Bolivia

Getting Drunk and Lost Part 12 : Bolivia

After playing around in the sand it was time for some real backpacking.
Arriving at the Bolivian border early doors, we were surprised by a breakfast buffet supplied by the coach driver.
What we didn’t realise is that this would be the best meal we’d get for three days.
Stuffing our face and inhaling as much fresh avocado as we could.
Next we got separated into groups.
Already missing out on the all English group we preyed not to get stuck for days with the Spanish kids.
Lucky we had the third group.
Meeting our driver Sami (didn’t speak a word of English, which we asked for specifically).
We had the Chilean couple of Anna and nacho. Sweet couple but Anna became very ill from the altitude.
Finally there was Paulina. A lady from São Paulo who spoke English, thus becoming our unofficial translator. Thank God!
Intros done and off we went into the middle of nowhere.
Before to long we stopped in what looked like desert.
Pauline translated that the stop was the Dali stones.
Sure enough on the hills in the distance were a scattering of rocks that resembled the same ones as all of Dali’s painting and were the inspiration for them.
With lighting quick wit I asked Sami where the clocks were.
He didn’t laugh. It must of been my Spanish.

Next up, sulphur geysers!
Amazing cloud gushing geysers which were awesome for a photo shoot.
They did however stink to high heaven.
Onwards Sami!! Quick sharp.

A quick stop to see some flamingos.
Cool but I couldn’t get close enough despite my ninja creeping efforts.
Then hot springs and lunch.
With no where to change except the worst toilets in the world (and we had to pay for them)
We jumped into the hot springs over looking a lake.
Quite fun but when your one of 25 it becomes more of a human soup than a hot swimming pool.
Still the view was ace.
So when we booked the trip we assumed we’d be camping.
You can imagine the elation at find the first night was in a hostel.
Result.
That was until dinner came out and it was grilled llama and quinoa.
Oh well you can’t have everything.

Next day we walked around an ancient village which to be honest was eerily similar to the Flintstones.
Basically just a look of Jurassic valleys, interesting none the less.
This included a picnic lunch after a quick walk to Laguna Catal and the dodging of llama shit.
That night we arrived at Hostel de Sal.
Literally the salt hotel.
A cute little place in the tiniest little village.
Power cuts interrupted dinner but the thunder and lightening that was striking the ground close to us definitely kept us entertained.

Day 3 was the certainty the best and most spectacular.
Waking up at 4!! Yawn!!!
We headed out to the see the main event.
After the lightening had come the rain leaving about 3 inches of water covering the flats.
So when we got there the sun was creeping up over the horizon creating an unbelievable mirror image on the ground.
Obviously it was time to play and dick around.
Taking pictures in different poses and generally acting like idiots.
The best fun ever and I don’t think I’ve ever taken so many pictures.
After the sun fully broke we headed further into the flats to visit Isla del Pescardo.
It lied! No fish in sight!
However plenty of cactus and salt for miles.
We then had chance to mess around and take more pictures, this time with toy dinosaurs and various over props that give of different weird perspectives.
Seriously tired but one last spot before we said goodbye to everyone and set out on our own again.
Cementerio de Trenes was once running silver and precious gems.
Created by the British – obviously, we steal everything.
Abandoned in the 50’s and left to rust.
The trains are an incredible sight and even now have plenty of graffiti to boot.
A cool way to top off the trip.
Exhausted we collapsed at our hostel in Uyuni and wondered what the rest of Bolivia had to offer.

I wish I had a bunch of recommendations, must see places and fun things to do if you ever visit Uyuni but to be honest it’s one to miss.
Our hostel was a bit of a let down and we literally spent 2 days sleeping.
Apart from the occasional beer or finishing off the bottle of Pisco (Chilean rum) we did jack shit.
The only notable thing about the place was a lot of Jesus tat being paraded around and some dodgy street empanadas before our bus to potosi.

Initial thoughts after arriving in potosi were that the place had the potential to be a shit hole.
Even worse was the up hill walk to the hostel. Which because of the altitude (highest city in the world) and a sudden hail storm we gave up, hailed a cab and get there as quick as possible.
Easter Sunday meant very little open but parades galore.
So mostly we sat in the plaza, out of breath and watched the locals darting in around the churches.

On to the highest city in the world.
Potosi is over 4,000 meters above sea level where the air gets thinner and It hit us like a ton of bricks.
Even after months of walking with our backpacks, 10 minutes from the bus stop to our hostel and we couldn’t breath.
Taxi!!!!
Safe to say walking around the city was gonna be a struggle and we did very little of that.
In fact we mostly rested up in the hostel.
We did however meet a traveling family from essex.
Rachel and Chris and kids were backpacking for 12 months in total and seemed to be much closer than we’d seen most families back home, despite the stress and strain to keep everybody safe.
Like i said, we didn’t venture out much but did visit the mint museum and learn about how the Spanish raided Bolivia for its precious metals and the history of currency itself.
We also managed to find the cheapest vegetarian restaurant ever “Manzana Magica” at £2 each for 3 courses it was perfect for skint hobo’s like us.
Not really any more to tell you about our experiences in this town as we were very run down and struggled to even get up most morning. There was however an incident that involved me burning some cheese toasties in the hostel and screaming at a guy snoring in our 12 person dorm room. In my defence he was super annoying and i was really cranky.

 

Another taxi to the bus station and another bus ride from Potosi to the capital Sucre.
As well as all of our bags, we had been carrying a half full bag of BBQ coal since Vicuna, Chile.
Don’t ask me why, i think we were just trying to be frugal.
So when we arrived at the hostel in Sucre – which was a deserted old persons house, i turned into a mad man when i saw the large BBQ out back.
Time to get cooking!!
One small problem, the supermarket was located at the bottom of an epic hill, which we’d have to climb back up with loads of shopping.
Powered by the thought of delicious meat i dragged Carla down and then ultimately back up again. Playing it off as our work out for the day. I had also sneaked a couple of beers in the shopping for extra motivation.
As the sun set on our first night and our bellies full, it was time to sleep off another exhausting day of travel.
The sun greeted us the next day from the moment we woke up.
Time to venture out and see the city and take in some culture.
We got about 20 minutes in and it all went Pete Tong.
Stepping out of our hostel you had 2 choices turn left down the hill and into the main square or turn right and up the hill for a view of the city.
Against Carla’s pleas we turned right and trudged up the hill to Recoleta Mirador. Essentially a beautiful european looking town square with a spectacular view of the surrounding hills and the city basin, including Italian like archways for a photo opportunity.
Just below the arches however was a cute little restaurant with deck chair’s overlooking the amazing view.
This is where is all went wrong.
The sweltering heat made for an easy decision to stop by for a drink and a snack, which ultimately turned into beers.
Early afternoon and we had started again. a Full pack of cigarettes and several rounds later we stumbled out with the intension to explore the city. A new city and hammered by 3pm. That was a little bit predicable.
After swaying down hill and getting some what lost we managed to end up at the main plaza, still armed with leftover BBQ.
Grabbing a bench and tucking in we were suddenly treated to a parade. Now the thing we have come to realise is that Bolivia loves a parade and will celebrate anything. They literally have one everyday and this particular one was an infant school’s anniversary. So lots of little kids running around but also staring hard at the pissed white people with bbq sauce round their faces.
Over the next couple of days (sober) we did explore properly and took in some of the capitals beautiful scenes.
including the Casa de la Libertad museum, learning about the countries civil war and the forming of the republic of Bolivia.
Also visiting the Museo Teosoro which houses some of the countries precious stones and the history of the Spanish mining and subsequently emptying of the mountains.
Great place and really worth visiting, but in hindsight we should of rented a car to get around all the hills.
Next up, from the city to the middle of fucking nowhere!!

Like groundhog day we arrived at another bus station in the early hours of the morning.
Tired, Hungry and very ratty, we hailed a taxi and got to our hostel (which was hidden down some back streets) at around 5 am.
expecting to slum it on the reception couch until noon, we were quietly surprised when the owner answered the door and led us straight to a room. Perfect! we crash and out like a light till noon.
The first day though didn’t bode well.
The backpackers already stay there took an instant dislike to the both of us, the breakfast was poor and after spending an hour we found possibly the worst supermarket going.
Time to stock up on beer and drink our way through the next couple of days i think.
Staying on the out skirts of Cochabamba felt so secluded. The nearest things to us were random cows and an american international school. Yep very strange.
Good job the suns out and we can enjoy that.
The next day started of better with an early kick off of Man U v Man City (plus some beers), then followed by lounging in a hammock for most of the day.
This was coupled by a promise that tomorrow we will venture out and see some of the town.
This never materialised! Carla fell really ill and became bed ridden for the next couple of days. The best i could do was twiddle my thumbs and try my best to look after her.
Sadly failing to look after myself in the process.
I attempted to cook chicken drumsticks in a pan, this was because the oven was far to complex to work out.
Then on our last night i managed to order a pizza using Facebook. I was pretty impressed with myself until Carla realised that i had spent a days budget on it and even ate it in front of her while she was ill.
No boyfriend points gained.
Preying she would be ok in the morning we had an early night with the plan to be out by 8am.
This was fraught with its own problems as the owner then tried to rip us off by charging double the advertised price. Finally getting in the taxi both relieved we had escaped.
Please let La Paz be better.

Cochabamba bus station became a time trial, as we got off the taxi we were ushered onto the nearest bus and instantly set off to La Paz. Ridiculously quick but stressful.
Like most places, if you arrive and its raining your going to think the worst.
La Paz looked grim.
Essentially a giant bowl with most of the city in the bottom, as the bus twisted around the hill side to get to the terminal.
We instantly got our tickets out dated Monday morning. We didn’t fancy staying longer than the weekend.
The hostel wasn’t too bad for once and after a shower and a clean up we ventured out for dinner.
Walking along what can only be described as “Hair Cut” street, i debated whether i should bother but at this point i couldn’t be arsed.
after suffering through shit food over the past couple of weeks we treated ourselves to a great indian place a couple of blocks away. While there we tried to decide what to do with our short time in the city.
Carla was getting over her illness and still miserable and i was shattered so it became more of an argument than constructive planning.Thus the night ended sharply.
The following day we did manage to drag ourselves out and go for a free city walk starting at the central prison.
With the sun out suddenly La Paz seemed a lot nicer.
We learned about the notorious prison which allows prisoners families to live with them inside the walls, charges inmates for residency and is home to the best coke factory in the world.
Maybe this system should be implemented to the UK prison system. I mean charging for room and board, not the coke.
We also learned about the previous president of the country who had some hypocritical views like how eating fast food will turn you gay.
The Bolivians also love to protest. Even protesting when the Simpsons got taken off TV. This was won and the show was then reinstated and shown 3 times a day.
Quick stop for the best / cheapest avocado and cheese sandwich ever, then a walk around witches alley. Mainly selling tat these days but they still had llama foetus hanging in the shop door ways. Just plain weird.
After the walk we were done in. Not sure whether we had just run out of steam or whether the altitude was getting to us but we couldn’t face anything else.
So as the clouds came over and the rain started up we resorted to a couple of late lunch beers and chilled out for the rest of the evening. Boring i know but we honestly couldn’t be bothered. Almost getting sick of this country now.

 

A bus and boat later and we were standing on the shoreline of Isla del Sol. An small island on Lake Titicaca.
With no idea of where our hostel was other than in the middle of the island and staring straight at the steepest set of steps we’d ever seen. Coupled with the fact we were thousands of meters about sea level.
After 5 minutes climbing with our backpacks we were dead!!
Stopping ever couple of minutes to catch our breathe and admire the views.
Half way up we stopped at a small church that was surrounded by lots of donkeys. thus christened for the rest of our visit – “Donkey Church”
Asking for directions with no helpful response we finally spotted a sign for the hostel and i ventured in.
It looked a state! Almost like nobody maintained it.
Shouting at each other now and getting pissed off, we were informed by a kid who lived at the island that the hostel was actually on the peak of the island.
Great!! so good news we aren’t staying in this shit hole, which actually is somebodies house (oops) but the bad news is we have to keep climbing.
Carla refused to carry on due to the fact the small boy was waiting around to help us and expect some money for it.
Yes we were being tight, don’t judge us.
I ran a head and got to the top and the view blew me away. Stunning is not adequate. Finally helping Carla up and settled we headed straight out to one of the caef/ restaurants that sat on the peak.
Food ordered, Beer in hand and looking out over the lake as the sun started to set. Unbelievable!!!
Despite it being paradise, it had a few problems being off the beaten path. One no hot water and too the toilet had broke so for the next 5 days we had to use a bucket to flush. Grim!
The next day we ventured out and around the island, seeing ancient temples and an abandoned house/ restaurant which somebody had attempted to build right on the peak of the island. real shame because it would of been ace to eat there but fun to explore still.
We met our new house guest “Alf the Alpaca” a funny dos eyed thing who had us in stitches every time we said hello to him.
We even headed back down the hill to spend time on the beach before instantly regretting it as soon as we started the 45 minute climb back up.
Carla bought herself a £10 Alpaca jumper from one of the locals and showed it off to Alf and we tried to enjoy the food which was a bit same same and rubbish but we didn’t expect much from being this secluded.
We even attempted to walk the entire island but got stopped half way by an old local couple, struggling with the Spanish dialect it sounded like locals only or something like that so we gave up and headed back.
Carla saw possibly what she describes as “the best thing ever”. A donkey with a lead taking an Alpaca for a walk. She was obviously made up with this.
All in all a few of the best days we had had for a while. theres something about being miles from anywhere that is connecting with me at the moment. Plus the natural surround where nothing short of spectacular.
Time to say good bye to Bolivia, the start and end was amazing but some bit have been meh.
Lets see what Peru has to offer.

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