A Travellerspoint blog

A LITTLE COCAINE WITH YOUR ALPACA SHAWL ANYONE?

SEEING THE BEAUTY AND THE DARK SIDE OF LA PAZ

sunny 14 °C

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La Paz is a beautiful city and we had a chance to explore it first with our guide Juan and later by ourselves.

First we went to a high point to get a view of the city below.

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Next stop was the Moon Valley which was named after Neil Armstrong visited and described the landscape to be just like a moon valley. Of course it was a less developed back then but the combination of rain on the mud makes an interesting landscape.

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We stopped at another high view point before heading down to the local square where Isaac once again joined the police for a photo op. There were lots of locals enjoying a Sunday afternoon.

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Check out the numbers on the clock. The designer thought this is how it should look in the southern hemisphere.

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After lunch, we visited the famous witches’ market which is really more of a handicraft market. There are a few shops that sell supplies for black and white magic which is still practiced today in Bolivia. In addition, llama fetuses are used for sacrifice in the region. There were all these silly looking gods as well. They looked more like dolls.

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We had a quick look there before spending the afternoon poking in and out of shops. We did notice some locals selling drugs but they were not interfering at all. But, at one point while the grownups were looking at the alpaca products, a drug dealer approached the kids to see if they were interested in cocaine. When I approached and asked what was happening, I heard him say something about the “madre”, Spanish for mother and that was the end of that.

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We stopped by San Francisco Cathedral before making our way back to the hotel in time to catch our overnight bus to Uyuni. The bus left La Paz at 9pm and arrived at 7pm. The bus was comfortable with seats that reclined almost flat so we all got a reasonable amount of sleep. A big step up from our hippie bus ride the day before.

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popcorn

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These ladies are called chola derived from the Spanish for pretty.

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Posted by curlygirl 02:55 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia salt flats uyuni Comments (2)

FROM PERU TO BOLIVIA

VERY DIFFERENT BUS RIDES IN TWO VASTLY DIFFERENT COUNTRIES

sunny 22 °C

This has been a crazy, hectic and surreal day as we crossed from Peru in Bolivia.

Our day began at 7 am and we made our way to the bus terminal for the long journey to La Paz, Bolivia, the highest administrative capital in the world, resting on the Andes’ Altiplano plateau at more than 3,500m above sea level.

Our bus was lovely and we had front row seats on the second level so enjoyed a really nice view. It was well organized and about 2 hours in we stopped just prior to the Bolivian border to change money. This is what $200 usd got me, 1350 Bolivianos. Then we moved on to Peruvian immigration which was quick and easy. We then walked 5 minutes across the border into Bolivia and visited immigration there, which was equally as quick.

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Immediately upon crossing into Bolivia we knew were in a very different place. Bolivia is the poorest of all the South American countries and it shows. But the landscape and houses looked different too.

After another 20 minutes, our bus dropped us at Copacabana, Bolivia, where we had 15 minutes to eat, pee and transfer to our Bolivian bus to La Paz which was vastly different. It was run down with no bathrooms and very little leg room ( although the back of the bus said we were VIP). 45 minutes in we had another stop where we were told to get off the bus, pay 2 Bolivianos and take a boat across a little river while the bus went across the water on a barge. We barely had time to pee when they were yelling at me “meesus, get on da bus, now!”. We were no longer being pampered as we had been in Peru, we were cattle being moved along. We then had a 3 hour drive to La Paz that turned into 4.5 hours.

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Approaching La Paz there was major construction and later tons of traffic due to a festival. Today is a holiday, Independence day for Bolivia. We were stuck in traffic forever and I really wondered what kinda dump we were coming to. Ironically every now and then you would see a couple that looked so done up they reminded me of a fancy scene from a movie in the old days. One thing I noticed immediately is all the woman in the Bowler hats. Introduced in the 1800s by the British, they were somehow adopted by the woman and not the men.

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Traffic

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Finally, we caught the most spectacular view of the mountains and La Paz sitting deep in the valley. I hope we get a chance to see that view. It any case, it gave me hope.

We were met by our transportation agent who brought us to our hotel and we were blown away. It is simply gorgeous. It is a colonial house dating from 1832, with a Colonial style architecture, located in the historic center of the city of La Paz. It is restored retaining 80% of the original construction. It is like stepping back in time with antiques everywhere. Many important figures in Bolivian history lived in this house. Our room is gorgeous but Lorna and Sharon have a loft, one with a bed and stain glass windows. Isaac says it is our best hotel ever.

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We finally get a sleep in tomorrow, staring a city tour at 9:30 (we have changed time zones so are now only 1.5 hours earlier than Newfoundland). Tomorrow night at 9pm, we take an overnight bus for 12 hours to Uyuni. We have been assured that will be a better bus. I definitely won’t be posting tomorrow but will when I can.

I did not take out my camera today but I grabbed a few shots with my point and shoot and through the bus window.

Otherwise all is well and we are feeling better with the altitude. Hopefully we have finally adjusted. We are very excited to experience Bolivia.

Apparently they eat llama here.

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Posted by curlygirl 23:08 Archived in Bolivia Tagged la bolivia paz copacabana Comments (2)

LIVING INSIDE A NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE

LAKE TITICACA - UROS, ISLA AMANATI AND ISLA TAQUILLE

sunny 22 °C

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This has been a very special couple of days and has been the highlight of my trip so far. Isaac is struggling to say this is better than Machu Picchu but it is a close one even for him.

Today we visited the highest navigable lake in the world – Lake Titicaca. It is probably the second most well-known site in Peru especially for the Floating Islands of Uros. I remember seeing images of these islands many years ago on the cover of a magazine and dreamed of one day getting there. Well I did and they did not disappoint. The people of Uros build their own island out of reeds and the 100+ islands are floating on the lake, held down by an anchor in the very shallow water. It is hard to imagine that people still live like this although their lives have definitely changed with thousands of tourists who visit each week and the few modern amenities they now have. They have limited electric provided by solar power and modern boats. They build the reed boats mainly for the tourists and we sure enjoyed our ride.

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Secondly we visited the island of Amanati. This is perhaps one of the coolest things we have ever done. We decided to do a home stay with a local family and it has been simply amazing. Although there is no bathroom ( we had a chamber pot in a room for the night) and limited electricity, again powered by solar panels, I feel like I am in paradise. Our rooms were perfect. Simple with many many wool blankets. You could barely lift it to get under which was good because it was very cold. Some views of the island remind me of Tuscany while our courtyard and view are strikingly like Greece. Our house mama, Justus lives with her husband Aldofo and their daughter. They are lovely. We had an exceptional meal of fresh wild trout with quinoa and local potatoes outside in the glorious sunshine.

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I took a few minutes to play with their daughter and her friend. We had a little game of volleyball.

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There was an optional hike to the top of the island but we are all struggling with the altitude so we opted out. It was hard enough climbing up to our house. Saying that, while the others took a nap, I had to climb higher to see what I could find. I walked very slow.

Once I got to the main square there were many people coming home from work. I hinted for a ride in the wheelbarrow but that only fetched a laugh and a pant of breath. One of the ladies blew a bubble just for my picture, I think.

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I laughed when I started photograph these sheep who came towards me because I didn’t know who would move first. Then these two ladies came along a shoed them away.

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This evening after another delicious meal, vegetables and rice, we got dressed up like locals and went to listen to local musicians. We didn’t stay long because I was feeling like crap. Light headed and tired although another side effect of altitude is insomnia and I didn’t sleep great.

The sunset shows the Bolivian mountains.

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Our party

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This morning after another high carb meal, pancakes and bread, we made our way to the third island,Taquille island. Here we were to do another steep uphill hike to visit a textile factory but we all opted out, feeling like we really need a quiet day to acclimatize. Instead we went to the pickup point and walk a small hill to a restaurant where we saw a textile display and learned why these beautiful handicrafts have received a UNESCO title. What was most interesting is that the type of the hat they wear tells the marital status ( I am wearing the baby's cap above) and it is the men who knit and the woman who weave. A good knitter makes a good husband. One of the men form Taquille who got on our boat home, sat outside knitting the whole time.

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It was brutal watching them climb straight uphill with the heavy packages.

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A really terrific couple of days. Fascinating in fact. We are now back in Puno for our last night in Peru. I can hardly believe 10 days have passed but we are excited to venture into Bolivia in the morning.

Posted by curlygirl 15:15 Archived in Peru Tagged peru uros armanati taquille Comments (8)

A VERY FLUFFY ALPACA AND A ROUND OF OXYGEN FOR THE TEAM

CLIMBING HIGHER ON THE BUS RIDE FROM CUSCO TO PUNO

sunny 22 °C

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I am writing a very short note to say that we are safely in Puno.

We took a 10 hour tourist bus today from Cusco to Peru. This ride included 5 stops along the way to visit historic sites and scenic views and took us through the Andes. It also gave us a chance to catch up on some sleep after a lot of early rises.

We also continue to ascend. The altitude in Cusco is 3400 meters and in Puno it is 3827 meters. We are all doing fine. Perhaps a little light headed and since our hotel was offering 10-minute oxygen shots we decided to give it a go. It is supposed to help with sleep too.

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I said to Isaac this morning that I was surprised I didn’t enjoy the train because I usually like trains better than buses. He said, “mom that doesn’t make sense. Trains are about the countryside and buses are about people and life which is what you love”. He is so right and was spot on today. When we were not napping, we saw so much of rural life. I was really wishing I could get out and take pictures. Still it was fascinating.

We leave tomorrow for two days on Lake Titicaca and will be back in Puno on Friday evening so I hope to post then.

Here are some shots from our day. I had to take a few pictures from the bus because I just can’t get over how blue the sky is here. I think it may have been the same in Chile but it is almost opaque with the deep dark blue. These might be a little darker because they were taken from the window but still so surreal. Even more so, when the clouds rolled in.

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Locals in the markets.

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They carry their children on their backs. I saw this lady pop her son in and tie him up on her back. So big, his feet poked out. She told me he was 18 months old. Within minutes he was asleep.

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The braids can be decorated on the back.

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A few posed for pictures.

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I had my three year old Isaac back when we saw, or touched this alpaca. He keep saying, "he's so fluffy" and was losing his mind.

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Amazing views at the highest point on the route.

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Inca sites

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Beautiful churches

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Posted by curlygirl 19:04 Archived in Peru Comments (5)

LLAMA DRAMA

SIDEWAYS FEET CONQUER MACHU PICCHU

sunny 25 °C

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There are few words and no pictures that can really capture what we saw today. But, since I am not a woman of few words or pictures I will share a little about our day at Machu Picchu, one of the 7 wonders of the modern world.

We opted not to begin our day too early since we were not interested in the sunrise. There is really no beating the crowds since there are about 2000 people there before 8 am each day. It starts with a long line for the bus that will take you the 20 minutes to the entrance. It is wonder I didn’t quit right there. The driver drove so fast around hair pin turns that were way too close to the edge of a cliff for me. I hated it. We did make it safely along with the thousands of others transported there today.

We first walked up to the point where most of the postcard pictures are taken.

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We spent about 3 hours with our guide, and a great group of ladies from the states, touring the site and learning about the history of the Incas. It was amazing how much thought and work was put into every part of the city. We saw lots but there is tons more to be seen. There no issues with the breathing at all today but again, we descended to do Machu Picchu.

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When we booked this trip we were given the option to book an additional hike so we said yes, without much research. We learned yesterday from our guide it is a brutal hike with very narrow trails and my follow up research indicated that there are places that require you to crawl hand and knees though rock formations. It is the highest point at Machu Picchu. So not for me. We considered the smaller adjacent mountain but could not reach it in time for our scheduled entrance. These trails require bookings months in advance and limit the number of people daily. We were quite pressed for time or we would have done the Sun Gate which our guide said was the easiest add on and a friend reported to be fabulous. Still a 45 minute + journey. Instead of rushing we decide to stay safe in the ruins and explore the main areas. It did not disappoint and we had no worries of sideways feet slipping of a narrow path with someone plummeting to their death.

We did have some time to stalk the local and very friendly llamas.

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The llamas turned a little crazy as we were leaving when one of them tried to mate with another which was met with rejection. This was quite funny and they would run past in full pursuit/chase many times almost knocking tourist off their feet. Security had to break it up. Not sure how successful that was since when we glanced back for one last look at the city, we saw the lamas three high. We might refer to that as a threesome but I prefer to call it the Inca triple. I am, of course, applying my newfound knowledge about the Incas and the constant reference to things in three, representing the world below, the current world and the world above (afterlife).

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To be honest my biggest stress about today was bathrooms. I pee enough every morning but our altitude sickness pills are a diuretic so it is even worst. On our jungle hike I was peeing constantly in the trail so I couldn’t imagine how I could manage for 5-6 hours. There are bathrooms at the entrance but that’s it and there are no woods, trees or anywhere to pee otherwise. I am pleased to report that I adequately dehydrated myself enough that I managed the entire time and wasn’t dying at the end. Given the heat I was forced to take little sips of water but still made it. Really this has to be a problem for others besides me.

We returned to Agua Caliente in time to grab a bite before heading back to Cusco. Isaac and I opted to try another local delicacy, Alpaca. It was delicious. At first it looked like beef but when cut was more like pork. It actually tasted like pork with a bit more sweetness. For the record they don’t typically eat Lamas.

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I am writing this on the very long train ride back. The train is relatively comfortable but not for 3 hours. They provide a snack and drinks but it is feeling a bit long now. At one point, I felt like I was on a bad cruise ship. This guy dressed in rainbow colours, wearing a devil’s mask began dancing in the aisle. This was followed by a fashion show by the guy and girl who served us our snack. The sweaters were lovely, but not cheap and they were very aggressive in their sales pitch.

In any case, nothing could ruin this wonderful day that was topped off with clear blue skies and perfect temperatures.

We are spending all day tomorrow on a bus to Puno. The bus ride is tailored for tourists and stops at several points of interest along the way and it has wifi! Not sure if I will post tomorrow and after that we are 2 days with no wifi, running water and maybe no electricity. But I will be back as soon as I can.

Train to Machu Picchu area

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and a few more

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Posted by curlygirl 03:55 Archived in Peru Tagged peru machu picchu cusco Comments (6)

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