This is a picture from mi teleferico(My Teleferico) in La Paz, Bolivia.
I am writing this while I am still in the highest capital in the world. The cable way was inaugurated last year to give city commuters some respite. It is one of the most unique and picturesque commutes one can take anywhere in the world. In many ways, it signifies the leap that Bolivia is trying to take(I was here five years ago).
Poverty is still a reality for the vast majority. But Coca-Cola, the prominent symbol of capitalism is now everywhere. The one thing or person that is common though is the president of this country – Evo Morales. Now in his third term, it seems he might be able to change the constitution and run for the fourth one as well. Evo remains ever so popular. But the fanatic admiration that was the norm some years ago, is now sprinkled with skepticism.
Bolivia truly is in a decisive phase of its history. And as a mildly informed traveler, I can only wish that the country decides what’s best for itself.
The 12 Project And What Happens Now…
These are my friends and host family in Rio – the Laurentinos. I ended up spending close to four months in Brazil. It would be right to assume that I fell in love with the country. But that is just half the story.
Brazil also introduced me to the real challenge of ‘The 12 Project’. To imagine that someone on his own could set up a challenge in every country and complete it in a month was a bit naive. No prizes for guessing who is the naive one.
From getting visas, to building contacts and to then find time to narrate these stories(while doing things dirt cheap), I realised that I had bitten more than I could chew. The format of the project had to change and may be the challenges had to as well. And like every time, it was a lesson learnt the hard way.
It was in Rio that I had to make a few difficult but inevitable decisions. Finally this is what ‘The 12 Project’ looks like(but don’t be surprised if this changes too in the coming months).
India: 25Days25Trains – Completed
Sri Lanka: Positive stories or #LankaPositive – completed(though I need to publish four more positive stories lying dormant in my notebook)
Brazil – Salvador: #BatucadaBeats : music & a religion called Candomble – Completed
Brazil – Rio De Janeiro: the secret challenge – Completed
Now going forward… I will be taking 2-3 challenges in countries where I have longer duration on my visas. So…
Colombia – Cali: Vamos! Let’s Salsa
Colombia – Bogota: Trekking in a national park for a week
Colombia – overall: Beyond drugs & danger – stories of a changing country
Mexico – south: Learning to cook
Mexico – south eastern coast: Scuba diving
Cuba – cycling from Havana to Santiago De Cuba(750kms)
US – New York: the stand-up(comedy) challenge
While the challenges are tough, the real uphill task has been implementing this journey. The Laurentinos, are just few of the countless people who have helped making this almost impossible project come to life.
So thank you everyone!
But what was my secret challenge in Rio? Read on…
The Secret Challenge:
I reached Rio after completing the #BatucadaBeats project in Salvador, Brazil. It was only then that I realised my visa for Chile was about to expire. Which meant despite having good contacts in the country, I could not go there unless I reapplied for a visa and repaid the visa fees. Also, the Chilean consulate seemed pretty strict about documents. After a while, documentation starts wearing you out and that’s exactly what happened to me. I decided to learn surfing in Rio instead of Chile. Extending the visa while I was still in Brazil seemed easier.
Well, I got the visa extended in an hour and thought this was it. With an amazing friend ready to teach me surfing, things started to look up. But surprises come your way when you least expect them to.
The weather started playing havoc. Conditions were far from ideal for surfing for many days. I had to make a quick decision – again. I needed to take a challenge that would not depend on so many factors beyond my control. That’s when my friend & host Mairton Laurentina introduced me to Capoiera.
It was exactly what I needed. Come rain or storm, you could always practice Capoiera. And the best part was I was living with my Capoiera teacher.
Over the next few weeks, Mairton taught me moves of this martial arts-meets-dance discipline and I helped him perfect his English. To be honest, he did a far better job of learning than I did.
But I guess, I wasn’t too bad either. Some of my classmates commented that I had learnt faster than most people. However on the final day, while practicing the moves with a senior opponent I was, as you can see, kicked in the face. My mistake as my defense was down.
What seems like a leisurely foot resting on my face is actually a painful blow that made me forget I was in Brazil for a full 60 seconds. But that’s the nature of a challenge, if you don’t get kicked in your face it cannot truly be called one. So five down, seven more to go! Challenges, I mean.
Hope my journey gives you some insights into countries and themes I am exploring. The next detailed update will be from Colombia. As I make a tough & long journey from Bolivia to Peru to Ecuador and then to Colombia by road, do keep me in your thoughts and prayers.
And as always, stay eccentric!