April 06, 2005

Globetrotters Passing Through Bolivia

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In the last few weeks I've been reading a lot of blogs from people who choose to just put their lives on hold at home and travel the world. I guess there is a part of me (I guess of everyone) that would like to do something like that. To be brave, drop everything you're doing, pack up all your belongings and start down the road.

It started by reading Travelhead. This guy has done IT! If you will. He had his own company (which surely help a lot to realize this dream), he had a house, he had three cars and shall we say, he was as settled as anyone would be. Suddenly, he finds himself stuck in the middle of rush-hour in one of the most congested highways in the US, the beltway or RT 495 in Washington, DC. Oh, I know this road all too well. That is one of the reasons I find myself living in Germany too. But, that's besides the point. But Travelhead says:

Sitting in traffic on 495, the Washington DC beltway. At the point where my car is sitting at a total standstill it is 5 lanes wide, and those are just the lanes headed in my direction. I look at the 2 lanes to my right, and the 2 lanes to my left, and realize that I don't belong here. I look at these people and it scares me to know that although I'm not really moving, I am racing towards being right where they are. This continual cycle of: buy, get debt, work, pay, buy, get debt, work, pay. Does anyone dream of having this as a life when they were a kid? I think of that scene in the Matrix where all the humans are cultivated for energy. Then I imagine myself being Neo, and breaking out. I've decided its time to go.

And go he did. He left on a two and a half year trip around the world. His travels took him all the way down to Bolivia where he had a lot of fun and lots of interesting experiences. One of the most interesting parts of his blog though, I thought, it was when he describes his pre-travel preparations. The process of selling his house, getting rid of his cars and just planning his trip.

Now, after reading that story, I felt curious and did a little search. That was when I found Open Veins. Here is a guy who is also traveling the world and spending some time in Bolivia. About his blog's title, he says:

I can't promise that it will remain the title, but I have decided for now to call this blog "Open veins" after reading Eduardo Galeano's classic book "Open veins of Latin America: Five centuries of the pillage of a continent."

In the book, he traces how the Spanish conquistadores set up a pattern of political and economic relationships that has seen vast wealth extracted from Latin America to benefit firstly European empires and later multinational companies.

Bolivia seems one of the most potent examples of this. Its silver mine in Potosi, discovered by the conquistadores in the 16th century, was at the heart of Spain's wealth and fuelled Europe's economic rise.

More than four centuries later, new veins of wealth are being opened up in Bolivia, this time by foreign multinational companies.

The first is gas, an explosive substance not just for its flammability but also its power to corrupt nations and fuel conflicts. The second is water, the essence of life but a substance that increasingly is being turned into a commodity for sale.

They are today's gold and silver, the lustrous substances that, like the gold in hands of the conquistadores, blind the greedy and rob the poor.

Nick, writes about his interesting adventures in Bolivia and also shares his views on what is going on in the country at the moment.

The last blog I found was South America-Bolivia. This guy's blog is also entertaining. He's got lots of pictures and stories about his adventures in Bolivia. In one of his posts he says:

Absynthe, you little green devil you. I've found you once again, or have you found me?

Yup, I've really done it. I found a ridiculously awesome bar called SALFARI here that brews their own absynthe, or absinthe, or whatever. It's called ajenjo here. Oh, but it does not stop there. They also make their own liquor out of fruits, distilling them in the way written in the old books the witch-like barmaid found. These cocktails cost about 50 cents US each. This, my friend, is a recipe for disaster.
.....this place is a little too close to our hostel, and frankly, their Maracuya (local mango-ish fruit) cocktail is disastrously delicious. Yes, I even used alliteration.

Through his stories one can experience along the different idiosyncrasies regions of the country have. Apparently, he did not like Cochabamba too much. But, as soon as he got to Sucre, I think, it's safe to say, he's feeling cozy.

It is interesting, at least for me, to see how people see Bolivia, and also learn what kind of experiences foreigners have while traveling around.

It is also interesting that a lot of people, not just Americans, but Europeans, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, etc. , are actually on the road, globetrotting. Some of these travelers find each other in different places at different times. It could be that two guys meet somewhere in Bolivia and six moths later they see each other again in Peru or Costa Rica or even Indonesia, which incedentally, that is where Travelhead is living today. That is amazing to me. I have to admit, it makes me a little envious.