Bolivia

It started when the flight attendants opened the overhead luggage compartments and sprayed the luggage with bug spray. Down one side and up the next.Welcome to Bolivia.

Lesson número uno. Take altitude sickness medicine before you stay in the highest Capital in the world.That would be La Paz, Bolivia resting at 11,940′. But wait, the El Alto International Airport’s elevation is 13,320′.

Picture Bill with a head cold getting off the airplane at 1:30am and an 18 wheeler slams into his chest. BAM!

The immigration and visa process had us arriving at our hotel at 3:00 am. After an uncomfortable evening or I should say what was left of the morning we decided it was not in our best interest to stay.

By 11:00 am we were heading back up the mountain to board a plane to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia (Bolivia’s largest city) – at a lovely 1,365′ elevation (18 wheeler not included).Picturesque La Paz rests in the bottom of a bowl and thousands upon thousands of houses climb up to the rim where the airport rests. Beyond that are the stunning Andes – craggily and covered in snow. The view from the top is stunning – the airplane even better.

A quick 50 minute flight and an equal taxi ride had us standing at the front desk of our hotel being told that as of medio día (noon) the whole town would shut down for an indefinite period of time while voters protest. No stores, no offices, no transportation, no nada will be open!

Violent protests have already been in the works after Sunday’s presidential election went south. The incumbent declared victory without the vote.

Oddly during the electronic quick count vote after Sunday’s presidential election suddenly the count was stopped and all went quiet when it looked like the vote was close enough to cause a run off vote in December.

Both parties declared fraud.

The winner needs more than 50 percent of the vote, or 40 percent plus a 10-point lead to avoid a second round of voting in December.

With nothing open all we could do was walk. Every intersection was blocked – creatively with either rocks, tree branches, tires, cars, 18 wheelers, wire, flags or humans.People were walking, on motorcycles or bicycling. Most blockades were surrounded by people set up like a tailgating party. Some wore the state flag and others the Bolivian flag.The end date unknown. The extent of the protesting unknown.

Our 7:45 am flight had been changed to 3:33 am. With no taxis running we weren’t sure how we would get to the airport. It was a 4 hour walk.

At 6 pm our desk clerk called and said they found a taxi driver who was taking two other people to the airport at 10:00 pm. He had room for two more people and had successfully driven five people earlier in the day. Did we want to give it a try.

Yes! Of course, right? We didn’t want to be stranded there and assumed the protesting would get worse if Morales, the incumbent, declared victory.

We packed and then nerves sent us to the bar!

A bedraggled guest checked into the hotel. I rushed over to ask how he arrived. He took a motorcycle cab half way until the driver gave up and he walked the rest.

Lovely!

At 10:15 our ride arrived – a KIA suv. Besides the driver a man sat in the front seat and a young lady by the window in the back. I scooted in the middle and Bill took the other window. Bummed I wouldn’t have the window to take photos. Yes. That was my first thought!!!

To say the least it was exhilarating! I was so nervous at the thought but when it was happening I became the person in the spy novels we often read. It started out with me saying to myself – I could never be a war journalist and after a half hour of driving I was all about it.

The driver was on his phone constantly. Switching between map mode and talking to friends with Whats App or taking calls. By this time of night many barricades were unmanned.

To maneuver we took every side street and dirt path possible, drove down the wrong direction down lanes and highways, drove on sidewalks, crossed planted medians, squeezed between a perpendicular 18 wheeler and a tree with two inches to spare on each side of the car and then there were no options we had to confront the people who were blocking the roads.

Out of options we had to stop at our first manned road block. Let me rephrase that. Woman-ed roadblock. Two women completely in charge said “No” and proceeded to lock arms and cry out for their friends to join in.

Our driver begged for mercy. Now the block is seven or eight people wide and a dude waving a large Bolivian flag. “Por favor, tenemos extranjeros (foreigners) and must get to the airport”. Upon verification of boarding passes the roadblock parted, smiles were had by all and we were bid “buenas suerte” good luck.

This happened about ten more times. I felt we met our match when a shifty eyed man wielding a five inch wide by six foot long stick approached the driver. After much conversation he and his partner in crime allowed our driver to step out and clear the blockage.

Our ultimate confrontation came on the three lane road nearer to the airport. This was a a bit more serious. Men were hooded and there were lots of them. 18 wheeler tires and lined up motorcycles and vehicles made this blockade. After the negotiation was completed our driver got out of the car and moved the man sized tires – drove us through – stopped the car and replaced the tires.

Only one minor blockage required a small monetary bribe.

We even 4 wheeled it through a heavily treed section with a deeply potholed dirt road.

We made it. It took an hour and a half to drive a 20 minute drive.

All along American music played on the radio. Help by the Beatles cracked us up. “Help, I need someone. Help, not just anyone. HELP”.

Olivia Newton John asked us if we’ve ever been mellow.

Happily we walked to the security line. Handed the guard our boarding pass looking forward to the Priority Lounge and was told our flight had been cancelled!!!!!

Are you shitting me? Serious?

Now what?

There was another airline leaving at 4:44 am but registered full on their website. Another airline was full per the clerk and had a flight available in 36 hours. While at the airport Avianca emailed me the cancellation and rebooking ya for 48 hours later. Obviously we’d be stuck at the airport for days.

UGH! What do you do! You text your mom in the United States and ask for help!

She managed to get us on the 4:44 flight to Lima. 25 hours later we rested our heads upon our pillows and slept for 3 hours….

So much for exploring Bolivia.

Quito, Ecuador

The air is poco thinner in the second highest capital in the world. If we had flow in from Nevada we probably wouldn’t have noticed the 9,350′ elevation but coming from Charleston the dark night air felt more a deep water dive than cool crisp Andes mountain air. Not bad – just notable.

It was midnight by the time we got to our room. The 45 minute taxi cab ride had us blind to the distance but the roadways were clean and wide.

It’s the edge of the rainy season and the clouds obscure the surrounding volcanoes.

Quito sits on the eastern slopes of an active – yes active – volcano named Pichincha. The latest eruption was in 1999. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.We stayed at the JW Marriott on the fringe of La Mariscal neighborhood. Against the better judgement of the concierge – warned that we might be confronted by sketchy people – we decided to use up our daily breath quota and walked six miles to and from and around the historic downtown area.

On the way we passed the burned out government building and site of a Molotov cocktail barrage from the protests just a week before.Many buildings downtown were covered in concertina wire and security was plentiful.Other than that all was calm and peaceful.

The downtown architecture is magnificent. Intricate details, soft colors and wrought iron balconies are reminiscent of Spain.In 1978 Quito was named one of the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Cultural sites.Did you know that Panama hats are made in Ecuador?

There’s a method to our madness…

Bill and I discovered these fino and superfino sombreros in Waikiki, Hawaii 23 years ago. In awe of their buttery but shocked by the prices we vowed to fly to Ecuador one day, buy a hat and save money!!! Right….

I set out to buy a Montecristi and that I did.We learned that the Panama hat is on the UNESCO Intangible cultural Heritage list.

Off to higher places…

We’re gluttons for punishment.

Here are photos from Quito:

We’re on our way…

The beginning of October found us driving across the USA from “Mona” (tiny house number one) in Northern Nevada house to our “Fort” (formally a tiny house until we bought the unit next door this summer – still a tiny one bedroom but a mansion to us) in Charleston, SC.The drive was uneventful and flat and luckily there were only a few minutes of rain.Our building in Charleston is a construction zone. Down with the old balconies and up with the new. The stucco is being fixed as well. To say the least it’s noisy and a great time to bail…So I write this from the Charleston airport. Late this evening we’ll rest our heads in Quitó, Ecuador. The second highest capital in the world standing at 9,350′ above sea level.

It was questionable if we were going to make it there. Sunday saw the end of 12 days of civil unrest. The indigenous Ecuadorians traveled from the Andes and the Amazon to Quito to protest rising fuel prices – 30% on petrol and 50% in diesel, 20% decrease in wages, reduced vacation time by 50% and more.

Here are two stories that explain. First and second.

We’ll see you in Ecuador…..

* This blog and future ones from South America will be published from a cell phone app which is why they won’t look polished. All photos will be taken from my iPhone. I have my good camera but decided to leave my laptop home so that I don’t spend hours editing photos while we’re traveling. My husband is happy about that!!!

Shots from Charleston:

It’s Baja Baby!

Where does time go? Seven months have whizzed by. It’s been a pretty low key travel year so far – Winter in Indian Wells in Southern California, spring in Charleston, South Carolina and now summer in Northern Nevada.

However, we’ve been so busy there’s often no time to breathe (except when in yoga).

If you recall we sold our Baja house three ago but retained a parcel that’s now been in escrow for two years.  Closing time is slowly approaching – the lawyers needed paperwork signed/delivered and we needed an excuse to leave the country…

So – hello Baja! It’s so exciting to be back.

We rented a car and took the new “bypass” road that runs from the pay road near the Los Cabos International Airport into downtown Cabo and then 4 miles north to the Cabo San Lucas International Airport to pick up our friend Clint who flew in from Puerto Vallarta. I wasn’t familiar with it but Bill flew there on private planes many years ago. It’s small and has only one commercial carrier that only flies domestically. Not sure why International is in its title. Perhaps it suffers from Napoleon complex.

Did I mention it was so good to be back?

We drove the corridor back to SJD to pick up Barb – stopping for photos, coconut in lime juice, dominos, and alcohol.

We headed to the East Cape staying at the Palmas de Cortez in Los Barriles for three nights.

Palmas sponsored the first all women’s fishing tournament and we arrived on its last day.  It was surprising yet exciting to see tables full of women at dinner. Apparently, the seas had been rough and the fish scarce but good times were had by all. They were already planning for next year’s tournament. Normally, fishing season is all about middle-aged, gray-haired, potbellied men. (click on photos to enlarge)

The fishing Gods blessed us with calm seas and hungry marlin. Each of us had a turn at exhausting our reeling muscles as the fish were plentiful. Like Pac-Man the guys were bumping into each other when three marlin were on the three different lines at the same time. It’s quite thrilling watching them jump in and out of the water.

With all that excitement I’ve determined that fishing is like skiing. Three hours and I’m good.

The sunrises, sunsets and moonrises were stunning.

And animals rule!  One of my favorite things about Baja. Unfortunately, we missed the burro pack.

What a difference to be in our old stomping grounds as a non-homeowner. Not a care in the world. To cure any remorse we might have conjured up about selling required a quick visit to our old house. While standing outside the fence, admiring the huge pool the new owners installed – the pool boys arrived and dumped an empty yogurt container full of chlorine in the pool and drove away. No vacuuming or scrubbing the sides.

Off to Clint and Barb’s old family house to see an even less cared for pool. Obviously no chlorine there!  When the owners are away…. its the Baja way.

Mañana doesn’t mean tomorrow. It means just not today!

Onward, an hour drive south to Cabo Pulmo for two nights. It’s a little piece of heaven possessing a UNESCO World Heritage site/Marine Park – a haven for scuba divers and snorkelers. It’s a dusty little town with no electrical service – running on solar power and generators.

We hung out with our favorite divemaster and longtime friend Pepe who runs Pepe’s Dive Shop and Pepe’s Pizza (y otra comida tambien) Restaurant. Look up Pepe if you make it to Cabo Pulmo. He’ll take great care of you!

Lastly, we stayed in old town San Jose del Cabo. The quaintness, walkability and dining options make it a super special place to be.

It was bittersweet having to leave. We didn’t get our fill but know it’s there for next time.

The Only Constant is Change

The first three months of 2019 found us in Indian Wells, California. It was an attempt to follow the sun only to have record breaking amounts of rain and flooding. It was all good – we gladly sacrificed the sun to save California from a drought. It was ultimately rewarding because when the sun finally came out so did the super bloom.

We managed to find a yoga studio 2.5 miles away so we walked to yoga and back, got in some golf, hiked and visited with numerous family members and friends. Rinse and repeat…

A quick stop in Nevada to add a bit of fabric softener then off to our home in Charleston, South Carolina for the spin cycle.  And boy what a spin…

As Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, was quoted “change is the only constant in life.”

He got that one right!

Bam….

Preston and Chloe announced they are having twins. Say what??? Twins!  Double the pleasure, double the fun. We’re super excited. So excited that we momentarily lost our minds and committed to babysitting three days a week for a year.

Bill and I have really settled into life in Charleston and managed to keep ourselves quite busy.

No wonder Travel and Leisure magazine lists Charleston as the number one destination in America. It’s rich with history.  There’s architecture dating back to 1694, lavish gardens, daily events to choose from and tasty restaurants. Being fortunate enough to live in the walkable historic district allows us the freedom to slowly soak in this city.  A feast for the soul.

Looking to take advantage of the culture, art, reading, music and parties – we joined the Charleston Library Society (the second oldest lending library in the country) and the Gibbes Museum.

Before the Gibbes Street party

The juxtaposition is our membership to the Middleton Place Plantation.  A car ride away and home to the oldest landscaped gardens in America. There are 110 acres to roam and drink in the beautiful grounds.  We particularly like the Stableyards where there is a menagerie of animals and craftspeople forging iron and making pottery. Top that off with fish & grits and a glass of red.

Hold onto your hats! I’ve become a Charleston Hat Lady. No, not a red hat or purple hat (those are worn only if they match the outfit). It’s about wearing hats, volunteering and meeting other ladies.

Spoleto is here. Per their website “it’s one of America’s major performing arts festivals. It was founded in 1977 by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti, who sought to establish a counterpart to the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy.”

The talent is over the top.  Folk music singers I’m with Her made us new fans. Check them out on YouTube. Wow.  “Path of Miracles” a theatric/musical about the Camino de Santiago was interesting to say the least. It was a minimalistic production where the singers (pilgrims) dressed in everyday street clothes (no walking sticks or backpacks – they must have used Camino Ways) sang music that sounded like a cross between Gregorian and Tibetan chanting in several different languages. Hmm. Think about the last time you went to a modern art museum and knew you were experiencing art but felt a bit confused… we wondered if those in the audience who hadn’t walked the Camino would understand. The standing ovations proved it was a success none the less.

Time to brag. Last month I had the honor of winning Charleston Magazine’s gate photo competition.  Historic Charleston is famous for their iron works. It’s a scrolling web of forged beauty.Best part of Charleston is we get to spend time with the family. Especially with this little princess – now 8 months.

It’s our last week here and we’re gearing up for our big fundraising event for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation this Saturday, June 8th.  If you’re in Charleston please stop by our Lemonade Stand at the corner of Meeting and Calhoun in Marion Square between 10 and 6 (bring your umbrella). Otherwise, if you want to miss the rain you may make a donation by clicking on this link or head over to paigeshaw.com use the code LemonadeDays (valid until June 9, 2019) and take 30% off your purchase (proceeds are donated to ALSF).

Known as Lemonade Days (from June 1st to 9th) 2,300 lemonade stands across the USA will raise funds to help ALSF change the lives of children with cancer through funding impactful research, raising awareness, supporting families, and empowering everyone to help cure childhood cancer.

My goal is to raise $8,000. which will pay for a month of research.  Any donation – big or small all add up.  Thanks!!!

Final Days – Photo Sale to Help Raise Funds for Alex’s Lemonade Stand

Photography sale to kick off my partnership with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

30% discount on photos and keepsakes for the rest of February.  Please head on over to www.paigeshaw.com and use the code ALSF upon checkout.  Make a purchase and help cure childhood cancer at the same time.

If you wish to donate and not make a buy there is also a donation tab on the front page of the website.

Save the date. Stop by our Alex’s Lemonade Stand in Marion Square – Charleston, South Carolina – June 8th. Late morning until early evening.

Let’s raise enough money to fund a month of research.

  • $50 = 1 hour of research
  • $400 = 1 day of research
  • $2,000 = 1 week of research
  • $8,000 = 1 month of research

The mission of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is to change the lives of children with cancer through funding impactful research, raising awareness, supporting families, and empowering everyone to help cure childhood cancer.

Update and Exciting Information

After walking the Via Francigena Bill and I took a 14 day transatlantic cruise from Civitavecchia (near Rome) to Miami, Florida.

The goal was to recover (have a birthday party) and decompress.  Which we did in spades. But the change was abrupt, the cruise ship became our prison, and the port of Miami looked real good.

Bing Crosby got it right when he sang: Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above –
Don’t fence me in.

We celebrated Thanksgiving in Charleston, SC and got in as much grand-baby time as possible (is it ever enough?), then headed to Indian Wells (near Palm Springs, CA) for a tepid Christmas and a warmer winter.

So here we are. Palm trees, colorful flowers, bougainvillea and snow-capped mountains paint the horizon. Golf courses are pristine – green from edge to edge.  We’re trying to make the best of a rough situation!

Now the exciting news.

Most of you know I’ve turned my passion for photography into a business. As we travel the world, Bill carries my camera equipment and I take photos.  Those are showcased and sold at www.paigeshaw.com.

I have worked on this for some time and am now thrilled to announce that I have decided to partner with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and donate to them all of my photography proceeds.

The stars aligned when I read about Alex’s Lemonade Stand.  I was looking for a grass-roots  charity with a national/global reach and one that has personal resonance.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation mission is to change the lives of children with cancer through funding impactful research, raising awareness, supporting families, and empowering everyone to help cure childhood cancer. 

My eldest son Preston was diagnosed with the same cancer as Alex when he was 9 months old and then with a different cancer when he was 11. Preston’s oncologist is part of ALSF’s Crazy 8 Initiative where 90 scientists and researchers are getting together to help find a cure for hard to treat cancers. Today Preston is 35 years old, married and dad to 2 dogs and 3 cats.

To kick off my partnership with ALSF and Valentine’s day I am offering a 30% discount on photos for the rest of February.  Please head on over to www.paigeshaw.com and use the code ALSF upon checkout.  You can get a beautiful photo and help cure childhood cancer at the same time.

If you’re in Charleston, South Carolina on June 8th – stop by our Lemonade Stand in Marion Square. Details to come…

Please spread the word.