Bolivia, extreme altitude but extremely beautiful!

Trip Start Jun 21, 2010
Trip End Dec 30, 2010

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, October 4, 2010

During the border crossing, I met the guys that were sitting in front and behind me on the previous nights bus journey (I mentioned them at the end of Peru blog), Matt from Wales, (little) Rich from England, James from England/Aus, Debbie from Cape Town and Steven from Scotland. Later in Copacabana, we met up with Trine, a Norwegian girl, that would have me in hysterics for the next week.

After arriving in Copacabana, we had to kill a few hours before boarding the slowest ferry in the world (one 125 horse power engine for 10 meter boat and 30 people on board) to Isla del Sol. So we missioned to find a restaurant that had the Chelsea game playing (just for the English boys of course).

Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca is at 4800 meters. Walking up a flight of stairs feels like running a marathon. You are constantly out of breath and if you have not acclimatised you can encounter severe (hangover like) headaches, loss of appetite, nausea and diarrhea.

Lake Titicaca is magnificent! The sky is the incredibly blue and the landscape harsh. In the far distance over the lake you can see the snow covered Andes mountains.

The island of Isla del Sol is incredibly rustic. We arrived at around 3pm and were given a travelers tip that if we climbed to the top of the south part of the island we would find decent and very cheap accommodation. Well, its now pretty obvious why this is the case, the climb took us 40 minutes with each of carrying 16-18kg on our backs, a porter service would have been nice.

After a magnificent sunset, probably the best I have seen in South America, we treated ourselves to a few beers and the local dish - grilled trout!

After a much needed good nights sleep, we awoke to a fantastic breakfast overlooking the lake, much needed sustenance for the walk from the south part of the Island to the north part of the Island.

The walk was amazing! The path clearly laid out and with the harsh landscape, blue waters and Andes mountains, makes this is a place that everyone must visit at some point in their life.

After finishing the walk and catching the ferry back to Copacabana, we hired a collectivo to take us to La Paz - the highest city in the world.

The 7 of us arrived at about 8pm and checked into the Loki hostel - another cool backpackers hostel.

The next day, after waking at about 11am with mild hangovers, we wandered to the Witches Market. It really is something different - with Llama fetuses in bottles, dead dried baby Llamas and numerous potions for all types of ailments.

The fourth day in La Paz was probably one of my best days since traveling. It was an early start for all of us as we were about to cycle down the Worlds Most Dangerous Road. This road used to be the main road between the Amazon and La Paz. Approximately 500 vehicles fell over the cliffs edges each year. Most of this road is single tracked dirt road and the rules of the road is that the car that has driven furthest has right of way, if you are the unlucky sod to have driven only a short distance on the road, you have to reverse on this single track until there is a safe passing point. If there is some discrepancy about who has gained the most distance on the road, it is settled by a full on punch up - the loser reverses!

Our company, Vertigo, had crazy guides that provided much entertainment through the day.

Safety is their number one priority and we were kitted out with the most extreme gear, dual suspension bikes, knee guards, elbow guards, riding jackets and trousers and a full face helmet.

The guides checked our bikes at safety spots and limited the speed at certain dangerous sections.

We were a group of 25 - all of us friends from Cusco and La Paz, which made the day so enjoyable.

The ride started at an altitude of 5200 meters at snow covered peaks and we descended to a sub tropical valley in about 6 hours. The ride was only 60 km, but we had tons of time to have snacks, take photos and just take in the scenery.

After this amazing day, Richard (friend of Matt's, different to 'little Rich'), Matt, Sarah (friend of Matt's), James, Debbie and myself all boarded a bus for Uyuni. The next day we would start our 3 day 4x4 trip through the salt flats - a trip I will never forget.

After the most horrendous bus trip (our bus rattled for 5 hours straight as there is no tarred road from La Paz to Uyuni, actually it is a desert road so it is not even gravel, it is rocks!) we arrived at about 10am.

Our 4x4 tour company picked us up from the bus stop and took us to a hotel adjoined to their offices, where we showered and changed.

The trip started at 1pm and our first stop was the train graveyard (on the old rail tracks that connected Chile and La Paz). After a few snaps, we drove into the Salt Flats.

Words cannot describe this scenery! We had to wear sunglasses as it was too bright when we took them off. The extreme white of the worlds largest salt flat and the clear deep blue sky, my words in this blog will never give this place justice and pictures will never capture everything, it truly is an amazing place.

After a few hours in the salt flats, taking many pictures, we drove to the very weird Cactus Island. The island had these giant cactus's-lets just say the boys loved their phallic pictures with these giant cactus's.

After some final sunset pictures we arrived at our hotel-a hotel made entirely of Salt. This would be the first of our two very cold nights.

We left at 8am the next morning for a full day of driving. We saw the flamingo lake, desert, rock tree, volcanoes and red lake. All extremely different and amazing.

Our guide had actually studied Geology at La Paz University so we were told about all the elements of each place we saw. Why the lake was red, or why we saw certain rock formations or why their was different colors through a landscape. He was an incredible guide and after hearing the numerous horror stories of fellow travelers doing the same trip (car breakdowns, food poisoning, drunk drivers-its LEGAL in Bolivia for drivers to drink) we were very thankful for our driver and guide.

After another amazing day, we arrived at our last hostel. This would be the coldest night of my life. We were at a 5200 meters above sea level and the accommodation had no insulation and even the attempt at a fire inside our accommodation would not suffice. So the only way to keep warm was to drink!

With heavy heads and a 5am start (with no showers) we climbed back into our 4x4 Landcruiser for our last few hours of our trip. Our first stop was the hot springs. Here we were able to soak our weary limbs for half an hour (the girls needed it as we had the smallest space in the car and our knees were starting to feel it). At a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius, it was heaven!

Our last stop before we hit the Chilean board was the Blue Lake, a stunning lake that was toxic so had no plant of animal life.

To everyone reading this - once in your life (especially if you are young) visit Bolivia, it is so special and these 10 days of traveling through this country will forever be a part of my fondest memories.
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Angharad on

Randy! This all brings back so many memories. Looks like you are just having the most fabulous time ever. So glad ot read all about it. Take care. My top tip of the day: wear a jumper when it's cold. Take care xxxxx

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