It's a hard life... When you're a donkey
Trip Start Jan 16, 2012
26Trip End Aug 24, 2012
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10 hours sleep later and feeling marginally less dead, we got up in time for the England game, and had a couple of drinks in the bar watching the match with several other English people. After the match, with the day almost gone, we ate in the bar and chilled out there waiting for the Tuesday night pub quiz. It was definitely a shame to spend a full day inside in such an amazing capital city, but if someone had told us how much the salt tour takes it out of you we would have given ourselves a few days after it to recover.. as it was we only had three days to spend in La Paz and unfortunately by the time we felt human enough to go out and do stuff, it was already our final day in the city. However, from what we saw there didn't seem that much to do in the actual city, other than the famous nightlife, a lot of the activities seemed to be just outside the city like the cycling and a lot of mountain climbing, trekking etc. Anyway as the pub quiz still hadn't begun by half nine, we gave up on winning some prizes and went to bed, Snellers with a headache and me just sick and tired of typing blogs!
We awoke pretty early next morning due to our early night, and had decided to give the cycling tour a miss, due a lot to the fact we wouldn't enjoy it as much full of colds, and also that, as I'm sure everyone will agree, my bike skills probably don't extend to negotiating tight dirt track corners with 100m drops on either side. It would probably have ended up another terrifying horse riding incident, and Snellgrove would have had to stay back with me and ended up not enjoying it himself. Anyway, I was quite happy with the decision, and it also meant we could get to Copacabana the day we had planned to, and save 200USD as well
So, on our last day in La Paz we actually left the hostel, heading first of all to the Mirador Laikakota, which was a big hill in the centre of town which offered 360 degree views of the city. Getting to see La Paz like this was really impressive, it's not every day you see such a huge city nestled in the Andes mountains - skyscrapers with a backdrop of snowy peaks. The city is the highest capital in the world, and seeing it like this put that into perspective. The topmost houses seemed to cling to the side of the mountains, clustered together kind of giving them the appearance of a Brazilian favela (although I don't think they were shanty towns). We also spotted the football stadium, which Snellers informs me is where argentina were beat 5-1 by Bolivia due to the altitude, and lots and lots of sports pitches hosting five and six aside games. Obviously football is as big in Bolivia as in every other south American country we've visited! When we had taken enough pictures, we went back down and returned to the San Francisco plaza, where we found what we weren't able to find the other day, the indoor marketplace with row after row of stalls selling alpaca and llama produce. We stocked up on hats, wooly socks and a few souvenirs, before going back to the hostel to collect our bags and get ready to get the bus to Copacabana to visit the highest lake in the word, lake Titicaca.
We had definitely picked the right time bus to get, as while we were chugging across the lake in the boat the sun was just setting over the lake, which was beautiful. At the other side, we had to wait around half an hour for the bus raft to navigate its way across, looking more and more like it was going to sink with every meter. Back on the bus, the drive continued, taking about an hour more meaning we arrived in the town in pitch darkness. Even so, it looked an interesting place, with cobbled streets, nice buildings and a massive white cathedral in the centre. We didn't have a hostel booked, as the normally reliable hostelworld.com had let us down by not listing any hostels in the town, despite us passing at least three on the bus into town, so we got off the bus and took the first flyer we were handed by an old (or possibly young) Bolivian woman and got a taxi straight there- Hostel Sonia. And we were pleasantly surprised, as the hostel had wifi, a double room with en suite for 4 pounds each and a decent enough breaka. Once we had put everything up in the room, we ventured out to find some food, preferably trout after Robbie had recommended it so highly. On our walk down to the lakefront down a long cobbled street lined with shops still open tempting us with yet more llama goods, we came across a hostel offering boat tickets to the island, Isla del Sol, and after having trouble ordering them from our own hostel receptionist and his minimal english, decided to buy tickets there and save a job tomorrow
The next day, with our boat to the island not until 1.30, we spent the morning having a wander round the town in daylight, seeing the cathedral in all it's glory as well as plenty more market stalls. We realised the festival was the winter solstice, and the people obviously go all out for it as all the cars and motorbikes had bunches of flowers selotaped to them and there was confetti all over the roads! Still probably not worth getting up at 5.30 for though! We booked our bus to Cusco for the following evening after our island trip, splashing out and going for full cama (sleeper) rather than semi and relieved to learn it was a Peruvian bus that would be taking us across the border rather than a Bolivian one
Isla del Sol is the birthplace of the Incan sun god,and so an incredibly sacred place for the local people. It's a popular place for walkers due to the rocky pathways and gorgeous views, but we just went there to check out the incredible views of lake titicaca and the Incan influence, and experience the lifestyle on an island with no cars or roads. Just off Isla del Sol is the smaller, probably less touristy, isla de la Luna, where unfortunately we didn't have time to go. The boat to the island was like an Onchan Park motor boat with a roof rack for people to sit on -not the most comfortable 90mins and our bags got absolutely soaked, but we got really good views of the lake and all the islands. When we got off the boat on the south of the island we were immediately charged 5 bolivianos (about 40p) and followed the trail of other backpackers towards the steps that I had read about and was not looking forward to tackling. To get to the village, Yucamati, we were faced with a 30-45 minute hike up endless rocky steps which twisted and turned around houses and restaurants, all with huge backpacks on our front and back. Throw in the altitude and it was pretty much my idea of hell on earth
After a relatively early night, although I kept waking us both up having coughing fits in the early hours (still full of a cold), we woke up early to go for the obligatory walk around the island. There is a track from north to south which is popular for people arriving at the north in the morning, with no bags, who then leave later that day from the south
Then, we made our way down the horrible track back down to the boats, arriving back on Copacabana at 5, which meant we had an hour and a half to wait until our bus to Cusco. This is when we discovered that once again I have the reddest head in south America, obviously sitting in the sun at lunch has burnt my face, again!
The bus to Cusco was actually quite nice, due to us booking the VIP seats on the bottom deck, fed up of dodgy bus sleeping. On the bus Snellers got chatting to a guy from Philadelphia about everything from American football to 9.11 while I napped on and off. Our final border crossing was the easiest of the lot, so after all the horror stories we had heard about crossing south American borders, they have all gone without a hitch which is a relief ! The bus stopped in the Peruvian town of Puno, strangely having to go and get a new bus ticket printed, which should've took twenty minutes but the organisation in Peru was already coming across a shambles, as it took more than an hour of hanging around waiting to get back on the bus! pretty annoying at 12 at night. South Americans are just never in a rush for anything, everything takes twice as long to happen there which is endearing at first but can get quite irritating when it's the middle of the night and you just want to get somewhere. Back on the bus, we all went to sleep, woken up a few hours later around 5.30am in cusco, finally close to the place I've probably been looking forward to seeing most on the trip, Machu Picchu.
So now we are in another Loki hostel, again watching the football, with a day to spend around the city tomorrow before hopefully heading on a three day Machu Picchu trek on Monday. Only ten days left in south America, it's really flown!
Wilson and Snellers