Welcome to Bolivia
Trip Start Sep 22, 2011
83Trip End Aug 11, 2012
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La Paz is the political capital of Bolivia and the highest capital city in the world. The altitude here is 3660 m and that certainly makes climbing the stairs and hills around town a challenge. Luckily tho our hotel has a lift. We attempted the stairs on one occasion but quickly decided that that was a stupid idea. Still, we've been at altitudes of over 2500 m for a couple of weeks now so we're getting a lot better and apart from during any strenuous stair climbing, we don't really feel it.
Getting into Bolivia was actually a lot less hassle than I thought it might be. The boarder is on a river at the south west corner of Lake Titicaca. We stamped ourselves out of Peru and crossed the river. Once in Bolivia we had some typical paperwork to fill out and then simply got stamped in. Easy!
Our first stop on route to La Paz was some ruins from an ancient civilisation called the Tiwanaca's. These people pre-date the Incas by many thousands of years but aren't nearly as famous. We had lunch in the truck park with a local pack of stray dogs but never actually went to see the ruins. There was a bit of a mix up with the cost and the info didn't really sell it to us, and so the group decided not to go. In hindsight it's a shame we missed it as some pictures of it that we saw in La Paz looked pretty good. Ah well!
We arrive in La Paz on Thursday afternoonand got a chance to wander around the area of the hotel. The Hotel was called Senorial Montero and is in an excellent location for the local markets and shops. Dinner out on Thursday evening was at a Asian restaurant called Maphrao On. The food was delicious and the portions huge. The smoothies were apparently really good too but I opted for the local brew, Huari. Very tasty! At first there were a few grumbles when we heard we needed a taxi, but we soon didn't mind when we found that it would cost us £1 to get across town, between four of us!
On Friday morning we heard that there was an election happening on Sunday and that all roads around the city would be closed. This meant that Jack and subsequently us, wouldn't be allowed to leave, so we'd have an extra night in La Paz and were now leaving on Monday. This wasn't a problem for us until we heard that there was also a three day ban on alcohol thoughout the city too. Nooooooo! We probably wouldn't have minded, but once we were told we couldn't have it we obvisouly wanted it more. Being as English and resourceful as we are this didn't really effect us, but more on that later.
Our first trip out in La Paz was actually for a bit of culture. A few of us went on a city tour with a local guide. We saw the political square with a gorgeous cathedral and government buildings. We also saw the Vice President of Bolivia, but he didn't wave. For breakfast the guide showed us salteñas. These are a type of street food like empanadas and luckily the guide advised us that the centres were full of juice. They were very tasty and cost 40p. Next up was the gold museum which had some very impressive pieces from the Tiwanaca people made thousands of years ago. We then headed to a lookout point and got a great view over La Paz before heading to Valley de Luna, or Moon Valley. This was a very strange place where the rain has carved the clay and sandstone landscape into different shapes that look very alien.
After Moon Valley we drove back towards the hotel and passed through areas of the city that looked like any other wealthy western city centre. Not quite your typical idea of Bolivia. Back near the hotel we left the guide in The Witch's Market. Here we had lunch and said goodbye to Fiona as she was leaving the tour today. After the goodbyes we headed out for a wander around the market. The market got the name of Witch's Market because the original stores (of which some still exist) sold everything you needed for your luck and prosperity potions, i.e. herbs, plants and pieces of animals. We saw frogs and birds, but the most strange were the alpaca and llama foetuses. These will apparently bring lucky in life or to your business if you bury them under your house. Interesting!! The rest of the market was pretty typical with lots of crafts and souvenirs. After much wandering we decided to pop into a bar for a cheeky beer, only to be reminded that is was a dry weekend, and so very dissapointed we about turned and left. Tomorrow would be better :-) Dinner on Friday night was at a restaurant called Sol y Luna (Sun and Moon) with Claire, Ali and Jill. For main Alex had falafel and I had an awesome kebab. Again not very cultural but it was Ali and Jill influence and very delicious.
Saturday morning we caught up on some much needed sleep before heading back out in the market areas on route to Oliver's Travels bar. This bar is described as "the worst cultural experience in La Paz". It is basically an English pub that served all day fry ups and pints of Tetly tea. We were very happy, me even more so when I found the football was on followed by a replay of the Wales v France rugby game. So it was set, we enjoyed our 'massive' fry ups (mine came on two plates!) and me and Ali sat and watched the rugby whilst Alex, Jill and Emily went shopping again. Alex bought another bag, but apparently because this one was leather and 'Very' pretty it was an essential purchase. Whatever!
Saturday night was spent with Jill and Ali in our room playing cards, eating snacks and drinking the beer from downstairs (the lovely hotel people let us buy some to have in our room) and the rum that the Germans had kindly left us. They had only been gone two days but it was at this point I started to miss them as the three girls around me started painting their nails and talking about shoes and bags. I need some male company!
Sunday morning was very surreal. We woke up to the sound of... nothing. There were no cars, no bus engines and no horns. Usually there is a constant background noise of cars communicating via honks and beeps, but this morning there was silence. It was lovely. It was even stranger when we walked outside and were able to walk around town in the middle of a usually very busy road. There were a couple of authorised taxis and police vehicles, but not much else. Me and Alex went for a walk round town and went to a few of the churches and areas we had yet to see. We took some photos whilst stood in the middle of the highway, very strange. In the afternoon we just chilled out at the hotel before heading back to Oliver's for dinner, and this is where the trouble started. Dinner was excellent and at six o'clock we were informed the drinking ban was lifted, so the owner very kindly handed out massive shots of vodka for all. A few beers and gins later we thought it'd be a great idea to try the new club in town called Under Construction. The club was ace, with good music and cheap drinks. A good night was had by all, although when we got back to the hotel we realised we were up again in less than 3 hours... Oh dear!
So the next day started as you would expect... badly, and then got progressively worse from there. The first killer was at 7 am when me and Alex were woken up by the phone with Claire asking where we were and that the truck was outside. Damn! (to put it politely). With that we jumped up, dressed, threw everything into a bag and ran downstairs. Once on the truck we were greeted by many hungover faces and I had time to reflect on my own, and for those of you who know me, it was a bad one... I really wasn't very well!! Alex by the way was her usual self and felt a little groggy but in comparison was just very tired, gggrrr! We set off on what was meant to be a 9 hour journey to Potosi. I tried to sleep for the morning, coupled with moments of hot flushes and general moaning, until we reached Oruro. It was here that the day just got worse, as if it could. Jack decided that he didn't like any other gear than his emergency first, and so we got the dreaded news that we would be leaving him and getting a local bus to Potosi. A Local Bus in my state?!! Nevertheless we jumped on a packed bus and headed into the mountains for the next 5 hours. Luckily it was a relatively comfy bus and I was able to sleep whilst the guy next to me seemed to talk to himself. The scenery was amazing and I actually started to feel better about 3 hours in. Potosi is the highest city of it's size in the world at an altitude of 4070 m, which meant that the mountain roads, sky line and sun set were all incredible. We arrived in Potosi in the dark and were all very relieved to - A, get off the local bus and B, hear that Jack was fixed and would meet us in Potosi tomorrow. The hotel was pretty nice and once there I scouted out some hangover food (steak sandwich) and headed for an early night. I was better now and everyone was unanimous in delight that this day was finally over. Drinking's fun!!
Tomorrow we're off to look around a working silver mine and then it's off to Sucre and then the salt flats at Uyuni. Looking forward to all that.
Talk to you all soon.
Love us two
p.s. the internet in Bolivia is either extremely slow or none existent, so there may be a few updates in a row or none at all, I'm sure you'll all cope though.