A Travellerspoint blog

Feliz Ano Nuevo

with fireworks galore!

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Our journey to Peru began early the next morning and we were quickly over the border where we crossed our fingers when Adam's passport was handed over, luckily after some grumpiness both sides found a spot to stamp. It was then much further on the Peruvian side to Puno, there were nice views for the most part though as the road stayed close to the lake. Once in Puno we were told we had about a half hour wait until our bus to Arequipa departed, which just gave us long enough to get some money out, pay the bus terminal tax which is standard in Peru and finally say our goodbyes to Yuri. As I said in the previous entry we were pretty sure we'd bump into each other again and we were now facebook friends so we could keep in touch. We hugged and said farewell as Yuri went off in search of a bed for the night.

Unfortunately our bus to Arequipa, after getting off to a reasonable start, got a flat tyre and we were stuck in the same spot for almost an hour as a couple of guys changed the tyre in the rain. I felt kind of sorry for them having to be out there but everyone else just seemed to get impatient and finally started banging their hands on the side of the bus and stamping their feet while shouting 'Vamos!' We thought maybe it was because it was New Years Eve and people had plans but we've experienced it a couple of times now, must be the fiery Latin blood! Finally we arrived in Arequipa and jumped in to a taxi which took us to Hostel Koala. Despite having a confirmation from the online booking site and a personal confirmation from someone at the hostel, the people working when we arrived had no knowledge of our reservation. There was no double room available so we were put in a twin, which was fine but it was annoying when we'd made the effort to book. By now it was about 6pm and we were knackered as we'd been travelling since 9am. Still it was New Years Eve and so we knew we had to find some energy reserves from somewhere.

After a bit of a lie down and a change of clothes we headed out towards the plaza which has some very beautiful Spanish buildings built of sillar, a pearly white volcanic material almost exclusively used in the construction of Arequipa.
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There was definitely a buzz on the streets, lots of people selling food items and the purchase of the night, fireworks. When we got to the plaza our eyes were drawn to the massive Christmas tree constructed using little flower pots containing artificial red flowers, the affect was very striking.
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Even though midnight was still a long way off it was already quite busy and we were pleased that we were spending New Years in a place with real atmosphere. Finding somewhere to eat was a little more tricky, we avoided the places on the plaza which seemed cheesy and touristy instead we went into a deserted pizzeria but quickly gathered they were only doing takeaway. We then tried another little restaurant which seemed to be doing a New Year special but despite it not being that busy they took an age to serve us and then didn't have what we wanted so we left. Finally we found ourselves in another pizzeria which ended up being really good, it was quite busy but the food came quickly and was really tasty.

With our appetites satisfied we went down to the plaza again and then just wandered the surrounding streets for a while soaking up the atmosphere. Then our sweet tooth led us into a small cafe where we shared a massive piece of chocolate cake. I think we were also hoping that the sugar rush would wake us up as we were both beginning to flag a little bit. Lots of other people weren't though and by now the plaza was packed, there were some street performers doing various comedy/music acts which the locals were enjoying. They were also having a lot of fun throwing bangers which meant that almost continuously there were gun shot sounds resounding off the buildings. Although that was nothing compared to what was about to kick off. As it was almost midnight we sat down in front of the cathedral and when there was about three minutes to go it all began to kick off. Fireworks were being let off left right and centre; some big, some small, and with the amount of people in such close proximity it all seemed a little risky. I kept having flashes of November 5th firework safety adverts on the tv and thinking at any moment I was going to witness someone losing a hand or an eye, or one of us was going to. After a while though you got used to it and now that it was definitely New Year although there was no countdown or chiming of a clock people embraced each other. The girl next to us kissed us on the cheek, rubbed confetti into our hair, and we all watched the spectacle in front of us, kind of like a pretty warzone. After a little while though our tiredness won out and we retired to bed.

Our 2010 got off to a pretty sedate start and we basically stayed in the hostel during the morning. A few of the other guest though, including one of the guys that worked at the hostel had clearly decided to continue the party into New Years Day. They started drinking at about 10am and didn't stop until the evening. As we sat in the corner of the common area using the laptop, continuing our search for flights, we watched them slowly get more and more intoxicated. At one point when we were back in our room there was a knock on the door and a big, drunk guy with long hair asked if I knew how to turn the radio off on a computer. I said I wasn't sure but I'd take a look and followed him into the computer room. He explained that he wanted to watch/listen to something on youtube but it was hard when the radio was playing too. I quickly looked at the computer then following the noise reached up and picked up a little radio off the shelf above us. I turned it off and smiled at him, he told me I was a genius and I left him to his youtube and can of beer. In the afternoon when another female worker turned up with her little daughter and she saw the drunk male worker a heated argument commenced and we decided it was time for dinner.

The following day was a lot quieter, the hangovers had clearly set in and there was a sedate atmosphere throughout the hostel. We also had another quiet day just having a little walk around the town, down to the river and back again.
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Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru and is certainly pretty; a nice place to spend a couple of days relaxing. There were a lot of foreigners enjoying the place and we had begun to notice a different kind of tourist, certainly from Bolivia. They were older, richer and many had come to see the Colca Canyon which is where we were heading the following day. In the evening we went to a little Mexican restaurant and treated ourselves to a couple of shots of tequila before returning to the hostel a little tipsy.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 17:56 Archived in Peru Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

The Lake of The Sun

and beautiful to boot!

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It took about 3 hours to get to Copacabana, the town which sits on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. The weather had been crazy as we left La Paz and in some places there'd been quite a bit of snow, although we hadn't seen any anywhere else in the city.
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Perhaps some residents had had a White Christmas. On the way we'd also had to cross a small estuary and we'd gone on a different boat from our mini bus which had bobbed along on a tiny vessel. I had several visions of it sinking, which of course it didn't.
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Copacabana is smallish town but it has a lot of hostels, and when we arrived we began to search through them trying to find the best deal. Some asked too much money, many didn't have the rooms we needed but finally we found the perfect one. It was right by the lake so had great views and it was dirt cheap as well, only £1.75 per person. After we'd settled in we had a little walk up to the Church which reminded us all more of a Asian temple or mosque. Inside there was a little statue of the Virgin of Candelaria also known as the Dark Virgin of the Lake, one of the patron saints of Bolivia.
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We then walked back down to the lake and went along the front where there were plenty of people about enjoying the last rays of Sunday sun.
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A lot of kids were on bicycles which we then realised were for hire and there were some little llamas you could pet for a fee of course.
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Some of the kids found us interesting including one girl who posed for a photo.
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Then it was back to the hostel where we had a bit of a rest before heading out to watch the sunset which was really lovely, all of the ones we saw at the lake were. The light just seemed to have a magical, pure quality about it.
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For dinner we went for the obvious and delicious choice of a whole trout from one of the little shacks by the lake which they can prepare in a number of different ways.
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Lake Titicaca was sacred to the Incas and remains a pilgrimage destination for many. In particular people come to visit an island which sits in the lake, Isla del Sol. It is the site of the main Inca creation myth. We wanted to go to the island and spend at least one night there but we decided to spend a day in Copacabana first. It was a pretty quiet day really, neither Adam or I was feeling our best. Something about the food since entering Bolivia wasn't sitting quite right with us. We rented a paddle boat for 45 minutes and we took it in turns as only two could cycle at one time.
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It was a relaxing way to spend some time and it was nice to be out on the water.
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We then returned to the hostel and stayed there for most of the rest of the day. Adam didn't even feel up to eating and so I went out with Yuri for a quick bite but it felt weird being out without Adam so I went back pretty sharpish. In the evening Adam couldn't face the thought of trout so we found a restaurant where we could share a pizza and Yuri could still get cheap fish. Then it was early to bed as the boat to Isla del Sol left at 8:30am the following morning.

We had the choice of either going to the South or North of the island. Having heard the North was quieter and more picturesque we decided to go there. Most of the people on the boat were just visiting the island for the day and we would be walking North to South along a well laid out path which takes you past some Inca ruins and then down the spine of this steeply hilled island. Once off the boat we quickly found some good, basic accommodation. We then took in our surroundings which were truly lovely, the tranquillity of the place was instantly soothing.
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The little village we found ourselves in was set next to a small bay which was hugged on either side by hills. There were pigs wandering about and several donkeys which we went up to inspect and I of course had to pet them a bit.
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One was having a bit of a paddy because he was tied up too tight and couldn't munch on any grass so I hand fed him for a little while. Then a lady bought him a bowl of food and I hoped I hadn't interfered.
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We had a bite to eat at a little restaurant and then in the afternoon parted company. Yuri went off to explore some of the hills and we headed in the direction of the ruins. The walk there was really pretty as it climbed up and then skirted along the lake from above. The sun had really come out and the water was a rich, dark blue in its deepest parts and lighter in the shallows.
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It looked more like the ocean than a lake, and it is called an inland sea by some. Just before we reached the ruins there was a little baby donkey running about the place making a racket.
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It was really, really cute and we spent a bit of time trying to coax it near but it was too skittish. The ruins themselves were quite interesting, all the narrow passageways and tiny little doors.
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You can't help but imagine what it would have been like and the people that would have inhabited these rooms. It was however the setting which made it for me, and we had to take time to sit down and gaze at the landscape for a while.
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I also needed a bit of rest before we headed back. I was still getting out of breath very easily because of the altitude, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and with the island being quite hilly I was finding it hard work.
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We decided to walk back a different way along the route from North to South which was also lovely the only downside being the descent back into the town was pretty steep. In the first place we'd walked too far and missed the turn off which didn't appear to be marked in any way. We therefore had to pick our way down the steep hillside and then over some rocks before finally zig zagging into the village. My knees were a little sore by the end which scared me a bit and I decided I would be taking it easy for the rest of the day. When we got back to the room Adam and I dropped off to sleep for a bit until Yuri's return woke us. He had also been to the ruins but returned the same way.

Over dinner that evening we all discussed what we planned to do next. After the walk that day I didn't think I wanted to walk to the other end of the island but instead we would take the boat back the following day, spend one night in Copacabana and then move on to Arequipa in Peru on New Years Eve. Yuri planned to do the walk but also return to Copacabana that day, probably on the same boat as us as it would call in at the South, then spend one more night with us before going on to Puno the town on the Peruvian side of the lake where his Dad's old work colleague lived. With plans decided upon we ate up yet more fish, had a beer and then went back to the room where we shared a bottle of wine we'd brought with us.

The following morning we ate breakfast together before saying goodbye to Yuri as he went off on his walk. Adam and I then had a quiet time in the little village, I went out to visit the donkeys again and Adam climbed one of the nearby hills. Soon enough the boat arrived and we were headed back towards the mainland. We stopped at the southern town where we met up with Yuri who had enjoyed his walk, although he looked tired from the exertion. We all boarded the boat once more and apart from one little side trip to see a pretty cheesy replica of a traditional floating island it was an uneventful journey back. We thankfully got rooms at the same hostel as before and then headed out to tie up some loose ends. First order of business was to buy bus tickets for the following morning and we'd all initially be on the same one as we would have to change in Puno. Then conscious that it was New Years Eve, Adam and I went to an internet cafe to book some accommodation in Arequipa. Which took a soul destroying amount of time as the internet was so painfully slow. Thankful that those tasks were completed we returned to hostel just in time to see yet another beautiful sunset.
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Then it was back to the shacks for a fish supper and couple of beers to celebrate the little bit of travelling we had done with Yuri. We would be treading a pretty similar path in Peru though and we all had a feeling we'd see each other again.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 17:56 Archived in Bolivia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Feliz Navidad!

that's Happy Christmas to you and me

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We arrived back in La Paz early on Christmas Eve morning. The journey had been ok and it still surprises me how I can sleep sat upright on a bus. Before I came away I would have thought it near impossible but you really do get used to things. Our next objective was to decide where to stay. First we checked out a kind of party hostel called Wild Rovers as we thought it might be good for Christmas but they only had space in a 12 person dorm and that really didn't appeal. So we ended up at a nice, small, quiet hostel called Austria which we would be thankful for.
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After a bit of a nap we went out for lunch and forced down yet another almuerzo, we had just about reached our limit with these and the thought of a thin, vegetable broth was turning my stomach. We then parted company, Yuri wanted to go get information about trekking in the area from some agencies and Adam and I, hoping to get in to the Christmas spirit wanted to see Scrooge. Unfortunately this was not to be as only the dubbed version was being shown so we ended up seeing Avatar in 3D instead. It certainly didn't have the Christmassy vibe we were initially looking for but perhaps this was a good thing, thinking about the festive season too much was a bit depressing. It just reminded us of all the traditional things we weren't experiencing. Not quite sure why there was so much hype generated about Avatar, we thought it was good but not mind blowing and I think the vibrant colours were less impressive with the 3D specs on. Still it was enjoyable enough.

After the cinema Adam and I decided to go off in search of some Christmas presents for each other. We got to pick out what we wanted and then the other person paid, just little things and we didn't exchange them till the following morning. Adam bought me a little hand made fabric pencil case but I'll probably put make up in it and some earrings and I bought him a few pairs of boxer shorts in bright colours which said Swiss Army on them although I don't they'd ever be standard army issue.

When we got back we had just enough time to smarten ourselves up a little for Christmas Eve, then we met up with Yuri who said the trekking was going to be too complicated. We then went into the little common area and shared a bottle of wine before heading out for dinner. It was pretty quiet on the streets of La Paz, Christmas is definitely an at home family affair and so the restaurant we ate in was fairly deserted. Our waiter had made an effort though, he was wearing an electric blue jacket with a bow tie and he served us La Picana, the traditional meal eaten in Bolivia on Christmas Eve. It was basically another soup, which I wasn't enamoured about but this one had meat, potatoes and corn in it so it was a bit of change. We tried to be cheerful but more because we knew we should be which made felt a little unnatural.

However we knew that going to bed early on Christmas Eve would be even more depressing so we went off in search of some atmosphere. First we tried to find one bar but a very helpful shopkeeper explained that it had moved and did her best to show us where on a map. It looked like it was pretty far away so we decided against it. It wasn't a completely fruitless search though as I ended up buying Adam a little leather money pouch as part of his Christmas present. Our next stop, was where it was meant to be and it was open although it turned out not for long. We managed to have one drink each as the place was shutting at 10pm instead of the usual 2am which was a little bit annoying. Still there wasn't much atmosphere there either and back out on the cold streets we wondered where everyone was hiding.

The answer to this question was soon answered as we ended up at Loki Hostel which is where the Aussie boys were staying. We followed the loud music up the stairs and into the hostel bar which was packed and overflowing on to the landing. It was literally like entering another world, another world full of intoxicated, dancing, shouting, backpackers. We soon found the Aussie boys, well Toby and Simon, Chris was apparently still sleeping off the previous night – it had been a big one. They introduced us to some of their other friends who were all very nice and we had a few drinks, danced a bit and welcomed in Christmas Day with some atmosphere. As Adam and I walked back, Yuri had decided to stay for a little longer, we were pleased we'd gone but glad we weren't staying there. It had lifted our moods and was good for this time of year but that kind of thing on a slightly smaller scale probably happens most nights which to us seems odd. I mean why go half way round the world and sit in a bar surrounded by people from dozens of countries except the one you're in?

We awoke on Christmas Day, exchanged our little gifts and with no sign of Yuri went out in the first instance to skype my parents. This didn't go too well as they could neither hear me or see me, so we decided to try later. Having failed at this we went to get some breakfast and in the process noticed that all the markets were set up which surprised us. Also the number of people out and about shopping was more than I'd expected. I couldn't really figure out what a traditional Bolivian Christmas entailed, maybe it varies depending on socio-economic factors. For most people if there is money to made then no matter what the day is, they have to be out their making it. We did a bit of shopping, buying yet more scarves, our necks shall never be cold again! Then we found an internet cafe and on the third computer we tried my family finally heard me. It was strange seeing them all dressed up and I could just imagine what it would be like at home and I was a bit sad not being a part of it. Adam then spoke to his parents and sister and I could see that it made him miss home and think about how different it was to be here. Still this would just be one year and we'd have many more at home with our families.

Having made contact with home we walked back to hostel and bought some yummy cream cakes on the way. Then we relaxed a little bit and we finally caught up with Yuri who had been out and about as well. He explained that he'd bumped into a Brazilian friend he'd met on the tour of the salt flats and he was coming round that evening and they were going out for dinner. He invited us along but both Adam and I were feeling a little delicate after the night before even though we hadn't drunk that much I think the altitude may have played a part and we decided to just do our own thing. The plan was though that we would go back to Loki that evening, meet up with the Aussie's and go to another popular bar in La Paz, we just hoped we would feel better. We had chicken and chips for dinner which helped and when Yuri and Rodrigo returned we drank a beer and played cards for a while. After a few hands we were feeling much better and ready for the evening ahead. At Loki we found the Aussie boys although Chris was still M.I.A. and had a few drinks with them before heading off to this other bar where there were lots of other backpackers. It ended up being a pretty late night but an enjoyable one and a good way to celebrate Christmas 2009.

The following day was pretty much a right off. We only ventured out for food and the rest of the day was spent in bed which seemed bad but then it hasn't happened that much over the last 9 months. We did make it to a museum in the early evening which has many displays depicting Bolivia's rich folklore, including a large array of bright, intricately made masks. It was a wonderful exhibit to look at, you can't help but be drawn in by the elaborate designs. We didn't have a camera the first time we went so we returned the following morning to take pictures before we headed towards Lake Titicaca.
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More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 17:26 Archived in Bolivia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Paddling through the Pampas

crocs, birdies, big rodents and monkeys

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It was raining in Rurre when we arrived and we all got a bit wet as we searched for a hostel. Thankfully it is a pretty small town and it didn't take long for us to find rooms. We then had a quick breakfast and all retired for a rest. Adam and I quickly dashed out to hand in some much needed laundry and as we walked down the main street we saw how many tour companies there were. There are two tours that you can pick from, one being the jungle and the other the pampa. All the information and recommendations we had received indicated that the pampa tour was better. You basically spend three days on a boat and you stay in basic accommodation on the riverside. People said you were likely to see much more wildlife then in the jungle which is a shorter tour and just involves a bit of a walk.

Once we had rested for a while, not that I got a lot as I was still feeling under the weather we went out for some lunch and then began to go from tour company to tour company. We found one that was significantly cheaper than another ones and although at the beginning we were slightly suspicious of this after asking the guy to explain why, we were fairly convinced that there was not going to be any major difference. The big thing we wanted to sure of was that it would be an environmentally conscious tour, we had heard horror stories and seen dramatic picture of foreigners holding dead baby alligators and monkeys. We were assured that none of this was going to take place and the price was lower because there was an agreement between three companies that all worked together and they had fixed this price between them. Satisfied with our choice we went to do a bit of shopping. One of the things which listed that you needed to take was a long shirt to protect yourself from mosquitoes and we all wanted some kind of hat and I desperately needed sunglasses.

It was while perusing the stores that we bumped into Helles and her friend. They were also going on the pampa tour the following day and with one of the companies ours was partnered with so we thought we might well see them. They pointed us in the direction of second hand shop where you could get cheap shirts and we went to have a look. Both Adam and I already had something we could use but Yuri didn't and he ended up with a blue shirt with thick white stripes. When he put it on all we thought he needed was a nice Panama Hat to complete the look, and possibly some dark brown loafers. With all our purchases made, mine and Adam's washing picked up we headed back to the hostel. Here we had a game of pool on a seriously bad table, the balls were so heavy they hardly moved and the pockets were tiny, it took a while. Then we went to have dinner at a restaurant we'd found earlier in the day. We chose a table outside and just after we sat down there was a power cut but this was quickly resolved with a candle. However we then had an unwelcome visitor in the form of cicada which kept appearing out of the darkness and erratically rickashaying off various items on the table which I found incredibly disconcerting. Thankfully the nice waitress wasn't scared and she picked it up and took it away. One thing she couldn't get rid of though was the rain which suddenly started to fall with ferocity. We moved to a table that was still outside but under an overhanging roof, unfortunately it was by a gap in the guttering above and it created a waterfall which began to splash us, so we moved to another table still under this roof but in the end the guttering could not cope at all and we had to move inside. We were all still smiling and the people were lovely so it hadn't ruined the atmosphere at all. The food then arrived and as Yuri and I tucked in to our fish, Adam quickly realised that his fish was in fact chicken and we had to send it back. However by the end we had all had a very lovely meal and all we had to do was try not to get too wet as we walked back to the hostel.

The following morning our tour began at 9am and we were there waiting for the jeep, which was going to take us to the river. We had been told the previous day that there would be two English people and a French person on the tour with us so we were a little surprised when we got in and there were three Aussie boys and a couple of guys from Switzerland. Everyone was a little subdued maybe due to it being morning but we chatted to the Aussies a bit. They were Chris, Simon and Toby all of them on holiday from University in Sydney. They'd been travelling for about a month and had another one to go. The Swiss boys were really quiet and we didn't talk to them till that evening.

After being in the jeep, which had eight of us cramped on two benches fitted length ways in the back, for three hours we were ready to get out. Despite stopping for a little break about half way where we'd seen Helles which we were pleased about. Before getting on the boats we had lunch at a little restaurant which was ok although there was some seriously loud live music in honour of a man called Pedro's stag do and also I was still not hungry at all. Then while waiting for our jeep which had gone off in search of petrol Adam was accosted and mounted by a lively, hairly, black monkey that took a shine to his curly locks. The feelings of appreciation however were not mutual and Adam was pleased when it got off him! Then we were taken down to the small tourist dock and we began to wait. Long, thin, boats with a few rows of two chairs side by side began to turn up.
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They were full of people who were just finishing their tour. One of them came in a bit too quickly, mainly cus the driver was an idiot and he smashed into another boat causing a couple of the chair backs to break. As we waited Helles tour got under way and we waved them off as they headed downstream. We were all getting increasingly annoyed as tour after tour went off ahead of us, especially as we'd been the first to arrive. Finally though we were introduced to our tour guide, Diego who apologised for the delay and said unfortunately the boat with the damaged seats was ours.

Being as boys are not chivalrous these days, the only girl on the tour got stuck with one of the broken seats, as did one of the Swiss boys. Adam offered to have it but it didn't seem fair for one of us to suffer for three hours so we agreed to swap half way through and the Swiss boys did he same. So while the Aussies and Yuri leaned back and enjoyed their surroundings we all spent and hour and a half hunched over with aching backs. Atleast there was a lot to distract us! It didn't exactly feel like the jungle, although we were now in the Amazon basin and the water was that kind of Amazony brown but it wasn't as dense and overhanging as I thought it might be. At points the landscape was quite flat and the trees more like those you'd find in the English countryside but it was all teeming with life. Almost immediately we spotted a crocodile or maybe a camen I could never tell the difference really but camen are meant to be bigger and meaner.
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We saw a lot of birds including some weird looking ducks and a lot that resembled Storks or Herons.
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The one thing we were all hoping to spot were the pink river dolphins which I thought were going to be really elusive but we'd only been on the boat for about half an hour when some appeared. Diego explained through Yuri who had now taken on the role of translator that the dolphins are the king of the river and everything is scared of them so where the dolphins are is the safest place to swim. As I didn't have swimming stuff on and Adam was wearing trousers we opted out but some of the others had a dip, they were quickly out again though. I think they were a little scared.

The best bit about that first boat trip though was when we spotted some little yellow monkeys in a tree and Diego drove the boat right up to it.
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They were so cute and all gathered around to give us a good looking over. One of the Swiss boys started tapping the side of the boat trying to coax them on which I never thought would happen but then suddenly one had leapt on to the end and was heading in our direction.
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Adam and I were closest to them and soon one was on the back of my chair. Of course I couldn't help myself, I touched one gently and he didn't seem to mind.
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A few of them scurried around us for a little while but they tired of us quite quickly, we weren't that interesting after all! Diego explained that they were so tame because there had been a big fire a few years ago which wiped out a lot of their habitat and food supply. It looked as if many of them were going to die so the locals came down and brought them food, sometimes hand fed them which had obviously made them less fearful of humans. Also on our journey down river we saw of few families of the world's largest rodents that look a little like beavers. They were really cute.
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Although I had really enjoyed our boat trip I was quite pleased when we made it to our accommodation. The sun had been really extreme and I was beginning to fry, I was very thankful I'd purchased a hat. Our new home was on the basic side but it had everything you could need. It was all built on stilts in case the river flooded and it was good anyway as it was pretty muddy everywhere. We were shown to our rooms each of which had two beds in it with a mosquito net, there were several blocks with about four rooms each and we quickly realised there would be a number of other groups here. One of which was Helles who were just heading out on their boat as we were arriving.

As we'd started late it was a pretty quick turnaround and after a small snack we were back out on the boat. We headed to a small bar where we were going to watch the sunset.
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They were clearly built with the sole purpose of selling drinks to tourists and there were several of them up and down the river but it was a nice idea. I opted to have a soft drink but most of the other boys indulged in a beer. Yuri chatted to the Aussies and Adam and I talked to the Swiss boys who introduced themselves as Randy and Stefan. They had just finished their national service in the army and had been travelling for a little over a month, mostly in Chile where they had done a serious amount of trekking. They were lovely guys and very interesting to talk to, we nattered away for quite a while and they were genuinely interested in what we had been doing. After the sunset we went back to our digs, had a good dinner and then everyone headed for beddy byes.

The following morning during breakfast we were told to pick out a pair of wellies from the selection provided as the days first activity was hunting for anacondas! Once we'd all found some hole free footwear we took our seats in the boat and headed down river. We all knew that the chances of finding an anaconda was slim, we'd heard tales from other groups and Diego confirmed this enroute by saying that the cloudy conditions were not ideal. Anacondas like it sunny apparently. When we were on dry land we walked a little way through scrub before we reached a sea of green. There were tall, green, reed like plants as far as we could see, growing out of squelchy mud and water.
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As we entered this new landscape it became even more apparent how difficult our task was. As we looked down towards earth, where any anaconda would be dwelling, the density of the plants made it almost impossible to see your own feet let alone spot a camouflaged snake. Diego said that we should feel with our feet and be aware if we stepped on anything hard. To be honest a lot of stuff felt hard to me but if it was a snake, I wasn't going to be checking. I'd be happy if someone else found one and I could see it from a distance but I didn't fancy get all up close and personal!

One of the Aussie's Chris tried to pose dramatically with a “croc” (as he put it in typical Aussie accent), kind of a Steve Erwin moment but Chris look decidedly more scared and held it for all of 30 seconds.
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We kept searching but we knew it was going to be fruitless. So we made the most of it, everyone was in good spirits as we waded through mud and forged paths through the vegetation. At points you would hear grunts of effort and then calls for help as people got stuck in the mud.
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Both Yuri and Toby had over the boot moments when they sunk too deep and water filled their boots, and while freeing one foot embedded the other even deeper, Adam went to the rescue a couple of times. We were both pretty lucky and kept our feet fairly dry. At one point, sensing our slight disappointment Diego and a couple of other guides (there were a few groups together by now) went off in search of a smaller snake for us to look at and we mooched around where we'd been left.
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Here I stood slightly amused and watched the Aussie boys fight with sticks, they were continually laying in to each other, seems to be the norm. Thankfully when the guides went off they were followed by a group of very annoying Israeli girls who clearly were not looking for anacondas at all. Instead they were talking incredibly loudly and sang songs from Disney's Mulan complete with dance moves. Also at times Adam was unsure as to whether they thought he was a guide as they seemed intent on following his path through the reeds. Bottom line the guides were vocal about not being amused, didn't make their jobs any easier.

After about 2 and a half hours we had made a circuit and despite not seeing any anacondas it had been a good little outing. We climbed back into the boat and headed towards camp, on the way there Diego suddenly steered the boat into the side and dashed off into the brush. He came back a few minutes later holding a baby camen. He showed us how to relax it and said they actually like being held because of the warmth we give off. We all had a little hold before popping him back. At camp we had lunch and then most of us had a little bit of rest before the afternoon schedule commenced, Adam on the otherhand made friends with a rather cute insect.
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We'd been given the chose between swimming with dolphins or fishing for paranas. The Aussie's and Adam wanted fishing, I went with them so majority ruled and we set off in search of din dins. We were just given hook and line, so we put on a bit of bait and tried out luck. Diego of course put us all to shame but he did always seemed to have the best spot, clearly swinging things to his advantage! Chris got a tiddler first, then another later on but also a midget, Yuri caught a tiny one as well and Adam got the biggest out of us foreigners! I can't remember who caught what but you get red, yellow and white paranas and we got at least one of each.

We went to another spot to watch the sunset and this place also had a football pitch so it wasn't long before the boys had organized a game.
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It was the European's against the Australian's to begin with so 4 on 3. As the only girl I took on the role of cheerleader although I wasn't very vocal, there was a little kitten and it came and sat on my lap, a tad distracting.
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The European's took an early lead and to be honest their play throughout the whole match was of a higher calibre. The Swiss boys were good, they apparently play on a team back home and Adam seemed to be everywhere and scored several goals. During the match a couple of other girls turned up, we'd seen them go off on their tour the previous day. They were both from Australia, had been teaching English in Buenos Aires for a couple of months, only eighteen and off to university next year. They were really sweet and I chatted to them while the game continued. The Aussie's were joined by a young Bolivian guy who definitely had some skills and then a little later the European's incorporated a boy into theirs. Apparently the actual score was not known by anyone but by the end the European's had won quite convincingly, yay!
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Back at camp we had dinner, and sampled some of the days catch, we then lay around in hammocks for a little while before retreating to the safety of our mosquito nets.
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The following morning we got up at a reasonable hour, had breakfast and then went out to swim with dolphins. We went quite a long way down river and came to a bend where there appeared to be quite a few. However there was also a little off shoot of the river which we turned around in which was home to a number of crocodiles/alligators/camen, whatever they were they looked mean. Most of the boys went in but I have to admit that I was a chicken and I lost my nerve.
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Apparently it was really hard work because of the current and it seemed as though Diego kept moving the boat further away from them. However soon enough the boys were all back in the boat, the crocs were on their mind too!

When we got back to camp there was a surprise waiting for us. Just up the bank, by the steps to the kitchen there was a big crocodile lying on the floor.
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The Swiss boys, Yuri and me who spotted it first all adopted the, oh my god we're all going to die about to flee for your life position, but Diego looked completely undeterred and casually said, “that's Pedro, he's kind of like a pet.” So once we had got used to Pedro's presence we started to touch him and have our photos taken.
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He opened his mouth and moved a couple of feet now and again but apart from that he stayed put. We only touched his tale, but we witnessed a young girl touching him on his snout. I am not that brave! We managed to tear ourselves away from Pedro and have a lovely lunch. After this it was time to get in the boat and head back to the dock. The journey back was fairly sedate as everyone realised that they were pretty tired. Adam spotted a Toucan high up in the trees which was probably the highlight but it was very hard to get a picture.

Back at the dock we waited with Heles and organized to meet her for drinks and dinner that evening. Then we got into separate jeeps and began the 2 and half hour journey back to Rurre. The Aussie boys were really concerned about getting back to La Paz. They had friends who were also travelling and they were all congregating at Christmas. Ideally they would like to fly but in the wet season a lot of planes are grounded because the Rurrenabaque runway is basically a field and it gets a bit water logged. When we reached town though they dropped us at the bus station and they managed to get tickets for one leaving that evening so they were sorted. The Swiss boys were going to head back on the same bus and so we said our goodbyes. We had booked to go back the following day at 11am.

We had a bit of a rest and a shower at the hotel before heading out to meet Helen at the Mosquito Bar. Here we indulged in a couple of pitchers of cocktail and a few games of pool. We then went to the restaurant we'd been to before, then said our goodbyes to Heles, exchanged emails and crashed out. The next morning we boarded our bus back to the capital and hoped it would be quick and painless.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 16:49 Archived in Bolivia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Coroico in the Clouds

getting seriously sick of buses..

sunny

We caught a minibus to Coroico through some really lovely scenery and after climbing a little we slowly descended until we were quite a lot lower than La Paz, and we both welcomed the increase in temperature. Coroico sits nestled on top of a hill surrounded by other hills all of which are densely covered in trees including a number of orange groves.
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Condors circle overhead and it is definitely a place to chill out for a few days.
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It is a popular weekend getaway for the residents of La Paz and when we turned up on Sunday afternoon there were still a number of people enjoying the time they had left.

After a scout about town we ended up staying at Hostel Kory which was perched right on the edge of the hill and had great views across the valley.
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Our room was right at the end and the little walkway outside was almost like having a balcony. There was also a pool but it was a slightly conspicuous green colour and for that reason not exactly inviting.
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Once we were settled in we had a late lunch of chicken and chips from a street stall on the plaza. Then we lazed around for the rest of day before popping out to pick up a pizza which was woodfired and really quite tasty.

The following day was highly unproductive. We were picking up a very weak internet signal from some unknown source and we struggled for the majority of the day as we tried to find out about flights. We searched all the airlines, general flight search engines and travel forums in case we were missing something but I think the fact of the matter is, there are no cheap flights from South to Central America. The cheapest ones we found were from Cartagena in the north of Colombia to Panama City which were about $200 each, one way. I did manage to get a couple of blogs online, so at least we achieved something.

The next day we had all the intentions of going for a walk but it didn't quite happen. I had a book that I was completely engrossed in and on the verge of finishing and was also a little apprehensive of putting my knees through anything too strenuous so soon after the procedure. Adam wanted to go downhill mountain biking which you actually can do from La Paz to Coroico on the “most dangerous road in the world,” so called because it is incredibly steep and bendy but it's pretty pricey. We didn't do it Coroico as I was a bit unsure about it and both of us were lacking a bit of get up and go/dinero.

When we were heading out for some lunch we walked past a guy and I knew I recognised him from somewhere. Adam then said, “that was Yuri wasn't it?” and I was not only impressed that he'd remembered where we knew him from but also that he knew his name. We both marvelled inwardly at the coincidence but thought little of it. We had quite a good almuerzo in a little restaurant which seemed popular with the locals. At this point we still appreciated the soup to start then meat and rice combination but soon would begin to feel slightly queasy at the thought.

In the early evening I heard a few people chatting on the walkway outside the second floor rooms and I stepped out to be social. One of them was Yuri, I asked him if he enjoyed the tour and clearly he suddenly realised where he remembered me from. That was the beginning of the conversation and Adam came out to join us. We chatted away for a while and decided to all get dinner together a bit later.

Adam and I were a little indecisive about where to go next. We were conscious of time, money and slightly sick of buses all of which was leading us to think of heading back to La Paz which was about 3 hours and then on to Copacabana about another 3 hours. The other option was to take a bus for about 17 hours into the jungle to a place called Rurrenabaque and do a tour there. The Dutch couple we'd met had been, although they flew from La Paz, a little out of our price range and said they'd really enjoyed it. Yuri had mentioned he was keen to go but as he was travelling alone he said that he would prefer to go there with some people he knew already and do the tour with them. Talking with him, someone who had been travelling for only six weeks and still had plentiful energy, reignited our interest a bit. Plus we hadn't travelled for any significant period of time with anyone else and I think we were both intrigued to see what it would be like.

As we ate dinner Yuri mentioned that he wanted to move to another hostel in Coroico further up the hill side, he had walked there today and said it was really peaceful. So in the end we decided we would go as well, spend one night there and then all head to Rurre the following day. We chatted a while longer and established that we were all pretty much on the same page and looking for similar experiences from travelling. Which mainly involved getting to know a country, experiencing different cultures and perhaps not so much of the drinking ourselves into oblivion in bars recommended by the lonely planet.

The next morning the sun was not shining and when we got up we discussed whether the move was worth it. In the end we came to the conclusion that a change of scenery would be good and packed up our stuff. We had a quick almuerzo before beginning the walk uphill which was quite tough with our full, heavy backpacks on.
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When we reached Sol y Luna Hostel it quickly became clear that it was a very peaceful spot.
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Tucked in amongst the trees on the hill side there was a number of buildings, some of which are nicely appointed private cabins, but we went for the cheaper option of a bright and airy room in the main building. Then Yuri took us on a little tour of the property which has many different areas. There was a beautiful garden full of all sorts of different and exotic plants, some nice spots with hammocks and a couple of swimming pools.
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Unfortunately the weather had not improved and the boys got all ready for a swim but in the end chickened out, I didn't really blame them.

In the late afternoon we sat down and played a couple of games that Yuri explained. One of which being a dice game called Cricket and the second reminded me a little bit of Ludo, basically you have to get your counters around the board and to the safety of home. Both were amusing and it was good, clean fun! Then it was dinner time and we all felt slightly sorry for the one woman who seemed to have her hands completely full with four tables of people who all basically ordered at once. For this reason we had to wait quite a long time for our meal but when it arrived everything was very tasty. Then as we had a long bus journey ahead of the next day we all went to bed.

The following morning we had breakfast, leisurely packed up our things and headed down to town. A taxi was taking us to a junction at 12:30pm and the bus was meant to pass there sometime around 2pm. We had a quick bite to eat and rushed to meet the taxi. When we had been dumped at the junction, there ended up being a little group of us which included two girls from New Zealand, then there was Heles also from New Zealand but she had lived in Canada, New York and a bunch of other places and the lady she was travelling with at that point in time who was originally from Lithuania but now lived in Canada. The sun was baking hot and there was very little shade so we ended up huddled outside these little shack style shops that had put up a few parasols and some tarpaulin. We quickly established that the four of them were getting a different bus to the three of us and as we sat down at about 1pm we all began to wait. Having been told that our buses would be blue whenever we saw a blue bus in the distance we all got excited. This was then dampened when we saw the company name and license plate which we'd also been given.

We consumed various bits and bobs from the stores and Adam and I wondered whether the taxi drivers family had some vested interest and that was why we were here so damn early. Finally after a couple of hours of waiting the four lucky ladies boarded their bus and with slight jealousy we waved them off. We sat back down and all thought it cannot be much longer until our bus turns up. It was around this point that I started to feel a bit funny and despite the dust and dirt I had to lie down as I just couldn't get comfortable sitting up. We continued to wait. Then we waited some more and soon it was 3:30pm, then 4pm and at this point Yuri asked someone at one of the shops whether they knew when our bus would come. He told him they come til around 6pm, so we continued to be expectant. Finally though at around 5:30pm we had had enough and thankfully with Yuri being fluent in Spanish he could phone the bus company in La Paz (where the bus had come from) and find out what was going on. Even though we were listening to one side of a conversation, in a language we didn't speak, we got the gist that something had gone wrong. Yuri put down the receiver and explained that the woman said our bus should have gone past about 2pm and the driver must not have stopped, or he went a different way and bypassed the junction altogether, either way we were not going to Rurre.

Although we all felt slightly irritated, by this point the thought of getting on a bus to begin a 17 hour journey was not appealing. I felt like something was wrong with me and I wanted to lie down on a bed, another plus point was Adam had left his hoodie at the hostel so he could go and retrieve it now. We caught a taxi back up to town and decided to stay at Hostel Kory rather than further up the hill although Adam did have to walk there to get his jumper. I lay down for a little while and Yuri went out to get a couple of bottles of wine as we thought we deserved it. We managed to sort out the ticket with a lady at the companies office in Coroico, she apparently was very apologetic and said she would make sure there were no problems the following day.

We then sat on the walkway, chatted and shared the first bottle of wine. I had taken a few tablets and was beginning to feel better, I just hoped a good nights sleep would sort me out. Then we went out to find some dinner and we each had a steak cooked on the parrilla (bbq) which was really tasty. It was when we went back and the second bottle was opened that I began to feel really bad. In the end after just a few sips I had to excuse myself and go to bed. I managed to drop off for a little while but I soon woke up all hot and sweaty and running a temperature. It was a horrible night of tossing and turning. I had a bad stomach, a pounding headache, was hot then freezing and any sleep I did get was full of really bizarre, vivid dreams. Obviously it meant that Adam did have a good sleep either as I kept waking him up and by the time morning came neither of us felt rested, in fact I felt pretty much exhausted.

After the previous day being wasted though I knew that I had to get on the bus. Once I'd taken more pills the headache finally receded and my temperature lowered but my stomach continued to feel very odd and I had zero appetite. It was a good three or four days before I really felt like eating much at all. So I sipped a little bit of soup while the boys ate their lunch and then we headed down to the junction once again. Thankfully though our wait was significantly reduced and around 3pm we were on the bus to Rurre. With the window open and feeling completely exhausted from the night before it actually wasn't too bad for me although the road was certainly one of the worst we've been on in South America. As always we were all relieved when it was over and we had made it to the jungle.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 14:04 Archived in Bolivia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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