My vacation in Bolivia and Peru (Part 1)

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February 6th 2013
Published: February 23rd 2013
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For my two week vacation I went to La Paz and Lake Titicaca from the Bolivian side and Arequipa and Cusco in Peru

Day 1 (Cochabamba- La Paz)

Even before my trip started, I had to make a tough decision: going to La Paz by bus or by plane. Of course the bus was much cheaper, but also far more dangerous because I would have to travel over night, alone with all my belongings and then take a taxi to go to El Alto airport (El Alto is also a rather dangerous city) to pick up my friend Nellie (if you read my blogs from Africa you already know her) who came all the way from Germany to join me on my trip. Soooooo I decided to fly. I arrived at El Alto airport at around 8am and Nellie was already waiting for me, she had arrived an hour earlier. We took a taxi to La Paz and went to a quiet little hostel I had found for us in my Bolivia guidebook. It is called "Residencial Sucre" and the staff is really nice and helpful. We decided to take one of the cheaper rooms with a shared bathroom since there weren't many other guests, so it didn't matter if we had one in our room or not. I let Nellie get some rest, because I knew exactly what it's like coming to Bolivia all the way from Germany (you can read it in my first blog about Bolivia) and in the meantime I unpacked the stuff my mom sent me with her. There was a lot of German candy for my hostfamily, but I also allowed myself a bag of Haribo.

In the afternoon we walked around La Paz, especially the more touristy area around calle Linares which is filled with tourist shops selling alpaca sweaters, leather purses a.s.o. We got some breakfast and checked out the travel agencies offering various trips. We decided to go on a 3-hour horseback excursion for the following day and a trip to Tiahuanaco 2 days later. The rest of the day wasn't too exciting, we just walked around the city and visited some view points.

Day 2 (La Paz)

The horseback excursion started quite early the next morning and we were picked up at our hotel by a nice taxi driver and brought to a hotel in Zona Sur, the richer part of La Paz. There we had to wait for quite some time because our tourguide was late (this didn't surprise me anymore), but we got to enjoy free wifi at the fancy hotel. Once our tourguide arrived he took us to the stables and was chatting with me in Spanish during the short car ride. After a while I asked him if he spoke English, because the day before we had made it clear at the agency that we want our tour in English since Nellie doesn't speak Spanish. He started mumbling something and eventually said "yes, I speak English, but I prefer to speak Spanish. So if you could translate that would be better." Again, I was not surprised. In Bolivia they'll tell you anything you want to make some money. As an Israeli backpacker once said "In Bolivia there is always a f*** inside", so you always have to be careful about what you're buying. In general just don't expect too much, if you're on a low budget anyways. So our tour guide turned out to be a Cuban in his mid-forties who absolutely owned the cowboy-look. Boots, hat, his outfit was perfect. After we got to the destination of our trip, the "muela del diablo" (an old volcano) I asked him to tell us the legend of this place in English, since he hasn't said anything in that language yet although that's what we asked for. So he started speaking for some minutes and I honestly did not understand a single word he said. I looked at Nellie, but her confused look reassured me that it wasn't my fault, this guy actually didn't know English. From that point on we agreed he would explain things in Spanish and I would translate. The legend says that a black man (probably a slave the Spanish brought to South America) used to live in a cave in the "muela del diablo" (it means "devil's tooth" because of the shape). Whenever he got hungry he would leave his cave and hunt for villagers. At some point the men of the village got very angry, went to the cave and killed the man. His bones still lay there. Yeaaaah, I'm not sure if this story is an actual legend or if the Cuban cowboy invented it, but that's what he told us. After taking a break there we rode back.

Day 3 (La Paz)

We spent the day walking around the city again. This time we went more to the south and up a hill to some of the viewpoints that were marked on our city map. On one of the hills we ran into a wedding reception and on another we met three tourists from Austria. Other than that there was nothing too exciting.

Day 4 (Tiahuanaco)

Our trip led us to the ruins in Tiahuanaco where there are traces of a pre-Inca culture which are over 1500 years old. These ruins are one of the most important archeological sites in Bolivia and even a part of the UNESCO world heritage since 2000. Our guide was far better than our Cuban cowboy and explained some stuff about the Tiahuanaco culture to us on the bus. First, we went to a little museum before seeing the "Gate of the Sun", the predominant ruin on the site. Archeologists haven't figured out what the engravings on it mean, but it is believed that the Gate of the Sun was used for calendrical purposes. Pretty crazy when you think about it being 1500 years old. Our guide then left us to explore on our own, so we walked around the site, but unfortunately Bolivian archeological sights aren't presented too well. There were very few signs explaining what the different statues and what their purposes were (I am aware of the fact that nobody really knows, but it would have been nice to at least hear about some theories or thoughts archeologists had). So we strolled around the site and later on went to some of the shops where cholitas were selling sweaters, hats and so on. We shopped a bit before getting back on our bus and arriving in La Paz in the evening.

Day 5 (La Paz)

We used our last day in La Paz to visit the museum of instruments and get some souvenir shopping done. So again we roamed around calle Linares, the witchmarket and the touristy area in general. Also Nellie decided to get a tattoo of her South America trip and we actually spent most of the day in a little tattoo shop with Bolivian hipster tattoo artists.

Additional photos below
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horseback riding to La Muela del Diablo

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