Wednesday, May 25, 2016

No jokes here: Bolivia is legit!

Welcome back! I apologize for staying away for so long, I've been a busy man. Basically every weekend I do something that would be the coolest thing most people ever do in their lives (not to brag or anything). In the last few weeks I've done the following:
  • Day trip to Uruguay
  • Biked Death Road
  • Hiked through a river to a waterfall in the Bolivian jungle
  • Spent a day on the Salt Flats
  • Road an ATV through Sun and Moon valley

Yeah, I know....theres a lot to talk about. But lets start with where I am now, La Paz, Bolivia. 

This place has been a huge surprise, in a good way. The Remote Year staff pushed hard to lower our expectations talking about how it was one of the poorest countries in South America, how it was dangerous and we should never walk by ourselves, and how it had crumbling infrastructure. I guess I also just had a negative impression of the country as the only context in which I would ever hear/think about Bolivia would be as a third world country. Seriously, do you know a single person who has been to Boliva? The answer is know me. But outside of me, the answer is no. So I am hear to tell you that you need to go to Bolivia. This is seriously one of my favorite places I've ever been. If you like doing outdoorsy stuff, then you need to come here.

Here are some random pictures of Bolivia:

La Paz has cable cars

You missed the back of my head didn't you?

Cholita Wrestling (more on this below)

No caption needed here

Turns out they love meat here as well (that's cow heart)

Why does their flag have the same colors as the Jamaican flag? We'll probably never know


Just your neighborhood drag queens

Moon Valley

Wow, thats some good stuff. Let's get to my observations on this place...

  • They love power lines. I feel like if something goes wrong on a line, they just add a new one instead of fixing it
They love their power lines here

  • I don't understand why they built a city here. The center of La Paz is in a valley and the city continues up all the mountains around it. Every street is either up hill or down hill. It's ridiculous to walk or drive around this place. I've had a taxi ride of just switchback up a mountain for 30 min. They did recently build cable cars that take you all around the city which is helpful and they even have different cable car line/routes.
  • Running is impossible here. Between the altitude of ~13,000 feet and half the streets running up hill, I have to stop every minute or so. Just generally watch out for altitude sickness at first when you visit.
  • You shouldn't drink the water....or eat the food. Actually, I've been totally fine, but Bolivia has made a number of people in the group its bitch this month.
  • They def don't have environmental regulation on their cars. I'm constantly overwhelmed by the smell of car exhaust.
  • The indigenous women here wear some awesome clothing. They are called Cholitas and I want their hats.
Sweet hat brah

I also feel obligated to have a Q&A section here b/c some people actually wrote to ask questions.....

Q.  Michael Lauenger writes: "do any of your remote year colleagues have jobs in sales? What types of jobs do people have? Mostly programmers? Just curious and also wanted to make the blog..."

A. Thanks for writing in Michael, it's always good to hear from an avid reader. And you made the blog. You are now a star. And to answer your question, I don't think we have any sales people. We really have a wide variety of jobs overall. Before coming, I figured everyone would be a software engineer, but there's actually only a small handful of them and most people on the trip fall under the creative bucket. You can find a full breakdown of the types of jobs people have in my group in this Remote Year blog post. 

Q. Ethan Lippman writes: "Matt, [in an earlier post], you mention you only packed one button down shirt. How did you choose which one? Which one did you choose?

A. Thanks Ethan, I get this question a lot. I chose the one I thought I looked best in. It's black.

Q. Is that really Bolivia on the map you posted above?

A. Wow, that's really impressive that you were able to write in this question about the post before it was even published. But you are correct, it was not Bolivia. That was Paraguay...duh. Start learning about Bolivia people. Here's Bolivia:

Actual Bolivia

So remember those nice Cholita women I just wrote about 1 min ago? Well apparently there is also a tradition of them wrestling. Yeah like middle to late aged women getting in the ring and throwing down.

The Hulk Hogan of Bolivia

So, like, thats a thing.

Moving I mentioned before, I took a day trip to Uruguay. Here's prob what you know about Uruguay:

Colonia, Uruguay is only about a one hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires, so I wanted to pop over quickly to get the new stamp on my Passport. That's really about all I can say about that trip. It was a tiny tourist town with nothing remarkable about it and I took no pictures. So, yeah, Uruguay.

On the extreme opposite end of the awesomeness spectrum, the first weekend in Bolivia, I biked something call Death Road. Why is it called Death Road? Cause lots of people die on it. Its the most dangerous road in the world. Well, actually somewhat recently they built another road through the mountains for cars, and this one is mainly used to just bike on, so now only a few people die on it each year. But, you are still definitely riding on the edge of a huge cliff the whole time.

The cliff from which you fall and die on death road

Yeah you could def die. 

I'm not sure if it was the view or the adrenaline or what, but this became my favorite day so far of Remote Year. 

If things weren't already scary enough, they put crosses along the road to mark where people have died in the past.
Marking someone's this a tasteless photo?

Overall, I think I just looked like a total badass

My new tinder profile pic

You're a tough guy, huh?

We're super badasses

Oh and one girl from the group broke her collar bone and another broke her face.

That night we stayed at this ridiculous hotel on top of a mountain.

Ridiculous hotel on top of a mountain

And the next day we spent zip lining, rafting and hiking through a river in the Bolivian Jungle to reach a waterfall. Typical Sunday.

Thats deep stuff

Not my most flattering photo, so I made it really small

Let's see, whats up next. Oh yeah, I went to the Salt Flats as well. Now I've been to some pretty amazing places before; Petra in Jordan, Iceland, Zion national park, and the Denny's at 14th & A in NYC, but the Salt Flats was pretty epic. I seriously don't even know where to begin, but I'll start here.

No comment.

So first we got picked up at 3:30AM for a sunrise tour. They gave us boots and took us out to an area that has standing water the whole year. It was probably the most impressive stargazing I've ever seen and if that wasn't cool enough the stars were reflecting off the water. We only had iPhone cameras so we couldn't really capture this, but once the sun came up, shit got ridiculous.

The rest of the day consisted of a tour of the area starting with a train graveyard where trains go to die....I saw Tommy the Tank in there.

Couldn't even lift it with my amazing form

Next we went out on the Salt Flats. Now I don't normally like to do cliche things, except when I do. And this was one of the cases where I did. I took the standard perspective photos. But c'mon, they're pretty sweet.

We ate lunch at the salt hotel. The setting was nice, but the food could have used something.....maybe pepper? No, something else. Can't think of it right now.

In any event, the entire building was made out of salt. Yes everything you see below is made out of salt (except the people).

There's also an island in the middle of all this full of fun cacti. The Salt Flats used to be a lake, so that's why an island makes sense.

And then we took lots more reflective shots at sunset

Human centipede jokes here

Well that was amacin.

That was all a one day trip. So since I still had Sunday free, I had to spend my time doing something. I decided to go with a 5 hour ATV tour through several ridiculous valleys and up a mountain.

That's it. Thats everything I want to talk about. 

So, in summary. Go to Boliva. 

And here's a sweet video from the Salt Flats (which way is up?):