Bolivia Travel: Tarija, the City of Smiles and Hospitality

Oh, Tarija. The women there are beautiful. It’s their smiles. They are the dream of every Bolivian man.

— David, our Bolivian guide for the Salar de Uyuni tour, delivers an animated testimonial for one of Bolivia’s lesser-known cities.

Cafés with outdoor seating line palm tree-dotted squares; cars broadcast opera from open windows as they cruise the plaza; wine lists measure longer than food menus; tablitas (ham, cheese and olive tapas plates) are standard fare; and smiles are in ample supply.

A Mediterranean-style culture smack in the middle of South America? Tarija is not your typical Bolivian town.

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Cocaine: A Story That Begins in the Bolivian Jungle

I need to fill up the tank completely. Finding gasoline in Chapare can be unreliable. It’s one of the ingredients in cocaine production – and that gets first priority.

— Alvarro, our client and guide in Cochabamba, Bolivia explains why it’s necessary to gas up in the city before heading into the jungle.

Paraguay customs. We had just crossed the 200 mile desert frontier with Bolivia. Border agents dressed in knit shirts, their shoulders adorned in crossed Paraguayan and U.S. flags, scanned our bus’s contents –- all of it piled before us. As we waited for a drug-sniffing Labrador retriever to finish pacing and pawing suspect bags, we figured it was time to bring the cocaine story to its finish.

And just as we thought this, the guard approached: “Miss, place your bags up here. We’d like to take a look.”

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Thanksgiving in Bolivia, MacGyver* in the Kitchen

Thanksgiving may be over, but I’m still thankful.

We admit it – we are the worst bloggers. Many wrote their Thanksgiving posts a week or two before turkey day while others prepared something to publish on the day itself.

Then there’s us.

We intended – we really did – to publish a reflection yesterday, but life took over and filled our day with a raft of experiences and emotions.

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Fawlty Tours: 7 Games Tour Companies Play

Machu Picchu trekking group, Peru

We began this piece by writing a narrative tracing the hiccups in our Salkantay to Machu Picchu trek in Peru, but soon realized that our lessons learned go beyond Peru’s tourist-laden Inca corridor.

So what happened? Our guide got drunk two nights in a row, tried to pinch us for more money with unplanned and overpriced transport, didn’t buy our Machu Picchu tickets in advance, missed our meeting on the day of Machu Picchu by two hours, and mismanaged our return train and bus tickets to Cusco.

Not bad, eh?

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Travel and Value: What Can You Buy For $0.66?

Value: a topic of great debate, perhaps nowhere more so than in the world of travel.

We've had friends rave about inns in Costa Rica that are a “great value” at $300 a night. At the same time, we've met travelers who do the “bad value” balk when accommodation anywhere runs more than $3.

Call one a spendthrift. Call the other cheap. Value is in the eye of the beholder.

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Machu Picchu? Not Yet. A Slideshow of the Other Peru

As much as anyone else, we enjoy visiting world-famous tourist sites and embarking on adventure trips. Peru has been no exception. In fact, in just a few hours we depart for a five-day trek to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu by way of a mountain pass at 4650 meters/15,500 feet.

But there’s almost always another side to the countries we visit. And sometimes we disappear into the hills for weeks to find it.

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