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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

1, 2, 3...At the Copa...

BOLIVIA | Sunday, 4 July 2010 | Views [3384] | Comments [3]

We had been warned about the overnight buses in Bolivia, but we couldn’t avoid taking one from Sucre to La Paz as it was our only option. It was freezing cold and even though we were promised a toliet and blankets they did not materialise so we literally froze all the way and couldn’t sleep at all.

La Paz

We arrived in La Paz in time for the Andean New Year, Happy 5518 everybody!

La Paz seems to have the strangest location for a city ever, spread up and down and all over a canyon with the altitude ranging from 3600 in the centre, to 4100m where the poorer people live in the high altitudes at the top, to only 3000m where the rich live in the lower valley, with Illimani mountain towering over the city in the distance.

The centre of La Paz lies along the bottom of a valley so as soon as you head east or west from the main drag you have to start climbing uphill and that means getting out of breath very quickly. This makes La Paz a tough city to naviagte but thankfully the streets are safe and easy to cross due to all the zebra crossings.

We were told there wasn’t much to do in the city but we found lots to entertain ourselves and even over indulged in some western food at all the excellent restaurants at great prices. The Witches market area is full of llama fetuses for sale that are usually bought and then burnt as a sacrifice to Pachamamma, alongside plenty of Gringo souvenirs to keep the shoppers happy.

The dead centre of La Paz and seemingly Bolivia is the Plaza Murillo where all roads in the country lead from. It’s also surrounded by Palacios and government buildings with a heavy military presence, along with the odd bowler hat or two!

We decided to culture ourselves by visiting some of the hoards of museums on offer, including a quirky but highly informative museum on the Coca leaf and all it’s uses and forms, along with an exhibit cocaine factory demonstrating how they make the drug in the jungles of Bolivia! The Contemporary Art Museum had some excellent pieces of work by local artists that were actually affordable for the standard, just a shame we have no where to hang a picture or we may have purchased a few. The main exhibition was littered with art inspired by the hero Che and his life, including one made of dominos.

Tiwanaku

Just an hour outside of the city high on the altiplano are the ruins of the ancient Capital of the Tiwanaku culture. It was once one of the longest running Pre-Incan civilisation in Latin America as it’s existence spread over 2600 years, much longer than the Incas, Aztecs and most other civilisations from the region. Today, the main ceremony site is still under excavation and renovation ‘Bolivian’ style (read: lots of tools and machines but no work being done), and much of the site was destroyed by the Spanish so there isn’t a great deal to see. But our guide for the day was really informative about the culture, indigenous languages and the art and ceramics that we learnt much more than we ever expected to.

Is that a takeaway coffee cup the monolith is holding?

Coroico

2 hours south of La Paz is the tiny town of Coroico, a tropical paradise compared to the cold heights of the city. The drive took us down a steep and ear popping 2600m in altitude, where we could welcome nice deep breaths and a warmer climate. Along with the jungle comes the torrential rain and we worked out it was the first time we had seen rain in over 2 months. The surrounding countryside is known as Las Yungas and is the principle Coca growing region for Bolivia. Home to the first Indigenous president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, a previous coca farmer and llama herder himself and very popular with the voters today.

We hiked out into the surrounding hills and cloud forest to find some coca fields which we found after a couple of hours, along with some cute villages and smiley kids, plus a few nasty dogs that made Ryan create a makeshift weapon to keep them at bay. We considered getting a local taxi back to town but thought twice about it when every parked taxi in the villages was outside a local fiesta with all the men drinking beer. A very kind minivan driver offered us a lift back whilst swigging on a bottle of cerveza, so we politely declined! No wonder there are so many tales of bad drivers in Bolivia!

Copacabana (at the Copa, Copacabana)

Can you believe it? Two Copacabana’s in one trip!!! Let the Barry lyrics flow!

Copacabana is just a small town on the edge of Lake Titicaca but with a lot of potential singing power. The cathedral, which was on a different scale to any other we had seen gracing a plaza in Bolivia, was a shock to our system and sent us packing to the Crisp market where you can buy any variety of crispy and puffy snack you may desire.

Lake Titicaca

There are a number of ways to get out onto the lake so we took the longest way possible. We trekked 4 hours east along the shoreline to the small town of Yampupata, through tiny villages and past floating islands. With no other gringos around and only a few cars it turned out to be one of the quietest and prettiest treks we´ve ever done, it was just brilliant.

We stopped to have our lunch outside a house where there were some cut up logs that looked like perfect picnic stools. A little girl, Maria, 5, came out to say hello and to ask if we had any “galletas” (cookies), but soon disappeared when we said no. Two minutes later after we heard her have a talk with her dad, she was back demanding 1 boliviano for us to sit outside her house!!! After discussing with her that this was very expensive (about 10p) we gave in and handed over the picnic tax and she skipped off to the shop to buy some cookies!

In Yampupata we caught a private boat over to the north of Isla del Sol and found a room for the night. Isla del Sol is the birth place of Incan creation, the place where the Sun and Moon where born in their legends. We took a walk along our first Incan trail to the Titicaca Rock and the ceremonial ruins for the island.

Where we just had to try our first taste of Inca Kola!

The island was so peaceful especially after the tour boats had left leaving only a few gringos to stay on the island. You only have to share the beach with some piglets while you watch the sunset.

The next day we walked south to the other end of the island along more Incan trails and past a few makeshift tax stalls where local kids demand a tax for walking through their village, we weren´t falling for that trick again, so much so that when the official ticket kids approached us and we reneged them they followed us for ages pleading with us until we realised we really did need to buy a ticket to get to the south. We took the right direction on the island as the last section to get to the boat ramp was a very steep Incan stairway that I would much rather walk down then up.

And that was it for Bolivia. This area was probably the friendliest part in Bolivia with everyone chatting to us and being friendly and not all for a tax, and having learnt Spanish we could actually have a good conversation back with them. After planning our retirement to Isla del Sol, we sadly had to leave the lake and the country and head over to Peru.

So what’s Bolivia all about?

Fiestas for any occasion, demonstrations in every plaza, the sound of marching brass bands, firecrackers banging at every hour, the hustle and bustle of market life where you can buy anything you need, colourful costumes and traditional looks, landscapes that take your breath away, literally, big big drinkers. Bolivia is one of the liveliest, noisiest and entertaining countries we’ve visited...hasta la vista Bolivia!

Music - Brass bands march everywhere. We see and hear them virtually on a daily basis. Stop in the quietest and remotest village on the altiplano and suddenly a brass band appears from nowhere when you least expect it.

Food - Carbs, carbs and more carbs then add a bit of meat. Go for a roast chicken meal and it comes with rice, pasta and boiled potatoes. Salchipappas, a national dish that consists of sliced hot dog sausages over chips smothered in mayo, ketchup and mustard! We ate this twice, can you believe it!

Costumes - Over half the women in Bolivia wear traditional indigenous costumes. My particular favourite is the bowler hat look that was introduced to Bolivia by British railway workers in the 1920s. It’s worn by Quechua and Aymara women and is locally called a Bombin.

National holidays - there is literally one a week, from Corpus Christi day, to Teacher’s Day, to the Andean New Year....you name an occasion and they will have a day off work for it. Ok, so Bolivians don’t get any annual leave, so I would celebrate anything if it meant I didn’t have to work.

Che - Bolivia made him the icon he his today when they executed him deep in the jungle here. He’s everywhere and they love him!

And just for the two Davids, the obligatory beer photos!

Highlights

Favourite place - Lake Titicaca (Jo) Isla del Sol (Ryan)
Favourite attraction - Salt Flats tour (Both)
Food - Pollo a la Canasta (Jo) Papa Rellanas (Ryan)
Beer – Paceña (Jo) Huari (Ryan)

Lowlights

Cold bus journey (Both)

Prices

Accommodation - $8-20 per night for private room
Local restaurant meal - $2-3, Set menu - $1.5-2
Internet - $0.25 per hour
Bottle of cerveza - $1
Soft drink - $0.40
2L bottle of water - $0.60

Until next time

Jo y Ryan

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/

Tags: copacabana, coroico, isla del sol, la paz, lake titicaca, tiwanaku

 

Comments

1

The beer photos this week were especially tasty!

  David Kaspar Jul 9, 2010 9:49 PM

2

It's the 20th here today - so "Happy birthday to you" Ryan wherever you are today!! Hope you're having a great day and lots of celebratory ales! We are loving your blogs and looking forward to the next one.

Graham and June

  Graham and June Jul 20, 2010 3:34 PM

3

A crisp market, that's my type of market!

  Lisa Jan 7, 2011 12:23 PM

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