The Death Road downhill biking. I will tell you more about this crazy experience soon :)
Oh Bolivia. We have been in Bolivia for a while now and if in the very beggining I felt like packing all my stuff and get the first flight back to Portugal, now that we are leaving soon, I don't want to. I wanna stay longer, exploring the corners of this incredible country.
In this whole South America trip, I was super excited about Peru and Bolivia, I don't really have a reason for this, I guess all the pretty places and indigenous people I used to read and watch in National Geographic caught my heart.
These are not easy countries at all. When we were volunteering in Cuzco, we'd have serious troubles ordering dinner. As a good portuguese (common portuguese people out there, you gotta admit this), mostly of the time I wanted to change something in the dish from the menu "No rice, salad instead" or "Insert bacon in my vegetarian pizza", easy requests right? Nop, not really. Peruvian minds can be narrow and any change is just the end of the World. Me and Bruno had hard time in the beggining and we simply couldn't understand how hard would be to just change a freaking ingredient or pay extra money for more ingredients. "No, if it's not in the menu, you gotta order what we have". A double dose of patience makes everything better, if we started leaving the restaurants super frustrated, in the end we were negotiating with the restaurant owner. The trick was a deep breathe and ask for the owner, instead of talking with the waiter/waitress, they were usually confused and didn't help at all.
First day in Bolivia we couldn't believe how closed mind bolivians could be. This time we were prepared, I read in few blogs and travelers who were doing the opposite way trip in South America (from South to North) that bolivians were mean, narrow minded, didn't like tourists. We know we can't make this a general concept of an entire population so we thought they just had few not-so-good-experiences. Not really.
So first, me and Bruno went to take a shower together to save time and water. Do you believe 10 minutes exactly during our shower the hostel owner went to knock the door and said "You only have 5 minutes!! I'm going to cut off the hot water", hmmm? During evening we were walking in the market and we found olives (We are crazy about any kind of olives) and Bruno was mixing them with the spoon provided in order to get the ones in the button (the olives in the top were dried full of pollution from the cars) and the old lady started screaming he couldn't touch and even hit Bruno with a stick. What??
The next day we went to get some breakfast, and again, we wanted two eggs instead of only one and we said we would pay extra, no problem. Do you know what the restaurant owner said? "If you complain you have worse service". He said this. We weren't complaining at all just ordering our breakfast with an extra egg because one is not enough. We left really disappointed and thought "What the hell is wrong with this people?" You see, in touristic places like Copacabana you survive because of tourism so you gotta be nice with tourists so they will come back the next day. Sometimes bolivians have a pround attitude that makes me feel not welcome. The usual expression is: "No, we don't have, go next door."
We all know this is culture and we are the ones traveling in their country so we have to adapt. It's ok with me, I respect that. But doesn't mean I'm happy about it. When you spend more days in the country you will learn mechanisms on how to deal with the people and being extra patient (and not touching their products) helps a lot. Now that we traveled a bit Bolivia and visited stunning places I think the country deserves a second chance. And hey! I met so friendly and caring bolivians as well. It also depends in your attitude, if you ask something and think already "Grrrr I gotta talk with a bolivian", you won't go any far. If you go positive with a smile and call women "Mamazita" or "Mami", you get better chances of a good response.
Have you been in Peru or Bolivia before? How did you feel about the culture and people? Any other advices to make Bolivian and Peruvian experience even better?