A Travellerspoint blog

High in La Paz

time to got those knees sorted

semi-overcast

As we had booked a ticket to La Paz we did presume that the bus was going to take us all the way there but sometime after midnight it came to a halt and everyone got off. We'd got as far as Oruro and it soon became apparent that we would be going no further. We got off and tried to communicate with the bus boy who I think in the end took pity on us and guided us to another bus where he spoke to some people and we were told to get on. We thanked him for his help and sat down. Even though the last bus had probably been the worst we'd been on in South America I soon missed it because this new one was awful. My seat didn't go back but was instead incredibly upright so I was stuck in a very unnatural sitting position that was not going to allow me to get a good sleep. We swapped a couple times trying to make the best of the situation by one of us half lying on the other, it wasn't restful and it was also absolutely freezing! When we finally arrived in La Paz at about 7am we were very relieved.

A taxi driver took us to a hostel I'd read about in the guidebook but it was too expensive so we asked him for somewhere cheaper and he took us to one he knew about. It reminded me of a block of flats all of them facing in on an inner courtyard. It wasn't the prettiest of places but when he told us it was only £5 for a double room with a private bathroom we couldn't really say no. The only real downside was the fact that it was cold, I felt it more so than Adam and it's hard to fully relax when you can't get warm.

La Paz is generally cold due to it being the highest city in the world and we were there in summer so I dread to think what it is like in winter.
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It is a crazy place to build a city in many ways, and the mind boggles a little as you stare out at all the thousands of houses sprawled across the mountain sides.
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Most of which look unfinished with exposed brick, sloppy masonry and flat roofs with rods sticking out the top which Adam says is so they can easily plonk on another level if they need to. Due to its positioning, getting around La Paz is quite a tiring affair as you keep having to go up and down which at altitude leaves you panting. The centre of the city has real charm though, and there are some lovely buildings around the Plaza de Armas.
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Out of all the capital cities we have visited, I think La Paz retains its culture and heritage the most, bar India but I preferred La Paz to any city in India so I'm a bit biased. A large proportion of woman wear the traditional dress and have brightly coloured shawls wrapped around their shoulders so they can either carry produce or a chubby faced baby. There are people selling on the street everywhere and although it is obvious that many people are poor, you also get a very strong sense that they are intensely proud.

We walked down to the Plaza and then up the other side and into the area where there are a number of other hostels, tour operators and shops selling products made of llama wool and other souvenir type things. Here we had breakfast and discussed what we were going to do about my knees. I had phoned the British consulate in Uyuni and they had emailed me their approved list of Doctors, one of which dealt with Orthopaedics and sport injuries, so he sounded like the best bet. We did a little bit of shopping, decided to get the purchase of the magnets out of the way quickly and then returned to the room. The rest of the day was basically spent trying to get hold of this doctor, Mr Nils Calderon. I was on and off the phone with my mum who was doing her best to help as for some reason our mobile would now not connect to any numbers in Bolivia. When we used to a public phone and rang the number I'd been given for him, he hung up on me, so we weren't being very successful.

The following morning over breakfast we decided to take more decisive action, the main problem seemed to be the language barrier so we caught a taxi to the British Consulate. It was in the South of the city, in a much posher part of town where there were some upmarket hotels and big, modern hypermarkets. Once we had cleared the security check we walked into the consulate and it was so strange, we really could have been in England. There were middle aged men in suits talking with quite clipped British accents and it was strangely comforting. We also found a very helpful, bilingual receptionist who quickly called Dr Calderon's office and made me an appointment for that evening at 6:30pm. Now the appointment was actually made I began to feel quite apprehensive. I was in a very foreign country, where I didn't really speak the language and I was going to ask some doctor I didn't know to stick a large needle into both my knees. I felt a little unsettled for the rest of the day. While at the consulate we decided to nip upstairs and ask if they could insert more pages into Adam's passport which is now pretty much overflowing with stamps and visas. Unfortunately they couldn't and we have since found out this isn't a possibility anymore. He has now circled all “available” space with a pencil and we go through each border crossing with slight apprehension as we're faced with the standard surly looking immigration officer as they angrily leaf through Adam's maxed-out passport.

Once back in the centre we bought a much needed English to Spanish dictionary and I began to look up words like, “knee” and “drain”. We then had lunch and took the rest of the day easy as walking around was really becoming a bit of an issue on my oversized knees. As the prospect of unpleasant things to come usually speeds up time we were soon in a taxi to his office which was also in the south of the city. As I sat in a chair in the waiting area I began to nervously fidget. I obviously couldn't be sure he'd even do the procedure and part of me didn't want him to but I also knew I needed him to. Also I usually go through this with one or both of my parents, who are also knee draining veterans, so although having Adam there was very comforting I felt a little more anxious.

When we were shown in to his office it was clear from the outset that one he didn't speak any English and secondly he had a fairly abrupt manner. Still I was pleased that his office was very professional, there was even a pot plant which I think is a good sign. We managed to explain though that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and I'd had it since I was three. He asked me to get up on the examination table where he moved my legs about and felt the inflammation in my knees, all a little rougher than I'm used too Then after some initial confusion about whether he was going to, we established he was going to drain both knees and inject them with Cortisone (steroids). So now I was pleased that I would be more mobile but really scared. I hate the bit where they're getting all the equipment prepared, seeing the needles, syringes and wipes. My heart started pounding but at least Adam's hand was there to grip. Usually my consultant at home would inject a small amount of anaesthetic into my knee first but Dr Calderon wasn't a fan of this because he said it was then two injections, so just a bit of numbing cream on the skin. Then it began, and it was painful, very painful. I can't really describe it, it just feels wrong, a completely unwanted, sharp, prolonged intrusion into a sensitive area. He was quite rough when it came to applying pressure to my knee which made it hurt more. Adam said he felt a bit dizzy but mainly because I was so obviously in pain, and he couldn't really do anything. In the end he extracted 12cc from one knee and 15cc from the other, so a fair amount. Then the Cortisone which just feels like a rush of coldness. I have a love hate relationship with it, on the one hand it keeps the inflammation from coming back for up to 3 months, on the other it gives me a moon face for a bit which is pretty unattractive.. When it was all over I thanked the doctor and he suggested I engage in some physiotherapy sessions but they were in this part of town which was quite expensive to get to and also I actually thought my thigh muscles were in pretty good knick after all the walking we'd been doing.

That evening and the next day we really took it quite easy. I decided though that I could make it to the cinema and we went to see 2012 which was ok. It had all the cheesiness that disaster movies have, but I did get quite teary when certain people met their ends and asked Adam if he ever thought stuff like that was really going to happen. He said he didn't. Then we went back and had a take out dinner before trying to get warm enough to sleep in our chilly little room.

Next day I really wanted to try my new knees out properly and it was great to feel completely mobile again. We went back to the touristy area and bought a few llama based products, I definitely have enough scarves now. Then we walked around the outside market which covers a number of streets and sells a vast array of things from bathroom fittings to frilly tutu type skirts. We were on the look out as always for a new watch as thus far we hadn't found a reasonably priced one. Thankfully our search came to and end and although it wasn't the prettiest in the world it only cost about £2 so it would definitely do.

We decided the following day that we would move hotels. Mainly because we wanted to a room with wifi because we'd been using the internet cafes around the city and they were painfully slow. I wanted to try and get some of the blog on and we needed to start researching plane tickets from South to Central America. So we moved to Hostel Republica, the first hostel we had looked at upon our arrival in La Paz. The hostel was in a converted ex presidential home and was quite grand. It also had an inner courtyard but it was much more nicely maintained then the previous hostel. For these reasons we were quite expectant with regard to what room we would be given and so were slightly disappointed when we were put in an oversized cupboard. It was dingy, and was not much warmer than the other place, its only saving grace was the bed was better. However the real sting in the tail was we could just not get the internet to work. Frustrated with the situation we went to a little restaurant and had a fairly good almuerzo which means lunch and generally consists of one or two courses. It was a pretty good one, but I had to eat Adam's desert as it was cinnamon flavoured slop, basically his worst nightmare. Then we headed to the post office to send yet another box full of goodies back home.

The rest of the day was spent mooching about, trying to get the internet to work but finally admitting defeat and then a whole chicken for dinner and a couple of beers. The next day we would be heading north to the small town of Coroico, we were looking forward to somewhere a little quieter.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 13:50 Archived in Bolivia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

On tour in a 4x4

Part two - amazing lakes, flamingos and lots of salt!

sunny

We were up very early the next morning, Adam had not slept well at all due to a bad headache but felt better after breakfast. At 5am we were back on the road, and first of all we drove through the ruin of a village just as the sun was coming up and had a bit of a walk around but again due to the altitude and the time of day it was freezing.
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Back in the warmth of the jeep we drove on and saw lots of little rabbit type animals jumping about the place, they were really cute. Our next stop was at the administration offices for the Reserva Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa where we had to sign in. There was a mangy looking cat here that the Finnish girls and I took a shine too and we all fussed him a little bit.
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We were driving through a kind of high altitude desert by now, it was very dusty with very little vegetation just the scrubby plants like those which make up the pampa.
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For this reason it was quite a surprise when we came across an oasis with bright green moss growing out of a shallow pond.
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We stopped here for a little while and we clambered over the rocks to get some nice pictures of dragonflies and some more of the rabbity animals. While we were doing this Margherita agiley made her way into the centre of the oasis and used the water to dampen her hair so she could plait it.
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When we were back into the car she gave us jelly and lollies, we were like little kids.

Our next stop really had the wow factor. As we drove over a little mound the vast landscape spread out in front of us, with the distant mountains and coming into the foreground a white expanse on the ground.
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As we got closer we could clearly make out that this was in fact a salt lake and the hints of blue in the centre came into focus, and movements of pink became visible. These were actually a large number of flamingos feeding on the abundance of algae.
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We were all slightly taken aback by what we were seeing, it was the combination of colours I think which had the largest impact. The contrast of this stark, bland brown canvas and then the reflective white, misty blue, green/yellow algae and the joyful brightness of the flamingos.
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We got out for a bit of a walk, trying to get as close as possible to the birds but they were pretty skittish. Still we managed to get some good pics, we got quite a lot of the stinky algae on our shoes in the process but it was worth it.

We stopped for lunch by the side of another lake where there also happened to be a hot bath. It was pretty crowded when we turned up and most of the us from the two jeeps decided we would stay dry but Antonia and Ian went in for a dip.
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Lunch like dinner was very tasty and we quickly devoured everything in front of us. We then drove through the so called Dali desert which was given this name because of some surreal rock formations that are present here.
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The colour of the mountains is also quite surreal and set against the constant cornflower blue sky it looked even more striking.
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Visually our surroundings were some of the most enthralling we had seen on our whole trip and certainly different to anything else we had clapped our eyes on.

Within about thirty minutes we came to a stop by Laguna Verde or Green Lake. It was an icey green in the afternoon light but apparently it changes and it maintains this colour because of the wind which keeps the water in constant motion.
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The biological reason for the colour is the high levels of arsenic in the lake, because of this there isn't a whole lot of wildlife in the vicinity and none of us was rushing in.
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We drove back past the hot springs and our last stop of the day was some geysers which are interspersed between some very hot, bubbling mud pools. I was feeling really exhausted by this point, it had been a very long day and I had a headache so only got out for a short while, Antonia didn't get out at all so it was mainly the boys who had a look around. The smell, due to the sulphur was really bad and they were quickly back in the car.

When we arrived at the little hostel that was to be our home for the night we were all very relieved and stretched out on our beds. Soon enough Margherita had laid out our afternoon tea and we were quick to guzzle down some cocoa. While we were sipping our tea I noticed a little kitten running around outside and I of course went to scoop it up.It was so very, very cute and I spent a lot of the evening playing with the kitten. However I had a bit of competition for the its attention, from a cute puppy who really wanted to play with it.
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There relationship was so funny and even though the kitten was tiny and the dog a giant by comparison the kitten stood its own and would whack the dog on the nose repeatedly. It was really amusing although I was scared the dog would get over excited and it could quite easily fatally injure the ballsy little cat. The Dutch couple were not fans of my adopted kitten though and I think a bit annoyed I bought it by the dining table but everyone else liked it and I wasn't sure what they were worried about.

We were all thankful because it wasn't quite such an early start the next morning. I had to say goodbye to the kitten which was sad and I did think about smuggling it but I think it would have missed the puppy.
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The previous afternoon we had seen the next natural wonder from a distance but now we had the pleasure of seeing it up close. Laguna Colorado, is a remarkably red lake which retains this colour because of algae and it is stunning.
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We spent a long time gazing at it and also walking along its edge. Again the colour contrasts were magical; the grey of the sand, the cloudless, blue sky with just a lingering, almost full moon and the unnatural red lake with yet more feeding flamingos.
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My mind kept thinking that it was like we were on Mars or some other planet.

Reluctantly we left the lake and made our way over to some rock formations in the middle of the desert. One in particular is interesting and is described as looking like a tree.
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We messed about in the area for sometime and Adam did a little bit of rock climbing!
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Next we continued on through the desert and again saw some amazingly coloured mountains, which definitely deserved a picture or two.
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By now things were getting a little busy as we were joined by more 4x4. Tours which begin in our destination of Uyuni only take a couple of days and so we were now meeting up with them which was a bit of shame as we were all fans of the peace and quiet. We then saw a series of lakes, I think there were five of them in total but one stood out more than the others again for the unusual colours present. In amongst the usual white, and blue there was a striking streak of yellow.
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This is because of the high levels of sulphur and it was beautiful. We had our lunch around this lake and again spent time photographing the plentiful flamingos that continued to fascinate us.
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After lunch we drove through more dusty desert and when the wind got up it would momentarily blind us, thankfully that wasn't a lot of traffic about!
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We stopped again for a short while and caught a glimpse of an active volcano which is continually smoking.
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Then it was quite a long ride to our hostel for that night but we were all looking forward to it because it was made entirely from salt.
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It was very close to the salt flats that we would be visiting the following morning. When we arrived it certainly made us smile, it is definitely a bit of a novelty and none of the other buildings in the village were made from salt so I'm not sure how economical or practical it really is but it was fun for the night. Before dinner Adam and I went for a bit of a walk where we saw some great cacti, flowers and even some little piggies.
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Then we had our last meal cooked by Margherita which was a lovely lasagne and we were stuffed by the end. After dinner we had another quick look at the stars and then had an early night because we had to be up at 4:30am.

So when we woke up bleary eyed we all climbed into the jeep and entered the salt flats. Just over half an hour later we reached a rocky island called Isla Incahausi and here we climbed out. Raphael explained that we should climb to the top and watch the sun come up over the salt flats and then come back down for breakfast. It was quite a tough climb in the altitude and I managed to accidentally impale my hand on a cactus which was surprisingly painful. However soon enough we were at the top and we all gathered to watch and take pictures of the warm glow on the horizon as it began to reveal more and more of the white expanse in front of us.
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When we reached the 4x4s once more we had been joined by a little ostrich who was intent on sharing our breakfast. I thought I'd be really scared of this gigantic bird but it was actually quite sweet in a way, well when it wasn't poo-ing everywhere!
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The guides seemed to enjoy messing about with it and manoeuvring it away from our food. After breakfast we said goodbye to our feathered friend and made our way out into the middle of the flats where everyone set about taking some funny pictures based on perspective. It was actually really hard to get it looking believable and almost always if you look closely you can tell.
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Adam and I tried to incorporate our little moomin mascots we had brought along but it was hard to get us and them in focus so everything looks a bit dodgy. Still it was fun to try!
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The rest of the tour was somewhat altered because it was election day in Bolivia and for this reason most of the towns are closed. Everyone has to vote and so they suspend transportation so no one can avoid this. For this reason we had a bit of difficulty actually entering Uyuni where our tour was to come to an end. For quite a while we were driving around the baron outskirts, the two jeeps in contact via mobile phone as Raphael and Margherita tried to find out how best to get us inside. From what we gathered if we just tried to enter normally they would make us pay a large fine. It kind of felt at one point like we were going to hear a helicopters propeller above us and a voice over a loud speaker giving out instructions. In the end we came to a stop at a train graveyard where there were a number of rusting old locomotives slowly eroding.
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We had a bit of fun climbing inside the various sections before having a bite to eat.
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Then Raphael explained that we were going to drive a little closer to town, park up and then walk in.

Which is exactly what we did. On the walk in my knees really started to feel painful and I was beginning to think I might need to get them seen to. Raphael, Margherita and the other driver and cook took us to a hotel where we all got cheap rooms. We said our goodbyes which were actually tinged with a bit of emotion because we'd had such a good time. Then everyone retreated to their rooms for some sleep. Later we all met up and walked to the bus station to see about moving on but nothing was open because of the elections so we decided to return later. Which we did but everything was still closed so the Dutch couple, the Finnish girls and us went to get a pizza before heading back one more time. We wanted to get to La Paz but ideally some time the following day rather than having to go over night but this didn't seem possible. Everyone else was going to different places and managed to book their tickets so before going to bed we said our goodbyes.

We spent the following day in Uyuni because there was no bus until the evening. My knees still were not good and I made the decision that I would have to try and see a doctor in La Paz. For this reason we did very little, we paid to keep the room which thankfully was cheap and we took things easy. Both of us were a little concerned before getting on the bus as we'd been told that in a suburb of La Paz people quite often get their bags stolen from the storage areas. For that reason and a couple of others it wasn't the most relaxing bus ride but I'll explain more in the next entry.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 13:21 Archived in Bolivia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

On tour in a 4x4

Part 1 - altitude sickness, llamas and basketball

sunny

We caught an early morning bus to the Argentinian/Bolivian border where we joined a queue and began a very long wait. There appeared to be only one or two officials dealing with a line of people which was increasing by the coach load, not very efficient and in the end we queued for over two hours. At the other side however the queue had magically disappeared and we were through Bolivian immigration in a jiffy. We then walked into town and quickly found the bus station where we bought a ticket to Tupiza, 90p each for a three hour bus ride, we liked Bolivia already! A quick lunch accompanied by a sad looking dog and we were on our way once more.
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In Tupiza we were hoping to organize a tour which would include visits to the various natural wonders of South West Bolivia and would finish in the town of Uyuni quite a way to the North. Once we found somewhere to stay this possibility was soon confirmed as almost immediately we were asked if we wanted to go on a tour. Usually, as you have probably gathered, we are pretty against tours but in this instance there is no other way to visit the area as it has to be done by four wheel drive. After settling into our room we went downstairs and although we didn't ask for it to be, the tour was described to us. It would be four days and three nights, and in all likelihood it would be just us and another couple of people, as well as the driver/guide and the cook. We liked the fact that it wasn't going to be a big group but this fact did have its downside, it was much more expensive then we'd thought. For this reason we went away to think about it and tried to find other companies to ask but only came across one which was the same price. In the end we signed up for two days time with our hotel tour company and had our fingers crossed it would be enjoyable.

For dinner that night we found a lovely small restaurant that did massive portions of meat for very little money. Just as we were getting towards the end of the meal we were joined by a man that had been in the queue with us at immigration, we'd only exchanged a few words but he seemed nice enough and we were happy to chat for a bit. Unfortunately this was a bit of a mistake because he was seriously annoying and some of what he said still erks us now. He was from Germany, I would guess in his 40's with very bad hair but he did speak very good Spanish. He proceeded to make us feel bad/stupid for not being able to speak more, he described how he'd been travelling for years and felt like he discovered countries such as Vietnam and Laos because no one else was there when he visited in the 80's and finally he criticised the speed at which we were travelling, basically saying we were going to fast. He also did some rather rude and slightly racist imitations of Indian people when describing his experiences in Burma and how 'there was too much Indian influence' there for him. We were pleased when dinner was over.

The following morning we went down for breakfast and were joined at our table by a young guy called Yuri. He explained that he was half Spanish and half Dutch but had been living for the last four years in Birmingham while he attended Aston University. We chatted away while we ate and then said our goodbyes as he was off on the tour that day. Little did we know we would see him again. The rest of the day we took it easy, just mooching around the town centre which is really quite sweet especially the plaza. Then at lunch we had a bit of a near miss. Adam asked me to see whether the German guy was in the restaurant, I couldn't see him but as we ventured further in he was sitting round the corner. Knowing that if we had to eat with him he really wouldn't enjoy his meal, Adam told him we were going to check somewhere else and we might come back. I think he picked up the atmosphere though but thankfully we haven't seen him since, so any awkwardness has been avoided. In the evening we climbed up to a little Mirador where there is a large statue of Jesus and also some good views of the town and surrounding hills.
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We then had dinner and called it an early night.

Next morning we had breakfast which is where we met our tour companions for the next couple of days. A young, married couple called Antonia and Ian.
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They had been together for four years and met in the UK but Antonia was in fact German and Ian Irish. They now live in Germany although for the last few months have been in Buenos Aires where Ian had been studying and Antonia working. We were then introduced to our driver who was Raphael, he spoke almost no English but thankfully with a combined effort we muddled through and even managed to have a few conversations. Then on the edge of town we picked up our cook, a lovely lady called Margherita. One of the things we'd immediately noticed since being in Bolivia was the very traditional dress that the women wear. One of the main things is their skirts, they wear many at once as well as lots of petty coats which give them this quite rotund shape on the bottom half. They then were little cardigans or brightly coloured shawls and they finish it off with a bowler hat at a jaunty angle. Margherita did wear a hat but she always wore her hair in the obligatory plaits and she was a complete sweetheart. There was another jeep setting off at the same time as us and we would basically spend the next few days in and out of each others company, always staying at the same places but we didn't meet them properly until the first evening.

We left Tupiza and climbed in altitude as we drove along a rocky road with the Luna valley below. The landscape as it would continue to be over the come days was stunning.
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The rock formations looked prehistoric to me and a couple of dinosaurs would have finished the picture off nicely. I have to say geology never interested me at school but here I could kind of see why it grips other people. We stopped for a few photographs and a bit of a walk before continuing on.
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The group in the other 4x4 said they were scared as they drove along the narrow roads with the steep drop down but it never even crossed my mind. I had complete faith in Raphael and we just relaxed, looking at the scenery and we got to plug in my ipod which was cool.

Next up was a lunch stop in the middle of a big pampa field with grazing llamas all around us. We climbed up over a little hill for the views and also to answer mother natures call before stuffing our faces with Margherita's great cooking.
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Which was continually good and we had some of the best food we've had in South America, certainly the most nutritious. After lunch we drove on again and stopped in a tiny village where a lot the buildings were built using the very rich dirt so everything was a warm red colour.
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There was a group of kids hanging around and we managed to decipher that they wanted us to follow them to their school.
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There was one girl who was more confident than the others who quickly went and got a basketball and soon enough we were playing a game of the oldie foreigners vs the kids.
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I shall mainly blame the altitude and not our complete lack of skills for the bad show by us, Adam and I ended up playing on our own against two of the children and we were beaten very badly. One of them had a great jump shot!
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We waved goodbye to the kids and drove on to another village which we believe is where Margherita lives most of the time. She dashed off somewhere and we walked around. There were another couple of kids here but unfortunately they weren't quite as nice. Straight away they were asking for money, or Antonia's hair clip which was a bit sad. Soon enough though it was time to say goodbye to them and we were on our way to the little village where we spending our first night. Here we were shown to a room with four beds and we had a little bit of a sit down. One of the things we were all aware of was the altitude as we were now quite high up, around 4000m. We were all feeling extremely tired and I had a bit of a headache. To help combat the effects we sat down for a little snack and some tea made with cocoa leaves. It was here that we introduced ourselves to the people in the other 4x4. There was a young couple from Holland, Matheus and Anna and then a couple of girls from Finland, Anna and Anne.

After the tea and biscuits we went for a little walk around the village and found another basketball court. There were a group of older girls playing and after a bit of negotiating by Adam they let us join in. So it was Matheus, Anna, Adam and I shooting free throws which we were all pretty dismal at. When we had to go retrieve the ball we were all really out of breath after just a short run, also due to the altitude. Once we'd all managed to sink one basket we decided to call it a day so we headed back in for dinner which was great. First of all we had a really hearty vegetable soup, you don't get that many greens in South America, there is a lot of meat and carbs so this was much appreciated. When we were all stuffed to the brink we went out to have a look at the stars but could only manage it for a little while because it was so cold. The stars were lovely but I think they got better later in the night because they looked great when I made a quick sprint to the outside toilet.

As this turned into a long entry I've split it in two, so this is the end of part 1!

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 12:48 Archived in Bolivia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Andean Charm

warm people and beautiful scenery

sunny

We were on our way North towards the Bolivian border and our first stop enroute was perhaps not the best choice. The town was called Jujuy (pronounced Choo-Chooey, with the ch as in Scottish Loch) and was described in the guidebook as the starting point for some of the country's most spectacular scenery. Well I would say it is beyond Jujuy and you don't really need to stop there. We found a room right by the bus station and had a little look around the town. There was a market selling all sorts and quite a nice plaza but being a Saturday afternoon it was deserted. For dinner we found a restaurant by the market and had the most cholesterol raising meal I think I have ever consumed, mainly due to the size. Adam and I shared it but it still defeated us, which I think was probably for the best. It consisted of breaded chicken, covered in ham, and cheese with two fried eggs on top and a mountain of chips on the side. We both felt a little rotund when we headed for bed.
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The next morning we continued further north and entered the Quebrada de Humahuaca; a vast gorge of immense natural beauty, not only due to its magnitude but also the vivid colour of the rock. Our destination was the small town of Tilcara which has real charm. There is definitely a touristy vibe and considering its size the number of hostels is quite surprising. Despite this it manages to maintain a feeling of Andean authenticity without becoming a parody of itself.
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For example we enjoyed some traditional music at lunch time, including a rendition of The Sound of Silence on the pan pipes.
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Which may sound cheesy but it wasn't and when they're not being played in Mell Square or some other English city centre then the pan pipes are actually ok, that said we still didn't buy their cd at the end.

We were staying in a tiny little hostel run by a slightly dishevelled man in his late twenties who seemed to be continuously on the computer. If he'd been more communicative I would have liked to have known how he ended up running the place, as he and the town seemed like a very unlikely fit.
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Later in the day we went for a little walk to the outskirts of the town to get a better look at the surrounding landscape as the sun began to set.
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The rock faces, which are heavily indented as if with the winkles of age were transformed by the lengthening shadows. When you have been looking at beautiful surroundings all day, you begin to get used to them, obviously you still appreciate them but it is difficult to maintain a continuous sense of awe. However when the sun begins to set everything changes and you have to begin the process of soaking up beauty again. We have done that in a lot of places around the world and Tilcara was added to the list.
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The next day we had breakfast and decided we would back track a little to the town of Purmamarca, a village about 30 minutes back towards Jujuy. On the way to the catch the bus we bumped in Amber and Nico who were having breakfast. We sat down with them and chatted for a while, they had been really fortunate and met a couple of locals with a car who had driven them up, taking in all the sites in on the way. We parted ways once more but had a feeling we'd bump in to each other again later on in the day. On reaching Purmamarca we came to the conclusion that in hindsight this is where we should have spent our first night.
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Its main attraction for visitors is that it has a spectacular backdrop. This being a mountain of seven colours.
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They didn't come out too well in photographs but quite distinctly ranged from terracotta to green, with a nice burst of deep purple in the middle.
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The village itself is also very sweet; there is a plaza with a small church and lots of narrow dusty streets to wander along. We found a small cafe where we munched on some Llama filled empanadas, which are basically miniature pasties. With our tummies full we wandered back towards the bus stop and for the next two hours wished we'd been a little bit quicker.

Stupidly we didn't check the bus times back and as we watched a cloud of dust generated by a departing bus settle, we realised we had a long wait ahead of us. As we sat on the pavement and waited we saw a lot of tourists pulling up in rental cars and I tried to smile sweetly, thinking perhaps one of them might offer us a lift. Unfortunately my silent pleas went unheard and we resigned ourselves to waiting it out. Adam convinced me to walk the streets of Purmamarca once more, and we climbed a little way up one of the surrounding hills. After a while though there was nothing more to do except plonk ourselves down in the dust and wait.

Happily seated on the bus back to Tilcara we planned to get off and head straight for Pucara, a restored pre-hispanic hilltop settlement which sits just above the town. As we walked along we thought we still had a fair amount of time before it shut but once we reached the gates we were informed we had roughly twenty minutes. As we quickly began to ascend the hill we saw Amber and Nico walking leisurely down and they told us we better hurry up as they'd already been given their time warning at the top.
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Huffing and puffing (more me than Adam) we made it and there were some nice views of the town which from above looked like a little green oasis amongst the surrounding desert landscape.
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The man posted at the top told us we had to go back down after only a couple of minutes, so we didn't get much of a look around, just a couple of photos and that was it. With a whirlwind visit complete we walked back to town and were looking forward to a bit of a rest.

That evening we headed down to the same spot as the night before and watched the setting sun.
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Our time in Argentina was almost at an end as we would be heading to Bolivia the next day. Finishing our visit to the country in this land of sand, burnt orange rock, and cacti was a nice contrast to the beginning of our trip where the ground was covered in snow, ice and broken up with turquoise lakes.
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It just highlights how vast Argentina is and despite being annoyingly expensive, we both enjoyed it a lot.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 11:28 Archived in Argentina Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Feeling sleepy in Salta

traffic jams, cable cars, tuna salad and vampires

sunny
View Around We Go on LauHot10's travel map.

At the bus station after a bit of asking about, and slow repetition by various people we established that our bus to Clorinda would stop on the street outside the terminal. We went here to wait and it wasn't long before a little minibus pulled up. Thankfully it was almost empty when we got on and we managed to find spots for our bums and bags. It got quite cramped but apart from that it was an uneventful journey to the border. The bus actually only took us this far, then we had to walk across. On the Paraguayan side there were three people in the little booth at immigration and the one in the middle seemed to hold the esteemed role of passing the passport from one person to the other. I wonder how much she was getting paid.

Formalities over and we were in a taxi to Clorinda. Here we went to the Flecha Bus office and quickly, with no fuss, booked our overnight bus to Salta. We now had an hour to have some lunch which we found in a small cafe. It was actually really nice, raviolis con carne, which turned out to be cheese filled ravioli with a piece of meat on top, all covered in tomato sauce, yum.

Finally, over a month after arriving in South America those elusive front seats were ours. Unfortunately it wasn't the best bus in the world and the views weren't exactly spectacular, but it was still worth it and the leg room was much improved. It started off as a standard trip, Adam and I plugged in the trusty ipods and Amber and Nico read. We continued like this for about 2 and a half hours until we came to a complete standstill behind an extensive traffic jam.
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We remained in the same spot for around two hours, in that time the sun set and we got increasingly annoyed.
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Apparently there was some sort of protest and there was a human road block in place, which did seem kind of fitting considering we were just on the edge of a town called Resistencia. To add insult to injury they put on a terrible movie that the four of us became utterly engrossed in but then turned it off about half an hour before the end, I must find some way of seeing the end of Ring of Death. When we finally got moving they served us dinner which consisted of three ham and cheese sandwiches each. One on white bread, one on brown and one in a roll. Then they put on some Jackie Chan movie dubbed in Spanish and it was time to go to sleep.

When we woke up after the usual sporadic bus sleep we were almost in Salta. Once at the terminal we tried to catch a bus in to the centre but we needed exact change, which we didn't have so we walked. Adam and I had booked a hostal which was in a different location to where Amber and Nico intended to stay so we parted ways here. Our hostal was nice, a little out of the centre which as usual was marked by a plaza but still a good find. We had a bit of a rest after the bus before venturing out to inspect Salta more closely.

The town is surrounded by steep, forested mountains and has many elegant colonial buildings. We walked down to Plaza 9 de Julio, which had quite a European feel with plenty of people sipping coffee in the sunshine surrounded by architecturally strong buildings.
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There is a lovely cathedral and of course a fountain in the centre completes things nicely.
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There were a lot of tourists about which kind of surprised us, but then it's a very picturesque place and would certainly appeal to a lot of people. We could definitely appreciate this but I don't think Salta ever really grabbed us. Instead it acted as a little bit of an interlude for us and after discovering a shopping centre with a cinema I was happy. I really wanted to see the second Twilight movie, New Moon. Adam begrudgingly agreed, although I think secretly he quite likes it and he's even listening to the audiobooks with me, although he says it's just because it passes time on the long bus journeys. With my Twilight fix finally satisfied we went back to the hostal before heading out to the supermarket to buy a couple of tins of tuna and some salad stuff for dinner.

The next day we had a bit of a lazy start and when we finally did make it down in to town with the intention of doing some shopping, everything had closed for an incredibly long siesta. This did little to motivate us and we just walked back to the hostal via the supermarket, another salad for dinner. We were doing our best to minimise costs as Argentina continued to be expensive, not quite as bad in the north as the south but still a stretch to our limited budget.

The following morning we took advantage of the cinema again, it was really quite cheap if you went to the first showing of the day. We saw a film called The Burning Plain, directed by Guillermo Arriaga who also directed 21 Grams. Adam thought it was depressing, I agreed but enjoyed it nonetheless. The downside was part of it was in Spanish and funnily enough there weren't any English subtitles. I'm pretty sure we got the general gist though and didn't miss too much, but still I might rent it when we get home.

After the cinema we finally got around to going up the Cerro San Bernardo in a cable car. It is a very smooth operation and we had a little car all to ourselves as we climbed into the sky.
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At the top there are views out across the valley and the miniaturized city.
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There are also some really lovely flowers and water features that consist of small, man made waterfalls.
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It is a good spot to spend some time and perhaps have a nap on a bench as I saw a couple of people doing.
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We rode back down and walked towards our hostal. We tried to treat ourselves to a late lunch at a restaurant doing parrillas for two but unfortunately we were too late and it was to be a visit to the supermarket yet again.

We perhaps did not achieve all that much in Salta but when you're travelling for such an extended amount of time there are inevitably troughs in your energy and also places that you perhaps don't find so inspiring. I think these two factors collided for us in Salta, that said a lot of people like the place and it is worth a visit. We both hoped to find the next place more energising.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 11:08 Archived in Argentina Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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