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South America » Bolivia
January 4th 2013
Published: January 4th 2013EDIT THIS ENTRY

2.2.12


Had to sit in a freezing cold bus terminal in Puno from 5am till 7:30am what a hell hole, but Linz did have a good cup of tea! We then crossed the border next to the giant Lake Titicaca- very nice! The borders were very basic surrounded by the usual Quechan ladies who were wearing bowler hats, jackets and big puffy pleated long skirts and trying to sell nuts, Pringles and Snickers. Got to our hotel, had a good 4th floor corner room overlooking the lake, islands, town and surrounding mountains. After power nap we went for a beer and fish dinner which consisted of lovely bit of trout from the lake. We then went and joined in the festivities that were on in the town centre. The first of 5 days of celebration, not entirely sure what the celebration was about, religion we think but seemed just an excuse to get blind drunk. There were four sound stages playing horrible 90’s synthesizer music mixed with brass bands. It was a bit like an oompa band on speed remix!

All of the local ladies were dressed in their best frocks and bowler hats and the gents in suits and wide brimmed 50’s gangster hats. It was 2:30pm and they were all hammered on warm beer and local sprits. People were passed out in the grass and also in any nook and cranny. We even saw one old boy crawling about, who I’m pretty sure had shat, pissed and puked on himself! The funniest was when one of the tuba players tried to stand, then staggered about trying to get his tuba over his head. He then fell about so much while the rest played that they had to hold him up. He got told off and de tuba-ed by his colleges and got in a piss. Being the only blonde with blue eyes Linz started attracting a lot of attention see photos! We chilled for the rest of the day and had a very mediocre evening meal. The locals were just getting drunker and drunker, the ladies large skirts were very useful for using to cover themselves up whilst peeing in the street. It felt decidedly dodgy after our meal, lots of people seemed to be getting into fights (no surprises there!) We went back to our hotel as had an early start in the morning and went to sleep to the sounds of the party which went on until about 3am!

3.2.12
Got up early and got on ferry to Isla Del Sol which is an island on Lake Titicaca, it is apparently the birth place of the Inca religion. It's kind of like their version of Eden where Christian Adam and Eve popped into existence. The lake is at 4000m and is massive plus it is surrounded by snow-capped mountains up to 6000m.) It was the slowest ferry we’ve ever been on but the views were good so no bother. Got to the south port of the island and climbed up the Inca steps to the town called Yumani. We found accommodation in a new build with giant glass windows and big new bed, treated ourselves to a bit of luxury, it even had a hot shower although it was a suicide version. That seems to be the norm over here, living life on the edge! There was also a beautiful lake view looking out to Isla de Luna which is a smaller island. All for £10 inc breakfast. We then set off for a hike around the entire island see photos! Beautiful place even had a big sacrificial table on a cliff top, plus cheap sandwiches, chips and cold beers in the north port. On the return leg we saw a massive rainbow hitting Isla del Luna (see photo’s) That evening we ate on the hill top at a place called Las Velas which overlooked the other side of the island. It was at a local’s house who was professional chef who’d decided to retire there, we ate really tasty stuffed trout and guzzled down not just one, but two tasty bottles of wine, what a treat! It was just us sat on tree stump stools for a while, then later we were joined by another couple. We watched sunset over the lake with crazy high altitude cloud formations circling the distant lake shores.
4.2.12
We walked back down the steps in the morning, whilst waiting for the ferry we bumped into Antoine again (from Santa Cruz and Inca jungle trek). After the ferry and quick snack we got on a bus to La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. Nice views and a water crossing that involved everyone getting off the bus and getting a ferry across about 2km. The bus gets driven onto a large flat wooden barge powered only by a 2hp outboard and slowly makes its own way across. The passengers have to get on another ferry and pay to get across. It was very weird to see and also looked like the bus could fall off and sink at any moment! The bus crossed large open plains, then as we got to near to La Paz the traffic started building and we could see snow-capped mountains to the north. La Paz is a big city at 3600m that spills up out of a deep valley. Some parts are wealthy and in other parts people pretty much live in houses built from mud bricks. We struggled to find any decent accommodation so spent a bit more on the best room in a place called Hotel Republica. We then went to the Star of India which is apparently home to the hottest curry in the world. We bumped into a lad (Luke ) we had met in Taganga in North Colombia about 2 months prior! He was with a big group, two of which were having the seriously hot curry. If you managed to eat the whole thing you got a t-shirt saying 'I survived the hottest curry in the world!' We both tried a sp0onful of the famous curry, holy jebus it was ridiculously hot! You could only taste heat and nothing else, it had a pretty disgusting chilli taste! Out of the five guys we saw try the curry, three failed miserably One looked very ill and red and one did it but also did not look too good but he did get the T shirt! The worst thing was that he was cycling the death road the next day and there are no toiletsI I don’t think even Pete Radmall could handle it! Luke later took us to Loki (the Aussie party backpackers) for beers and to watch drunken people dancing on the bar, good crack!
5.2.12
Lay-in in the luxurious room, then into town for a wander and booking of tours. It belted it down with rain all afternoon so much so you had to run door to door. We fell out with each other over Linz wanting to do a bit of shopping. Linz went and munched a lemon meringue pie and coffee on her own in a piss. After a good chat with an informative Dutch travel agent, we booked the 6088m 2day mountain Huayna Potosi accent for me, and the death road cycle for Linz, then the Amazon pampas tour followed by the salt plains 4 day tour from South Boliva to Chile. We wanted to go due south out of Bolivia into Argentina but the roads were bad due to heavy rains in the Country. That night we went to the best steak house in town and rich ordered the big 600g steak and linz got the 300g. The chef made a mistake and two 600gs turned up. Beforehand we'd had a big feed from the salad bar and weren’t expecting so much meat. Rich managed to eat all his and half the other steak. He was immobile for 30mins after but very content.


6.2.12
Linz got picked up for Deathroad ride with 9 perfect strangers. (Linz writing now!) Myself and the others got driven up to a high point to start the cycle (15,500ft). It was on a normal tarmacked road but it was so misty you couldn’t really see much. Got kitted up with my front suspension mountain bike (not a good choice, full suspension would have been much more comfortable) along with a helmet and safety gear. We free wheeled quite a long way down the road, it was pretty cold and wet as we were so high up. After around 30-45 min we turned off the main road onto the beginning of the Death Road. At first I thought, it’s not that bad but I was wrong! The road was wet and really rocky, at times it was only just wide enough for the van that was following us to go down. I tried to stay away from the edge but at times it was unavoidable to take a glimpse over the edge. We were so high up I couldn’t even see the bottom! Your bike is juddering along a thin gravel track, hewn out of a rocky mountainside high in the Bolivian Andes. On your left, just inches from your tyre, a yawning abyss plunges down into the Amazon jungle almost 1,000 metres below. To your right, a hulking rockface looms menacingly overhead. I’m not a fan of heights anyhow and to be quite honest I was shitting myself the whole time. At some points you even had to cycle through waterfalls, all the time I was thinking, ‘brakes please work!’. After a couple of hours the path widens and the edges become more gradual rather than vertical and I began to enjoy it a lot more. It also began to get a lot warmer the lower we were getting. At the bottom we stopped at a small village called Coroico in the hot, humid Amazon rainforest and grabbed a drink. There were some small bitey bugs so I invested in some bug cream from a shop. We then went to a Bolivian style Hotel where we had tremendous views of the lush green valley and had a very tasty buffet lunch. After that we could take a dip in the pool. The pool in the picture looked very nice, blue and inviting. The pool in front of me was a murky green colour and was not inviting at all. I decided against a swim and just caught a few rays. A few brave people did have a swim, and I just laughed at them screaming because it was slimy at the bottom! We then got back in the minibus for a 2-3 hr journey back to La Paz. That evening I went out for a curry (again) with some people we had met Vicki, Tamasine and Tim. After that I went back to the Hotel where I was in a dorm room for the night. Very irritating as I had to be really quiet as everyone had gone to bed early. Plus my bed was next to someone’s bed that had their stuff all over it and it was pretty smelly! Luckily they didn’t come home that night as I was expecting them to come in and make loads of noise moving all their stuff.
I (Rich) met my guide in town sorted kit and got a cab for 2hrs 35km to the mountain, roads were pretty bad. We went passed a massive graveyard for all the miners who had died mining silver from under the mountain with a clear view of the summit 2000m above us. The trek started with lunch in a brick shed, I ate while my guide grabbed and flirted with the rather large ugly woman who lived there as if she was a beauty queen, it put me off my dinner. We then walked 900m vertically up to the refuge which took 1.5hrs in rainy whiteout conditions passed a glacier to a two story hut. It was windy and cold and I was not thinking a summit attempt would be much fun. Luckily the weather cleared at sunset and the stars came out in their billions. We drank lots of coca tea and had a big feed to prepare for the 1am accent! I went to bed at 7pm, and was keep up by snoring, rustling, People walking over my feet to get to the toilet, I think I got a broken 2hrs of sleep. After eating soup and coca tea at 0:30am I kitted up and walked out the refuge. The moon was out in full glory lighting up the entire mountain valley, the pure white snow meant you did not even need your head torch on to see.

7.2.12
Linz- Had a chill out day shopping and organising for trip to Pampas the next morning.
Rich; - We all set off at 1:10am. I was loving the moonlit glaciers and star backed peaks. After an hour we reached a very steep section which needed ice axe and crampons on point, at the top of this we caught up with the first pair to leave, the younger (23) Ozzy had had enough and wasn’t looking too happy. His guide was my guide’s brother so we tried to get him to carry on to no avail. We rested and some people took long exposure photos of the scenery, we could see the lights of La Paz way off in the distance. About one hour later the valley had filled with cloud and a wind had picked up, it was getting cold and visibility was low. By the time we were 1hr from the top it was blowing hard so we kept going fast to keep warm. My guide wanted to slow because he was worried about being on top too long in the cold waiting for the sunrise views we were hoping for. I keep getting cold when he made me stop so I kept pushing him on. We got to the summit before everyone else at 5am 1hour too early for sunrise. The last 200m was up a 1ft wide ridge with a 100m drop to our left and a 2000m drop to our right, brilliant. But after 10mins at the top I wished I had listened to the guide it was f in freezing. We took photos and talked about getting down off the ridge then coming back up for sun rise. The second pair (a French bloke called Tim and his guide) turned up and the weather started clearing. I tried digging a snow hole to get out of the wind. It only ended up as a 8inch deep depression and a little snow wall with my backpack on top, I curled up in the foetal position to keep out the wind. The third pair turned up about 20mins later ( a German called Boris, which I thought suitable). The sun started coming up and the view and low red light on the snow was enough to make me a bit emotional (I know, it was that good!). We all took a shit load of photos and then headed back down. We had to pass the two Japanese on the ridge, I stepped round their guide and fell over my loose crampon strap. My guide had a fright as he thought I was going over the edge but I landed dead in line with the path, got up laughing at the expression on his face. The way down had perfect conditions we could see all the amazing features of the mountain we were on and all the surrounding mountains, all the way down to the Amazon. Just as we got off the ridge a plane flew nearly level with us down towards the jungle, my guide Silber told me that was the plane to Rurrenabaque, the same plane I was going to be on in 30hrs time! Back at the refuge we ate, I got 30min kip and then back down to get the taxis. I got back to Linz’s hostel at 4pm, had a kip…. Linz woke me and we went for a walk about town and went out and ate in Sol y Luna (sun and moon) then early bed for our 5:30am taxi to the airport.

8.2.11 Pampas day 1
Got taxis and flew at 8am in the little 12 seater propeller plane from 4000m down passed the mountains I was looking from the day before, to the jungle at 500m. We taxied off the tarmac runway and up the grass to the Airport which looked like a dilapidated house. After a free real croissant from a French local bakery we got a bus into town. The tour ran from a place next door to said bakery so we had lots more. We got split into groups of 8 and put into 4wd Landcruisers, which bombed off north into the jungle down a very bumpy dust track for 3hrs. It was uncomfortable to say the least! We stopped for lunch in a little town restaurant and then turned up by a river with lots of backpackers waiting for their jeeps. We met our guide and climbed aboard our jungle river boat. Cruising at speed through the jungle in cool air and nice surroundings was a lot better than the stuffy bus. The water was high as it was summer season in the mountains and the melt water rivers fill the pampas swamp lands. The boat would take short cuts through dense grass and bushes which would whack you in the face and usually deposit some strange insects on you. We saw lots of turtles, birds and monkeys, we stopped by the squirrel monkeys and they climbed on board and all over us due to the guide holding a banana. It was very funny and Linz got poo’d on by yet another animal. We got to our digs which were timber shacks on legs with tin roofs and mosi nets. We sorted out our stuff and got back on the boat and went to the sunset bar. It said cold beer on the sign, we got excited as cold beer would be perfect in the heat, but there was one luke warm beer left, not happy. We blagged some rum off a Canadian, Kevin I think and watched the sunset. A couple of big caiman (Crocodile type creatures) swam by us as we were sat up on the raised gantry. Back at the cabins we donned full length clothes and mosi spray, we heard the mosquitos were bad at night. OMG the little shits bit through anti mosi shirts and spray covered clothes, we were like pin cushions. After dinner we got covered and sprayed up some more and headed back out in the boats looking for caimen’s eyes . Their eyes reflect red in the torch light making them easy to see in the bushes by the water. Rich was at the front of the boat and spotted three in a bush so the driver drove the boat straight in to get a better look. This was bad for rich as not only having a face of bush he got the insects too, bity ones! After a semi successful boat trip we chilled in the hammocks sipping neat rum as we had no mixers.
9.2.12
Pampas Day 2:
After a night in the hut woke up tired as monkeys had been dropping fruit on the roof of our hut. We got on the boats for a trip to search for Anacondas in the Pampas. We saw loads of birds and turtles along the shores inc a massive Pampas Condor, plus stopped to look at some baby capybaras. They look like giant guinea pigs that can stand up on their back legs. Then we spent the next hour walking around islands in knee deep water and head high grass looking for snakes. We had a slight scare when we heard a large splash and someone shouting “it’s a f in massive anaconda”. It turned out to be a caiman protecting its nest, the guy had seen a flash of its tail through the grass and thought it was a snake. Luckily for him the bush was too thick for the caiman to jump through so it could not bite! Our guide then told us a story about a girl previously standing on a caiman in waist deep water which promptly turned and bit her kneecap off!!! We found no snakes but it wasn’t very likely anyway. On route back we must have hit a wasp nest in the bushes because the following boat got attacked by angry big wasps that stung a lot of people, ouch! We then came across the two local pair of pink dolphins and had a quick swim with them. The water was brown so you had no idea where the dolphins were underwater until they rubbed up against you, some people had playful bites on hands and feet. The dolphins liked to lie back and have their bellies rubbed. After lunch back at the camp we came back out to swim with them for longer, nice experience. One of them bit Linz’s hand but more just a playful puppy bite than anything aggressive. We carried on upstream to a ranch that had a football pitch and a volleyball net, with proper cold beer. Good fun playing volleyball with the hilarious Japanese girls whom we nicknamed Team Tokyo, 10/10 for effort and screams. After sunset viewing we returned back to camp for dinner followed by rums. The mosis weren’t quite so bad that night as more people had turned up so there were more people to bite!

10.2.12
Pampas day 3:
Woke up to rain so elected just to chill watching a local guide touch the nose of a small caiman that was sat in front of the hammocks He would not touch Pepe the resident caiman which was about 8ft long. . T and Tam who (we briefly met in thru Vicky on Inca trek, then on same bus from Copacabana to La Paz) turned up on the new guests boats not looking happy about the rain. It stopped raining for our trip back to land, we saw loads more birds as they were all soggy and sat on branches waiting for the suns return. On arrival we spotted Christina and Oslem who we met on Inca tour and in La Paz hostel. Christina was sun burnt to hell from strong high altitude sun through clouds on Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca. They proceeded to tell us they didn’t have any travel insurance, I decided against telling them the story about the girl who got knee capped. Our jeep returned slowly back to Rurrenabaque due to the deep mud caused by all the rain. Our whole group checked into the same hostel and after hot mosi free showers we all went out for pizza and beers.

11.2.12

Caught the 11 o clock flight back up to La Paz, the plane could not taxi to the airport shack due to the mud. After some lunch and sorting bags from storage we went up to the famous city prison (San Pedro) run by the criminals, were you used to be able to bribe and go inside for a tour. (Read book called ‘Marching Powder’). The prison was on a normal city square with kids playing in the park etc. The door was guarded by soldiers who would not let us in. I took two photos on my mobile. Two solders spotted me and came over, I thought shit there going to take my phone off me, luckily they just bollocked me in untranslatable Spanish and deleted the pictures and told me to go away at once, so we did (cheers for that Whitty). We then got on a night bus to Uyuni for the salt plains tour. There was a worry that the bus might not run due to miners protests blocking all the roads south, luckily it was a Sunday night so they weren’t out.

12.2.12
Very bumpy bus awoke us periodically during the night plus lots of stopping and starting, it wasn’t until dawn we realised that the bus was having to cross washed out flooded areas of road. We saw many vehicles stuck in mud, even other buses stuck up to the wheels spraying mud over their passengers trying to push themselves free. The big queues at each river crossing had slowed our progress our 12 hour journey should have been over but we were still 3 hrs from our destination and dangerously close to missing our tour departure time of 10am. Our bus was a big bugger with twin rear wheels plus our driver was a nutcase but seemed to know what he was doing. He would watch the proper 4x4s make it across up stream and pullout around the waiting buses and gun it through to the other side. Everyone was bricking it that we would get stuck. On three occasions we all held onto our seats while getting thrown around the bus preying to make it through and each time we made it we all cheered and clapped. Finally we made it to Uyuni at 10am dead on. We got our bags and ran across town to the tour office, but we had just missed our tour, arse! We had been booked on the next tour the next day. So we booked into a cheap hotel, but were informed that due to floods the whole town had no power and no running water. We wandered around the town in which nothing really went on, it was one of the most depressing towns we had seen. It rained and we heard that snow had closed the boarder to Chile which ruined our plans further. We had a candle lit pizza dinner with a random couple due to lack of seating, it turned out very funny as the girl was French but could not handle arrogant French people and loathed the idea of returning home. We returned to hotel to find a generator rigged up to allow hot showers if we were quick. It was a bit spurty but at least we were clean!
13.2.12
The next morning we returned to the tour office only to find out the power cut had prevented the 4x4’s filling up with fuel for the tour, we really did not want to be stuck in a town with literally nothing to do with no money (banks shut and no atms working) and rain storms. Linz had to phone Argentina and have a difficult conversation in Spanish to change our pre-booked bus tickets from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile to Salta as we weren’t going to get there in time. Eight dollars later and stressed she had successfully managed to converse and got the job done. We went out to see the train graveyard on the out skirts of town for something to do. The trains were actually quite cool to look around but the track out there was disgusting, we saw kids shitting, and all manner of household and human waste strewn across the place including a few rotting bulls heads. We went to a bar after with tables made of salt plain slabs and made friends with two couples in the same position as us who were in our jeep the next day. We took them back to the pizza place which seemed the best restaurant in town, it was a fun night. Power returned for a brief time we believed everything was going to be ok, and then power went out again. Impressive lighting over the plains.
14.2.11
Awoke to power being on,yes! Got to tour office whose trucks had been queuing since 5am for fuel and we close to getting fuel now at 10am. T & Tam had caught us up and were on our tour. At 12noon the 4x4’s finally turned up and we packed and left for the salt plains. The Salt plains tour consisted of visiting the Salt plains first. At this time of year they are wet and covered in water and have the most amazing surreal reflections. (See photos) We ate a yummy lunch in a hotel made completely of salt! We then cruised in the jeep with a slightly crazy driver to a hostel where we munched food and were intrigued by the badly stuffed cougar on the wall along with stuffed armadillos hanging from the ceiling decorated with tinsel like stuff. We asked the owners what it was all about. Apparently, every time they see one they kill it as its good luck then stuff it and hang it. They obviously don’t quite get the concept of endangered species yet! Shared a room with another couple on our tour. Rich and I chose the short straws and had a couple of crappy beds, one was really small and creaky, that was Rich’s!
15.2.11
Our 9 year anniversary! Cruised some more in the jeep stopping every now and then for walks and photos. Had a tasty lunch next to a lake full of flamingos. The landscape was incredible, almost like being on another uninhabited planet (again see photos!) Rocked out to music from I-pods but then the altitude seemed to get the better of them and they all stopped working! Ended up in another barren looking hostel where there were lots of other groups staying. Had some wine and a bit of grub. Rich played chess with a German Brazilian guy then sleep time. It was pretty chilly up there!


16.2.11

A very early start (4am) to drive and see the geysers at sunrise. It was all a bit smelly really but the bubbling mud and geysers were pretty cool. We then went to some hot springs which were on the edge of the lake. It was pretty nice to soak away our jeep injuries in some nice scenery. Saw a load of llamas wandering around all colourfully decorated with bright wools and earring things in their ears. Had a hearty breakfast then cruised a bit more finishing with a beautiful turquoise lake in front of a snow capped volcano, just beautiful. We then got dropped off at the Chilean border and awaited the bus that would take us to San Pedro de Atacama. Said goodbye to the others in the jeep, as they were heading back to Uyuni. Eight solid hours in that jeep, yuck! Chile here we come!


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The road is just behind me. Doesn't look very big does it?


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