the day before we were supposed to pack up and leave to find a hotel room. Logic was absent there. We spend the better portion of the day driving all over town in search of a room. Actually, more of that time was spent looking for parking spots. After Vivi got fed up with that, she called a cab to take Jorgito and me for a bite to eat...at the mall, naturally. So we got there in search of food, but somehow Vivi found nourishment in more shopping. For one and one-half hourse. I finally just headed for the food court after I decided Jorgito was about ready to throw a fit in the middle of the store. Another mango smoothie left me quite content. Once Jorge found a room, he picked us up and we toted all the luggage(and new purchases) to the new hotel. Jorge, like any unsatisfied provider, was very grouchy. The hotel didn't seem to be up to his standards. After hitting his head on the corner of the television for the second time and cursing and throwing his glasses across the room, I laughed. Nearly hysterically, but I 'maintained my composure.' That was just the breaking point for Vivi, Jorgito, and me. We know how to laugh. That made us realize how tense we all were, and from then on we just decided to laugh...when Jorge's eyes were in the other direction, of course.
After that long day, we headed out early the next morning for the car rally. I had been pretty excited, and it did turn out to be a pretty cool event. We failed to find the road to the perfect spot, and decided to do a little more off-roading across the sand dunes. Not a good idea if you don't have 4WD. Julio's Ford thingymajigger got stuck almost as soon as we hit sand, but like any car-enthusiast/man, he just left it behind and literally walked across the desert as we took the young boys ahead in our vehicle. We found a real road eventually. As we settled in along the track, we waited 3 hours until the first bike came roaring over the hill/dune. It was pretty cool as a helicopter literally chased it along the track and whizzed right by us. Eventually, the first quad came. Then the first car came. Then, just as we were leaving, a massive truck came. Really cool, but standing in the desert sun from 10:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. is not good for those of pale complexions. Two applications of sunscreen is not enough. I was fried. Duh. Funny though, it really didn't hurt too much. Jorge, who absolutely refused to touch sunscreen, was crying like a baby the next day. Well, that night actually. I thought Vivi was going to slap him. He couldn't stop talking about how bad he hurt for the next 4 days. After a day in the desert with only Doritos and a one small water per person, Vivi and I took the boys to a nearby restaurant while the men dealt with the vehicle. Finally we made it to dinner and our beds.
That vacation came to an end the next morning as we headed out for an all-day drive home. No stopping. I say that it came to an end that morning because everyone was silent. There was no loving family interaction. Just a sleeping Vivi, a very grouchy little brother, a concentrated and exhausted driver, and a strange new Hayley. I say, "a strange new Hayley," because I had changed a lot on that trip. I changed without knowing it. The trip proved to be really great for family bonding. Being packed in tight quarters for over a week will do that to people. I left that trip feeling closer to my Bolivian family and having experienced a few very different things I would normally never have done. I changed a lot. Now I am back in Sucre doing all kinds of goofy things. You shall hear about such things in the next blog. I promise you I will post that blog before January's end. I promise. And this blog surely does not do the trip justice. There is just so much to write. My favorite part really was the drive to Iquique. If I could return to Bolivia in ten years, I would do so with a great guy, a great camera, and a motorcycle. I would take that same drive, but at a much slower pace. I could take a year of fotos on that one trip. Bolivian nature is something almighty. I understand why so many here believe in the Pachamama(Mother Earth).
Love you all! Can you believe I only have just under 4 months left once February 8th rolls around? I can't believe how time flies.
And, yes, that first picture is of me in the air while paragliding. And, yes, that second picture is of my cute Bolivian amigo. He probably threw his shirt out after that evening. I wouldn't blame him. What a trip.