Leaving Tarija was a wierd feeling, like we were leaving home again. We could definitely live there one day we think, a cracking place with great people. So, on we went to La Paz, a very different kettle of fish. Always been a city I wanted to visit, for the breathtaking (literally! Ha! How many people have written THAT I wonder?) views. Yeah, it was hard work on those steep streets at nearly 4km above sea level, and that breathtaking scenery (literally! Ha!) keeps all the smog from the antiquated buses trapped in the city making catching your breath that little harder. We spent the first two nights in a hostel with it´s own brewery attached (a free beer each night! Muuuuuuy bien!) and amazing rooftop views, but at 16quid a night for the pair it was a little budget stretching so we checked into another for 6quid for the pair. More like it. Except we discovered the strange Paceñan predeliction for washing floors with gasoline. Yep. Petrol. So headaches abounded, we looked at others but they did the same bloody thing. Had to feel for the owners kid who was crawling around on this carcinogenic mess. All in, 9 days were spent in La Paz and I´ve got to say there have been, and will be, better cities. The snow capped peak of Illimani towering over the city is brea... nice, but dirty great cities have never been our thing.
Entonces, Uyuni. Originally we considered just doing a one day tour - how long, exactly, can one spend looking at salt - but we opted for 3 days and glad we did. The Salar is covered with as many superlatives as it is salt - indeed, we stayed in a superlative hotel - but is not the highlight. The next two days saw us heading up to 5,000m and driving through some of the most awesome sights this beautiful planet has to offer. Lakes coloured with different minerals, unbroken brilliant blue skies and flamingoes on their winter holidays made for some brea... wonderful vistas. One of those moments when you´re extremely grateful the universe is appreciating itself through you. Proper cold though (-25C on the 2nd night) and buffeted by strong chill winds, it does, however, wake you up after a night drinking vodka. And wine. Our guide, with a name befitting of his legendary status - Macedonio Flores(!) - was cracking, and extremely patient (that´s another story). On the way back from the tour we had a tire blow out, but Señor Flores handled it so well it was barely noticeable. Back in Uyuni, after 3 cold, showerless days there is nowt better than a blistering hot shower, and Fine Beer.
Onto Tupiza, by first class train (budget! yeah! We´re going to be going home 4 years sooner than planned, not sure why) which crawled along at 20mph and got us there at 4am where we were met by a 20 strong pack of wild dogs who kindly escorted us to our hostel. Bien perros. We took a horse, jeep, bike trip while there which was great for brea.. really, really nice scenery, although Caroline´s horse was up the duff which was a bit unfair on the poor thing - it was blisteringly hot. The mountains were right colourful, and some rocks were shaped like penises. Childish humor abounded.
Tupiza to Potosi, the world´s highest city. Some friends had warned us, and we we really scared by this, that ´cos of the altitude... wait, it´s nerve racking.. beer got really fizzy and LOTS OF IT FIZZED OUT OF THE GLASS!! However, they were European and as we all know Europeans have got no idea about alcoholism so it became clear they were merely admitting to their incompetence with the sacred liquid. Caroline and her friend went to the silver mines (I wasn´t particularly interested in claustrophobia and dynamite) which they said were great. Eye-opening etc. 10 year olds work in there, and over 8MILLION have died since the 1600´s. Enjoy your necklace.
Then the bus from Potosi to Santa Cruz. Except we got off at Sucre in genuine fear. Lots of buses have been taken with no problem, but this driver was the worst we´ve encountered. So, I happily broke a vow - and the bank - to get a flight the rest of the way. Which was actually quite fun in our tiny plane, and gave me pause to think about the last tune I´d like to hear before I died.
A trip into the jungle was the idea of Santa Cruz, which is Bolivia´s largest city and vastly superior to La Paz. The laid back attitude undoubtedly comes from the stifling heat, but hey Britain! We´re having a summer. I can tell you, it´s quite nice. Forgoing the idea of a tour we went to a small town and thought about doing it ourselves. We found it wasn´t possible and got taken by some people - I won´t say who cos they could lose their jobs, especially if they get inundated by the 7 people that read this blog - for a fraction of a tour price and we had a great time. Trekking into the steamy tropics and taking dips under cool waterfalls, being swamped by butterflies and getting paranoid about being eaten by pumas was worth every paltry penny. We´ve also spent a few days in a town called Samaipata and visted our first Incan ruins, which were ok but only just whet the appetite for Macch Piccu in a few weeks. In a couple of hours we make our way back to La Paz and then onto Lake Titikaka before leaving for Peru. It´s a shame we only get 3 months in Bolivia. It´s been a truly wonderful part of the trip, with some great people, and we´ll be sad to leave. One more thing, we love dogs and Bolivia treats her strays wonderfully. Dogs with coloured paper collars have been vaccinated for rabies, which is amazing for a shit poor country. It would be much cheaper to kill them, and for this Bolivia should be applauded (though I personally think castration preferable, it would help eliminate the problem).
See you in Peru!
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