Peru + Bolivia iPhone video

Thursday, August 27, 2015

During our three weeks in Peru and Bolivia, I recorded small video clips along the way with my phone, which resulted in this video. This was my first time filming a video with my iPhone, and I'm definitely going to be doing it more often. There's something about motion that takes you back to a place in a way photos can't. I wish I could have filmed more, but I was super short on iPhone storage and traveling without a computer ( I have since solved that problem by upgrading my phone from a 16gb to 128gb... such freedom!).

Filmed entirely with an iPhone 5s, pieced together in Final Cut Pro, and edited in Lightroom with VSCO.

In other news, we are absolutely blown away to see our blog nominated for Best Travel Blog of 2015 on the Blog Lovin awards! We don't make money with our blog, don't have a strategy, and don't post super regularly. All content is our own, so we just post when we travel. This blog is a fun personal project we started during our honeymoon almost five years ago (time flies!). We've had so much fun connecting with other like-minded travelers on this blog and in person when we're out and about, and hope to keep it up for awhile. We are so honored to be included among some really solid travel blogs, and among top blogs in other categories that I've been reading and loving for years.

If you care to cast your vote, you can do so HERE, now until September 13, 2015.

Last stop: Lima, Peru

Monday, August 3, 2015

With one full day in Lima, Peru at the end of our trip, we packed our day full. Things we saw in one day:

Historic Center of Lima
  •  Plaza de Armas - the heart of Old Lima; the bronze fountain in the middle is the only thing that has survived several earthquakes and dates back to 1650 
  • Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco - historic church that's known for its catacombs, which contain remains from 70,000+ people

Barranco neighborhood
  •  Mate Museo Mario Testino - amazing photography museum containing the work of Mario Testino, who is from Lima
  •  Pacific Ocean - we walked along the rocky beach and watched paragliders fly over the city

Miraflores neighborhood
  • Choco Museo - cute little bean-to-bar chocolate factory with free tours

First we had to check out the historic center of Lima, which was basically one huge plaza surrounded by gorgeous buildings and churches and lots of tourists. Next, we took a taxi and public transportation to get to some of the waterfront neighborhoods. We walked a lot of Barranco and Miraflores, which are right next to each other. We stopped by a couple of museums, marveled at the beautiful waterfront homes and boutique hotels, bought lots of chocolate to take home to our families, and sat on the rocky beach watching waves crashing and paragliders sail over the skyline. 

It's wild that we live on the Pacific coast as well, but so far away, both physically and culturally. Here the beach is incredibly filthy with litter, at home it's pretty spotless. Here there are palm trees, at home there are evergreens. Here we're tourists, at home we're citizens. Here it's winter, at home it's summer. That's what had us aching to be back. There's no place like summer in Seattle.

And that wraps up our South American trip! I shot a little iphone video while abroad, and want to share that next before moving on to our next trip.

- Julia

La Paz, Bolivia | Stolen Camera + Passports

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Coming back to La Paz wasn't as bright and happy as the first time, when Zhanna and I had a dance party in the taxi while driving into the city, falling in love with it before we ever stepped out of the the car. 

The second time we drove into La Paz, after our Southwestern Bolivian expedition in Uyuni, we were on the worst bus ride of our lives.  Twelve hours through the night in an old bus on the bumpiest road you can imagine, where for the first few hours, I would fly into the air so high that landing back in my seat felt like getting punched in the stomach. So bumpy that I needed to pee for hours, but didn't think I could walk down the aisle and make it downstairs to the restroom without splitting my head open. So bumpy that things in the overhead compartment would tumble out, like a water bottle that landed in my lap while my eyes were closed, startling me so bad that I jumped up. 

When I finally got some shut eye, I held onto it with all I had. I wanted nothing more than to sleep through the rest of the miserable bus ride and wake up in La Paz. And we did eventually sleep, probably because the roads got better closer to the capitol city. When I woke up, everyone on the bus was standing and shuffling around, packing up their belongings and getting ready to get off the bus. We had a small backpack in the overhead compartment, and when we didn't see it right away, I figured it had just slid forward during that crazy ride. The bus slowly emptied out, along with everyone's belongings, and Yuriy and I were the last ones on the empty bus, looking underneath seats, panic growing. After I realized the backpack wasn't on the bus, I was sure that someone took it by mistake and would bring it back. Eventually reality set in, and I realized that someone most likely intentionally took our backpack, along with our professional camera, a coupe of lenses, a full 32gb card of photos we took during a week in Bolivia, and our passports. I sat down on the curb between buses and cried so hard. 

The worst bus ride ever led to the worst day ever. We circled around the bus terminal, looking for the backpack in people's arms, checking trash cans (in cases someone took the camera and threw everything else away), looking at faces, and wondering what person could do such a horrible thing. If we left the bus terminal, it felt like we were accepting the loss and never seeing it again, so we went around and around. 

We couldn't spend all day mourning our lost camera and photos, because we were planning to leave the country shortly, and had no passports. I always wondered what would happen if you lost a passport in a foreign country, and now we got to find out. On a day when I wanted nothing more than to shower, sleep, and take it easy after roughing it in the wilderness of Bolivia, we got none of those things. 

The following was our series of events to replace our passports: 
- bus terminal police
- bus terminal tourist police 
- La Paz tourist police - must get new passports before we can file a report
- U.S. embassy 
- go take passport photos
- check into a hotel to drop off our bags
- U.S. embassy to get new passports
- immigration
- go take Bolivian passport photos
- La Paz tourist police - file report
- immigration 
- go take more Bolivian passport photos because they were the wrong size
- go to a bank to pay for a visa
- immigration - wait for hours, even after closing, because they ran out of stickers for the passport

This mad dash from one place to another lasted from 7am until about 5 or 6pm, and most of the time we were taking a taxi between locations because the city is massive. Getting the new passport at the U.S. embassy was actually the easy part. Getting a new visa from the Bolivian immigration office was the real hassle. We had already paid $140 for a visa when we entered the country, but we had to buy a new one when we lost our passports. We were in the immigration office after all the workers went home for the day. It was Friday, so if we couldn't get our new passports/visas that day, we couldn't leave the country on Sunday and would have to wait until Monday. Lucky for us, there was another American there who had his passport stolen on the same bus ride from hell (though probably a different bus), and he was a loud and demanding New Yorker, which helped us find one employee at the immigration office who spoke some English and tried hard to help us. Everyone else didn't give a hoot about us. After everything was paid and filled out and ready to go, the office ran out of stickers to put in the passport. Someone had to travel to another office during rush hour traffic to pick up a sticker for us. I felt like I was on a reality show or some sick scavenger hunt. 

Having to spend the day desperately trying to get new passports and visas actually took our minds off of losing all our photos. We ended up getting a nice hotel for a couple nights and bought a plane ticket to Lima instead of taking a bus and traveling a little longer, like we originally planned. We were just done with traveling and ready to be home. 

After the ticket was purchased and the passports replaced, we spent a couple days exploring La Paz again, and documenting it with our Fuji X100s (a much smaller camera which wasn't stolen, but was hardly used throughout the trip).

Biggest lesson learned:
While traveling, take the memory card out of your camera and put it in a safe place. If your gear gets stolen, it's much easier to replace than the photos from your trip.

When we were still traveling, every time I thought of our stolen things, I had to try really hard not to cry. Finally the stuff that happens to other people was catching up to. Once we got home, the pain of losing the photos really melted away. I realized how lucky we were to be happy, healthy, together, and completely spoiled in America. We have everything we need. The camera was easily replaced, the passport was somewhat easily replaced, and the memories associated with the photos are still safely in our minds.

Hope you enjoy these photos of La Paz, the city of endless markets. All images were taken on a Fuji X100s. 

- Julia

Bolivian Expedition Part 3: Geysirs + Hotsprings

Friday, June 26, 2015

On the last day of our Southwestern Bolivian expedition, we drove through an area with a lot of geothermal activity, which was clearly visible above ground with bubbling mud pools and steaming cracks in the earth. Some of the steam was blowing out so forcefully that it sounded like a whistling tea kettle. The sight and sound and rotten egg smell was overwhelming on the senses, especially after driving through barren nothingness to get there. Walking through the steam felt like walking on another planet. It was incredibly captivating and also terrifying, because nothing was fenced off, and it seemed so easy to step into a boiling mud pot and get cooked alive, especially when the steam enveloped you and you couldn't see a thing. Throughout our expedition, we kept thinking this is like Iceland but in the desert. 

One of the best perks of geothermal activity is the natural hot springs we soaked in on our way out. 

This concludes our Bolivian expedition. From here we headed home via La Paz and Lima. We have a couple more posts coming from those two cities. 

- Julia  

Bolivian Expedition Part 2: Flamingo Lakes

Friday, June 19, 2015

I didn't think the second day of the expedition could be better than the first day with the salt flats, which seemed like the main attraction, but it was. This time we drove further away from civilization, weaving through the high desert on unmarked dirt trails that cars before us left behind. There's no way you could do this trip without knowing where you're going. We were surrounded by colorful volcanoes on all sides. I kept trying to capture it with my phone but the surreal watercolored looking hues just didn't come across. 

The highlight of the day was coming upon the first lake with flamingos. I wanted to run and shout and swim with them. It was the most amazing feeling to "stumble upon" a lake in the middle of the desert, filled with big pink birds that look like lawn ornaments. I could have sat and watched them all day. It was one of the most unreal sights I've seen. 

Throughout the day, we stopped by three salt water lakes that are homes to flocks of flamingos. The last lake, Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon), is supposed to be bright red in color, but it wasn't as brilliant as photos we had seen. It must not have been the right season. It was also not the season for flamingos. In high season, there are hundreds if not thousands of them (so we hear). Apparently in the winter, the old and weak are the ones who can't make the trip to warmer climates and stay behind. Well the old and weak ones sure impressed me.

- Julia

Bolivian Expedition Part 1: Uyuni Salt Flats

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

We took a night bus to the town of Uyuni to go on a 3-day expedition around Southwestern Bolivia. Julia and I were crammed into a Land Cruiser with 4 guys from Brazil who spoke no English. And our driver/guide spoke no English. The only reason people come to Uyuni is for the tours; there really is nothing to see or do in this little dusty town, but so much to see around it. 

Our first stop was the 'Great Train Graveyard'. In the early 19th century, Bolivia was planning on building a large network of trains but technical difficulties and tensions with neighboring countries put those plans on a permanent halt. So they just left the British made trains to rust and corrode out in the elements. The flat and empty landscape made the train remains look extra lonely and eery.  

From there, we headed to Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat at 4,086 sq. miles (10,582 sq. km.), sitting at the crest of the Andes at an elevation of 11,995 ft. (3,656 meters). We stopped a few times to walk on the salt... and to taste it to make sure it was really salt. The salt flat is exceptionally rich in lithium, and contains 50-70% of the world's lithium reserves, as well as many other minerals. Just to give you an idea of how large the salt flats are, look up South America on Google Earth and look for a big white area, close to the Pacific Ocean.

In the middle of the salt flats is a little 'island' called Isla Incahuasi. The island is the top of an ancient volcano, which was submerged in a giant prehistoric lake before it became the salt flats. Now the 'island' is host to hundreds of giant cacti, and a welcome site in the middle of the flat white landscape. We had a great time stretching our legs by climbing to the top and getting 360 degree views of the cacti and salt flats below, stretching out in every direction as far as the eye can see.

- Yuriy

All photos below were taken with our iPhones.

Coroico, Bolivia

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

From La Paz, the country's busy capital, we took a minibus to Coroico, a quaint little town on the outskirts of the jungle. If we kept going in that direction, we would get to the Bolivian part of the Amazon Jungle. We went from roughly 12k feet elevation in La Paz to 5k elevation in Coroico in just a couple of hours, which changes everything—warm weather, moist air, tropical vegetation, no more crusty, bloody noses. Remember, we were here during the winter, so it felt amazing to get a break from the cold, dry air of La Paz (and almost every city before that).

There is only one way to get to Coroico—on the the Yungas Road aka "World's Most Dangerous Road" aka the "Death Road". The Death Road is a single lane, dirt road with no guardrails, that winds along the sides of the mountains with cliffs that drop as much as 2000 feet (the photos will make you feel sick). As many as 200 to 300 people died on the road every year. Luckily, the trip wasn't nearly as dangerous for us. In 2009, a new paved road with guardrails was built to avoid the most dangerous part of the original Death Road. Still, the views from the top were incredible, and I kind of wished we were driving ourselves so we could pull over for photos and stand on the edge. But maybe not. (source)

We stayed in a resort that has a collection of little cabins, completely surrounded by foliage and connected by winding paths. Every part of the resort had amazing views of the valley below and lush green mountains in the distance. We wished so badly we could stay longer. It was the perfect place to chill out and enjoy nature. 

From our cabin, we could walk into town, which was full of things to see, small as it was. Even here, small market stalls adorned the streets, with women selling bananas, cabbage, root vegetables, and Yuriy's favorite, piles of tangerines.  The buildings were colorful, covered in a layer of dirt, and beautifully aged. The roads were either unpaved or covered in cobblestones, which made you feel like you'd traveled back in time. It seemed as if every road was under construction, with piles of bricks laying at intersections, as if nobody was in a hurry to complete any of the construction projects. Even though some of the buildings were shabby and looked like they were uninhabited, every street had people walking, and it felt so alive. 

The only thing that sucked about Coroico is our friend Zhanna got seriously sick there. She looked like she was dying for a little over 24 hours, which included the curvy bus ride back to La Paz, during which she puked in a bag. Traveling in a foreign country can really kick your butt sometimes. 

We came to Coroico thanks to a tip from someone I follow on Instagram, who said it was her favorite spot in all of her South American travels (she was in the area just weeks before us). I love social media for this reason. 

Since we lost all of our photos from this point on, the images in this post are all iPhone photos. So thankful for that little piece of technology. Also, a couple of the images of me were taken by Zhanna (also on an iPhone). Thanks, Z!

- Julia

Our private little cabin in the jungly mountains.
The main lobby/restaurant of the resort was pretty perfect too.
The view from our patio. We should have paid a lot more for this.