April 8th, 2009 @ 10:58 am by Kev · No Comments
After flying over lake Titicaca after the unforeseen issues with blockading Peruvian farmers, we headed out a short way from La Paz to grab a glimpse of what we missed. The journey itself was cool and having to depart the bus and get on a tiny fishing boats to get across a large body of water was, well, interesting! The bus arrived from its huge wooden transit across the water to shore where we continued onwards to Copacabana, a town on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca.
Copa is definitely not as heady and euphoric as its Brazilian counterpart, with 2 streets of action and no bars open post 10pm, party party party hey! Still it retained a sleepy vibe and a nice place to kick back, even if the hostel room was a dive!
After a day or so of relaxing and climbing the local mountain lookout we hopped aboard a boat and set sail for Isla de la Sol. The Island of the Sun is a extremely picturesque island in the middle of lake Titicaca and is steeped in Inca traditions and sacred sites. After milling around the dock we managed to arrange a tour with a local guide which was pretty cool. Problem being is that our Spanish isn’t that great! But 2 handily places Spanish girls helped to translate, phew. Just strolling around the bays and foothills was incredibly scenic and pleasant.
Not leaving enough time to hike across to the south of the island, or get back to port for the last boat, we were a tad stuck. If it wasn’t for a school group who had chartered a boat we might still be there! Grateful for the lift we posed for a few photos with them, a strange fascination, and returned slightly sun dazed and very relaxed.
Tags: Bolivia · South America
April 1st, 2009 @ 12:31 am by Mike · 9 Comments
After a 10 hours bone shaking bus ride from Potosi we arrived in a place called Uyuni where the gang would begin a 3 day tour across one of the largest salt flat planes in the world. With a 9:30AM start we turned up out outside Cordillera office who we had booked our tour with and was greeted with an Australian born Argentine couple; Surge and Silvi who would be joining us on our tour. Taking us through the salt flats was Richard or how he pronounced it ‘Zicard’ who did not speak a word of English and would be our driver and supposedly cook for the next few days.
In our 10 year old Toyota Land Cruiser which clearly looked well used, we pulled up at our first destination which was two steam trains with approximately 7 carriages each that sat in the middle of no where. The steam trains look like they had been abandoned sometime ago as they were rusting away and covered full of graffiti. Either way they were unusual props and perfect to start our array of catalogue poses.
With our photos entries ready for Littlewoods catalogue we pressed on west into the heart of Salar De Uyuni which is where the salt flats are located. Here we stopped off at what was once a hotel made out of salt but had to be abandoned as it was now illegal to have a hotel on the salt flats. The hotel has been converted into a “covert museum” where you had to buy a chocolate bar to enter. Continuing further west we arrived at a place called Isla Incahauas which was like a raised island of rock that was filled full of cactuses. We hiked around the island for approximately 40 minutes whilst pulling out a new string of catalogue poses as there was nice views of the salt flats.
For the remainder of the afternoon the group devoted all of it’s time in taking perspective shots on the salt flats, which basically is a large white canvas so it is easy to make impossible shots looks possible.
Here are a collections of the perspective shots we took.
In the evening we carried on driving west until we hit the border of the salt flats where we would rest for the night. On the border are lots of salt hotels which we had the privilege of staying in. Quite literally everything in the hotel was made out of salt; the dinner table, the chairs we sat on, even the base of our beds.
Having decided the night before, the group opted for an early start in an attempt to stay ahead of the other flurry of tourist who were on the same tour. Leaving the salt hotel at around 7AM we quickly stopped off in a town called San Juan to pick up some basic supplies. Now we started to head south in the direction of Chile crossing a railway line to a place called Salar De Chiguana which had a small military boarder control and views of ‘Ollague’, which is one of the highest volcano in Chile.
Our next destination of the day is a place called Arbol De Piedra which is an area full of tall weathered away rock. There was one particular rock that is well know which has suffered quite severely from wind erosion and a semi ‘apple core’ effect has occurred. Most of the base has weathered away meaning the top section was a lot larger than the bottom and it is only a matter time as to when it would topple over.
After another cracking performance in front of the camera we continued south to a lagoon called Colorada. The lagoon itself was pretty stunning with amazing views of the surrounding of glacier topped mountains, but what made the Colorada lagoon special is that it is home of the famous pink flamingos. The lagoon was filled full with pink flamingos which were an absolutely delight to watch, especially when you see a flock hurl across splashing in the water as they fly off into the air.
After lunch we continued further south to our final destination called the Red Lagoon. This lagoon was quite literally a large lagoon filled with red water and apparently the water is red due to the algae.
On the way to the lodging where we would be resting for the night we had Kev’s iPod plugged into the auxiliary on the 4×4 stereo. Here we had a ‘free for all’ where each person got to take turns in picking any song of their choice. It got to Surge’s turn and he picked an absolute classic that was Bohemian Rhapsody. It was just like the scene out of Wayne’s World and when the guitar rift kicked in everyone was head banging like crazy including our driver. The video would have been a classic but unfortunately we have lost our copy and looking to retrieve it from Serge and Silvi, so watch this space.
On our final day we had to get up at 4:30AM so we could see some geysers in action. This type of ‘geysers’ is different to a ‘geezer’ known in the a UK which as Microsoft Works dictionary puts it, is an “eccentric or irritable senior citizen”, they are a spring that gushes out hot water and / or steam. The geyser that we approached first had steam gushing out furiously and smelt of sulphur, but in this case we had no problems touching the steam as it was only mildly warm. Warming our hands is exactly what we all needed because the temperature was below freezing to the point where everyone’s fingers and toes was hurting. Chris even had a bottle of water we left in the car overnight that had frozen.
Desperately needing warmth to prevent us loosing a limb we arrived at our next destination. It was an outdoor hot spring that would solve all our problems. All but one problem as there was no changing rooms meaning we had to get changed in the freezing cold, but it was totally worth it. The hot spring was so heavenly that we almost considered skipping breakfast, but unfortunately hunger got the better of us. After getting changed for breakfast I left my swimming shorts on the wing mirror of our 4×4 to dry and upon returning back they had frozen despite the sun shining in its full glory.
The very final stop of our salt flat tour was a trip to the Green Lagoon. Of all the lagoon’s we had visited the Green Lagoon was the most picturesque. The lagoon was large with still, undisturbed water that made the whole area feel so tranquil with reflections of the glacier topped mountains on the lagoon that were truly stunning which you can see for yourself below.
Next stop; a quick stop in Chile to one of the driest town in the world called San Pedro De Atacama.
Tags: Bolivia · Chile · South America
April 1st, 2009 @ 12:06 am by John · 12 Comments
After a long journey from Copacabana via La Paz we made it to Potosi in about 20 hours. I took the cheaper bus to save a bit of money and Chris, Mike and Kev took the more expensive one that left earlier. I got to Potosi at 5:30am whilst the others met up with me at the Koala Hostel at 6am. In English money, I probably saved about 3 quid but it goes far in Bolivia.
So we arrive in a nice little hostel called the Koala Den that has a very homely feel to it. We pretty much check in as soon as we were there and showered up ready for the the day’s activities. We only planned to spend a night here before we move on to the salt flats in Uyuni.
It wasn’t long before we managed to book ourselves on the mine tours. We left promptly at 8:30am to go collect our equipment required for the tour, where we also met our guide for the day named Pedro AKA “Batman”. We were given some overall trousers and jacket which were supposedly used to protect our own clothing. However, they didn’t really stand up to the job. We were also given some wellington boots, a hard helmet and a head torch so we could see inside the dark small mines.
Before we went to the mines, the plan was to go to the miner’s market and see the Ore Refinery. We got to the miner’s market where we were told by the guide that this is the place where the miners buy their tools to carry out their tasks. This included 96% proof alcohol, food and drink and of course, dynamite. We bought 5 sets of dynamite of which 3 will be gifts for the miners and the rest for our own entertainment later. The miner’s life here is hard and it is customary to get the miners some gifts as we were visiting their place of work. In addition to dynamite, we got some coca leaves and fizzy pop for the miners as gifts. After the market, we moved on to see the see how the minerals in the rock are separated in the Ore Refinery.
Soon after we finally entered the mines. The entrance was a small dark opening in the side of a hill. We turned on our head lamps and walked in single file. I could see as I walked along the mines that these holes were all hand made as the sides of the walls were not in perfect shape and the ceilings were all at different heights. For most of the time I had to bend my head down and walk looking at my feet so I didn’t hit my head against the ceiling. On a few occasions the height caught me out and a massive *bang* would echo through the mines because the height of the ceiling unexpectedly changed. Fortunately, the helmet did its job and I never felt a bit of pain.
The mine went as far as 18 levels down. Our guide took us down 3 levels of the mine which was 120m deep. All of this was was done without lifts but with climbing, scrambling and crawling through small holes. The further we went down, the smaller the mine holes got. At one point we had to lay flat on our stomachs to get to a small cavern where a miner was working. we could see him hammering away at a small hole just so he can put a stick of dynamite in. He had already been working on it for 3 hours and it didn’t seem he had got far. We gave him some dynamite as a gift and moved on out of the mines. It was getting a little harder to breathe towards the end of the mine tour because a miner close by had let off some dynamite and we had walked through the aftermath of it where there was small floating particles and gases from the explosion in the air. We had some masks but they were pretty useless.
When we finally got out of the mine, I was glad as it was very tiring getting around in there at my height and it was much cooler and easier too breathe. The miners certainly have a tough life working there daily and It’s something I would never would like to do for a living. The good thing about this tour is that a percentage of the cost is put forward to the miners at the end of the year to help them out.
The day we were in Potosi, also happened to be the 189th Anniversary of the town which is a big event in the country. To celebrate, everyone in every possible job in the town comes out on a big march, donning big banners and shouting chants. We were invited to join the march with the tour guides and tourist association and we happily agreed, not knowing what we were actually in for.
After dinner, we went in search for group we was going to join the march with. As we walked along the streets of Potosi, we could see that the march had already begun. We walked against the march hoping we would find the tour guides group at the end. We followed the march for a about half hour and it still hadn’t ended. The streets were lined up with crowds watching the march. The march itself had an estimated 100,000 people in it. We never realised the sheer scale of this thing. We eventually found the tour group who were already preparing everyone by giving out the flag of Potosi to wave around and a Potosi lapel to wear with pride. We all received one along with the other gringos that decided to join in the march. The march itself turned out to be lot of fun. We mingled in with the other tour guides and getting to know them with some banter on the side. Someone in the group managed to sneak in 2 bottles of Bolivian whiskey for us to enjoy during the march. After about 2 hours, the march was still going strong. All of us were getting a little tired, but we were told that it wasn’t far to go. It wasn’t until an hour later we got nearer the end of the march were things got a bit stricter. Our group was organising themselves so that we were in a perfect rows of 4 people with the men and women separated in each line. We were then told to look right and hold up the flags. We then realised that we were marching past some important political people of Potosi and Bolivia and so had to be on best behaviour!
The march finally ended with a high. Everyone cheered each other as we marched past the finishing line. We marched for a solid 3 hours and it was tiring, but such an experience. This was our first and only day in Potosi but it felt like we had done so much and met lots of new people. It was sad that we had to leave the place so soon but it’s definitely one place we will be remembering for a long time.
Tags: Bolivia · South America
March 21st, 2009 @ 12:03 pm by Chris · No Comments
We arrived in Rurrenbaque after a bumpy ride on the 9 seater aeroplane as we passed over the mountain ranges. As we were descending towards the grass runway we could begin to feel the heat and humidity building up, then as we disembarked the effects became stronger to the point we were sweating whilst standing still.
We were up bright and early the next day to get to the office for the start of our tour we booked yesterday with Indegina tours. After the Toyota Landcruiser was packed up we jumped in and met the other 3 members of the group and our guide Juan-Carlos. We started the 3 hour journey along the dusty and bumpy roads towards the Yacuma river where we would continue our journey in a long boat. Time flew by as our driver entertained us with the only music he had, The best of The Beatles and by stopping the jeep suddenly forcing everybody forward in there seats, something which was worse for the people in the back on the bench seats. At once our driver jumped out and started pointing at one of the trees. He had spotted a Two-Toed Sloth, which was slowly moving it’s way down the tree and moving out of sight of our cameras.
We ventured into the Mididi National Park to continue on the long boat where we had a scenic tour seeing lots of Capibara along the river banks and in the water, lots of Alligators including one which nearly rammed into the boat before performing a death roll and sinking beneath the water.
After a short while on the river the guide suddenly stopped the boat to reach for the tarpaulin to cover the bags, just as had finished doing that the heavens opened as he was doing that we rushed for our rain macks, not that they helped since it didn’t cover our shorts so the ended up soaking wet, after that there wasn’t too much wildlife spotting it was then mainly hide from the rain. The rain didn’t stop even after we arrived at our eco lodge with bar!
We sat for some tea and biscuits, whilst there JC came a told us this evenings activities (croc spotting with only a torch) would be postponed until another night when hopefully the weather would be better. Instead we relaxed in our hammocks beer in hand. Later in the evening after dinner another group also in our hut, four irish girls came a joined us on the table introducing us to some new drinking games…
The following day was Anaconda and Cobra hunting day! which started well when our guide JC found a poisonous snake by the boat, he grabbed a bit of wood to kill it and offered it to Mike to perform the killing, he declined graciously. After stabbing it in the water he dragged it up on to the bank to finish it off, performance over we headed to the Indegina camp site for the cobras. Along the way we saw more stunning wildlife, some Capuchin monkeys in the tree, storks, more cayman alligators and lots of turtles hanging on to tree stumps.
We joined up with the other group from our hut and started our walked across the fields, we thought we were going to be out of luck until one of the guides found an anaconda sleeping in the hollow of a tree and decided to pull it out to show us, after poking it with a stick from the other side to lure it out. At first it was very angry and a lunging at me and some of the other people in the group as we held it by the tail besides us, understandable if it had just been poked and pulled from it’s home, it slowly grew more tired as we were holding it. It’s skin felt slimy and you could feel the muscles in it’s body shifting around as it moved in our hands when we held it by the tail with it’s head a good distance from our ankles. The guide put the Anaconda back in its home and continued on our hunt. Later we came across a sleeping Aligator hiding in the bushes it’s eyes wild open and another Anaconda but no Cobras on this occasion.
After a spot of lunch we went Piranha fishing! The first to catch anything was Nina followed by Kev and by the end we had caught enough to have piranha for dinner, plus something else because there isn’t alot of meat on a piranha. After the fishing we waited for darkness to fall to see the aligators eyes at night, whilst we waited we grabbed a beer at the Sunset bar and someone suggested a game of bare foot football to which we obliged with a game of England v International’s after running around the pitch beer in hand we fought for a reasonable 1-0 win.
As we travelled along the river in Pitch Black the guide must know the route so well to drive it in the dark, as we shone our torches their eyes glowed red and then the guide pulled the boat to the side and shouted go grab that aligator to which we replied with a shock what how, so I jumped out and went to get it not having any idea how to handle it the guide got it behind the head and tail. it was so small and felt so fragile I could have snapped it whilst holding it, though it was nice to know whilst holding it if it had bitten my finger the pressure it applied when have taken it almost clean off.
We arrived back to our evening meal which included the Piranha we had caught earlier. Though the catfish we caught never emerged only the Piranha which didn’t have a lot of meat on the them arrived fresh from a frying.
We continued our evening by buying more beer from the bar and continuing drinking games from the day before, after running of beer we sent Mike and Masha to wake up the barman in the early hours of the morning for more beer. We finished our drinking games at 3 in the morning ready for our early start the following day.
The following day we were heading home, but not before we try to go swimming for dolphins and also get up and close to Pedro, the Aligator who whilst quite old and missing a few teeth still looked deadly. There weren’t any dolphins in the first spot so we headed back to get out stuff together and jump back on our long boat to the real world away from the Pampas. On the way back we had the opportunity to swim again, this time we were more successful with the dolphins baiting us as we swam closer to them they would move behind us. The rest of the journey was fairly relaxed Mike made some panpipes out of reeds and we sat drying out in the wind and getting sunburnt, we reached the shore jumped in the jeep the next 3 hours whizzed by as we drove the bumpy and dusty path back to Rurrenbaque.
Our trip back to la paz would not be as luxurious as the plane journey here - we decided to go for the significantly cheaper and longer, 18 hours instead of 45 minutes bus journey over the dusty and bumpy road, back along the most dangerous road into la paz. Though lucky for us our ride was a night which made it harder to see over the edge to where the bus could fall. However, after riding the bikes down not along ago we still had memories of what it looked like.
Tags: Bolivia · South America
March 21st, 2009 @ 9:30 am by Mike · 17 Comments
The final stop for us in La Paz is to visit the famous San Pedro Prison. Trying to organise a tour can be a bit tricky as we were informed that tours are not exactly ‘kosher’ and that money paid towards a tour is used to bribe security at the main gates. Needless to say we had extremely difficulty trying to organise a tour as you cannot book through your average tour agency as prison tours are illegal. Therefore, you need to find out tour guides contact details through word of mouth. Although, we managed to obtain some contact details we was unsuccessful in getting any tour.
As we all wanted to visit the prison we took the initiative and turned up outside the prison in hope that we could join another tour as we heard that there are usually 2 tours everyday. Upon arriving at the prison we was immediately approached by a large black man who wasted no time and introduced himself. His name was Kenny and he was from South Africa. Kenny smelt us from a mile away and knew we wanted to visit the prison as we clearly looked like backpackers which he was only so kindly to mention.
After a quick series of introductions Kenny took us into the prison where we went through a side entrance into a small room next to the main gates. Here we needed to pay our tour fees which I think he wanted to do in secret to ensure the prison guards and the actual tour guides did not see what was being charged. Once paid, Kenny asked whether any of us had a camera which we all replied no. We all assumed that cameras are a definitely no go as photographing a boss of a drug cartel would be like volunteering yourself onto death row. However, to our amazement Kenny was upset. He explained that you have an once in a lifetime opportunity to visit this unique prison and you don’t bring a camera. He said he would have sneaked our cameras in for us.
As we entered the prison we was given a stamp on our hand which was our only proof that we were visitors and not prisoners. As we passed through the huge security gates any imagines of what we had of prison disappeared. As we looked around you can see families playing with their children, market stalls and shops. The inside of the prison looked more like a typical underdeveloped Bolivian town than a prison.
Walking through the prison we was always escort by four large bodyguards. Our tour guide explained that it is not a dangerous prison and we only needed bodyguards to prevent any inmates attempting to beg from us. The reason the prison is safe is that the prisoners govern themselves. The inmates themselves have developed their own laws and rules that is applied through a hierarchy which must be respected, otherwise you are made to understand through various means which our tour guide explained.
Unlike a conventional prison inmates are expected to rent or buy their accommodation where they have the opportunity to live with their family. For inmates who are not as fortunate and cannot afford a cell are expected to sleep on the streets within the prison cell walls. Cells very in quality from having an empty cell, to having a cell with an window over looking the city or at the top end an ensuite apartment with it’s own kitchen.
However, you still have to understand that it is not paradise in here and that inmates are here for a reason. The have committed an offence and this is their punishment. Most for inmates we were lead to believe that they have been imprisoned for a drugs related offence such as trafficking. This is rather ironic as the biggest source of income into the prison is the trade / trafficking of drugs. We have been lead to believe that the prison itself has its own laboratory where cocaine is mass produced.
Upon leaving prison we did have the opportunity to purchase some cocaine which we all declined. However, one Canadian guy did want to purchase some as the cocaine produced here was supposedly one of the finest / purest in the world. Unfortunately, the inmate was requesting ten times the normal asking price so the Canadian guy had to decline. He only wanted to sample a small amount as he was advised not to attempted to take any outside the prison. This is because if caught he would find himself straight back into the prison only this time as an prisoner himself.
The San Pedro Prison is a total surreal and unique experience that we would recommend to anyone who is visiting La Paz. However, there is a book called ‘Marching Powder’ about an Australian guys experience of the prison which I would advise reading first.
Tags: Bolivia · South America
March 21st, 2009 @ 6:38 am by Mike · No Comments
In La Paz, Bolivia there is road called Yungas Road that is regarded as the most dangerous in the world. Some of the stats that we had picked up researching about the road was that in 2004, 24 buses / coaches had fallen off the road which is an average of one bus falling off every 2 weeks. Due to the fact that this road had been labelled as being the most dangerous in the world, this automatically meant it was a must do for team Goonies, so off we went to La Paz.
Having only been in La Paz for one day due to our tight schedule, we was on a one day bike tour down the World’s Most Dangerous Road. We booked with a company called Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking as they were highly recommended by the Lonely Planet, but most importantly we decided that it was one part of the trip we cannot skimp on. This is because you would want to use the best equipment available if it increased your chances of staying alive.
On the day of the bike ride the professional tour guides / instructors picked us up from our hostel. Upon arriving at the starting point of the bike ride there was a large sign detailing the number of recorded fatalities so far this year. The sign said there have been 43 fatalities so far this year but this was not the most alarming part. There was another sign underneath the main sign saying another 9 deaths to be added making it 52 fatalities in approximately 9 months. After speaking with our instructor he explained that a bus had fallen off the previous week and they had not had enough time to update the main sign.
After explaining every single piece of clothing that they would be providing and how to put them on like we have never seen a glove before, we was outside with our £2000+ mountain bikes ready to decide our fates on the road. Before we set off there was a ritual that everyone must do first. It involved using this 100% alcohol where we would splash a little on the ground for mother earth, splash a little on the wheels of our bike to ensure our bikes did not fail and a short swig ourselves for the courage we are going to need to cycle down the World’s Most Dangerous Road.
The cycle began with a downhill tarmac section that was really straight forward, with speeds of up to 70 KMPH being reached easily. Throughout the tarmac section are check points which our instructor said was put in place to make gringos feel more reassured, as the check points are used as a measure to ensure that everyone who had started the road also exited at the other end of the road.
Once the tarmac section was over the real fun started. We had over 20 KM of unpaved downhill dangerous road to cover. But before the fun could start our instructor went through some safety drills / measures that everyone needed to know. The instructor explained to us that the reason there are so many deaths on this road is because most of the drivers on the road are drunk. Therefore, it was important we knew how to handle different situations as we would be sharing the road with other motorised vehicles. The instructor used a whistle and if be blew once, this meant there was on coming traffic so we can proceed with care but we must remain on the left side of the road. If we heard a continuous repeating whistle then it meant that a vehicle is going to over take us and we had to stop on the left side of the road and get off our bikes on the right side.
Getting off the right side of a bike may sound relatively simple and even more easy on the Most Dangerous Road because the cliff edge was always on your left side, if you are starting at the top first. However, there is a famous incident where a French girl got off stupidly on the left side of her bike, took one step backwards and fell off the road to face a terrible death. Therefore, it always pays to listen to your instructors!!!
Despite the reputation and the label in which the road has received, it was relatively easy and not technical. As the road was downhill no pedalling was required and being on top of the range full suspension bikes meant we ate up the roads like a greedy fat kid left alone with a chocolate chip muffin. However, after riding for approximately 30 minutes the weather turned for the worst and started to hammer down with rain. So there we were riding down the World’s Most Dangerous Road on a push bike but the conditions were more slippery, visibility was extremely poor as the rain had caused a lot of mist and also caused the lens on our goggles / sunglasses to steam up. This meant that you could not see anything wearing eye protection, but it was torture not wearing any eye protection as rain droplets would slap your eyeballs as you travelled down the road at 30-40 KMPH. The conditions were so bad that one person from our group dropped out temporarily and used the support vehicle that was following us until the conditions improved.
With us being real men (or stupid) we soldiered on regardless of the conditions and everyone at some point had a hair raising moment going around a corner way too fast that would cause us to skip a heart beat or two. The abysmal weather cleared up after about 40 minutes and the glorious sun was out. We were all soaked to our bones and caped in mud but we just ditched our outer layers and began the final descent.
On the last section the road was a lot flatter which meant that pedalling was required which was hard work on a full suspension bikes as half of the energy you put into pedalling is wasted when the rear shock absorber bounces up and down. By the end of the road everyone was extremely tired but that meant nothing as the most important thing was that everyone made it back in one piece and not a scratch in sight. Also the instructor never had to used his whistle which probably did not matter as his pace was a lot faster than half of the group so they had no chance of hearing his whistle.
At the end of the bike ride we stopped off at a monkey sanctuary which is funded by the company. Here we got to clean ourselves up and have a nice buffet lunch. The company also provided us with a lift back to our hostel which coincidentally was via the World’s Most Dangerous Road, which in theory was the most dangerous part of our trip as we was not in control of our own fates and most importantly, almost all deaths on the roads happen in a motorised vehicle.
The Final Verdict:
Extremely good fun that is suitable for a beginning but no way near as dangerous as the title may suggest.
Tags: Bolivia · South America
March 21st, 2009 @ 5:51 am by Mike · No Comments
Due to the strikes on the only road from Cusco to Puno we had to get a flight from Cusco to La Paz costing around 98 US$. This meant that we would have to miss the opportunity to visit the floating islands on Lake Tititaka.
After a 55 minute flight the group arrived safely in La Paz and got a taxi straight to ‘The Adventure Brew’ hostel. The Adventure Brew hostel consisted of two hostels that was only two blocks apart and we stayed in the newer hostel which was modern, clean and had a trendy bar with a balcony overlooking the city. But the biggest selling point was it had its own micro brewery that made 3 different types of beer that guest’s staying at the hostel could have one free beer each day.
Upon arrival we noticed that the hostel was organising an event to watch some ‘Cholita Wrestling’ which was about to start in under an hours time. So the gang was in a rush as we had to check in, get money out as no one had any Bolivian money and feed ourselves. For food we wanted something quick and easy so we popped into a KFC looking franchise called Chikey Pollo. This was probably one of the worst meals I have ever encountered. The chicken burger was stodgy and chips that were stone cold and looked a week old. But we was seriously running out of time so no time trying to complain in a language we could barely understand so we had to take in on the chin.
Arriving back at the hostel with minutes to spare the organiser says that we have plenty of time and that we had time to have our free beer before we left. Despite rushing for nothing a beer is exactly what the group needed and it’s always the free beers that taste the best.
When we arrived at the Cholita Wrestling venue we was greeted by the strong smell of urine. We was only in the car park and the smell was extremely distinctive, so we could not imagine how bad it would be in the actual toilets. The wrestling itself was brilliant and one of the funniest things we have ever seen. It was like the Mexican wrestling in ‘Nacho Libre’ with Jack Black with all their bright, tacky, skin tight customs. But there was a bonus as well as Cholita wrestling included women fighting where they dressed up in traditional local outfits. The problem was that these women were not exactly easy on the eyes, however I was still engrossed to get a picture with them which I successfully did. However, on returning to my seat the women wrestler I got a picture with man-handled me and landed a smacker right on my lips. Dare I say it, I felt aroused violated and abused.
On the second day we had to get up bright and early as we had organised a bike ride on the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Road’ (See later post for full details). After the bike ride we was advised by our tour guide to go to a restaurant / bar called Ram Jam, which was meant to be good and where we would meet him as well. Needless to say the place was completely empty and lacked any atmosphere, though this could be due to the fact that it was Monday. We ended up going back to our hostel and enjoying the beer they had which included a normal lager, a stout and a negro (black / dark beer).
On the third day we explored the town and all the markets which La Paz had to offer. There was one market we was particularly interested, which was a witches market that lots of people we met along our travels talked about. In the witches market they had the usual Alpaca wool accessories such as socks, gloves, hats, etc, etc. But the more interesting and weird items included stuffed armadillos, dried frogs and llama fetuses which are apparently used as good luck charms.
During the evening we decided to have a curry as since being on our travels we have yet to experience a proper curry. We went to a place called the ‘Star of India’ which was recommended highly by another hostel. At the curry house the group decided to play it safe so we ordered a few Madras’ and a few Jalfrazies. To our amazement it was probably one of the hottest curries we have ever experienced. I had to eat my curry in stages as I needed to give my mouth time off as the burn from the curry was too much. We all had sweat dripping of our faces and there just wasn’t enough serviettes to mop it up. The curry itself was not particular good as you could not taste any spices as everyone was suffering from sensory overload caused by the heat of the curry.
Next stop Rurrenabaque to see some wild life, Ray Mayes style!!!
Tags: Bolivia · South America