Tag Archives: misadventure

Another Bolivian Bus Misadventure & The Witches Market

In yet another fun episode of Amy rides a Bolivian bus, let me tell you what happened last night on my ride from Uyuni to La Paz….

Again, I boarded the bus and there was no toilet, so we would stop every three hours to do the Bolivian sidewalk squat.  Some foreigners think that the cities of Bolivia smell like urine… well there’s a reason for this as its common practice for men AND women just to squat in the middle of the sidewalk and urinate during the day or night.

the witches market
A Bolivian 1/16th pounder for 0.72 USD

On our second stop in some unknown town at about 12:30AM, we all got off the bus to use the sidewalk… there were a bunch of Israelis on the bus so they all ran off around the corners so I waited for them to finish before I went.  I was by myself on some Bolivian street corner and I hear the brakes on the bus release… hmmm that’s strange I thought to myself as there were a huge gaggle of people standing outside the bus before I went around the corner… as I re-zip my pants, I turned the corner JUST in time to see the bus pull away from the curb and head off down the street.

All my luggage, EVERYTHING was on that bus, I didn’t even know what town I was in, it didn’t have a bus station and as it was past midnight, all hostels/hotels were closed for the night (and besides, my dinero $$ was also on the bus)… Sooooo, adrenaline surging, I am in full sprint to catch it.  After two blocks, I reached the tail end and started banging on the side of the bus with my hand screaming bloody murder for it to stop… and luckily it did.  Needless to say, I refused to get off the bus anymore the rest of the way, but I made it.

After checking into my hotel, I headed off to see the witches market or El Mercado de las Brujas.  Now, this was supposed to be a highlight of my trip to La Paz, but oh my was it horrible.  It was like looking at a stand full of junk made in China.

Now I had read about llama fetus’ that people bury under foundations of buildings, amulets, dried frogs and portions and the witches market offered me this instead…

the witches market
Bolivian witches market offering

I think Pachamama must be a 5 year old child…

So I left the witches market quite disappointed and decided to walk around La Paz to see if I could find anything else interesting.

The city center is around the Church of San Francisco, and the witches market was about 5 blocks North-East of there.

There are also a bajillion buses around La Paz, and they are all old…

the witches market
La Paz city bus

I had read about Jaan Street, which is a historically restored street, so I then headed in that direction and was again disappointed as it was just filled with people selling junk.

the witches market
Jaen Street

But it was near a park with a million friendly pigeons that would sit on you if you fed them.  I wasn’t interested in that business but there were plenty of people who were.

the witches market
La Paz Presidential Palace Square

I then decided to climb to one of the highest points in La Paz, the kili kili mirador.  The route on the map looked simple enough, beyond the fact that I was walking up the side of the hill at altitude… but the maps never show empty alleyways where I am just waiting for thugs to mug me either.

the witches market

But after questioning a few locals who pointed out the way to the top, I finally arrived at the top of La Paz:

I then got to go back through the empty alleyways into the chaos that is downtown and there were too many people and crowds milling around for my taste as at night La Paz seems to come even more alive.

the witches market
Bread seller in La Paz

At any rate, I’m just happy I arrived to La Paz in one piece and am not stranded in some unknown town with no cash and luggage… I’m hoping tomorrow should be an epic day however as I’ve signed up to mountain bike down the most dangerous road in the world!!!

//The I.A.

A Memoir of my First Solo Female Travel Misadventure – Greece – March 2007

I think I had visions of wearing a flowing white toga, drinking wine in goblets during family style Greek five-course meals which were always followed by courtesy shots of Ouzo.  Dancing under the moonlight in empty ancient temples with a charming dark and handsome Greek man who would then claim me as their Venus.

In March 2007, I was 23, blonde, apparently delusional and headed to Europe, alone, more specifically to Greece, on my first solo travel journey.

.Satire.
.Satire.

Why I chose Greece, I’m not sure.  At the time, I may have been convinced by a very good Greek friend of mine (last name ending in “akis,” A Cretan, naturally), that Greece was the ultimate destination in Europe.    He may have brainwashed my early ignorant travel mind with plates of rich Moussaka at Eleni’s Philoxenia, Portland, Oregon and tales of spending his childhood summers playing under the hot Cretan sun as the fondest of memories.

I landed in a pollution-filled chaotic Athens, with less than $100 USD cash and a non-global ATM card on a 3 day holiday weekend when no banks were open.  I realized I was staying in a bad part of town, cat-called and molested on the streets, barely anyone spoke English and…. I was alone… and the men?  they were hairy chain-smokers.

Parthenon at Night, Athens, Greece, March 2007
Parthenon at Night, Athens, Greece, March 2007

After hitting the major sites while living on less than $100 over a 4 day period, while waiting for the banks to open on Monday and then mastering how to acquire money at a bank in a foreign country where no one spoke English, I felt pretty good about my natural travel saviness, ha ha, and figured that if I could conquer those feats on my own, I could do anything.

So I decided to rent a car…. in downtown Athens…. a city, that has traffic that feels like 24/7 rush hour.

It was delivered to my hotel, and I drove off, manned with a paper map written in English.  I got about 2 blocks into my journey before I hit my first roundabout.  Where I remained.  For 10 minutes.  Stuck in the roundabout, unable to exit because I did not know how.

I may have practically sideswiped/cut off/almost killed myself  in the process, but when I finally escaped the roundabout and then the madness of the city, I emerged into the peaceful Greek countryside and headed towards the Peloponnese region.  

solo female travel

I was headed to vacation where the Greeks themselves vacationed, according to my thorough research through the Greece Lonely Planet guide that of course is never wrong and the ultimate resource to a traveler, to the quaint romantic seaside village of Nafplio.

Nafplio Greece, March 2007
Nafplio, Greece, March 2007

It was cold, it was raining, and it was out-of-season in Nafplio.   As I walked the empty streets without a sweater or rain jacket (ugh, wasnt Greece supposed to always be hot and sunny?) eating gelato and spanakopita to comfort my loneliness and disappointment, I asked myself a 1000 times, “what the hell was I doing?”

solo female travel
Temple of Apollo Epicurious in the sanctuary at Bassi (420-400 BC)

But as many times as I wanted to quit and just fly home, my adventure continued on throughout the Peloponnese…. (the idea  of returning home was mainly shot-down because in order to do so, it would mean I had to re-enter Athens and re-live the roundabout from hell.)

solo female travel
Theater at Epidaurus
solo female travel
Theater at Epidaurus

I had penciled and articulately planned out my itinerary driving 10+ hours a day to hit every site possible, because this is… what traveling was all about, right?

So I got to pretend I was one of the first Olympians at Olympia (for about 10 minutes, before I had to move on), ate at restaurants on the side of the road where grandma would take me into the kitchen and I ordered by pointing into pots boiling on the stove. I slept in a castle (Monemvasia) and almost died of CO2 poisoning from the fire I built in the hearth in my room.

monemvassia
Monemvassia 

I felt like James Bond at Meteora and explored high mountainside temples.   I saw elderly people on escorted tours (lucky bastards) who had waited their entire lives to travel look longingly at the temples on top of the steep mountain peaks.  Their minds willing but their bodies unable.  I decided at that point, that was never going to be me.

A monastery in Meteora, 2007.
A monastery in Meteora, Greece, March 2007.

I got charged $5/liter for gas in a remote mountain village when I almost ran out of petrol and lost on the steep cliff-hanging roads.  No one ever told me beforehand, that most the signs in the Greek countryside are written in cyrillic and cyrillic symbols are impossible to translate to my English written map.

solo female travel
Greek lettering

There were no rest stops, so I would pull over my car to the side of the road at the highest point overlooking the countryside, pull my pants down, bare bottom for all the Greeks to see as the thoughts of, “Eff you, Greece” ran through my mind and I let my fury unleash.

solo female travel

I ran into another American lady deep in the Peloponnese who was traveling with a Greek man and she wanted to know why I was there, alone, as the US ambassador had only recently traveled to this most-socialist part of Greece, himself and it wasn’t exactly, “safe.”

But I survived each trial of my exhausting jaunt though the Greek countryside, without incident and made it back unscathed to Athens… and I even made it through the roundabout only having to go through it twice, and not twenty this time.

The last day of my trip, I woke up before dusk and went running through the empty Athens cobbled streets up to the top of the Acropolis to watch the sun rise over the sprawling historic city.

Athens
Acropolis from Lycabettus Hill

It appeared that at dawn Athens was calm, quiet, clear and beautiful. At that moment, as the sun rose over the city I realized it was everything I had expected it to be.  I sat there reliving my experiences in Greece and laughed at myself, but I was also proud.

It had been a challenge, fascinating and a beautiful disaster all rolled into one, and I was never going to be the same.

solo female travel
Greek crazy roads

From that moment on, I knew I was addicted to a life that was to be filled with challenges and misadventures but the only thing that I could think in response, was Game On World, Game On.

Zanzibar Men – Ruining A Perfectly Good Zanzibar Sunset

After my wonderful trip to the beach in Nungwi, I came back to Stone Town this afternoon as I fly out of Zanzibar to Kilimanjaro tomorrow.

I decided I hadn’t really gotten to see a good Zanzibar sunset while in Stone Town while I was there, so walked around trying to find a good spot.

Eureka!  I found an empty beach with a few dugout canoes and a ton of personality, so I nestled in with my Kindle as I was a little early for the sunset.

After about ten minutes, a Zanzabari man came down to the beach and started wading in the water.  I thought maybe it was his nightly bathing place, and I continued to read on in my book.  I glanced up to see how the sun was doing:

zanzibar sunset
Got the bird!

Still a little high in the sky, but figured in about 10-15 minutes it would be good.  What you do not see in this picture, was that this man who had bathed, just came on shore and took his shorts off and was now wading naked.

Well that’s kind of weird I say to myself and just involve myself in my book and not pay attention to said man.  I read for a few more minutes and decide to test out the sunset modes on my camera and take a few shots.

zanzibar sunset

And then I hear it, a man moaning.  I look over by the tree (you can see it in the first shot) and there he is, masturbating on to the tree, right in front of me.

HOLY HELL, get me out of here.  I don’t even walk to the stairs because that would be going towards the perpetrator… I’m in a sundress and I run up this grassy side hill and don’t stop until I’m 3 blocks away.

Now… note that while this was the boldest example I have, I have never seen men as bold as those in Zanzibar.

Example A.  One night I was walking back to my townhouse while at the market and this man comes up to me and starts walking my pace next to me and tells me his name is Muhammed.  I exchange general pleasantries and we don’t really have a lot to talk about, but after a few empty moments he goes, “Amy, I really like your shape” uh…. “Why, thank you Muhammed.  I need to get going now.” As I change directions and walk away from my townhouse so he doesn’t know where I’m staying.

Exhibit B.  And then there was Bob Ali…

zanzibar sunset
Rasta-man Bob Ali

For Bob Ali, apparently I was love at first sight.  My very first morning in Stone Town, as I was walking through the vegetable market, Bob wheels up in his bicycle and without any greetings, tells me I should come have lunch at his house.  Ok weirdo, I just got here, I don’t know you, I’m not coming to your house.  I try to be polite however and tell him I just got here and I want to explore the city.  He tells me he will see me later.  I think he’s crazy as Stone town is quite large and head out on my way.

Later that night as I’m at the market, up strolls Bob Ali and he immediately tells me, that he’s been thinking about me all day and that he’s saw me twice while I was walking around the city all day.  WTF. WHATTTTTTT?  I try to continue to be polite, but Bob wants to go have a drink or go listen to music.  I decline multiple times, but am stuck there eating my massive dinner so I agree to one beer.  I’ve never seen someone so pleased in their life… except after he buys shots and I get mad, pay my tab and storm off.  Sorry Bob.

Exhibit C.  My taxi driver asks me if I’ve booked a single or a double room.  I tell him SINGLE!  he then tells me if I get lonely and want any company while I’m at the beach, he’ll make the hour drive to spend the night with me.  Oh hell no taxi driver man.

Exhibit D.  The afternoon in Nungwi when someone tried to sell me Cocaine on the beach.  I decline.  How about Marijuana from Kilimanjaro?  I decline that too.  How about a day trip?  I decline that because I’m already diving…. and this is where he goes into a fit of rage… maybe it’s because it was Ramadan and he hadn’t even had water all day, but he starts screaming at me, “You white people, you think you can just come here AND SHOW YOUR V&GINAS TO EVERYONE AND NOT SUPPORT ME!”  Ohhhh woah now buddy, really?  Because I wouldn’t buy coke suddenly I’m turning tricks and a big whore on the beach? yikes.

Ha. Zanzibar men.

Really know how to ruin a perfectly good Zanzibar sunset…