5 de Julio 2015
The Pit Stop Hostel, Medellin, Colombia
Bolivia. A country we didn’t plan to visit at the start of a trip, but in the end we are thankful we did. Our bus from Argentina dropped us off in a small, dusty town near the border and we quickly realized we’d be walking across the country line, a first I must add. After 25 minutes of carrying our heavy bags through the desert heat, we finally saw Bolivia. Upon arriving I found out I had to pay $160 US rather than $135 like I’d been told. I angrily handed over my last two $100 bills and waited for the guy to exchange my cash in town. I received a 10-year visa that allowed me 30 days in the country at a time. What’s frustrating is only Americans must pay this and I met many Americans on my travels who paid half this fee. I guess I got unlucky. Oh but before even reaching the booth a bird shat on my hat. Off to a great start.
We crossed the border and immediately noticed the differences. The lack of paved roads, bright, colorful souvenirs and clothing, and the yelling from the merchants for you to buy. We walked into town with smiles on our faces, glad to be back in a ‘poor’ country. Villazon is a small border city that happened to be hosting a large cycle race the day we arrived. We headed straight for the bus station to book our ticket to Tupiza, a small desert town just 90 minutes to the north. A 4:00pm bus gave us 20minutes to roam, but we quickly realized we made a mistake. Silly us, the clocks had rolled back an hour upon crossing the border and we gave ourselves an extra hour in the town. We sat in the park sharing fresh popcorn and Miller High Lifes [the only beer I could find]. When climbing back on the bus we learned we’d have to wait up to an hour for the race to end. Lovely. I went to a local restaurant that offered sopa de mani, a famous Bolivian soup that we were told was delicious, and picked up a bag to go. Another fail. We poured it into our togo container to find a massive hunk of beef. Not veggie as we’d been told. Oh well, 90 minutes later we found ourselves in Tupiza and immediately went searching for a meal. We were happy to find many restaurants with large veggie options and for our first vegan meal in Bolivia we munched on a veggie-filled za and spicy lentil tacos.
From Tupiza we hopped on an eight hour bus to Uyuni and for once on our trip had to take a day bus. To feed the hungry giant we visited the local market to grab sandwich-making supplies. For a few bucks we had more than our fill.
Our next stop was La Paz, the highest capital city in the world. There we awed over large, cheap as produce markets and enjoyed cooking meals in our hostel’s rooftop kitchen. We dined at a veggie lunch spot that offered a $2.50 set menu, but unfortunately it was nothing to write about. Thanks to our beloved Happy Cow app we found Namas Té. This almost entirely vegan restaurant quickly became a favorite. I loved the tofu pad Thai and had it twice because the peanut sauce was that good. Ryan took down a local Bolivian dish called Bárbara similar to a stew full of soy meat, carrots, potatoes, onions, and more.
Namas té also offered a set lunch menu for around $4 which Ryan tried one afternoon. Salad, soup, a main, and dessert came out beautifully but the portions were too small for his always hungry stomach and he ended up having a seven course meal.
[Croquetas de soya – crispy tofu fritters]
[Tucumana – vegan deep fried patties with veg and soy meat]
From there we ventured to the Amazon basin and found a great restaurant serving veg options in the small town of Rurrenbaque. The lovely owners took care of us well and constantly checked on us [a very rare thing in any SA restaurant]. Their son sat playing with a helicopter near by and I quickly made friends with him. Speaking Spanish with a child is much easier than with an adult ha. We played for over an hour and his family offered complimentary tea for entertaining him. After checking out other veg options in the small town we decided to stick with Pete’s Place and visited it at least five times. Below is the delicious garden burger, eggplant for the patty topped with a sweet pepper, tomato, onions, and lettuce. I also enjoy a spicy veggie curry, fried eggplant, and Ryan had the soy burger almost every visit. Before boarding our flight back to La Paz we noticed a bag of cheap army toys hanging outside a shop. As I said I befriended their son and later his cousin who didn’t seem to have much in the toy department. We bought the gift and brought it to the boys. They loved it. Now they had two helicopters, loads of tanks, airplanes, and army guys. We said bye again and left for our flight. In the end our flight never left and we stayed another night in the town. Of course starving per usual we returned to Pete’s to find the boys still playing with their new toys hours later. ❤️
[garden burger from Pete’s]
[typical breakfast in the Pampas, Amazon Basin]
[the boys checking out Ryan’s tatts]
[the boys playing with their new toys]
Back in La Paz we tried one more vegetarian spot before leaving Bolivia for good. Here they offered larger portions for two and we dined on a mouth-watering Sri Lankan curry full of peppers, pineapple, potatoes, and the best yet topped with coconut shavings.
[I can’t remember what city this was taken in but many times we saw cars, trunks full of fruit for sale!]
Not too much to talk about in Bolivia, but we still ate well. I loved the many expanding markets that poured over into surrounding streets and enjoyed filling up on cheap fresh juice and fruits. Thanks Bolivia, I’ll see ya within the decade to make use of that costly 10yr visa. x