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Archive for the ‘La Paz’ Category

Taxi from hell

We got up around 7am, showered and started gathering bits to pack before breakfast. I later popped out to the supermarket for a baguette to make sandwiches for lunch while Kirsten packed the girls’ bags. We had to be ruthless with clothes again, leaving behind the girls’ old and dirty tracksuit bottoms and taking their new La Paz market purchases.

We vacated our room around 10.30am, left our luggage near reception and sat in the garden while the girls played o the slide. A church service seemed to be going on in one of the hotel’s meeting rooms – a very ‘praise the Lord’ sort of celebration with tearful testimonies and applause.

Time rolled by, we had our tuna sandwiches and then a bit before 1pm we gathered our worldly goods ready to take a taxi to the airport. One of the hotel employees found us a taxi, but we were somewhat stunned to hear it would cost 70 Bolivianos (for a journey not much longer than that to the city centre).

We had little choice, so we piled in. Not long after we had set off, the driver pulled in to a petrol station to fill up with 20 Bs of fuel (it’s about 35p a litre here). Fair enough, but a good thing we’re not in a hurry. But shortly after this we were queuing at a junction to turn right (across a joining flow of traffic) and he pulled off from rest into the back of the stationary car in front. Pure driver error – he didn’t look where he was going. They moved to a safer place and exchanged details (well, mobile phone numbers); the taxi’s bonnet was bent and the metal spare wheel cover of the chunky car in front was damaged.

So another delay there, and that makes a total of two collisions in eight taxi rides in La Paz – a 25% shunt rate. Our driver continued somewhat aggressively up the hill out of the valley containing the city, doing 80km/h around the bends, according to Kirsten. Into El Alto and along poor roads towards the airport; by now we were just hoping we’d get there in one piece. For his final trick, he tried to race through the entrance booth to the airport without paying the measly 3 Bs entrance fee, but they set off a red flashing light and he was called back.

At last – a little before 2pm – we were dropped off, and fortunately the airport was so quiet that we checked in with no delay, getting the seats we had pre-booked online. A Spanish Disney Princess magazine to occupy the girls and a few nibbles to pass the time (our flight was scheduled for 4pm).

An unusual warning sign.
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Through security; they don’t seem at all bothered about liquids in hand luggage, despite the official signs displayed at the check-in desk. I set off the metal detector and had to be wand-scanned – even the metal spiral binding of my tiny notebook triggered the bleeper.

We saw our plane arrive around 3.30pm, a green and purple Aerosur 727. Soon we were let through for boarding, but there was none of this ‘families with young children first’. We took our seats, stowed our bags and waited for take-off.

Now La Paz El Alto is one of the world’s highest commercial airports (over 4000m) and it has an extra-long runway (4km?) because of the altitude and consequent lower air pressure; the take-off velocity is significantly greater because there is less lift for a given speed.

And while we took off well before the runway ran out, it did seem a great struggle to get that lumbering lump of metal up into the sky; we certainly climbed alarmingly slowly, as if there just weren’t enough air molecules around to do the job.

But we did stay airborne and soon we nosed into the clouds, then through to see the Cordillera Real with its snowy peaks in the distance on the left. A short flight, but just time for a quick snack (a roll sandwich) and a drink before we began our descent. As with the jungle trip, the departure altitude was significantly greater than the destination altitude, so it was downhill most of the way. A bumpy approach through thick cloud, but we touched down gently at Sucre airport.

A long wait for our bags; my rucksack was the penultimate piece of luggage to make it onto the conveyor belt. Then out to get a taxi into town. Since we were one of the last groups to leave the airport, the remaining taxi drivers mobbed us, trying to tear the bag from my grip. I held on to it, dismissed the identical offers from what appeared to be non-licensed cabs, and eventually we chose a driver who had quietly held back from the melee. No cheaper, but we trusted him more – especially after this morning’s adventure.

And he turned out to be a good, calm driver; he had spent time living in Spain – Logrono (which we have visited) and Benidorm (but why?). He didn’t know the hotel, but we gave him the address and he found it with no trouble.

We rang the bell of La Dolce Vita and were let in by Olivier and shown straight to our downstairs room off the main courtyard. Jacqueline then introduced herself and spent a great deal of time sitting down with us and a map of Sucre, explaining what to see, where to eat, where to find a good supermarket, etc. Thelma, their seven-year-old daughter, hung around for attention.

Without a chance to unpack, we headed out into Sucre to find something to eat. The lighting from the stormy/cloudy evening sky was bizarre; a curiously brown illumination over everything. First to the supermarket to get milk and cereal for breakfast, then to Locot’s for Salchipapas (E), chicken fillet, salad and chips (K & H) and a hot chili con carne (T), along with four fresh orange juices.

It was after 8pm by the time we got back – a quick unpack of the essentials, then to bed.

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Armadillo harp

Up for our final full day in La Paz, and the weather is such a contrast to yesterday’s grey; a clear blue sky instead (as can be seen in the hotel photos below).

After breakfast (Ellen has now settled on the chocolate cereal, Hannah chooses bacon, a roll and a biscuit, I have a bacon sandwich and Kirsten goes for eggs & bacon or toast with ham and cheese), I sat in the garden while the girls played on the climbing frame/tube slide and Kirsten Skyped home to Belgium.

The gardens of Hotel Calacoto in the brilliant morning sunlight.
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The covered courtyard around which the rooms are arranged.
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Around 9.30am we set off in the warm sunshine with a fleece or cardigan just in case it got chilly inside, getting a taxi for the now-standard 15 Bolivianos to Plaza Murillo (aka pigeonville). We walked a short way to the Museo Nacional de Etnografia y Folklore and were pleasantly surprised to be granted free admission (yes, even us adults). And the museum clearly gets funding from somewhere because it was professionally laid out with plenty of space for the exhibits – a world away from some of those dismal Peruvian displays.

We began with a contemporary art section, and the girls discussed each item with Hannah acting as guide. ‘Now what can you see in this picture? There’s the sun and these are the rays and they’ve used fabric to make the mountains’, etc. They’d have a good attempt no matter how abstract the artwork.

The girls with Penelope.
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Then upstairs and through rooms dedicated to ceramics, feather head-dresses, masks and finally textiles. Flat-screen video loops explaining the manufacturing process were most helpful, especially the one showing how old metal cans are welded and shaped and spray-painted to create remarkably striking and grotesque masks. (Are they created by moonlighting garage mechanics?)

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We emerged around 11.30am and then walked a couple of blocks up to the Museo de Instrumentos Musicales de Bolivia. A small admission fee this time, and we were told that we could take photos except for cinco. What? We can take four but no more? Until five o’clock? We eventually clarified that Exhibition Room 5 was excluded – it featured inventions by contemporary Bolivian instrument makers (e.g. a star-shaped five-necked guitar).

Anyway, the nice thing about this museum is that you can play some of the exhibits – this gave it the edge over the previous place when we asked the girls which was their favourite. We started with drums, xylophones and a one-stringed guitar and worked up to a harmonium, a Yamaha Portasound, tubular bells, a curly horn and ten brown bottles hanging on a wall.

But safely tucked away behind glass were some bizarre creations; most cultures use vegetable material for making resonating sound boxes, whether simply a large gourd or the craftsmanship of a wooden violin body, but here in Bolivia you get hold of a tortoise or an armadillo instead. Behold…

Guitars made from tortoise and quirquincho shells.
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An armadillo harp.
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Hannah with some frighteningly huge pan pipes (used in the jungle, apparently – perhaps they double up for shooting heavy-duty poison darts).
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Bolivian fiddles (and not a tortoise in sight).
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The girls playing a wank’ara (among other drums).
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Hannah and her latest squeeze.
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Kirsten and possibly the world’s longest flute; you play different notes by moving to a different hole in a different segment of bamboo. And it also comes in handy for high-wire walking.
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We emerged from the museum to grey skies, a cold wind and a drizzle. Didn’t expect the weather to be so fickle here – thought we left that behind in England. So we huddled in our thin fleeces and looked for somewhere to warm up for lunch. Calle Comercio, a pedestrian street we walked along two days ago, seemed to have plenty of fast food outlets so we looked for chicken and chips. Pollo Frito Cochabamba fitted the bill; we queued up, chose our menu and paid, receiving three colour-coded plastic tokens in return (two quarter-chickens with chips, and an extra portion of chips). We found a table, the waitress took our tokens and ten minutes later we were brought three plastic trays with our orders on, along with mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard, and a small piece of fried banana.

The chicken was not too bad, but this was cheap and cheerful food – plastic tokens, tables, chairs and trays, no cutlery, plastic cups full of a vile green fizzy concoction called ‘Simba’ (we didn’t try it). We probably paid less than £4 altogether.

Out into the grey cold, and our final mission was to replace Ellen’s llama. We found our way to the Witches’ Market and browsed inside a shop at the end of the street. Inflated prices compared to the street stall where we got the llama before, but we came away with a tortoise charm (to be different from Hannah) and a small pendant for Hannah. More (real) llama foetuses poking out of a cardboard box and shelves stacked with dubious herbal remedies for absolutely any ailment.
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A taxi back to the hotel (we first rejected the opportunistic driver who quoted 30 Bolivianos) and some time in the garden while Kirsten collected our washing from the Lavanderia and got a few things from the supermarket.

For our last supper in La Paz we returned to the place we visited on our first night here; La Campana (Casual Dining). This time we chose lasagna (me), a small burger (H) and a cheese and tomato pizza (K & E). Excellent food, still slightly too much to finish, but together with drinks costing around 130 Bolivianos (high by Bolivian or Peruvian standards). We’re in a posh neighbourhood, though.

There will be time to pack tomorrow – our flight is at 4pm.

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Walking on the moon

A leisurely morning; breakfast and then down to one of the lavanderias I spotted yesterday. Only they couldn’t return our washing until Monday, by which time we’ll be in Sucre… So we plodded up the hill eight blocks to the other place, and they’ll have it ready by tomorrow afternoon (for an additional fee).

The plan for today was to get a taxi out to the south of the city to visit la Valle de la Luna, and then perhaps the zoo. So we packed our bags, put on our sunhats (which we foolishly forgot yesterday) and left the hotel – only to be met with the first spots of rain from an ominously grey sky.

Back to our room, dig out our raincoats, cross fingers and try again. We tried to explain our plan to a waiting taxi driver, and he agreed to wait while we looked round the first site. But it seemed as if asking him to wait at the zoo as well would blow our budget, so we thought we’d try to find a different taxi for the return journey.

It’s only a few miles from our hotel to the Valley of the Moon – except that it isn’t a valley at all. It’s a weird landscape formed by the erosion of clay containing small stones, and presumably it won’t last very long in its current form. It’s a firm favourite on the City Tour bus route, but we had the place almost to ourselves, fortunately. It was only the impending return of heavy rain and the approaching rumble of thunder that curtailed our visit, but there was still enough time to get the essence of the site.

Various contrived names for certain formations, such as the Lady’s Hat or the Nice Grandfather. We followed the 15-minute loop and came out again in about five minutes, so we explored a bit of the 45-minute loop (but the risk of a lightning strike turned us back).

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Back to the taxi, and five minutes further up the road we came to Vesty Pakos Zoo. (This unusual and not particularly Bolivian name comes from an Austrian, Silvestre Pakos Sofro, who was the zoo’s first director.)

We paid off our taxi driver (50 Bolivianos) and then paid the grand total of 10 Bolivianos (under £1) to get all four of us into what may be the world’s highest zoo and found ourselves in a spacious park housing 78 species of animal representing the five most important eco-regions of Bolivia (e.g. altiplano, subtropical, etc.).

It also housed a fair number of primary school groups out for the day, and from time to time we huddled with them in one of the many shelters provided (it must rain quite often here).

We circled a large lake with ducks and geese – this was less about exotic creatures than about representing the wildlife of Bolivia, whether endangered or common. There was a flamingo among the mix, however.

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Past grey Andean foxes, llamas, horses, sheep; further on, a vast dome was home to several condors – I’m not convinced they had sufficient space to soar, but it was a fair attempt.

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Whether or not out of respect for Inca beliefs, the condors were adjacent to the two other sacred animals, the puma and the snake.

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A brief aside; tree graffiti proving that those Snooks get everywhere…
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At last we got to see the Spectacled Bear – which is the only bear native to Peru, and hence this is what Paddington should look like…
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A 79th species on display, exhibiting distinctive coloration.
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My favourite camelid – the vicuña. This is the closest we have got; these slender and graceful animals are normally so timid.

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Around 2pm heavier rain set in and we made for the exit, having seen just about all the areas of the park (including lions, jaguars, pig-like peccaries, spider and capuchin monkeys). We soon found a taxi for the return journey and spent the rest of the afternoon indoors; the good news is that I am now up to date with all our photos (so do browse the last ten days’ entries to see them).

Spaghetti and sausages for supper, followed by tinned peaches. Ellen’s little llama has a broken leg, so we might go into town tomorrow to replace it (it transpires that they are made of clay, not stone). Maybe try some museums as well – the elusive Kusillo and a musical instrument museum where you can play the exhibits…

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Witches’ Market llamas

The only down side of staying in a posh establishment like Hotel Calacoto is that basic things like laundry suddenly enter a whole new price bracket; what we used to pay per kilo of washing now only gets you four clean pairs of underwear.

So after breakfast (where we spotted two other families with young children) we wandered the surrounding streets, clutching two plastic bags full of dirty clothes, searching in vain for a lavanderia. We asked a few locals, but it seems that this area is too posh to wash. So we trudged reluctantly back to our hotel, picked out the five garments most in need of a clean and then attempted to fill in the price list form that is supplied with the laundry bag. But of course there is no mention of children’s clothes or skirts or fleeces so we gave up and decided to let the hotel staff work it out instead. No doubt we’ll be fleeced.

We were then ready to head into central La Paz. Our Lonely Planet guide to Bolivia is a pdf document on the computer; great for keeping the weight of our luggage down, but not so convenient for carrying with you when you go out. So I jotted down the route of the recommended walking tour and we took a freebie map of La Paz that Hannah picked up in Copacabana.

Our taxi ride was down to 15 Bolivianos (compared with the original 20) and we were dropped off at Iglesia San Francisco. Here it’s free to go into a church; the locals outnumber the tourists to such an extent. So we sat inside for a while until Ellen felt a little better (she woke up with a funny tummy).
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Then out along Calle Sagarnaga, turning down the offer of ‘genuine’ fossils, until we reached the right turn into Calle Linares and the Mercado de Hechiceria – or the Witches’ Market. At first sight this looked like the usual tourist stuff on offer, except you could also buy the odd dried starfish or llama foetus – the latter is buried under a new house for good luck. Also pre-assembled offerings of a bottle of beer, sweets, and so on.

Dried llamas for sale.
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Just around the corner in Calle Santa Cruz the girls spotted some small soapstone figures of animals – again, to bring long life, prosperity, good health, etc. – and they each chose a little llama.
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At this point my list of streets and the map parted company, so we made things up as we went along and tried to get to Plaza Alonso de Mendoza. Our improvised route took us past market stall after market stall – selling porcelain toilets, electrical fittings, bolts and screws, then clothes, clothes and more clothes. We took advantage of this to get the girls some new tracksuit bottoms for 55 Bolivianos each, but still nothing for Kirsten.
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Once back on track with the map, we headed for our final landmark, Plaza Murillo. Over a pedestrian bridge, along a pedestrian street lined with local fast food outlets, past the National Art Museum and we were there.
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Lonely Planet suggests going for an ice cream at Heladeria Napoli, so we found it and decided to start with a sandwich (it being lunchtime by now). However, this was so filling that we postponed dessert and sat in the Plaza for a while to let the meal digest.

Hundreds and hundreds of pigeons, and a lady in traditional costume sitting behind us on the steps, somewhat incongruously using a mobile phone and blowing bubble-gum. On one side the Presidential Palace, heavily guarded.
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It was getting hot in the sun so we popped into the National Art Museum to cool off. Only 10 Bolivianos for each adult, with the girls free. We had fun interpreting the pictures and sculptures on display in the 20th century section – the girls are still pretty good in museums and galleries.
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We next intended to head for the Museo Kusillo, a children’s science museum somewhere in a huge park area in the middle of the city. We soon found the park (we had passed in this morning in the taxi) and they had a turn on a merry-go-round, doing their Mary Poppins thing going up and down on the horses (indeed, they had the whole ride to themselves).
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We ventured further and saw something labelled Museo Kusillo, but it seemed to be just the entrance facade with a demolition wasteland behind it. So we gave up on visiting it and followed a long aerial walkway over the road to a children’s park/play area perched up high in the city with excellent views all around – Mirador Laikakota. We paid a minimal entrance fee and found a near-endless supply of climbing and sliding equipment to keep the girls entertained; they loved the tube slides (including one going right inside a crocodile) and a giant wide slide constructed down a natural slope on the site.
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Here (and in much of the rest of La Paz) there seemed to be plenty of entwined young Bolivian couples with nothing else to do on a working weekday – must be the spring sunshine. But there does seem to be a positive air about the place; most Bolivians we have met have been cheerful, happy to help, ready to make a joke of something that doesn’t go as planned. Whether this is tied up with buoyant optimism at having ex-coca farmer Evo Morales running things, I don’t know – there are so many signs around saying ‘Evo got this done’. (It must be said that there is also scrawled graffiti giving him some Evo stick.)

Around 4pm we started looking for a taxi to take us back; we got one for a mere 12 Bolivianos this time (they’ll be paying us by the end of our stay…). Once back, I explored the neighbourhood in search of the elusive laundrette and found two dry-cleaning establishments that also offer machine washing, so we’ll make use of one of them tomorrow.

Baked potatoes with tuna mayonnaise for supper, then an earlier night for the girls (they are tired) but a late night for me, continuing to catch up on the backlog of photos. It looks like we won’t have internet access in Sucre, so I need to be on top of things before we fly there on Sunday.

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Luxury in La Paz

What a great sleep we all had last night.  We took our time having showers and getting ready for breakfast.

Breakfast was literally quite a feast.  We had a choice between three types of cereal, three fresh fruit juices (orange, watermelon and maracuya), fresh fruit, cheese and two different types of meat, brown or white rolls, spaghetti & beef ! (I think), scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages and even biscuits.  Other drinks than the fresh fruit juices were water, cold milk, coffee, different teas and hot chocolate.  I’m pleased to say that I was the only one who didn’t have biscuits for breakfast! (the girls each had three)  This breakfast is a far cry from the dry triangular rolls with butter balls and jam which you often get in other hotels – we can’t wait to go back tomorrow morning …

After we had dragged ourselves away from the delicious food we headed back to our room to get ready for our trip to the local supermarket.

We stocked up on drinks and meals (carrots, potatoes, little sausages, tuna, baguette, ham & cheese, biscuits, Bolivian chocolate, fruit, water, fruit juice and Coke) and new toothbrushes for the girls.

Once back in the hotel we relaxed checking and answering emails and watching Disney Channel in Spanish (the girls).  We also succeeded in booking our flights to Sucre for this Sunday – only around £40 each, including taxes. For lunch we had our baguette with ham & cheese.

Our apartment in Hotel Calacoto.
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Our plan for today was to recover from the travel day yesterday and explore the area and hotel.  We were all pleasantly surprised to find a climbing frame in one of the gardens (the other garden has swings for smaller children) and chairs and tables to relax at.
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Yet another passing street parade…
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While the girls had a fantastic time letting off steam I finished my book and Tim sorted out some photos for our blog (it takes such a long time to copy them onto the computer, shrink them, upload them and fit them into the blog entry for that specific day). 

One of the things I really like about travelling in South America (they probably do it in different countries and continents as well) is the whole idea of book exchanges.  When you have finished reading your book you can visit bookshops or cafes where you can exchange your book for another one, and then change that book at a different bookshop or cafe or hotel in a different city or country. This way you’re not accumulating books and therefore not increasing the weight of your rucksacks.  We even found some books for the girls, only they are pretty reluctant to leave them behind once they have read them…

For afternoon tea we chose to go and visit an ice cream parlour near the shopping centre.  Hannah chose a banana split and was slightly disappointed when it came with one scoop of “frutilla” ice cream instead of chocolate as she had asked.  Ellen just chose two scoops of “frutilla” ice cream (which was a little like strawberry), I chose a “vienesa” and Tim finished off all three left overs!  Then it was back to the hotel to let the ice cream settle before heading back out to the garden with the girls.  (On the way to the ice cream parlour Ellen mentioned that she was a little chilly, Hannah turned around and offered Ellen her cardigan – without anyone asking her to.  I thought that was so sweet of her!)

The girls had really got the hang of coming down the tube-shaped slide by now (it took a lot of courage and me sliding down in front of them as the first bend was in the dark), they went down together over and over again and it was such a nice sound to hear them laugh and giggle whilst in the tube. 

After nearly an hour it was time to head back inside and start our supper of potatoes, carrots (in honey and butter) and sausages – it all tasted really delicious and we only had room for a small portion of our desserts (chocolate mousse and fruity mousse).  Ellen very willingly shared her last sausage with Hannah, which was her kind deed of the day.

Whilst doing the dishes and draining the water we suddenly found the kitchen floor flooded.  I went to reception (with dictionary in hand, just in case) to try and explain the problem.  They sent someone up immediately to mop the floor and he promised us that they will look at the drains tomorrow!  He also explained we shouldn’t drain lots of water in one go, but little at a time …

Time for the girls to get ready for bed and for us to settle at the dining table typing the blog entry and updating it with our photos.

We’re planning on going into La Paz centre tomorrow …

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Myths and near misses

I remember vivid warnings in guide books about how the temperature plummets as soon as the sun sets when you are at altitude in South America (or anywhere else, I suppose), and it makes good Physics sense – not much of a blanket of air up here to retain the earth’s heat at night.

However, after more than six weeks in Peru and Bolivia we have rarely felt chilly after dark, and I sat outside in Cusco at 9pm typing the blog quite comfortably. Even Puno and Copacabana were fine; no need for thermals at night time because the duvets or blankets provided do the job.

One is also warned about the dangers of over-exertion at altitude; attempting to walk up a steep street is foolhardy and you’re better off taking a taxi.

Well, the girls and I whizzed up and down Cerro Calvario last night – getting on for 4000 metres and quite a climb, but we didn’t really need to stop to gasp for air and we suffered no ill effects afterwards. Okay, so it’s a matter of being acclimatised, but it didn’t feel much different from a steep hill back in England.

The warnings about sunburn are valid, however – hats are essential and even then your face easily goes red and peels. (Incidentally, you know you’re tuning in to the local language when you look at a bottle of UVA suncream and think ‘yummy – grape’…)

Finally, a few follow-up stories from recent days. On our way from Cusco to Puno we passed a half-destroyed coach abandoned to the left of the road – I wondered why it had simply been left there; perhaps it was not worth anyone’s while to recover it. We then saw headlines in a local paper about a crash at 2am on the day we travelled, involving an overnight bus from Cusco to Juliaca; the driver was simply going too fast, no other vehicle was involved, and 11 people (including several children) were killed.

We also heard that the rocks on the road between Puno and Copacabana succeeded in closing the border just prior to our journey; some other travellers had had to postpone their trip to Bolivia. So much is down to the luck of timing – but in the meantime we are not skimping on safety, booking with top-end-of-the-market transport companies and choosing well-reviewed accommodation.

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Titicaca ferry

A leisurely start to our final day in Copacabana; we only got up shortly before 8am.

We decided to have breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant so we wouldn’t lose too much time for packing.  We ordered what we thought would be four rolls with jam & butter, muesli and tea for Tim, coffee for me and banana juice for the girls.  When our order came, we were given 4 slices of bread (instead of rolls), but even so that was plenty for us girls.  Tim’s muesli was a large bowl of puffed rice topped with a huge amount of banana, apple and melon (we think) – far too much for one person to finish so the girls had a good helping of fresh fruit.

After breakfast it was back to our room to do our final packing – the girls offered to stay out of the way and went to play in our little garden.  We managed to pack all our stuff in a record time of a little over an hour!  We took our luggage and fleeces to reception for them to look after it until we were ready to catch our bus to La Paz.

The girls wanted one last play in one of the other gardens, the one with the tight rope and we spent about an hour practising our balancing skills.

The ‘Tortoise House’ at the adjoining hotel, Las Olas
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We headed down towards the main street for lunch but just before reaching it we spotted Cafe Bistrot where they served English breakfast, fish & chips and brownies.  We decided to give it a go and chose the usual sandwiches with ham, ham & cheese and tuna, washed down with a good sized jug of fresh lemonade. 

Then it was back up the hill to the hotel to visit the bathroom and pick up our luggage.  We wanted to get to the bus early so that we could get 4 seats together, as they weren’t reserved as such.  Several people were already there and we still had to wait a while before we could get our luggage and ourselves on.  The seats were comfortable but it was extremely hot on the bus, so everyone opened their windows and as soon as we were off it finally started to cool down and become more comfortable.

The road started off quite windy and I was worried that either Ellen or myself might suffer, but fortunately we were both alright throughout today’s journey.

Farewell Copacabana – the taller hill on the right is Cerro Calvario (which T, H & E climbed yesterday).
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After an hour the bus headed for the small part of Lake Titicaca to the east and we were all asked to get off the coach.  We had to cross the river, the coach went on a separate “floating bridge” while all the passengers had to pay 1.50 Bolivianos to cross in a small boat.  The four of us got on the second little boat, put life jackets on the girls and started nibbling our Pringles.  This was by far the shortest crossing, but also by far the choppiest and I was glad we made it to the other side in one piece and without getting sea sick!

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Once on the other side, we all hopped back onto the coach and carried on with our journey.  The girls were busy watching a film on their Zens, I listened to some music on my phone and Tim looked out of the window. 

The sky turned a  darker shade of grey with every kilometre we got closer to La Paz.  We even spotted snow on the pavements and on some awnings!
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At last we spotted a big sign saying “Bienvenido a La Paz” and could see the  huge city below us.

The buildings of La Paz filling the valley like crystals in a geode; the road spins you down into the city like a coin rolling around one of those ‘vortex’ charity collectors.
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Not long now, surely… No, I reckon we drove around for nearly another hour before the coach finally came to a stop and we could all get off and collect our luggage and get to our hotel.
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The steep streets of central La Paz.
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As soon as Tim stepped off the coach he was approached by a taxi driver and while he went to find our two large rucksacks I went to find out the price.  20 Bolivianos – just under £2.  Once Tim finally got hold of his rucksack we climbed into the taxi and we were off.  It was still a 25 minute drive to our hotel, but our driver was a really pleasant chap who talked to us about La Paz, the squares and the prison we drove past (with walls two metres thick), where we had come from, where we were going to, etc… He congratulated Tim on his understanding of Spanish and also told us that Sucre, our next stop, was a really beautiful place – I’m looking forward to that.

Nearly half an hour later we arrived outside our hotel – I couldn’t believe it, this surely must be a mistake.  I was expecting a smallish hotel, with an even smaller apartment that we had booked.  Instead this was a big, posh looking hotel and the apartment is brilliant.  We have a little entrance hall which leads into a fully equiped kitchenette (including mini bar!).  Off the kitchen we have the girls bedroom, a beautifully tiled bathroom and our bedroom and all this for $80/night.  It’s a little more than what we normally would pay for our accommodation, but we are getting so much more for it.

Once over the initial bout of excitement, we dashed out for supper and found a little place where we had chicken & chips and a burger & chips, and it tasted a lot better than we had anticipated.  On our way to the restaurant we walked past a huge supermarket, a visit to it will be on our agenda tomorrow after we have tried out the hotel’s breakfast (also included).

I’m off to have a good night’s sleep now …

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