Saturday, April 5, 2014

Family Road Trip!!

The "Beaty blog" readers are in for a treat! The true writer of our family is working on a special contribution recounting some of the adventures of our first road trip as a family of six! Meanwhile, here’s a general synopsis of our big trip.

We had imagined a carefully planned first family trip to somewhere close, such as the Chapare (3-4 hours away) or Toro Toro (5 hours). But we hadn’t expected on Jake competing in a local triathlon, or placing in the top three, or being invited to join Cochabamba’s triathlon team at a national race in Tarija! Tarija just happens to be near the border with Argentina, which is a L-O-N-G ways away when you go overland in a mountainous country with sketchy roads. To be exact, 1,050 miles (1700 km)? But to back up…  

The excitement was tangible in our house building up to the big day. As you can see from this snapped picture of our white board, I thought I had understood that each city was separated by about 7 hours driving time.

  Planning our 4 1/2 day, 4 night trip
Jake then told me he expected a bit more time for some of the legs. It didn’t matter what I had told the boys, anyway. I’m not sure their minds could have wrapped around the implications! Child #3 had surmised that Tarija was somewhere near the mountains hemming in the southern border of our city. Traveling nearly to the border of Argentina was a little out of the scope of their imaginations!! 


In reality, we spent 10 ½ hours getting from Cochabamba to Sucre, then 11 ½ hours from Sucre to Tarija, arriving nearly at midnight to our destinations both nights. Poor Jake did some pretty exhausting nighttime driving on horrible roads two days in a row before running a triathlon the very next morning! WOW! Coming home we made a little better time because 1) we cut out meals on the road, living off our snacks, and 2) pushed hard to be able to drive most of the distance during the DAYlight! (Sun sets around 7pm in Bolivia, with very little variation year round.) Jake drives really, really well on these bad roads! I was only scared a couple of times passing close to a curve. A day! ;-) But then he’d point out that he had looked as far down the road as possible first. Shew!
Our littlest traveler, 5 1/2 months old! 

 After our first couple of hours on the road!
Overall, the kids did remarkably well! The boys had only minor spats and, especially after the first day, rarely asked “Are we there yet?” I gave them snacks every hour or so, they played with their stuffed animals, told each other hilarious stories, pointed out sights along the way, studied the Bolivian map I bought them the day of the trip, tried to color while on the better roads, and tried to nap in the tight quarters. There were frequent sightings (and near misses) of donkeys, llamas, sheep, goats, and pigs. Sophia’s car seat (when empty) was a favorite perch of theirs, and they rotated through it. A couple times a day we would pull over to let me change and/or swaddle Sophia for a nap and give them a run in the middle of nowhere.
Sophia did much better than we expected, actually. She’s never been one to easily sleep in her car seat or in our arms, so she’d have 1 or 2 major meltdowns a day because she resists sleep so tenaciously, but when she’d finally give it up and sleep, even 30 minutes, she’d usually be happy again for an hour or two. And she did survive off mainly “cat naps”, as either the noise of her brothers or the regular toll/police stops woke her constantly. At least she usually went to sleep without much fuss at the hotels at our midnight arrivals, and we didn’t get kicked out of any! Overall, I think she liked the constant entertainment from her brothers when in her car seat, or else being held up front and getting talked to by me and her dad. The first couple days home were rough, as she expected more of the same!

Our worn out little triathlon baby :)

The boys were beside themselves with excitement for much of the trip, so that was pretty fun to witness. I loved watching Jake and the boys experience the sights and new cities (for them) along the way. Made me really wish that all my CDA kids could take a trip outside the city!

My impression from the Bolivian school system led me to believe the boys would be well-prepared to explore their own country. It seems like school children here spend a lot of time studying about each of Bolivia’s 9 departments, capital cities (there are two), regional dances, dishes, and customs, etc. I’ve even helped the kids of Casa de Amor memorize lines about each department to quote in special events. When I asked the boys questions though, they'd say they'd forgotten everything. Guess there’s nothing like traveling to a place for some good concrete learning, especially for children. At first, we’d pull into a city and hear the question “Which country are we in now? Do they speak Spanish here?” By the end, I think they had caught on to the difference between departments, cities, and countries. The older two would occasionally have to enlighten the youngest brother with a groan. “We’re in the CITY of Potosi, not the COUNTRY of Potosi!” Gotta start somewhere! (I thought it sweet that at some point, the boys conferred that Sophia was lucky to get started traveling so early.)

The boys declared Casa Verde B & B to be their favorite hotel in Sucre. Never mind that it's the only one they know! :)
The novelty of staying in a hotel was pretty great. The European owner of the B & B in Sucre said, after both of our nights there, that our boys were surprisingly well-behaved. (And their room was above others, so they were told to step carefully.) YEAH!!! The boys loved hearing that, especially after some recent night-time shenanigans at home. They often said they felt like they were treated like kings….to which we replied, they needed to ACT like kings (versus a bunch of wild hooligans)! They liked the breakfasts, exploring their room, having room keys, and the big pool in Tarija. One time Jake and I were getting ready in our room and the boys were antsy. Again I suggested that they go play on their big balcony. Finally, Michael said in an exasperated tone of voice, “You keep SAYING that, but we don’t know what a balcony IS!!” Oh my. Learning experiences all around, and so many more to come!!

Visiting a museum in Tarija for about 15 minutes before they closed for the day


 View from the front balcony of our hotel rooms in Tarija. At night all that could be heard was the river...

One of my favorite parts of the trip - our two breakfasts on this outdoor patio overlooking Tarija!

The boys loved playing a round of Ping-Pong while we checked out 

They could have lived in the pool! 

Daddy liked Tarija's wine
(I've never taken a picture of a wine bottle before, much less a baby and a wine bottle, ha! Love her expression here.)

The boys are SUPER into dinosaurs. So glad Jake decided that we had time for a brief visit to Sucre's famous dino park on our way back home!

Seeing as we had a three potential legal issues, and were in tight quarters with four pretty un-traveled children, AND were in an old car that showed signs of mechanical trouble but never let us down on deserted mountain roads, we consider ourselves spared that the lowest point of our travels came when Michael threw up. The first day of travel he felt sick but nothing happened. On the last day, he gave all of 10 seconds of warning. Abruptly pulled back to the present from my engrossing book (written by a missionary to Indian tribes in the Amazon rain forest), I took one look and knew it was serious! As I frantically searched for a plastic bag, Jake searched for a safe place to pull over on the narrow mountain road. Neither of us reached the goal in time so the eruption went EVERYWHEREEE, splattering over all the stuffed animals, bags of stuff, shoes, and both baskets stowed under seats containing their toys and our snacks. It missed most of our stacked backpacks and the baby’s car seat. Not sure if the sudden commotion or stench woke Sophia. ;-) We were quite the sight for those zooming by as we poured out of the car and began tossing things out on the side of the road. I think we went through half of the baby’s wet wipes, half of our napkin supply, and a made a good dent in our “On Guard” essential oil, before we were back on our way in less than 30 minutes time. I sprinkled that lovely blend of cinnamon and pine tree on all the rubber mats and where Michael was sitting, and made a note to myself to NEVER travel without it! AND to load Michael up on ginger before any more long trips!

I told Jake that all of the adventures and challenges somehow added up to make it an even BETTER trip than we had hoped for! It certainly wasn’t dull, but was certainly memorable. Jake kept telling us that every trip is going to seem better after this one. The boys are amazed when we say there are other places we could visit and arrive to in just a few hours, compared to two full days of travel.

These last pictures show our super fun river break. I told Jake I'd been longing to cool off in a river ever since our trip started (because we had seen several). He asked if I was serious. I said yes, and just minutes later we were crossing a bridge in the middle of mountains that got us close to the water. Jake did some off-roading while the boys magically produced swim gear, and in we went!!
Four hours later, we were back in Cochabamba, planning our next trip. :)




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