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Published: September 20th 2013
For the next three weeks, I traversed Bolivia's altiplano, staying in Sucre, Cochabamba and La Paz, before arriving in Copacabana on the shore of Lake Titicaca. Although the government is based in La Paz, Sucre is Bolivia's constitutional capital. It is a very attractive and compact city (nicknamed "The White City") and felt very pleasant after the bitter cold of Uyuni. By coincidence, Mariano, who I had met in Argentina and travelled with to Tupiza, was staying at the same hostel (I didn't even know he was in Sucre!) and it was great to see him again. However, he was with a group of fluent Spanish speakers so I didn't spend much time with him.
Thankfully I made some new friends (Steve from London and Pauline from Holland) in a Dutch bar where I went to watch football. We went out for dinner that evening to the French themed restaurant La Taverne (rated number 2 on Trip Advisor no less (and only because number 1 was closed!)). I had a delicious steak and we shared wine - the bill came to around £10 each! Previously, I'd been eating small portions of overcooked meat with rice and chips but now my
eyes were opened to the fact that, in Bolivia, you can eat like a king for just a few pounds more! I had a very enjoyable week in Sucre, passing the time with a walk up Cerro Churuquella with Pauline and Karina from Brazil (who kindly donated her towel to me as she was going home), which had a good view of the city, a visit to Convento de San Felipe de Neri, where we walked on the roof, more football, a visit to the cinema to watch "Que Pasa Ayer Parte 3" (The Hangover Part 3) and on a couple of evenings, Pauline and I watched the locals participating in their favourite pastime - bad karaoke!
From Sucre, I travelled on to Cochabamba. For some reason, the only buses were at night and so I was exhausted when I arrived at 4am. When daylight came, the weather was warm and sunny. Cochabamba seemed unattractive compared to Sucre (like most cities), but there were some nice colonial buildings and the skyline to the north was dominated by a huge mountain range. On my first evening, I went out for dinner and was approached by a local, who was friendly
at first but then started asking for money. Before I could get away, he grabbed my top and demanded 50 Bolivianos (about £5) from me and pretended to hide a knife under his shirt. I'm pretty sure he wasn't armed but it seemed silly to put up a fight for this amount, so I handed it over. I told the hostel manager but decided against reporting it to the police as I thought it would be more trouble than it's worth. The incident served as a useful reminder not to carry valuables when alone after dark.
I was joined in Cochabamba by Pauline, who had spent a few days in Santa Cruz. She arrived in time for her birthday and we ate cake (which appeared to be a speciality in Cochabamba), then went to the Paprika restaurant, where again we had excellent food for around £10 each. We had a tour of Convento Santa Clara, where we learnt that once they joined, the nuns used to spend their entire lives there with little contact with their families. I also climbed to the Christ statue which lies on a hill to the east of the city. The statue is hollow
and you can actually go inside and look out over the city through portholes (Pauline didn't seem to get my joke about it being holy)! No pictures unfortunately as I didn't take my camera as I was still wary after my earlier experience.
Pauline and I travelled from Cochabamba to La Paz, again at night, staying at Loki hostel. It was a big, noisy hostel with a bar - not really my cup of tea, but Pauline liked it and got a job there to save some money. As a city, I found La Paz attractive, although at an altitude of 3650 metres, walking up the hills was hard work. I bade farewell to Pauline after three days and headed for the pleasant town of Copacabana on Lake Titicaca, which at 3812 metres, is considered the world's highest navigable lake. Copacabana has a beach (the only one in Bolivia), although it was a little colder and more pebbly than its namesake in Rio de Janeiro!
Unfortunately, I caught some kind of bug and was confined to my bed for three days (as a consolation I was able to watch some of Chris Froome's convincing victory in the Tour
de France). On one of my rare excursions out, I bumped into Mariano and his friends again! By the fourth day, I felt just about well enough to take a boat trip to the nearby island Isla del Sol, which is considered to be the birthplace of the sun god in Inca mythology. I walked from the north to the south of the island, getting lost in some terraces at one point and startling a farmer, but I was able to make it in time for the boat back to town. The next morning, I caught the bus to Cusco, Peru, bidding farewell to Bolivia after an enjoyable, cold and cheap month.
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