A Travellerspoint blog

La Paz and the Loki Loop

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And so began my month in La Paz...

After a no-show couchsurfing host, Juan and I found ourselves the cheapest accommodation possible for our last couple of nights together. This meant, a room you couldn't swing a cat in-if you wanted to close the door you had to sit on the bed, partition walls-because who doesn't like to get to know their neighbours?!, no shower-yes my hygiene is atrocious, and the seediest bar imaginable downstairs. And with rooms rented at hourly rates, our two night stay was probably a record!

We explored some of the city, taking the cable car up to El Alto for their Sunday market, enjoying the ridiculously cheap street food, and Juan got dragged into a comedy street show. I didn't understand half of it, but the audience were laughing so I think he was pretty funny...

View over the city from the Teleferico, linea rojo

View over the city from the Teleferico, linea rojo

The day came for Juan to go to the airport, so after a last guitar strumming session in the plaza, a tearful goodbye (all mine!), I waved him onto the bus and headed back to my new digs... I can't put into words our time travelling together, but it wouldn't have been the same with anybody else. We're not sure when or where we'll meet again, but have agreed that it will happen when life intends it to!
Our last selfie!

Our last selfie!

So back to the centre of La Paz, to move into Loki Hostel, a notorious party hostel where I was going to be working in the bar, in exchange for food and a bed. I had agreed to two weeks, giving me enough time to sort out my next plans, and catch up ony blog....yeah sorry about that. I moved into the staff room, probably the coldest place in Bolivia, and had my first shift the very next day. Needless to say, I won't be filling you in on the details here. Just a bit of a nocturnal life, and my liver took a rather heavy beating. Etc, etc...

We were rather spoiled at 'work', our view over La Paz from the sky bar of Loki

We were rather spoiled at 'work', our view over La Paz from the sky bar of Loki

Now I don't normally like cities, but I actually really took to La Paz. It is huge, set in a valley, with steep-hilled streets that literally take your breath away. Seriously, the altitude is tough here. Eventually I got around to taking a walking tour of the city, and it was incredible to hear the fascinating history. From the numerous governmental coups (Bolivia holds the record for highest number of coups, in the shortest time of being an independent country, 193 since 1825!!!), the ongoing argument with Sucre over just who should be the official capital (FYI, it's still Sucre, they're very stubborn) to the infamous San Pedro prison: originally built for less than 200, now housing over 2000 inmates. Completely self governed, the only guards are there to prevent people from entering...sadly, there's also around 60 children living inside! With no social services, if their remaining relative is an inmate, that becomes home. There were countless stories about this prison, which I'm not going to list here, but please read about it, it is ridiculously interesting and horrendous.

180_20160618_173521.jpgTwo of the constitutional buildings in La Paz (still not the capital tho!)

Two of the constitutional buildings in La Paz (still not the capital tho!)

Most days I ate in the central food market, where you could get a two course lunch for 10 bolivianos, roughly £1. Or dinner for the equivalent of 70p! There's market stalls on every street, but the most intriguing is the witches market, filled with herbs, spices, cures for arthritis and cancer, and creepily, plenty of llama foetuses. I'll take guesses in the comments as to what they're for...

What I loved especially about La Paz, is that their streets seem to be arranged by what you need to buy. Looking for camping equipment? This road here. Sports clothes? One block there. Hairdressers? Take your next left, and pick one out of 100. Very funny, but I guess it helps keep competition exciting!

But as much as I loved the city, I was soon craving the fresh air, and green mountains again, so decided I'd done my time, drank more than my share of alcohol, and plotted my escape. This may sound dramatic, but there's some kind of magnet in that place that keeps the bar staff stuck! I ran for the Yungas mountains, and the town of Coroico. I dragged along two new Colombian friends (kidding, they wanted to come I swear) which in hindsight was probably my downfall at making a permanent escape from Loki...

Posted by rcally 13:27 Archived in Bolivia Comments (3)

Sun is Shining...

Lago Titicaca y Isla del Sol

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Another night bus down, another early morning arrival in a new city. This time Last Paz, although for now all we saw was the inside of the terminal as we waited for the next bus. We actually managed to get this one for 2 for 1! It's amazing what a bit of stubborn waiting can do for a ticket price, never accept the first price they give you guys!

A relatively short journey, we reached the shores of Lake Titicaca within four hours. This included a brief exit from the bus to cross a short stretch of water by boat, before continuing in the bus!

Copacobana (yes, I sang THAT song every time I heard this name) is a tourist trap on the coast of the lake. Souvenir shops and restaurants (with wifi!!) line the road down to the boats, and every place had an English-speaking girl trying to coax you inside. Not sure if you can tell, but I didn't really like it...

We headed straight for the boats to catch a ride to Isla del Sol, where we planned to stay a few nights. Once again, waiting worked in our favour, refusing to pay the tourist fare, we hung on until a captain (boat driver?!) agreed to take us for a third of the price.

Getting to the north of the island was a beautiful 2 hour ride on the open roof deck, albeit cold, with people gradually adding more layers, and wishing they hadn't left their coats down below deck... All along the coast of the lake you can see the remains of the Incas, the hills carved into perfect terraces.

Arriving to the small village of Ch'allapampa we were greeted by a group of small children offering accommodation, assuming in their parents' houses. We had been reliably informed that you can camp on the beach for free and so set off to pitch our tent. With maybe 10 other tents along the beach, it was a beautifully peaceful place to spend some days.

Seriously, this was the view from out tent door!

Seriously, this was the view from out tent door!

We passed a few very relaxing days here, enjoying the quiet, and soaking up the ancient magic of the place. There was a beautiful path to some Inca's ruins at the tip of the island. This was the perfect place to watch the sunset, which then made for an interesting stumble back in the dark! Seeing as we were 'at the beach' I couldn't resist going for a swim! After watching many people run in, shriek at the cold and run straight back out, I managed a proper swim and stuck it out for a good 20 minutes. It wasn't quite the same though when trying to dry off in the sun, lying in 15 degrees at altitude doesn't make for a pleasant sunbathing session! I eventually persuaded Juan to go in too, once my teeth had stopped chattering enough to say 'but it's so refreshing!'

The thought of heading back to the huge city of LaPaz from this quiet island was not too appealing, but Juan was running short on time, so we decamped, found a boat and headed back to the mainland...

Posted by rcally 10:50 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

People Watching

During the 8 hours in Cochabamba I indulged in one of my favourite past times, which I know Mama C will also appreciate, and which led to this...

People watching
Faces rushing by
Different motives, different missions
And a thousand different lives

People watching
Footsteps on the street
Striding, slowing, shuffling
Towards the ones they meet

People watching
Snatches of conversation
Languages, voices, words
Clash in perfect confrontation

People watching
A way to pass a while
In exchange, a glimpse of other world's
Maybe a nod, a smile.

Posted by rcally 07:53 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Pitstop in Cochabamba

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So another enjoyable bus ride took us back to Cochabamba, by this point I have perfected the 'toilet break': running off the bus as soon as it stops, grabbing your toilet paper as you go, to race the other women to the best rock/bush/tuft of grass in order to shield yourself from the road, and the male passengers. Dignity is well and truly out the window.

We arrived in the dark, with no accommodation and were quickly ushered along by a kind local, who warned us we were prime targets in this dodgy part of town. I was instructed not to speak to anyone in order not to draw attention to the fact that I was English! She accompanied us to a corner where we jumped into a minibus/kombi/collectivo to a nicer suburb, Quillacollo. Here we found ourselves a cheap alojamiento to spend the night.
The next day we tried again to locate the ashram, but still with no luck, decided to move on and out of the city.

Getting to the bus terminal involved an interesting kombi ride, dodging through backstreets to avoid the roadblocks, at one point reversing through traffic when police with shields and batons started approaching. It is amazing the number of blockades and protests that happen in Bolivia, although thankfully most do seem to be peaceful.

Arriving at the terminal mid afternoon, not realising the buses to La Paz were full night rides, we settled in for a pleasant 8 hour wait. We could have left the building but lugging our bags around a not so interesting city was not much of an alternative. Our time was broken up with me getting papped (and given cake), the arrival of an accordion-playing Argentinian, and of course, naps.

After this long in a terminal, I was rather thankful to get onto a 10 hour bus!

Posted by rcally 07:40 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

For Pedro...

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Before leaving Pedro and his wilderness, everyone has the chance to leave a message/idea/thought in a book of inspiration. This is what I left...

An endless sea of green
With a swaying, creaking tide
A canopy of leafy waves
Under which my ship of life may ride

Nothing but the music of nature
From the river as it rushes along
The rain dripping from the leaves
And the birds competing with their song

By the flickering flame of a candle
Silver glow from the moon and her stars
The nights in this forest home
Are lit by the dreams in our hearts.

Posted by rcally 07:18 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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