A Travellerspoint blog

The land of death in Bolivia, Part 2

What about in a mine? Or eaten alive in the jungle?

Did you know that by mentioning the word "naked" in my previous blog post title, the view count shot up by more than 1500% compared to the entry before that one? Maybe I should do that more for some sensational blogging. Anyways, back to Bolivia...

(Click on the photos for bigger version and even more photos!)

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As I awoken from the haze, I found myself half naked in complete darkness. I should have known that the hot showers at the end of the desert was too good to be true. Suddenly, a match lid up and I struggled to make out the blurry figure that stood before me. It turns out, in order to conserve their battery pack in the tunnels, the miners at Potosi operate in complete darkness for a good portion of their 14 hour days. The mining city used to be known as the richest city in the world due to the silver in its mines, but the Spaniards made sure that wasn't the case anymore. Anyways, an average miner has an life expectancy of 40 years, I didn't last 40min before my breath was taken away due to claustrophobia and lack of oxygen (one of the highest mines in the world at more than 4000 m, 13000 ft).

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Stumbling out of the mines (plus an 8 hour bus ride and a 2 hour plane ride) I found myself in the basin of the Amazon rainforest. At 32C (90F) and 90+% humidity, boy was it hot and humid. No matter how scantily I dress, I sweat a good 250ml (8.4oz) every hour when walking with the pack (yes, I am a human fire hydrant), which was a problem because I would need to bring about 3L (100oz) of water just for a single day/night hike or I would've died of dehydration... in the rainforest no less. So 3 days amounted to 9L (9kg or 20 lbs worth) of water! But luckily another hiker had a water filtration device and I was saved from death from once again.

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One thing you have to watch out for are the fire ants crawling all over the place. These little buggers' sting can pack quite a punch. Their sting actually contains a neurotoxin that paralyzes the prey before ripping them to smaller pieces alive and carried back to the nest. For bigger prey like me, a single sting would just result a sharp, fiery pain for about an hour (or two if you have sensitive skin like me, I keep them well lotioned everyday), but with enough stings I would end up lying on the ground, unable to move, getting nibbled down to the bones... *shudders*

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If the dangers of jungles weren't dangerous enough, some people actually jump off of cliffs onto a tree branch just for a selfie, like this guy did back in 2007. I guess some people will do anything for a few more likes on a facebook profile pictures.

Overall, I escaped death 5 times during my trip throughout Bolivia and it has certainly been a memorable experience. Would I recommend the trip to other people who are afraid for their life and even leaving their own towns? Of course, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Would I do it again? Nope.

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Posted by btang 03/28/2014 20:40 Archived in Bolivia Tagged rainforest jungle mines amazon bolivia potosí south_america silver madidi Comments (0)

Polar what?

I guess you have never been naked in Alaska

sunny -50 °C

OK I have to take a break and address some current events. So apparently in the past few weeks many people, who have never ran around in the snow naked before, freaked out about how cold it was outside. All the commotions in the media vaguely reminded me of The Day After Tomorrow:

"Sir! The polar vortex is upon us! "
"We will have to declare national emergency! We must move everyone south of Indiana! With exception of people in Chicago"
"Yes Sir! We will communicate the order right away! ... wait, why not people from Chicago?"
"Because they think they are tough and can survive any cold weather."

...

"Sir! Reports from the south indicates people are freaking out over white stuff floating in the air!"
"What?! Are we under attack? Is it nuclear fallout??"
"No sir, it's just now."
..facepalm..
"Sir, it is creating massive traffic jams, we can't move any people north of Indiana southward."
"Oh god help us."

(Click on the photos for bigger version and even more photos!)

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For those who never been to Alaska in the middle of January, it is the coldest place on Earth. Once you reach -50C (-60F) your body can no longer detect the difference below that, even if you are naked. The thermometer pictured above proves that there are no temperature below -50C, even the temperature range on the Traverllerspoint blog entry posting proves this.

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It is so cold that even the malamutes starts to howl at night. Actually, they howl because we started doing it, some of the people tried to sleep was not too pleased, but it was a pretty cool sight nonetheless. Although the cold does slow the dogs quite a bit; the same 3 hour journey that took us in the warmer morning to sled, took us almost 5 hours to come back. I had to sing them motivational and upbeat songs to keep them going. I am now a professional singer.

Also to note, malamutes are not the same as huskies. They are built like an ox that can pull ridiculous amount of weight for equally ridiculous amount of time compared their more energetic cousins who are built more like a small race horse. Also, when they jump on you, you will feel quite a big difference.

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Due to some sort of sorcery, the photo above is actually the mid day sun. Not that I am complaining, as it gives the golden light (think photography people) all day long, even it's only 4 hours. There was also a strange halo around the sun, as known as sun dog, which is similar to rainbows, instead of refractions from water dropplets, the colors comes from the orientations of the ice crystals and it is much cooler.... get it? cooler?.... ok I'm done.

Just one last caution, when you dog sled, you do not stop the whole team if any of them needs to go to the bathroom. However, it is highly advisable, from personal experience, that you slow down, so you don't end up with a face full of dog exhausts.

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Posted by btang 02/10/2014 20:52 Archived in USA Tagged snow alaska dogs sled cold northern_lights husky dog_sledding sun_dog malamute Comments (0)

The land of death in Bolivia, Part 1

How would you want to die? Fall from a cliff or die of dehydration?

So.. where did I leave off? Ahh yes, getting stranded alone at a border crossing because your American passport requires you to pay $125 reciprocity visa fee and submit bunch of other paperwork while people from other countries just need a visa on arrival stamp... But the crossing between the llama kingdom and the land of death wasn't too bad, I was able to run fast enough to catch the slow crawling buses going past the border.

Travel tip# 21: If your mom is the type who read about all the horror travel stories of solo travelers getting murdered and kidnapped, don't call the country you are visiting the land of death.

(Click on the photos for bigger version and even more photos!)

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So, what's a better way of experience the end of life by actually traveling on a road called the Death Road on a bike? Why on a bike you ask? I would much rather prefer feeling the wind in my manly, full bearded face while roaring like a wild beast than entrapped in some metal can as I fall to my death. And why do they call this the Death Road? Because people died while traveling on it.... yeah....

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With certain areas that are only 3m in width (10ft for us American folks), it makes you wonder how they actually get large transportation trucks across the road. Actually, they have a set a clear right of way where the vehicles going down hill goes first when it comes to a stand off... or was it vehicles going uphill? Meh, probably wasn't that important anyways.

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I have to admit, the view of the descent from the snow capped mountains tops of 4700m (15,400 ft) to the humid and misty rainforest at 1100m (3,000ft) is quite magnificent. Make sure though that you wear layered clothing and bring a pack with you so you don't end up freezing at the top and drenched at the bottom. Things takes forever to dry in the rainforest (literally, it never dries).

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After not dying from falling off a mountain, I decided to try my luck braving through the world's largest salt flat desert... in a 4x4, with a local driver, 5 days of food, water, and fuel. Looking back, I do not know how I could have survived such conditions. The only thing I was missing was a camera crew. Although, if you do get lost there, no one can hear you scream, or see you for that matter, due to the blinding white salt. Your rescue mirror will do you little good there...

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On my grueling trek through the desert, I have found previous fellow travellers that tried to do the same. These poor souls has attempted to wander through the desert only to find they had nowhere to go but to live the rest of their short lives there. When the last breath escaped them, they were buried within stone mounts, in honor of their bravery. Of course, this happened a few hundred years ago, before the advent of internal combustion engines.

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At the end of the third day of surviving through barren terrains, poisonous waters, less than friendly wildlife, I could tolerate no longer. I succumed to one of the harshest environment known to mankind, no hot showers. You can imagine my elatedness (try saying that word fast 5x) when I saw a shower poster. However, I was also confused by it. "Showers you publish"? How do we publish our showers? Why are there different lights on the showers? But by then, I was suffering so much from lack of hot showers, I didn't care. I stripped down and went in. The last thing I remembered was strobing colored lights in a dark room with hot mist spraying on my face....

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Posted by btang 02/04/2014 16:14 Archived in Bolivia Tagged death bike bolivia salt la_paz south_america uyuni salt_flat Comments (0)

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