Photography Documentary - Nov 8 - Nov 19, 2018

Traveler: Michael H. - Local specialist: Stephen Taranto

Trip planning was good. Communication was great. I had asked for a trip outside the normal tourist trip and the team complied well with my request. The overall price was way too high for what I received. The accommodations were as basic as I've ever seen in Latin America. I can't understand where $2700 USD went when planning this trip. My goal was to find hard evidence of climate change in the region. There wasn't any hard evidence. I know climate change is hard to capture in a photograph, but I was led to believe that signs of climate change were everywhere. And the people of Apolobamba would be able to speak of it in specific and direct terms. That wasn't the case. Lastly, the accommodations at the last night with Alfonso were extremely rough. I cannot pinpoint where I would have contracted the two infections I'm dealing with now but perhaps they were here. I am currently in and out of the hospital with Typhoid Fever and Shigella. I appreciate Stephen and Milenka's work but this trip didn't warrant such an expensive bill. Thank you. Michael

Stephen Taranto profile photo
Stephen Taranto, local specialist, responded to this review:

Dear Michael, thank you for your feedback. I am disappointed that part of your experiences in Bolivia were not as you had hoped for/expected. I would like to respond to some of your comments here and if you would like to speak by phone please do not hesitate to give me a call via Skype, my handle is s_taranto.

Regarding the cost of your program, in our September 17th message we explained that “a bit more than 50% of the cost” was from the private transport and in your September 18th... read more

Dear Michael, thank you for your feedback. I am disappointed that part of your experiences in Bolivia were not as you had hoped for/expected. I would like to respond to some of your comments here and if you would like to speak by phone please do not hesitate to give me a call via Skype, my handle is s_taranto.

Regarding the cost of your program, in our September 17th message we explained that “a bit more than 50% of the cost” was from the private transport and in your September 18th response your preference for private transport, despite the higher cost and our proposal to use public transport on one of the legs of the journey. You confirmed then that you were opting for private transport and would be tracking down the necessary funds because it would "let you take photos if something comes up.”

As you now know, Apolobamba is quite remote and some sections of the roads there are in terrible condition. Furthermore, your driver made two trips to the region, one to take you there and one to pick you up, in itself explaining much of the cost of your travel to and from the protected area. You also had a number of private services in La Paz as well as much farther away on the outskirts of El Alto that added to the high overall transport costs of your program.

Regarding the assertion that we led you to believe that there would be clear signs of climate change impacts on local communities, I recall you explaining to me when we spoke that this was an initial, exploratory mission and that if you found some of the potential stories and images of interest you’d be back for longer. I encourage you to return and spend more time in Apolobamba because I am certain that doing so will bring forward the impacts that are being felt in the region. There may not be wildfires and mega-storms but there are most certainly slower, less visible impacts such as soil depletion and loss and associated crop failures, disruption of cultural and agricultural calendars due to changing rainfall patterns, the rise of diseases historically found at lower altitudes and many others. If the specific families and other actors you met with during your short time there were not able to provide the stories and images you were after, more time in the area will allow you to find the ones that can, if they are willing to do so. I can also provide you with several peer-reviewed articles from the region that attest to the growing impacts of climate change in the Central Andes.

Finally, we are, of course, sorry to learn that you may have contracted a sickness while in Bolivia. While it is possible to become sick from food and other vectors anywhere in the world, in Bolivia there are often higher risks in restaurants and homes that are not accustomed to cooking for international visitors. Due to your repeated requests for non-touristic services and as we do not work on a regular basis with some of the families you met and stayed with, it was impossible for us to guarantee their hygiene. By the same token and due to your international travel experience in our region, including Chile before your arrival in Bolivia, we were confident that you would be taking at least partial responsibility on this front. If you need some tips on how to do so in the future, we'd be happy to share some of our experiences and you can also review the health and safety guidance on our website.

Once again, we are disappointed that not everything turned out as you hoped and would be happy to discuss your experiences further by Skype.

Regards,

Stephen Taranto and Milenka Omireis