(N) 24th May - Copacabana to La Paz
Delighted to finally be on the 08h00 bus to the capital, didn't quite believe it till we left. The old bus rumbled to the petrol station round the corner, found it wasn't open, so siphoned some fuel from a barrel down a sidestreet and trundelled back to its starting position 15 mins later - but soon we were off for real.
If you look at a map of the route between Copacabana and La Paz (for example, at http://worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/samerica/lgcolor/bocolor.htm), you can see that a body of water - often quoted as the world's highest navigable lake - provides something of an obstacle. Thinking that we were simply going to drive round it, the gringos on the bus were not best pleased to have to get off and pay to cross a 5-min stretch of Lake Titicaca on a ropey motorboat, while watching our aforementioned bus being driven onto an even dodgier seacraft and bob alongside us (see photo), rucksacks strapped to its roof. Anyhoo, it passed without incident, and we arrived safely in La Paz and were soon at the Adventure Brew Hostel, where for $20 we had our
Llama foetuses on sale
One for the new house, sir?
own room, and a free beer daily from their own microbrewery(www.theadventurebrewhostel.com), plus a promise of pancakes for breakfast.
Paula took us on the Lonely Planet's walking tour of the city. It was a real contrast to the peaceful lakeside town whence we had come. Lots of people everywhere, and hundreds of buses belching exhaust fumes into the atmos. The location of the city was certainly stunning, in a valley at 3660m high, with buildings hanging onto the sides of the canyon and spreading upwards, over all of which looked snow-capped Mount Illamani (6400m). However, the museums did not offer much of interest, and the main plazas were small and not what could be expected of a capital city. What was
interesting was the frenetic daily activity - street stalls selling just about everything (including llama foetuses, which "locals bury under the porches of their new homes for luck". They ranged from a plastic-looking 6-inches high, to 1-metre tall, which were 6 months into their 9-month gestation period, and cost up to B$200 (US$25)). We passed a lady asleep on the pile of materials she was selling, and had to stand aside at one point to let 2 guys
carrying a HUGE roll of cotton wool pass through!
Going out in the evening, within a short space of time, we saw loads of fastfood stalls, guys breakdancing for money, a father having a whizz against a public wall accompanied by his 2 young sons, shoeshiners, a tarot-card reading on the pavement and hundreds more minibuses, each of whose conductor was leaning out of the window, vigorously yelling to prospective passengers the streets through which their vehicles plied their routes. 26th May
Consumed the promised pancakes with gusto. Went for a day trip to Tiwanaku, principal archaeological site of Bolivia, 72km from La Paz. That society arose around 600BC according to the guide book, but in the region they reckon it was actually more like 1500BC - either way, a long time ago. To me, it was a bit like a poor manÂ´s Easter Island! (see photos). We saw megaliths up to 175t, a ruined pyramid, the remains of a ritual platform (and lots of old pots in the museum, along with skulls showing cranial deformation, the surgical contortion of choice for the contemporary moneyed class).
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiwanaku for more general info and yet another date!
That night, we took the bus to Sucre, arriving around 07h00. 27th May
Checked in to our favourite hostel so far: we had a big room, CNN on the telly, and a Buck Rogers toilet! (next sentence edited out by Paula - AP reference). We headed straight off for the Sunday market at Tarabuco. An indigenous village, its market is colourful and well-known. Paula picked up a semi-poncho. That night, musicians played the panpipes in SucreÂ´s town centre, celebrating the anniversary of the cityÂ´s founding, looking suspiciously like those blokes from the Fast Show. 28-29th May
Wandered round Sucre, no "big sights" just a very pleasant place to be, especially after La Paz. It is a UNESCO cultural heritage site for good reason: whitewashed buildings, ornate archways and terracotta roofs. 30th May
Early bus to Potosi. With the moniker of "Highest City in the World" (4060m) and, in the 17th century, being the most populous city in the world (more than double London) due to its being the site of a huge silver mine, we had big expectations. In reality, it was interesting to wander round for the day, but that was
Faces on the wall, Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco)
The principal archaelogical site of Bolivia.
enough! The temperature here, as in Sucre, is odd: the season is winter, but it is sunny all day, although rarely warm enough to take off the fleece due to the thin air - I even saw ice on the pavement in the middle of the day! San Martin church was interesting, with a tall gold leaf altar, some silver plating (not much left these days, the Spanish apparently carted off most of it), and a Virgin of Guadalupe with real hair and fingernails (donated by a pious local woman on death around 20 years ago).
It was shortly after this that I had my first Bolivian haircut. I normally hate haircuts, but the barber was really interested to know about Europe and to talk about FIFAÂ´s new directive regarding prohibiting football matches above 2,500m - a major disadvantage for Bolivia! It turns out he also works part time in the local mine - dangerous work with a working life expectancy of just 10 years.
He asked me what I was going to take home from Bolivia, which got me started on my beer glass collection and how I had not managed to find one yet. He recommended that I
Upright figure, Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco)
The principal archaelogical site of Bolivia.
try the local brewery - update to follow!
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