Snowboarder Kyle Miller is traveling some of South America’s harshest terrains with Sweetgrass Productions as part of its upcoming film, Solitaire, due for release this September. Temporarily sidelined by a tooth infection, Kyle is on the mend and back to reporting from beyond the frontier.
By Kyle Miller
La Paz, Bolivia, is a thriving metropolis within some of the most desolate and cruel terrains in South America, but what they don’t have in finances, they more than make up for in culture. I was fortunate to witness Gran Poder Parade, the yearly celebration that lasted for over 12 hours and was filled to the brim with music, dance, and costumes.
Being away from my team because of a tooth infection, I was surrounded by locals who couldn’t speak a lick of English while I couldn’t speak Spanish. Though communication was awkward at times, we were friends by the end, sharing cervezas and exchanging stories like three-year-olds who have barely brushed the English vocabulary. It seems that those times that you are the most vulnerable are the times that allow you to open up and absorb the most. Those 24 hours of celebration were my breakthrough in understanding the culture of La Paz and, in all honesty, I just scratched the surface.
The next morning I was awakened by the sound of knocking on my door. It was the crew back from Uni, a place they referred to in stark contrasts: beautiful in the nature but foul in form of the city. The crew had come home to rest for a few days. If all went according to plans, I would have a final dentist visit and be back in the mountains: my home, my sanctuary, and—most importantly—my place to burn off excess energy.
There would be two groups leaving town: the first group to set up plans of attack for the volcanoes around Sajama, and the second group who would arrive a day later because of said tooth infection and/or adjustments to Bolivian food. Before long, what were five people was quickly reduced to two, and we walked around the streets that had now become so familiar to me. We enjoyed the diversity as we went past stores that sold everything from potato chips to toilets and all in between. That night we chose to stay safe with our eating and went for the tried-and-trusted Thai food place across the street before calling it a night.
The next day started as usual: drinking lukewarm fluids that resembled coffee and enjoying the vast options of either a scrambled or a fried egg and three pieces of bread shared between us. Before long, it was time to go back to the dentist and visit the lonely room I had already visited four times prior.
It was obvious that my condition had vastly improved, with my swelling all but gone and a smile on my face, not to mention I was filled with energy and running up and down the streets of La Paz. With a quick check of the infected area and a drain of some sort against the inside of my cheek, the dentist gave the green light to climb.
My stoke level was through the roof. No longer would I be sitting in a hotel room, but I would be traveling through the highlands and volcano country of Bolivia.
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