leaving…

i’ve had a hell of a time trying to get myself to update this blog over the last month. this is partially because I’m back. yeah, for anyone out there that still doesn’t know, i ended my trip and have been back in America for about a month now.

on November 17th, when i had just returned to rurre from the jungle, i got an email from my brother letting me know about a family emergency. as soon as i read it, i knew that i would be going home immediately. travel is one of the things that i love most in life, but for me, family comes first. and anyway, i had already been on the road for 14 months and seen 28 countries… missing out on just one or 2 more countries really wasn’t a big deal. i immediately called home and after talking to people, started trying to figure out how i could get back.

going back was easier said than done. i was in rurrenabaque, a tiny little jungle town in the middle of nowhere. to catch an international flight, i would have to get back to La Paz, the capital. the only road to La Paz was “the world’s most dangerous road”, and after having done that road once, there was no way in hell i would do it again. the other option was to fly in one of the tiny little planes that are run by the military. unfortunately, that airline doesn’t fly everyday, so our ticket was for the 19th, two days later.

the next day i woke up and was totally going crazy. i couldn’t stand being there any longer. i totally felt like my family needed me and i felt completely helpless being stuck here in the middle of nowhere. it was only one day till our flight on the 19th, but i felt like i just couldn’t wait any longer. also, there was another problem with waiting. the weather out there is completely unpredictable and flights get cancelled all the time. sometimes it takes people *weeks* to get out of rurrenabaque. what if the weather goes sour tomorrow and I’m stuck? what if there’s no way to get home for a long time? i decided that i couldn’t wait till the 19th. i had to do everything i could to get out of rurrenabaque that very day.

there’s one other tiny airline that operates out of rurre. it flies these super tiny 12 seater planes. the thought of flying into La Paz (world’s highest airport) in one of these planes was a bit freaky, but i decided to try anyway. we went to the airline office and it turned out that we were just a tiny bit short of the money needed to buy a ticket. CRAP! to make matters worse, rurre has no atms. we reserved two tickets, and then frantically started running around town figuring out how to get the remaining money. you can get credit card advances at the bank… but the bank was closed. i exchanged all the remaining dollars that i had. then i found a few Euro notes in my pack and exchanged those too. i *almost* had enough, but not quite. time was running out, and if we wanted to catch the flight, we would have to pay within one hour.

i was completely freaking out by this point. i *had* to get on the plane. should i try to sell something of mine? my mp3 player maybe? at the last second, i had a realization. i had been saving a bill from every country i had visited. most of these were worthless, but i had a 5 pound note from the UK! that’s almost 10 dollars. the problem is, no one exchanges for pounds in rurre. so, i started running up to random people around town and asking them if they were British so that i could trade them my 5 pound note. it was ridiculous. anyways, finally, with only minutes to spare, after frantically packing our stuff, we rush into the airline office to buy our tickets… and he tells us that they have been sold. WHAT?!?! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!? he calmly explains that tickets get sold to the first person who pays for them. but, what about the reservations, i ask?? well, apparently the reservations don’t mean anything. you can be the first reservation in line, and they’ll just sell your ticket to whoever pays for it. i was SO pissed. if the reservation doesn’t actually reserve anything, what the hell is the point?!!! after an intense screaming match, there was nothing we could do. i couldn’t believe it. after all that effort, we would still have to wait till the 19th. well, the only thing i could do now was to sit back and wait… and hope that it doesn’t rain.

the morning of the 19th, we walk out of the hotel and there are dark rain clouds everywhere. uh-oh. i started getting really nervous, but as long as it didnt rain within two hours when our flight takes off, we would be ok. of course, this is Bolivia and after getting to the airline office, we spent the next several hours sitting around waiting. and waiting. and waiting. finally we all piled into a van to go to the airport. upon arriving at the airport… it started to rain. tell me this isn’t happening. it started raining harder and harder. this “airport” is really just a long grassy field. if the field is wet and becomes slippery and muddy, no airplanes can take off. after an hour’s wait, we are told that we would try to take off from another airport about 45 minutes away. so, they take all of our luggage and throw it into an *uncovered* pick-up truck, to be driven through the pouring rain to the other airport. nice. as we drive to the second airport, we eventually get out of the rainy area and see the pick up truck with our luggage speeding down a dusty road with all of the luggage in back completely covered with water and dust.

at the second airport, we wait for yet another hour and then finally board our flight. the flight to La Paz was short, and soon i was in a taxi on the way to the hotel. it was mid day by the time i checked in, and now i had just a few hours to book my flight from Bolivia to the USA and also to try and rush around and buy souvenirs for everyone we know. it was a hectic several hours, especially since now that we were back at high altitude, doing anything at a fast speed would leave me out of breath. later that night, we had our last meal abroad at a fancy(ish) restaurant in our hotel. it was crazy to think that the next day i would be on a plane and flying back home…

*v

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