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South America » Bolivia » Potosí Department » Tupiza
July 20th 2011
Published: July 20th 2011
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Hi all

we will pick up from where we left off - in puno peru. after finally getting a flight from cusco to juliaca we picked up a local mini bus from the airport to make the short one hour trip to puno (at the side of lake titikaka), it was a good job we managed to get onto a bus before they all departed as there was quite literally nothing at the airport!. We even managed to get the mini bus driver to drop us off outside our hostel, hostel was nice with a big bay window and views of lake titikaka (albeit somewhat distant!). the first night we spent strolling the bustling streets in search of something to cook for dinner - deciding to pass on the delightful looking carcasses hanging outside many shops (we think the flies were included for free!) we opted for pasta (yawn) but options were pretty much non existent, didn´t think we´d ever long for a tesco et al; also randomly the kitchen was on the roof! on the way back from the market we took a taxi motorbike to the bus station to buy our bus tickets to la paz! the taxi was a motorbike with a two wheel trailer on the back, where we sat, at times it was like sitting in the bus from harry potter (the one which can change shape!) as it preceeded to go through non existent gaps in traffic!. While buying our ridiculously cheap (direct hmm) bus tickets we picked up some tickets for a tour of lake titikaka and its famous floating islands.

the next day we were picked up at 0910 (25 mins late - good job we waited!) from outside our hostel where we were taken to the docks, we then got onto a tour boat (which was nicer than expected) and went out onto the lake, although the tour guide spoke mostly in spanish he did give us a private talk in english and we were from then on in known as his ´english friends!´, actually the guide was very good and could even speak the local language of the inhabitants of the floating islands. once we arrived at the island we were given a warm welcome by the president of the island, and he told us how the islands are maintained (basically they are 3 meters deep and made up of floating blocks of mud and layers of reeds!!), you could actually see the islands moving as boats created a ripple. from the first island we were given the option to take a local boat made of reeds to another island for a small fee! although we didn´t have enough peruvian money our guide dint think it would be a problem to pay some in brazilian! although the look on the islanders face when we gave him the brazilian realis said otherwise, but by then it was too late!!.

the next morning we took the (bargain value - direct) bus to la paz, bolivia at 0730. the defintion of direct must have been lost in translation as we had to change buses after roughly three hours and then take a ferry over a very large lake aswell! the second bus was nothing like the first and was basically public transport, whilst the ferry involved us paying money to cross on a passenger boat - big problem as we had spent the last of our cash on milkshakes whilst waiting for the second bus!! no atm at the port and two english red faces as we tried to explain to the bus driver we had no cash (by showing him our empty wallet) and after managing to blag it we were allowed to ride in the bus, which crossed on a large raft!. after crossing the lake we preceeded onto la paz, whilst taking on more locals in random places, we arrived in a dizzing la paz (its nearly 4000m above sea level) at roughly 1700, after stopping to get some cash (finally!) we took a taxi to ´our hostel´ which we had kindly marked on the map for him. unfortunately we had marked it in the wrong place (still don´t know how) and we were told in spanish that what we were seeking didn´t exist. after a quick pit stop in an internet cafe to find out the real location of our hostel we then managed to walk to it - through streets bustling with stalls and people selling anything and everything. our hostel was very nice and even had a balcony, although it was on the fourth floor which meant plenty of huffing and puffing!. we then went out for dinner and saw on the news that there was a large parade going on in la paz to celebrate something or other (still didn´t get it!) and we could even hear it from our room when we got back!.

the next morning we went in search of a train operators offices which we had researched on the internet for our train tickets from oruro to tupiza on tuesday 19th. however whilst we managed to find the so called office of fam it appeared deserted and most certainly not somewhere selling train tickets! we then decided to pop into a cafe to use the facilities and buy a couple of coffees, however after walking into a nice but empty cafe we sat down and the owner informed us of a special lunch menu of bolivian fayre to celebrate (the thing!) which would be starting in ten or fifteen minutes, we quickly agreed!. after having a delicious three course meal we paid 92 bolivianos (which included the two coffee´s and two very large fruit smoothies) upon checking the4 exchange rate later we realised that the feast had cost us roughly eight pounds fifty pence!! bolivia was already a hit. after shuffling back to our hostel we re appeared in the evening in search of a tourist operator to buy our tickets for the train and connecting bus, which we managed to do fairly easily - two first class train tickets for the thirteen hour train ride from oruro to tupiza.

the next day we vistited a couple of small museum´s and places of interest such as a bullet riden palace in the daytime, then had a thoroughly english affair in the evening, a trip to olivers travels (5th best bar in La Paz!) followed by a visit to the highest owned british indian resturant in the world, which was very nice also. as a side note if you want to be the owner of a ´highest owned .......... in the world´ move to La Paz as it has the highest owned swiss fondue, the highest owned irish bar etc etc!!

the next morning after missing breakfast we went to a local cafe for some pancakes and porridge! very nice although the waitresses actually wore running shoes as they spent so much time running up and down, and they were no spring chickens! the rest of the day was spent checking out the local stalls and shops for some souvenirs, including a witches market which sold dried lama fetuses amongst other wierd (and stinking) stuff! apparently its good luck to bury a dried lama fetus under you new house in bolivia - not sure what customs in the uk would make of it though!!.

the next morning we took the bus to oruro at 1000 (we were actually met at the terminal by our travel operator who gave us our tickets!) much better bus this time double decker coach with video (rambo 3 in spanish although you dont really need to understand whats being said in a rambo film so not too bad!) although the longer the journey progressed the more random locals began to get on! including one which smelt somewhat unsavoury (to be polite - carlys top was utilised as an emergency air filter!!) we then got on the train for tupiza (the wild west of bolivia) at 1430 and arrived in tupiza at 0430 am. the train journey was a bit juddery but fine, although as we neared tupiza we heard the screams of a woman from the adjoining carriage, craig thought maybe it was a nightmare and it didnt last for long. however when it started again people began to realise something was wrong - not sure what. turns out she gave birth on the train! with relatively little comotion and no round of applause (as craig thought would have been fitting!), shorthly after we arrived in tupiza train station. we quickly hustled our way to the front of the taxi queue where we were taken to our hostel in a few minutes, when we arrived we were met by the night watchman, who preceeded to inform us (in thick spanish) that there were no rooms available despite the deposit paid and the two confirmation e-mails sent to us by the hostel! he couldn´t speak a word of english and we managed to work out that he was telling us there would be a room available at roughly 0800 when some people check out. the next five hours were spent sleeping (and then eating breakfast) in the living area sofas and breakfast room! finally we were given a room at 0855 and we quickly went to sleep after a pretty strange 24 hours of travelling!


chow for now!


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