Friday, August 30, 2013

Photo of the Day - Egypt

Great Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx, Egypt. What a spectacular world wonder. One I highly recommend you see for yourself in person. I was and still am in awe of how the Egyptians were able to build these incredible structures. Beauty in the middle of a desert. They say don't go in the summer to avoid the high heat but I went in the middle of July and I felt it was not as hot as California during the summer! Of course, definitely cover your head and your body to protect you from the suns rays. And bring plenty of water.
Watch out for the camels! Or you'll end up like me, sideways, and the person who saves your life behind you is screaming in Arabic to stop before I fall off the camel! :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sleep Deprivation While Traveling

I thought I'd share my sleepless experience in hopes to show you the importance of sleep when you travel.
This slowly built up through the start of Guatemala by rooming with people who weren't feeling well aka 'snoring' every night. I think I should invest in ear plugs.
Remember what I said about sleep and how it's only for home in my previous post? 

Forget what I said.

Sleep IS for home AND for travel.

You need it to function. Your body needs the rest and to be given the chance to rejuvenate for the next days great adventure. Of course when traveling there are plenty of times that this is not possible. It's okay. This is supposed to be part of the travel experience. It's a miracle if you are able to sleep on an overnight bus from one destination to the next. I try but I just can't do it!

Woke up at 3am to watch the sunrise on an unstable deck on Indian Nose, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
With that said, by day 6 of my Guatemala experience, my friend and I were so sleep deprived, we couldn't even function. We spent most of the day exploring Tikal with no food, made time for a quick snack/lunch though I really had a hard time eating while feeling sick to my stomach, and went to freshen up and relax before New Years dinner and festivities. Then it somehow finally caught up to us.

 Tikal, Guatemala
Of course more me than her because she can fall asleep ANYWHERE and wasn't nearly as tired as I was. I really don't know how she does it.

Night time hit and we were planning on eating dinner around 8 and ending the year exploring more of Tikal.

But by 6 pm, she was telling me she no longer had an appetite, didn't want dinner, and was focused on the mosquitos flying in our cabin.

I was still really hungry but I was so physically exhausted I literally couldn't move and even go to get dinner. I could not get up, keep my eyes open, couldn't focus on her trying to keep our conversation going, my body was frozen, kept falling asleep while she was talking then waking up with migraines, feeling like throwing up nothing because I had nothing in my stomach, and really did not care about the flying mosquitos and the 3 not small spiders next to my bed and normally I DO! They could have attacked me and I would have let them. It was that bad.

All the days leading up to day 6 with barely any sleep finally caught up and it wasn't pretty. And that is how I ended the year 2012. Woo hoo!

My plan was to wake up really early and spend New Years Day in the jungle and watching the incredible and 'magical' sunrise as described exactly to me by a few friends. It would be me alone because Vanessa was fine with not having to wake up at 3 am and wanted the sleep time. After hearing about this 'magical' sunrise more than once, there was no way I was going to miss out on the opportunity because I knew I would have regretted it. That and I love wandering around any jungle/rainforest any chance that I get.

Well then that sleep deprivation experience happened and I realized I really needed that night of somehow I finally was able to reach over and turn off my alarm. I sadly 'thought' I made up my mind about not going to see the sunrise and continuing my exploration of Tikal. I didn't know what to do and I knew deep down it was the wrong decision.

And funny how things happen to fall into place. Vanessa got out of her bed to go to the bathroom and with the flick of the light, I woke up. I tried covering my face to make it dark but I was wide awake. I turned over to look at the clock and it was 3:50am.
I all of a sudden got really worried and right away Vanessa could see it in my eyes because you can see EVERYTHING I'm feeling through my eyes and said: "Do you want to go see the sunrise?" And I responded with: "Yes, I really want to."
I knew then I would have been so disappointed in myself if I made it to Tikal and didn't even go. So somehow I found my energy, quickly got up, changed my clothes, threw on my shoes, no make up, and grabbed my camera, flashlight, and Tikal ticket. I was out of there at 4 am. And just the night before, I couldn't even move a muscle!

The time spent in the jungle at 4 in the morning was absolutely amazing. There are truly not enough words to describe this experience. The sounds were indescribable. The howler monkeys were so vocally vibrant and expressive. The bats flying around. I love and appreciate everything the jungle offers. Not just here but through my other experiences in the Amazon as well. Oh and the sunrise above the rainforest really was 'magical'. I'm keeping that experience for myself and won't post any pictures of it just to leave it as a surprise for anybody planning a trip there.

The other bonus for being up that early was that the area was nearly deserted! I got to spend more time within the Mayan pyramids with no distractions and tourists! I was able to really take it all in, take pictures, and see what I missed out on the previous day. Got a few cool pictures taken of me from some people there with promises of emailing them, in which I have received! I also helped out a couple from Mexico and Argentina who didn't have a camera and couldn't capture any Tikal pictures. I paid it forward and took some of them with promises of emailing them. Glad I got to help them out and give them a good memory to have on their journey. :-)

It was a day that I won't ever forget and am so glad it was meant for me to wake up without my alarm and to explore more. Being happy to wake up at 3:50 in the morning just sounds so silly!

So with all this, I won't change my style of travel and love of adventure. I also really love sleep and will continue to make sure I'm getting it but at the same time not sleeping through an adventure and missing out. All I can say is fit sleep in somehow. It's not worth working so hard to travel and coming close to missing out on adventures due to not enough sleep.

Have you ever experienced something like this while traveling?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sleep and Hostel Etiquette

Lately sleep has been on my mind more often than usual.
Mainly because I haven't been getting a full nights sleep for awhile now!
I've been caught up working two jobs and going back to school to takes some fun classes. Going to take the last Advanced Spanish class the college offers and finally going to take Mandarin Chinese! Been wanting to try to attempt the language for a few years now.
Anyway, with all this stress, working a lot, and the (very hot and humid) weather, it's all contributed to my insomnia, which I don't think I've ever had before. And I'm exhausted. I miss falling asleep early! :-)
And I got to thinking, with all the hostel stays I've had while traveling, there have been experiences where I had a hard time getting rest and relaxation after an adventurous day exploring a new city.
Normally my motto when it comes to sleep and travel is this: Sleep is for home! Life is short and I don't want to spend my traveling days sleeping! And since travel makes me the happiest, my body adjusts quickly and I get the most out of my trips.

Here are some of my thoughts and experiences.
A quick rest before New Years festivities in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica (December 2010).
Like most backpackers and solo travelers, you want to save money and make sure you are secure but have fun, make friends, and stay safe.
An option that most people like is to pick is a dorm with plenty of beds. One of the options I usually look at first when I travel. The dorm with the most beds = the cheapest option when staying at a hostel. You save money and chances are you'll make a new friend or two! But with this option, you do not have your privacy and you either like your roommates or not. I feel there should be rules in how you carry yourself AND realize you are not the only one in the room. And your actions should reflect that. I've been fortunate enough to have become really good friends with the majority of the travelers I've roomed with. Those relationships are the best because no one understands you better than another traveler. :-)
Definitely not a room to just put yourself first (minus safety-wise of course). You must think of others before any actions that you take. For one, if you need to leave the hostel at 5 in the morning, please please have everything ready and set the night before so you do not end up waking your roommates while rummaging through your belongings or turning on ALL the lights. -For the most part, I've only experienced this a few times, but those few times were not pleasant!
SNORING is a big one! I actually never stayed in a room with loud snorers until my most recent trip to Guatemala this past December/January. Every night there was a new buddy snoring! I understand it's not something you can really control and for the most part, all these guys snoring were actually sick, but IF you are sick, I think it's only fair to pick a room with less beds. I didn't get any sleep that whole trip*. Am I right or wrong? Let me know! Of course it's not in the rules when you book a room but common courtesy, right?
*I'll get into my sleep deprivation experience in my next post.
I don't need to get into any details about this - DO NOT STEAL FROM YOUR ROOMMATES. If you plan on staying in a 10-bed dorm, bring locks just in case the hostel does not provide lockers. I haven't come across this and I am so thankful! Let's all be good and honest travelers okay!!
I understand all humans have needs but after talking to many people I have met through the years on my adventures, they ALL agree that it is DEFINITELY NOT okay to bring a one-night-stand or multiple stands or multiple partners into a room with other travelers in there. It's wrong, not just because you have roommates but what about your morals and what it says about you! We want to think good of everyone. I'm not saying to not do this at all because that's no ones business but please just keep it in a single dorm!! Keep it private. And please protect yourselves. YOU SHOULD HEAR SOME OF THE STORIES I HAVE WITH EXPERIENCING THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR!
Oh and we can't forget about the partiers! You do realize you take the chance with your sleep by staying at a hostel but for the most part I'm fortunate that I've been able to sleep through everything minus the snoring! Just don't come into the room yelling and outta control! :)
 Returning to my hostel dorm at 5:30am in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was EXHAUSTED! And yes I returned as quiet as a mouse. (February 2009) I was never a party girl growing up but I did go out once just for my travel partner at the time, who did like to party. Buenos Aires does have an exceptional night life for those who are into going out all night.

 Did I forget something? What have you experienced in a hostel that made you feel uncomfortable or lose sleep over?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Photo of the Day - Bolivia

Chacaltaya, Cordillera Real, Bolivia. Was once the highest ski resort in the world. I highly recommend coming here and climbing Chacaltaya if you do not have the extra days to climb Huayna Potosi (or climb both if you do have the time!). Grab some snacks before the climb because you'll need the sugar with the high altitude here, have plenty of water, take your time, and enjoy the mate de coca at the end to relax and take it all in. The views are absolutely incredible here. Dress warm!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Food Challenge #2

Since we are giving up red meat for 30 days, I thought if I came up with another fun challenge, you will be preoccupied with it and your everyday life that you won't even realize that you gave up red meat for better health the last 30 days!
So here's what the challenge will entail:
I'll pick one ingredient: pantry, fridge, or freezer.
You can make a main dish, appetizer, dessert, etc! The possibilities are endless!
It must be YOUR own recipe!
There is a time limit! Have to make things exciting! Due 20 days from start date.
When you have made your dish, post the recipe with a picture, and email the link to me! I will post everyones results here on my blog.
Hopefully each challenge will end with a newfound love of a product you've never had OR changes your previous thoughts on a product in the past!
Ready for the challenge?
Here goes....
Challenge #2
I have seen this product being used more now than ever before and it is inspiring me to come up with something new!
What can you do with Tahini?
The possibilities are endless...
Due date for this challenge is: September 7th!
I can't wait to see everyones results!
Hmmmm...what am I going to make with Tahini?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Food Challenge #1

So I started Challenge #1: Going beef-less for 30 days today!

I had to keep in mind that I'm working out almost everyday so had to keep some protein in my diet. Besides, if I had taken them all away, the 30th day lands after Lobsterfest: and it's only once a year. I sure was not going to miss out!
Why am I doing this?
I LOVE beef but usually I don't eat much of it. Just once in a while is fine for me. But lately I've been eating more of it and usually when I eat something, I try to consider the future. Beef has its PROS (high iron, zinc, vitamins and minerals, high protein, and etc) but it also has its CONS (High cholesterol, high risk of cancer, certain diseases, Saturated fats, Osteoporosis, Arthritis, and etc).
Sorry to scare you with the facts, but it's out there! It doesn't stop me from eating it, but it allows me to make better choices when I do eat it.
So I'm doing this to cut down on how much red meat I eat but also for health and cholesterol reasons. Low cholesterol = low chance of heart disease and living longer!
What am I hoping to accomplish?
For health reasons and to have better self control and learn to eat less of it. Of course I would never turn down a good filet mignon (I will if it's during these 30 days!), but I will eat better now for a great future ahead.
Now I want to challenge YOU! Yes, YOU! Do you think you can give up red meat for 30 days?
You can start today and quit cold turkey or pick your own day and take charge of your health!
Comment below if you'd like to join, leave your starting date, and on day 30, post your experience, how you felt, changes in weight, or notice anything good or bad?
I wish you all GOOD LUCK!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fun Friday! Food Edition

I'm an experimenter. I like to try everything. Eat everything. I'm not scared of anything! Well.....bugs and such. I don't have the urge to eat bugs. :)
Food is another reason why I travel. I enjoy eating others cooking and falling in love with the country via the food route.
Fried trout and Ispi in La Paz, Bolivia. The BEST dish I ate in Bolivia and till this day, I still miss it tremendously.

You can feel the love of someone and their country not just by talking and getting to know someone, but also through their food. Food feeds the soul, the heart, and the stomach. And when you make it at home, it just NEVER tastes the same. Trust me, I've tried to recreate quite a few dishes!

Falafel in Cairo, Egypt. This really was BOMB! The best falafel I've ever had.

 "When we no longer have good cooking in the world, we will have no literature, nor high and sharp intelligence, nor friendly gatherings, no social harmony." -Marie-Antoine Carême

Peruvian Ceviche in Lima, Peru. This is still one of my addictions. Best. ceviche. ever.

Which brings me to the question: What is the most memorable dish you have ever had on your travels?

I'm in the process of cooking up two fun food challenges....

1) I'm going beef-less for 30 days, starting this Saturday if anyone wants to join me! We'll share our experiences when the month is up. I'll get into more details soon.

2) Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Photo of the Day - Tikal

Tikal, Guatemala. I came here the first day of this year -- 2013 and it was a truly amazing site to see. I am just fascinated with world history and how they were even able to build these incredible structures. I highly recommend you make a stop here to experience Tikal for yourself. Actually I recommend Guatemala as a whole. Wonderful country and friendly people.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Danger AHEAD - Part II

My day on Yungas Road...
I tried to figure out the best way to write this and after awhile, I thought I should write it in a time sequence form. It describes my feelings at each stage and what we actually did.
This was an amazing and dangerous thing I did that day and after this, I feel like I've done enough crazy things! So don't worry, I have no desire to jump out of an airplane. I'd rather use it to get to one location to the next!
If you have any questions about taking the ride of your life there in Bolivia, feel free to ask me! I'd love to help in any way that I can. :)
6:20am - Alarm goes off. The day I have been waiting for. *Strangely, I was quite calm when I woke up. Complete opposite of my normal self when facing a thrill such as this one. Should I have been nervous that I wasn't nervous doing this at all?

7:30am - Find the friend I made the other night and off we go to find the cafe for what could be our last breakfast and then group meeting.

8:30am - Paid my $9 for insurance before the ride.

9:00am - Leaving the cafe with the guide, Clinton/group, and headed out to the rode before Yungas.

9:30am - Arrive at our meeting place where other people are picking their bikes, testing their bikes out, getting the 411 on how to ride/brake/control & pick up speed/what not to do/rituals/just breathe. My first bike was just a little too high for me. It made me extremely nervous. I tested it out and the peddles were a little hard to reach. I'M SUPPOSED TO TAKE THIS ON DEATH ROAD?! AHHH! I attempted to try and get on/off the bike as our guide was showing us (bike in motion) and I kept missing and falling off the bike and to the ground. Painful. I begged Clinton to please give me a new bike!

He said he would try the best he could but he couldn't make any promises.. I saw that this guy had the bike that was the perfect size for me and for this other girl but he was refusing to give it up! He obviously was a little too nervous! Finally Clinton took control, took his bike away from him, gave it to me, gave my bike to the girl who needed mine, and gave her bike to him. He wasn't happy but he had to suck it up and deal. The girl freaked out and wanted my bike and claimed she wasn't going to ride. The bike she received was perfect for her. Case of the nerves? Clinton, our guide, finally told her to just try it out before she makes the decision to quit. She tried it and said she was fine. THIS IS WHAT THE DEATH ROAD DOES TO YOU! Crazy, I tell you. 10:30am - Clinton assures us we will be fine, take your time, DON'T BREAK HARD OR YOU WILL FLIP AND WHO KNOWS WHAT'LL HAPPEN... Tells us about a ritual one does before riding on the road. We each took a sip from the bottle, poured one drop on our front tire, and one on the ground to pay tribute to Pachamama (Mother Earth) to ensure we come out alive. It's time. 10:45am - Our ride does not start right away on Yungas road. You have to ride the regular road for, I want to say it was anywhere between 10-15 miles, until we reached death road. *I have to say I oddly thought the ride to death road was scarier than the ride on death road itself. I think my reasoning for this was the fact we were going fast down the road whereas death road is also downhill but you are riding on a dirt road which somehow helps in the speed of the ride.

*Times from now on are assumed*
 ~11:00-11:15am - We continue our ride to Yungas road. Around this time, I was hoping that we'll reach death road soon because I wasn't liking this ride. I was still calm but was kind of tired continuously breaking while going downhill. Again, should I have been nervous for not being nervous doing this ride?
And then it happened...
I watched my friend FLIP OFF HIS BIKE, SPLIT HIS CHIN, AND SPRAIN ONE OF HIS WRISTS! This WAS NOT EVEN ON DEATH ROAD! He braked hard going downhill and because of that + the high speed = to him flipping off his bike. He didn't move at first and everyone who saw, including myself stopped, made sure he was okay, and waited for our bus to arrive to check him out. He was done. His ride was over. He was bandaged up and had to sit in the bus until they were able to send him somewhere else to get to a hospital. I felt really bad. He was really excited and looking forward to this day. What a bummer..

After this, we continued our ride.. I'm supposed to ride on Yungas road AFTER seeing what I just saw? Just crazy. :/ At that point, I had to put it behind. I was not going to give up and I could not worry about it any longer. I'm on my bike. I was at the point of no return.

Continue on...

We hit our last town before the tunnel/the road for our last bathroom break and to pay our fee which helps to repair/better Yungas road. Kind of hard to explain, but I actually don't want them to repair the road. Yes, it is painful for many families who have lost loved ones on that road but at the same time, the road has history. I say just don't have anyone ride it anymore. Maybe I'm wrong? I don't know. We then hit a tunnel. We were told we won't be riding our bikes in the tunnel because it was pitch black and for obvious safety reasons so we rode our bikes on the road just around the tunnel. My first taste of riding on dirt. And it was weird. The road was bumpy, rocky, and I was having a hard time braking without skidding. I hoped then that it wouldn't be like this on the death road because if it was, I would be in trouble. After that, we hit up the street again for a few more miles before we finally made it to the road known as....

~12:00pm - One more discussion before we started the ride. Since we were biking downhill, the cars going uphill have the right of way. Meaning: We would be biking on the side closest to the edge, NOT mountain. If a car were to pass us, we would have to stop biking and stay near THE EDGE of the road. Yeah, don't think anyone was happy about doing that but that's the risk you take when you do this bike ride. Oh and DO NOT ride the person's a$$ in front of you. If you do and YOU crash into them and something bad happens, it's your fault, and they will try to rescue/take care of THAT person, BEFORE you! Take your time and enjoy the ride.

~12:15-4:00pm - Let's go! At first, the ride was fine. I was suddenly feeling more comfortable riding on the dirt and getting used to it. I had better have gotten used to it because that was where I was going to be for most of the day! Then the edges were in plain site. I looked down. Normally I would say DON'T LOOK DOWN, but it actually did not affect me. Not normal if you know me. But what in the world! It was like I wasn't myself that day. My heart should have jumped out of my chest after my first glance of dead air. Anyway, I tried my best to avoid biking near the side. Remained at my own pace. Wasn't fast, but wasn't the slowest in the group.

Riding straight downhill is definitely not easy. Maybe on the street, yes, but on dirt and thousands of feet above, no. My hands went almost completely numb/tightened up by stressing over braking the whole time. We finally had our first break and the first thing I did was focus on my hands. One because it hurt, two because I didn't want them tight the whole ride, and three, because I wanted to take pictures of the scenery with my camera because the views were absolutely incredible! I just constantly opened/closed my hands, kept them moving, and finally after a few minutes, they loosened up and started to feel normal. Funny that by the time we continued our bike ride, I realized how much FUN I was having. It was right after I took my concentration away from my hands, looked at everyone in my group, and the gorgeous views that I had SO MUCH FUN DOING THAT INCREDIBLE FIRST RIDE!

The tables have now turned after only one section of the ride...


I was ahead of the pack. I was swinging around corners, Devil's drop, Collar Bone Road (known to be so bumpy that people have fallen of their bikes and end up breaking their collar bones), and another corner, which the name I can't quite remember, but it must have had death or devil in it!

I remember stopping to take a picture at a famous point known for many fascinating pictures and right after, I hopped on my bike and was about to go when I could hear Clinton shouting/laughing: "STOP! Wait for your guide!" Right after he told me that I had worried him because I mentioned previously before the ride that I was deathly afraid of heights and falling and thought that I would be taking my time and be the last one in the group. NAW! Last thing he thought I would be doing was going crazy and flying all over the place! He thought it/I was pretty cool. Especially because I overcame my fears and gave the road everything I had. After all, you will probably only ride this road once in your life, so you don't want to ruin the experience!

Honestly, this experience was incredible. Rarely in my life I have ever felt that free as I was flying down the mountain. JUST for the record, I told my parents everything when I got home! Didn't want to worry them. My dad's face turned white and my mom, of course was like, what were you thinking and just shook her head. She took it well while my dad, not so much! Scaredy cat!

There was a point where we started to hit big rocks on the road, which I'm assuming were due to recent landslides. We were told that the day we went was an absolute perfect day. Couldn't have been better. No rain and no clouds. Road was visible. Anyway, I skidded a few times and realized I had better slow down because I may skid again and fly of the mountain. By far the hardest part of the ride was trying to avoid the rocks on the road.

I can go on and on, but it would be forever! Literally, you will spend majority of the day biking. You will be tired, exhausted, and go from the extremes- very cold weather - cold - nice/chill - warm - hot/humid. Different elevations, as you know, bring different weather conditions and it is very neat to experience them all in one day. Just for the record, going with Gravity and I'm assuming most other bike groups, you will be given a snack and lunch to stay refueled and energized during your ride. So don't worry, you won't starve.:) Also bring a change of clothes to wear under your warm clothes because it is freezing at the start. Once it warms up, you can take off your layers as you go.

And finally we made it to the wonderful town of Coroico, which is part of the Amazon Rainforest, one of my favorite places on Earth! We biked through the town where we saw plenty of locals, houses, and beautiful nature. Love your Pachamama! We stopped at a local refuge where we saw plenty of monkeys, wildlife, and bugs! What would the Amazon be without the scary bugs?!

~4:00-6:00pm - We enjoyed an early dinner, had a chance to go swimming with the monkeys, and take a nice hot shower. I, as well as the others, were exhausted, sleepy yet somehow alert, felt healthy, brave, and accomplished with what we did that day. It was now time to relax...

Wait...Relax? Oh no, my friends!
I ALSO signed up go Zip-lining in the rainforest! Yes, you can now call me crazy. After everything I did that day, I thought my heart wouldn't be able to take anymore, but somehow it had some room leftover for flying in the air. I found the ziplining to be a little nervewrecking but enjoyable at the same time. For one thing, I don't think I'll be able to not be nervous when ziplining over open space. I still think Costa Rica is the best place to zipline because you can't see the ground there. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the long ziplines that Bolivia offers.

Really allows you to thoroughly take in your surroundings as you are zipping thru the air. I remember just looking around while I was flying to the next post and just feeling at peace. Like everything was moving at slow motion. There were only a total of three lines but I happen to think it was worth it because the lines were long and the package was affordable. Here are just a few pictures of that adventure below.

~6:00-11:00pm - The ride home. It was late and we were behind schedule. The other two groups were probably almost in La Paz when we finally left Coroico.

And how did we get home?
So for some reason, I thought we would be heading back to La Paz another way but boy was I in for a treat! We rode up death road AT NIGHT. Pitch black status. Now that was a new adventure I had not planned on doing or was ready for emotionally. Everything was fine until I watched Clinton open the bus door and sat on the edge, looking down over the mountain. Out of control. And then I thought, once in your life, and I sat down and joined him.

Of course there was railing there and YOU KNOW I held on for dear life. And you want to know something? It was absolutely thrilling to be sitting there and looking of the edge of the World's Most Dangerous Road. I was like a kid in a candy store! He had to have thought I was a cool one to hang with. Heck yeah! Did I forget to mention he was SO cute? :)

Is there anything else you can think of that could top this adventure? Yes, there is in fact..
The driver stopped driving and Clinton and I had to get up. There was something wrong. Seriously? On the death road? Another van was blocking our way on the road and our driver couldn't and I'm glad that he didn't try to drive around! The van was stuck on death road. Why?

Because one of their tires flew off their van and down the mountain it went. The problem? Well, there were two woman and two men in the van and the men were drunk. I was not okay with that. I thought one of the men were driving and that didn't settle well with me. You are on the death road, you can't do that! After we started a conversation in Spanish with the group, we found out one of the women were driving, THANK GOODNESS. That was a relief.

Of course they were having a hard time putting the spare on because the men were too busy playing around to be paying attention to what was going on. I soon watched as the two women turned on their flashlights and started walking towards the edge of the road and look down to see if they could find/recover their fallen tire. Then I saw them starting to work their way down the mountain in hopes of discovering it. I remember saying: "No! Que no es seguro! No!" ("No! That is not safe! No!").

Our protests finally worked and they stopped. Our driver finally put their tire on, we said our good-byes, and they drove away. And we continued on. Everything died down and we were soon all half-asleep. So hard trying to stay awake! We finally arrived in La Paz and parted ways.

What a story I will have for the rest of my life. I will never forget this day. The day I survived the World's Most Dangerous Road.

*As for Gravity, I 100% recommend them. I felt safe, secure, and was in good hands. Our guide, Clinton, was knowledgeable and you could tell he loves what he is doing with his life. The other guides I saw that were with the other groups seemed to also be just as wonderful as Clinton was. I was able to have fun, bike how I wanted, and felt confident enough doing what I was doing. I was amazed at how I was able to quickly learn how to ride a dirt bike and ride on dirt with ease and control. I never felt pressured and I didn't feel like I was held back. The money value for the ride was completely worth it. Go with Gravity.

**Note: I wish I had an active camera to make a video while I was biking or at least stopped to take more pictures. There was nothing but breathtaking views that day. I made videos on my camera but were made in the van, not on the bike. I'm going to see if it shows enough to put on a post.

Would you take the challenge and bike on the World's Most Dangerous Road?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fun Friday -- Personal time!

Last Friday, the questionnaire was about travel. This time, I thought I'd get a little more personal with some random questions!
Copy and paste these questions to your blog, tag who you got the questionnaire from, and lets keep it going! I love getting to know new people. :)

1) What are your strengths and weaknesses in the blogging world? Strengths- Being openminded and talking about everything! Trying to be relatable. Weaknesses- Having followers; I work full time so it's hard to update often and just trying my best to work on this. That I write randomly--very jumpy! I like to go with what I'm feeling at the moment. 

2) Age? 28

3) Astrological Sign? Pisces

4) Current Employment? Just ended my 8th year as a Pre-Kindergarten Teacher in June and from June till the end of October, I'm the head coach of the Boys and Girls Cross Country team at a high school. I have my BS in Family Studies and also looking to find a career with my degree. OR teach English out of the country. 

5) Single or Married? Single. It's no fun when you finally find someone who is actually similar to you but it happens at the wrong time. :( I get very cautious when it comes to guys so lately I've been taking a step back and taking care of my heart.

6) Something newly discovered that you love? I've been learning lately to slow down and just relax so I've been making it a point to pick one day a week, pick a park, and just relax for a few hours. It's been nice and much needed. I also like the 'Color Me Mine' Spreebird Deals. Everytime I find one, I buy one, pick a day, and just paint on a mug something I've designed on my own. I never liked art growing up but now it's very relaxing and therapeutic. (I think I end up staying there longer than everyone else! :-p) 

7) Favorite mode of transportation? By bike or by foot. I have a car but I don't miss it when I'm traveling! Wish it would be easier to get around here without it.

8) Who is your hair stylist? Still looking for the perfect hair stylist! I actually got my hair done in Alexandria, Egypt when I traveled there and the male stylist made my hair look fabulous! Wish he was here!

9) Ever have any surgery? If so, what? No, but I'd like to go under to figure out the reason for my horrible cramps. TMI but it's important.

10) Do you color your hair? Not anymore.
11) What color eyes do you have? Blue

12) Have you ever done anything illegal? Maybe... ;) But I didn't mean to do it!

13) Technology or no technology when traveling? I actually do really well without technology when I travel. I prefer to be out and about and only use my hostel room for when I sleep. That's why I rarely blog when I travel.

14) Electric razor or blade? Neither! Laser hair removal! :)

15) What kind of shoes do you usually wear? Running shoes more now for my job, sandals, heels, and Toms.

16) Backpack or suitcase? Backpack!

17) What is your natural hair color (do you even remember?) Light brown

18) Future child’s name? I have made a list of (girls) names! ;) But I'm keeping them a secret!

19) Dream Job? Anthony Bourdain's job!

20) If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be? Every country in the world!

21) Favorite color? Pink

22) If you won the lottery, what would you do first? First, I'd be responsible with it. Make sure all my bills are paid off, put money aside for my retirement, a house (when I'm ready to settle), and do what I love to do--travel the world. :) Make sure to also give back as well.

23) Are you a vegetarian? Nope. I love meat way too much.

24) What jewelery do you wear daily? Just my earrings. I usually only wear jewelry for special occasions.

25) If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? I could never answer this question! I eat EVERYTHING.

26) City, beach or country? All. :)

27) Hot or Cold? Weather wise, cold! But food wise or anything else, both.

28) Where did you eat last? I just made a smoothie, tamale, shrimp, and rocky road ice cream at home.

29) Favorite ice cream flavor? Rocky road!

30) Do you read blogs? Yes

31) Favorite charity? Any charity that benefits the kids, people, and the world.

32) Ever been involved with the police? Yes, but I didn't do anything wrong. This February (2013), someone around my area stole a car, then stole MY license plate, put it on the stolen car, and gave me the stolen cars license plate. They came to my house on my birthday and when I looked at the license plate on my car, it wasn't mine! Crazy crazy experience.

33) What’s your favorite shampoo and conditioner? So far I'm loving the Tea Tree Shampoo and Conditioner that I got at Trader Joe's. 

34) Favorite fruit? Plenty of them! But I'll just say Blueberries and Pomegranates.

35) Ocean or pool? Both!

36) Retire in or out of the US? So far it's looking at outside of the US! ;) I still got aways to go!

37) If you could go back in time, would you and when? I would if it would mean using the knowledge I've gained now as an adult. There's some things I would take back starting after my high school graduation.

38) Window seat or aisle? Window

39) Favorite animal? Turtles!

40) Do you feel that you’ve had a truly successful life? No. Just trying to stay true and be a good person no matter what.

41) Nickname? I've gotten Blueberry, Sparkles, and my dad calls me the 3 C's (Cool, Calm, and Collected).

42) Adventure or lounging? Adventure! But lately I've been teaching myself how to lounge! :-P

43) Soccer or Football? Both!

44) How long do your showers last? Long. I have a lot of hair on this head of mine!

45) Automatic or stick shift? Automatic.

46) Describe yourself in three words. Independent, unique, and goal-oriented.

47) What's one thing you love to do and share? My love of cooking and baking. Always coming up with my own recipes. I never really follow recipes exactly. I like to make each dish my own. The way to anyones heart is through their stomach!

48) Favorite Dessert? Knafeh, Atayef, flan, chocolate souffle, tiramisu, my two secret cookie recipes, marshmallows, chocolate...

49) Have you ever given money to a beggar? No, but food and clothes, I have.

50) Have you been in love? Honestly, no.

51) Where do you wish you were? Somewhere out of the country!

52) Do you wear socks with your shoes? With my running shoes. If I can find my small socks, with my Toms.

53) Favorite TV show? Modern Family, yes! The Voice, LOST, Mystery shows, and I'm loving my Shark week now!

54) Can you tango? Yes! I learned the Argentine tango in Argentina and got to dance with a professional! My dream come true! :)

55) Last gift you received? Possessions to me aren't important. My last year teaching at the Preschool I worked at for 8 years was an amazing year. I had the best class, the kids were amazing, and loved the parents. That was a special gift.

56) Last sport you played? I'm currently running at my job as a Cross Country Coach.

57) Things you spend a lot of money on? Pretty much on travel. I save my money so I am able to travel.

58) Where do you live? North Los Angeles (Magic Mountain area), California

59) Where were you born? Chicago, Illinois. One of my favorite cities in the US!

60) Last wedding attended? My sisters destination wedding!

61) Favorite movie? I don't really have any favorites but what come to mind are Pirates of the Caribbean, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, 43, The Avengers...

62) Last concert attended? Maroon5...Adam Levine...mmmmmm

63) Most hated food(s)? Hate is a strong word! I'd probably say carrots and green beans cooked in liquid. Strange, huh! :) And I'm not really a fan of pork and pork products.

64) What’s your favorite food? Too many to name! Middle Eastern, Sushi, Peruvian, Asian, Seafood, Lobster, Shrimp, Marshmallows..etc!

65) Can you sing? I think I can! ;)

66) Last person you called? The athletic director at the high school I work at.

67) Last place you went on holiday? Guatemala in December 2012/January 2013 

68) Favorite regular drink? Water, coconut water, orange juice, and homemade smoothies.

69) What's one item on your bucket list? To step foot on every continent! I only have Australia and Antarctica left! woo hoo!

70) Last song you listened to? Ain't Nobody by Rufus & Chaka Khan

Tag! You're it!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Danger AHEAD! Part I

I'm in the mood to do something adventurous! I haven't rapelled down any mountains lately or swung on a vine in the rainforest in a few years!
I'm craving something different!
What can I do here in Southern California?
I think that'll be my challenge this week! Find something adventurous in my state of California!
Until I find what I'm looking for, I thought I'd post two back to back posts about what I think is the most dangerous thing I've ever done in my life. I've posted a picture of the place here and mentioned it a few times in my ABC's of Travel questionnaire:
Bolivia's Yungas Road
Also known as: El Camino del Muerte, Death Road, and the Worlds Most Dangerous Road
This road is long, high up, extremely curvy, NO guard rails for the road. The width of barely two cars side by side.
Thrill seekers, especially those who love to bike, come here and take the challenge of biking down Yungas Road and hope to live the tale of surviving the day here. The extremes, different weather conditions from top to bottom, rocky and sandy road conditions, and the unforgettable landscape.
The ONLY thing I regret was not having a video camera to show the footage of the road. I have two videos on my camera and going to hopefully look that them soon and see if I captured the road well!
So part I of this post will be about how I even came across this  road, my thoughts, and what made me book the plane tickets!
So I survived Yungas Road. The World's Most Dangerous Road. By bike and by vehicle. During the day by bike and during the night by vehicle.
I've heard about the so-called 'Death Road' throughout my life but the first time I really remember talking/hearing about Yungas Road with others was through an Australian newlywed couple whom I met at a hostel in Brazil during Carnival a couple years ago. I left Brazil to return home and they continued on their journey to Bolivia and further on after that. It sparked my interest.
It also frightened me because I'm deathly afraid (not anymore) of heights and falling. YES! The adventurer does (did) have some limits. Inquisitive minds, well mainly mine, wanted to know the reasons behind this madness and the only answer I got was "You can't go to Bolivia and NOT do it." Enough said. I agreed.
Eventually weeks passed and I saw their pictures. They survived and wow the pictures were incredible. A definite bucket list check off. Put it in the back of my mind and continued with my quest for adventure throughout the last couple of years on other paths. I was then trying to figure out the whereabouts of my next vaca..oops I mean adventure, and decided that when I head over to any part of the eastern hemisphere, that I'll make sure to have more time to truly experience the culture, environment, and, oh yes, food in each country.
So where to go?
I thought about Peru but realized that I didn't want to go there unless I had time to hit every place that is important to the Peruvian culture. Thought about Bolivia, which I had heard the outdoors and nature there are stunning, and the fact that it would be affordable was a huge plus to me. I travel to experience and don't care much for spending money. I like my low budget. Helps me appreciate and value life outside of the USA more than I already do. But put it aside because the aspect of it being the least developed country in South America, not going to lie, worried me a little for safety reasons and the unknown, so decided to search more and try to stay open-minded.
Thought about returning back to Central America to step foot in the remainder countries that I didn't hit last time (2 more remaining) but I felt that I needed and had craved a bigger adventure. I think the main reason I wanted to head back there was the fact I was and am still bummed that being stuck on an almost deserted island prevented me from spending time in the one place I wanted to explore in Panama. Spent a total of 3 hours in BOCAS DEL TORO before I had to continue with the adventure. Had a taste of it, which was incredible and full of gorgeous sites, islands, nature, and craving it more.
And one day it hit me. I was watching TV. Really?
While minding my own business and just watching Iron Chef, it just hit me. A commercial that is. So odd and random just thinking about it now but yet so right. Perfect timing. 
They 'wanted to show how amazing their new automobile was by taking it on the World's Most Dangerous Road'. How it turns with ease on the needle-thin path. Etc.. More importantly, they showed the actual road, how narrow it was, how beautiful it was, and how close to the edge they got! My heart was racing with so much excitement you could just hear it pounding out of my chest. My eyes widened. My adrenaline broke through the roof. At that moment, I felt gutsy, adventurous, fearless....
Mitsubishi: Behind the Scenes
The next day, I booked the plane tickets. Bolivia was my destination. And Chile, but of course, I'm not exactly a planner and well that didn't happen. Peru popped up. But that's another story to tell later. That's how gutsy I am!
And then I started to feel uneasy, insecure, and uptight over my OWN crazy adventure plan! What was I thinking?! I can't ride a bike on this road. I can't even look over any edge! 5 feet up on a ladder = 50 feet to me. You know the huge rocks at the beach where people like to hop on and climb? I can't do it because I fear of falling in the cracks. Silly, I know, but that's just my fear. My eyes widen. I get shaky. My heart pumps with intensity to the point of exhaustion EVERY time I'm high up and I look down, but I can ride on Yungas road and be fine?
Mitsubishi Yungas Road Rituals
My brain was constantly on work mode after this plane ticket purchase. Just walk on the road if you get nervous. Or how about skip it all together and just forget about it. The ONLY thing I decided against was I could not use the option of just riding in the bus to avoid biking it if I went through with this. Out of the question. But thinking back to what my Australian friends had told me, there was NO WAY in you know where I was going to Bolivia and not doing this. Naw.
I decided to turn this into a positive and decided to research and prepare for this.
What did I do? And what I recommend doing for those who get nervous when thinking about heights and falling..
I asked my friends just what they thought about it. Asked them how narrow the road is? If I'm biking downhill (which is pretty much all you'll be doing), will I fly off the road or will I be able to break and swing around the curve just fine? What company should I go with/how much money to spend to do this?
This is your life and you should take care of it and care about yourself. Don't take shortcuts.
This may sound annoying but really, it wasn't to me at the time. If you have fears, talking about it is the best way to overcome them. Hiding your feelings doesn't do any good for you.
They really didn't mind at all and were actually very helpful. I think it also brought back their own memories and were happy to share and help out in their own way. I won't get into exact details about what they told me but they basically reassured me I'd be fine, to be cautious, go at the pace I felt comfortable at, and don't get too close to the edge!
They also said: DO NOT GO CHEAP and DON'T TAKE SHORTCUTS. There is a reason why some companies are cheaper than others. THIS IS YOUR LIFE. RIDE AT YOUR OWN RISK BUT BE RESPONSIBLE AND MAKE SMART CHOICES.
Don't go cheap because you don't want to spend the money. The cheaper you go, the less you get out of your bike. And the bigger risk you take in putting yourself in danger.
They told me this because that is what they did. They were fine, except there was only one guide for their group, which was, I believe they said, around 7-9 people. So basically the guide leads the pack and doesn't pay attention to the ones who take their time. There was only one female in the group, which happened to be my friend who was pretty much left behind by the guide. And because they went cheap, it showed through the bikes. Her chain fell off multiple times and had to constantly stop and fix it. Not cool and not a good experience to have when it's the only time you will take the ride of your life.
What also helped in this situation was to stay calm and not worry. I felt that if I worried, it would ruin my whole experience on the road and it would end up being a waste.
So from then on, I didn't worry about it anymore. Didn't worry about it here at home, didn't worry about it while on the backpackers trail, and didn't worry the whole ride itself. It really truly helped me and made the experience feel the way I wanted it to feel---WILD, CRAZY, FUN, ADVENTUROUS, DARING...!
So I took what they said to heart, what I saw online, researched the companies, ended up making the decision to go with Gravity, and put money aside. I dared not to go near it the whole backpacking trip until I was emotionally ready to sign up for it and also pay the $9 insurance in the case I didn't make it out alive! Some serious business had to be taken care of in order to do this.
So I packed up, headed out on my adventure, and changed things up (that story about Peru, which I'll again tell another day) due to the bad weather conditions. So because of this, I wasn't able to bus on over to Chile and with a push, well, no push really, made the decision to go to Peru! This affected plans (in no way bad at all, of course) because my priority was to make sure I took that ride on the wild side.
Did things on this trip that I have never done before in my life. I went a few days with NO BED just to make sure I could see the salt flats and check out Yungas Road.
The day I came back to Bolivia from Peru, I booked the Gravity bike tour before I could change my mind, then booked a bus ticket for that night to head down to Uyuni, spent time there where I'm surprised I didn't get pneumonia because IT WAS BEYOND FREEZING but astonishingly beautiful of course, booked another bus ticket back to La Paz, and finally had a bed and able to rest for a day before my journey on El Camino de las Yungas.
 I sacrificed the Amazon to do this by only seeing it a few hours instead of a few days, but I'm okay with that and lucky I was even able to fit what I experienced with no plans even in. There was no way I was going to leave Bolivia WITHOUT riding on that road! Inexplicable. I just don't have the words to state how disappointed in myself I would have been if I had missed that opportunity. So with all this: planning, stressing, learning, preparing, changing, and every other word that explains how I felt, leading up to the death road, was.... ....beyond worth it. Stress free was the way to be that day.
Part II is when I fully describe what it was like that day on Yungas Road.
What is the most dangerous (or adventurous) activity you have done in your life?