16 Reasons Bolivia is More Interesting Than Streaming Another Cat Video

There are a few guaranteed facts in this world. The Internet is a passing fad, a koala will never pay you back in full, and Bolivia is a darn interesting country. Not convinced and want further proof (at least on the last point)? Well I thought you’d never ask.

Number one: There is a lot of salt, and salt is delicious. It also apparently makes for great photos shoots.

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Numero dos: Coca leaves are everywhere, and even the Pope is all about them.

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Three: It is one of the few countries that views butterflies and guns as equals before the law, and thankfully prohibits both to ensure a just, fair society.

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Cuatro: There is always some sort of something, like a parade or festival, happening nearby you. Always.

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Sweet number five: Many women retain a unique style of traditional dress, replete with fancy hats that vary by region.

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They also apparently wrestle.

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Six: You can keep ñandú in your yard, or better yet two.

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Siete: Llamas are pretty revered, but not so much that you can’t cut them up, light up a grill, and put them on a plate. (In addition, the burial of their foetuses, openly sold in certain shops, make for handy ritual offerings).

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Nueve menos uno: You can try your hands in the mines, if you’re trip budget is exhausted and you need a few extra bucks.

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Nueve: Chocolate covered strawberries on a stick cost 44 cents. A slice of cake is even less, meaning you can get diabetes for pennies on the dollar.

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Number ten: Occasionally you might have trouble pooping, but there are remedies for that. On more frequent occasions, you will have the exact opposite (with no viable remedy in sight!).

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Numero once: June 23rd is San Juan Day, supposedly the coldest and shortest night of the year – and also when everyone gets together to specifically eat hot dogs. Apparently sometimes there is so much lingering smoke from the public bonfires the next day, that is it “impossible to go outside.”

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Twelve: Zebras have been tasked with regulating traffic, a job they perform dutifully.

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Unlucky thirteen: Apparently the high altitude turns Christine into an air hockey maven.

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Catorce: Cable cars are a normal means of daily transportation.

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Quince: Bolivian mannequins have personalities, and are often cooler than you or I.

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El Ultimo: Dinosaurs are everywhere – need I say more!

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A Culinary Tour of the Southern Cone – Part II (Argentina Awakens)

Regardless of what the Argentines can and cannot figure out, they got the food game down. Centolla, or spider crabs, a speciality from Ushuaia, alllll the way down south. This was cooked in a parmesan cheese sauce, and thus was delicious by default. 06-photo 1 We lived off of Choripans for a while in Argentina, a clever combination of chorizos and pan (bread). Submerged in chimichurri sauce and plied with other vegetable-related toppings, this is a ubiquitous and tasty street food item. 08-IMG_2955-001 And now we come to the most famous of all Argentine sandwiches, the Milanesa. In an attempt to rival the Chilean chacarero (but in between us falling a bit short), a thin strip of veal is breaded and then put on more bread. Milanesa can refer to a type of meat preparation as well – usually veal, but you can have chicken, pork, or even llama milanesas. Found all over Argentina, they are also typically as big as your face, but could use some sauce (i.e. aji from Chile as well! – ok fine, we just really want a chacarero instead). 09-IMG_2985 You can also get it not as a sandwich as well, for those more Atkins inclined (its still breaded and massive). 10-IMG_3018 A typical Argentina barbeque, filled with as many different types of meats as you can count, or an asado, is a blissful event. In this case, we had a combination of blood sausage, sweet breads, and intestines – nothing goes to waste. 12-IMG_3067 13-IMG_3068 Parillas (grill) restaurants grill up a lot of delicious things, but its hard to top the Chivto, basically a young goat. I could never be a vegetarian. 16-IMG_20150511_152327 15-IMG_3082 Pulpo, or octopus – homemade in this case with potatoes, pepper, and olive oil. The Chinese in Buenos Aires apparently have the best octopus, which may or may not be manufactured in a factory. 17-IMG_20150510_205126 Random places, such as a mechanical garage, will set up a Sunday BBQ outside, throwing tons of meat on the grill until they sell out. In this case, we came late but still managed to secure one of the last pieces of beef, and of course a chorizo – drenched in chimichurri as usual. 26-IMG_3935 Argentina bakeries are some of the best places on earth. Most of the cookies are alfajor based, or with dulce de leche in between two layers. These are also mainly dipped in chocolate, and thus are amazing. Trying to buy just one is simply impossible (something I attempted here, and come home with seven). 31-IMG_3986 Llama steak – we thought it was rare, but see it in Bolivia now all the time! Doesn’t make this first fancy foray into the world of llama consumption any less delicious. 33-IMG_4023 If you ever go to Argentina (or even South Carolina randomly), go to Freddo’s Ice Cream. Get any dulce de leche flavor, and then you can die a happy person. They even had an ice cream alfajor sandwich (something Christine simultaneously invented), but I’d stick to the ice cream itself. 14-dg 27-IMG_3973 In Argentina, but especially Uruguay, people carry unwieldy thermoses of hot water with them all over the place to make mate, a bitter looseleaf tea that you drink out of a open cup, often a gourd, via a metal straw with a filter on the bottom. Often a social activity shared amongst a group, mate is also highly caffeinated, and may help explains Uruguay’s recent decision to legalize certain substances as a counterbalancing effect. 11-IMG_3053 How could we go this long without talking about licuados? Take any fruit, add milk or water with a little sugar, and you’re good to go. Strawberry tends to be the most manly choice. 30-IMG_3983 Submarino, or basically make-your-own hot chocolate. You are provided hot milk and some chocolate on a stick, the rest is up to you (don’t worry, it’s hard to mess up – even if you look like a cartoon). 07-IMG_2794 Ok time to go eat!

A Culinary Tour of the Southern Cone – Part I

Everybody loves food, and even better to write about food is to show it! Now in Bolivia, we have completed our tour of the southern cone (which to me means Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay – but we visited Paraguay as well, so I’m just going to include it here). Given the length of time we spent and the variety of delicious foods, Argentina will just have to occupy its own forthcoming post (which will do little to diminish their ever-present vanity for all things Argentine).

Thus, a sampling of what we ate in Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay:

Chile

Pino empanadas – beef, a hard boiled egg, and an olive. A Chilean classic!

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The most famous of the famous Chilean sandwiches, the Chacarero. Along with half a jar of mayonnaise, the base is thinly sliced beef, fresh green beans, and spicy peppers. Best paired with aji, a delicious and salty Chilean hot sauce. It usually as big as your head, unless you have a really big head. We shared this one at supposedly the best chacarero place in Chile, Fuente Alemana

02-IMG_2086-001Another famous Chilean speciality – the completo! A hot dog, or in this case two hot dogs, smothered in yet more mayonnaise, cheese, vegetables, and various other toppings. This was purchased from the also famous Sibaritico in Vina del Mar, where Anthony Bourdain even got one once. They also make their own mayonnaise there, so Hellman’s lost some business on that one.

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Cuddly guanacos, a llama cousin, make for great photo opportunities, but also fit nicely on a plate.

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Curanto is a seafood medley encompassing clams, mussels and multiple varieties of fish, in addition to various meats and potatoes, all cooked in a hole in the ground. The tinfoil did not taste as good as the rest.

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Churros! Need I say more?

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Uruguay

Confusingly, the Southern Cone at one point ran out of food words, and starting using the same phrases in different countries to describe completely different things. Thus while Lomito refers to pork in Chile, in Uruguay it serves as the national beef-based sandwich, competing with the Argentine Milanesa and Chilean Chacarerro alike. Simple but with tender meat, Uruguay in our opinion takes home a well-deserved second place in the regional sandwich game (but don’t tell the third place Argentines that!)

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While in Chile a large hot dog with everything you could imagine on it is a completo, in Uruguay it’s a pancho – both ertain the ratio of a kilo of mayonnaise per hot dog.

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Uruguay also does up its Sunday bbqs – in this case we got a pizza chicken, or literally cheese and sauce atop a grilled piece of chicken.
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Paraguay

Poor Paraguay is often overlooked, but it does has some specialties of its own commonly found on the street, such as a food drink salad and chipa guasu (i.e. Paraguay cornbread).

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If you ever find yourself lost in the chaos of the markets of Ciudad del Este, take a deep breath, walk west, and don’t stop until you hit a Quiero Fruta. While juices are found everywhere in all four countries, this stand has it going on.

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Meat is just often so much better when grilled on the side of the street. Throw in some yuca too for girth.

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And of course, don’t forget that you can get an entire chicken meal for a few bucks!

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