As you prepare for our upcoming trip here in Bolivia I thought I would send out some recommendations to help you in your packing process. Packing to travel to a place you’ve never been can be a confusing process. I’ll try to lay out some of the points I think are important as well as address some of the most common questions. Of course if you still have any doubts or questions afterwards feel free to write me at [email protected]. Here we go….
Being in the southern hemisphere, Bolivia has somewhat the opposite weather schedule to the north. It’s said that June 24th, the feast day of San Juan, is the coldest night of the year. Our course is running from mid-July to mid-August so we can expect that it will still be cold, especially in the La Paz region where we start our course where the nights can be around 30 degree Fahrenheit. The general pattern of the day is cold at night and in the morning and then warm (around 70 F) at mid day. This means that the best strategy is to wear layers that can be shed and replaced throughout the day. Know that people in the Andes have really good ways of dealing with cold weather, including amazing traditions of raising wooly animals and making great clothes from their wool. So if you need more layers you can always pick up a wool sweater or poncho should you need one. It’s also possible that it may rain during your time here, just in case it’s wise to bring a raincoat to be prepared.
The CSA course is not a heavy trekking/camping course. That being said, Bolivia is a stunning country and we will definitely have the opportunity to explore some on foot. Please bring some sturdy boots or trail shoes. The most important thing with regards to footwear is that they are comfortable and broken in. Buy then soon if you don’t already have them and then start wearing them now, it doesn’t have to be all day, just take some walks in them everyday to break them in, your feet will thank you later.
During our day to day time you will be provided with clean, purified water. It is possible however that during some more remote or backcountry excursions you may need to purify water. An important piece of equipment will be your water purification system. The most handy and efficient of these is the steri-pen, they are easy to use and work well. Whatever you choose to bring, make sure you bring a back up battery as well as they can be hard to find in Bolivia.
The majority of our time together will be spent in homestay in Tiquipaya. Here in ‘tiqui’ you can just plan on wearing normal clothes. Of course, there are cultural norms to take into account, Indigenous Bolivian culture is more conservative then American culture and so revealing clothing is not acceptable. However most people you meet will be wearing jeans, t-shirts and other common clothing. Your homestay will have a place where you can wash your clothes by hand and the family will teach you how to master the art of hand-washing.
We often get questions about gifts for homestay families. Here I’ll just say that there is no expectation on the part of the family that you will leave them a gift. It’s really just a nice gesture that hopefully comes out of your gratitude for the attention and kindness that they will provide to you. The best gifts are simple and small and express something about you or where your from. People will be curious about your hometown, your family, your life in general. If you can bring something for then that is representative of you and your life they will really like that.
I think that’s all for now. Again, I’m happy to answer any specific questions you have.