Don't believe them when they tell you it's summer

They tell you that the Northern and Southern Hemispheres are opposites.
They tell you that winter up north is summer down south.
They tell you to pack shorts and t-shirts.

They lie.

I packed one pair of pants, one long-sleeved shirt, and one hoodie - wanting to pack light - then filled the rest of my bag with shorts, dresses, my bathing suit and t-shirts. While Lima was warm, the wardrobe that I packed failed me for a large portion of my trip. It was either rainy, breezy, chilly or a combination of the three during the days that we spent in Cusco, Pisac and La Paz.

Of course, when we finally made our downward trek in altitude to Cochabamba, we met that elusive little nymph known as "Miss Heat and Humidity." She followed us and increased her bitchiness as we continued our trip through Santa Cruz, Bolivia; Navarro, Argentina; and reached her peak of PMSing when we arrived in Buenos Aires.

While I never had the opportunity to use my swimsuit, the rest of our trip was amazing, despite the cold and rainy weather. We left Cusco on an 8+ hour bus trip across the Bolivian border to La Paz. The bathroom on the bus didn't work, and the only time that we were allowed off the bus was during the complicated and time consuming adventure through customs and immigration.

I wasn't aware of the fact that I needed to keep a portion of the customs form that they gave us when we entered Peru, so I distinctly remember throwing it away with the rest of the "useless clutter" from my purse while staying in Pisac. I was afraid that they wouldn't let me leave the country right away, but for a mere $7 U.S. I was able to buy a new form, fill it out, and cross the border.

We had planned on buying our Bolivian visas at the border crossing (instead of buying it ahead of time and having to send away our passports), but while it is possible to do this, make sure to bring crisp, brand new money if you plan on doing so. The border patrol officers wouldn't accept my $20 and $100 bills because they were wrinkled, and had it not been for a traveling companion that traded my American money for Bolivianos, I wouldn't have been able to enter the country. They do not accept credit cards or checks, so don't depend on that if you go this route.

After a long and complicated process to buy our visas, we loaded back onto the bus and headed to La Paz.

La Paz is much different than Cusco - while Cusco is a historic, peaceful city with something to look at on every corner, La Paz is busy, dirty and cluttered. I hacked out my lungs pretty much the entire time we were there due to a deadly combo of a cold, altitude sickness, and the one-two punch of asthma and allergies from the poor air quality.

Hotel Oruro - the "hotel" (using the word quite loosely) that we stayed at - leaves very little to be desired. The hot water didn't work, there was no curtain around the tub, so if you took a shower water went EVERYWHERE - but don't worry, there is a drain on the floor and a squeegee mop so that you can push the water into the drain (read: not impressed). Yes, I know I was traveling through a third world country and wouldn't have cared otherwise, but the hotel was a little pricey to have such terrible accommodations. There are some way better places to stay in La Paz, that are close to the same price or less, so I would suggest staying at one of them.

Though it is dirty and we were followed at one point by a transvestite hooker, the city wasn't all bad. The Iglesia de San Francisco is absolutely stunning, and a perfect spot for people watching in downtown La Paz. Children run around gleefully in the streets, artists sit drawing sketches of the church, you can have your shoes shined for 2-7 Bolivianos a piece (which you'll need to have done since much of the area is dusty), and vendors sell large, sweet kernels of popcorn out of large bins.

While waiting for my mom to secure our travel from Cochabamba, Bolivia to Argentina (in a style much more akin to the 1970s than 2013, which involved five hours with a travel agent and a cash payment) my siblings and I found a cafe that we fell in love with - Cafe Banais, located downstairs from the Hostal Naira at Calle Sagarnaga 161 Nuestra Señora de La Paz.

Banais has clusters of beautiful Bolivian skirts hanging from the ceiling that look like plush carnations, and intimidating metal masks displayed on some of the walls.

The first time we ate there, we had quinoa balls, a caprese salad made from a local Andean cheese, I had a vegetable pita sandwich, and the kids had BLT sandwiches

Banais' quinoa balls were a noteworthy item - never before had I consumed quinoa (pronounced keen-wa in Quechua) in such a crunchy, tasty and unique fashion. The cheese in the caprese was delicious with a consistency that I had not experienced before - a sort of mash-up between feta and mozzarella.

Well, that's it for now. Stay tuned as I continue to recap my travels through South America - I promise not to make wait as long for my next blog post.


Traditional Bolivian skirts hanging from the ceiling of Banais Cafe. Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp


Banais Cafe, located at Calle Sagarnaga 161 Nuestra Señora de La Paz, is the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat between adventures. Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp

Pictured above are the fried quinoa balls at Banais Cafe in La Paz, Bolivia is an incredible way to eat this pseudocereal, which is one of the food staples of Bolivia. Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp

Banais Cafe's Andean caprese salad features a local cheese with an Italian-style twist. Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp
Mate de Coca or Coca Tea is one of the best, natural ways to lessen the effects of altitude sickness while traveling in the Andes Mountains. It is an herbal tea brewed by steeping raw, dried coca leaves in hot water and it is a traditional medicine for the indigenous people in the region. Pictured here is a cup of coca tea at Banais Cafe in La Paz, Bolivia. Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp

Looming over the city with its powerful beauty, the Iglesia de San Francisco (San Francisco Church) in La Paz was built in 1548. According to Sacred Destinations, this Baroque style church combines both native Bolivian and Catholic designs. Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp



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