Before I left for South America, my little sister reminded me of our favorite Disney movie, “The Emperor’s New Groove,” and asked me to bring her back a llama (or at least some quality llama products). So from the beginning, while salsaing and singing in Spanish and adventuring in the Andes, I was looking for llamas.
I don’t know if there are actually more of these intriguing animals in Bolivia than in, say, Argentina or Peru, but there certainly seemed to be. In one rural community, there were fifteen to twenty wandering up and down the dusty main street, and my friends and I spent the better part of an hour trying to befriend them. We were unsuccessful, but I did get some good photos to share with my sister. Later while shopping in La Paz, among used toilet seats and shoe laces, we found an abundance of bizarre llama products, including llama skulls, bottled llama fetuses, llama teeth, and of course the commonplace “alpaca” apparel. Here in the markets of the highest capital in the world, my llama fascination appropriately peaked, and so I was prepared for the greatest llama adventure of all, which was to occur two weeks later.
We were taking a four day tour of the Salt Plains in southern Bolivia, driving around the wilderness, seeing the blue and red and green lagoons and other natural wonders. One day, we had llama for lunch. Cooked by our driver and his wife on their little portable stove on the side of the road with the sun shining over the majestic mountain backdrop, it was a delicious experience. I couldn’t wait to email home: “I ate llama, and it didn’t taste like chicken!”
Twelve hours later, I awoke to alarming abdominal cramping. I soon realized that if I didn’t immediately escape from my sleeping bag, feel my way out of the concrete room, down the pitch black hall, and into what I hoped was the toilet, a bad situation would become much worse. About a minute later, my body was violently ejecting the offensive llama, and I was thinking to myself, “I’m going to die in South America. Just like my aunt said I would.” There was no electricity or running water, and I had convinced myself that the tiny village obviously wouldn’t have an operating telephone line either. There was no hope. This was the end.
Except it wasn’t. I spent the remainder of the night stumbling back and forth between my bed and the toilet. Around 4am, after a particularly miserable episode had subsided, I weakly smiled as I thought, “I’m not going to die and I ate llama cooked on the side of a Bolivian road. This is freakin’ hilarious.”
Since then, whether traveling or at home, I eagerly anticipate those “I’m going to die, but not really, Mom’s gonna kill me when she hears about this, I can’t wait to tell her” experiences… though I doubt anything will ever top that one time I ate llama.
— The author is a third year university student in the United States, studying English and history. She likes being around people, drinking coffee, and traveling. When she runs out of money, she goes to Books-A-Million and reads about other people’s travels (for free!) and works in a local cafe until she can travel some more.
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