The night bus from Cochabamaba to La Paz was amazing leather seats, recling chairs and most importantly a loo. I have started to dehydrate myself before all Bolivian buses because it really is torture and peeing into lunch boxes obviously isn’t something I want to make a habit of. Things started to decline fairly swiftly when I got my fairly routine car sickness. The chap next to me was fast asleep so I didn’t want to wake him. After a few hours his Mam came over with fleece blankies to tuck him (he was my age v jel!) so this was my escape point. Luckily I just made it to the loo on time where I was violently sick. When we eventually arrived at La paz terminal I realized my laptop had been robbed. Obviously I had invested in a high tech one before my trip. I was raging with myself as usually I don’t leave the bag out of my sight. I’m almost 100% sure it was the chap next to me. I am just so lucky he didn’t take anything else. I had $1000 dollars right beside the laptop, my camera, phone and passport. I have been storing my money in a first aid kid lately because I lost my purse so maybe that saved me. Naturally I was upset initially because of loosing lots of photos but looking on the bright side at least I wasn’t attacked…I’d love to give the culprit a going over with my pepper spray!!!
Things started to get worse from this point on wards. When I arrived at the fabulous Hotel Rosario Una booked for us (she didn’t arrive until the following day). I could barely walk and was violently sick en route to the hotel. The fancy hotel staff didn’t really know how to react to me. I looked homeless, dirty, sick and my backpack was covered in muck post camping expedition. It felt so strange to be in a hotel and the timing couldn’t have been better. I definitely wasn’t their typical clientele. I rang Ulster bank to try and unblock my card which has been out of action for almost 2 weeks. They started to ask me had I spend thousands of euro on washing machines, hoovers, flights to America, hotels and of course hundreds on pizza. The money situation was not looking the healthiest at this stage. They think someone may have cloned my card so it was blocked immediately. A new one is being sent to Dublin so Brian will be on the case to try and get it sent over to Bolivia.
Later in the day for good measure my phone decided it also had enough also enough and packed it in (I can’t say I blame him). My screen gradually turned completely black (even though the phone is still working ‘perfectly’). I spent the afternoon guessing where my spotify app might be and when I eventually found it obviously landed onto my Christmas playlist so that was the afternoons agenda along with regular trips to the bathroom to be sick. Reliable google was telling me my sickness was down to the altitude. La Paz is one of the highest cities in the world and you can definitely feel it. So laptopless, phoneless and moneyless all in the space of one day even for me I think that’s impressive.
Una’s visit couldn’t have come at a better time! The hotel breakfast was amazing and needless to say I got overwhelmed by the buffet element and overdid it. This is what happens when you’ve been severely slumming it for the last 4 months.
Una’s first day of holidays was spent on operation laptop. The thing in Bolivia they have themed streets so they have camping street, hairdresser street, stationary street etc…. You name it they have it. Electronic street is like a dodgier version of Moore street. It was hell trying to find a laptop. Most of the sales people would just play candy crush as you’d be asking questions. They also tried to insist that dell doesn’t have a model it’s just dell. One shop for the same laptop there was $400 in the difference. We abandoned ship that day and went back the next morning where I settled for a cheap model-less DELL. When I got back to the hotel it said the laptop was completely out of storage despite not even using it. So all and all operation laptop a massive success.
Later that day we did a city walking tour of La Paz which was amazing. La Paz is one of the most unique cities I have ever visited. One of the interesting things is Mc Donald’s opened a couple of years ago and was forced to shut down because no one wanted it. The bolivians really value fresh quality food and virtually everything is bought from the cholitas (traditional women) on the streets. There’s are no supermarkets and more importantly no Starbucks (thank god).
Another interesting fact is Bolivia’s is one of the few countries in the world with 2 different national flags (one for the indigenous people). We also visited the witches market where they sell all sorts of useful items like dead lamas, chalks, dried flowers and of course potions. The only way to become a witch is by getting struck by lightening. Only in Bolivia! The amazing thing is people actually buy this stuff. One of the most interesting places in La Paz is San Pedro prison which is situated in one of the main plazas. It is the only prison in the world where there are no guards and the prisoners manage the prison it’s like a small village. In the past tourists could do tours of the prison with a prisoner guide. I can’t recommend the book ‘Marching Powder’ enough a true story of a British drug trafficker who spend 5 years in San Pedro prison and shares all the inside stories of this crazy place.
The tour finished in a party hostel in a sky bar with fab views of the city. We each got to make our own singani sour (Bolivian’s equivalent of the piso sour and equally delish).
Una was treated to dinner in Lanze market a real eye opener to Bolivia’s rustic cuisine. $1.50 for sopa de mani and the popular Milanese. Really splashing the boat.
One of the days we took a bus to Copacabana to see Lake Titicacka the worlds largest lake. My stomach was still in ribbons from the altitude despite lashing the coca tea into me. On Una’s first Bolivian bus there was almost world war 3 as she had taken one of the senoritas seats. A perfect introduction to the Bolivias’s transport system. After a rough but beautiful road we arrived into Copacabana and dinner was their famous fried trout ( a famous delicacy in Titicaka).
We checked into our hotel at the top of the hill which was beautiful. During breakie we had the most amazing view of the lake, the lamas eating breakie and to top it off the cores were playing. Copacabana is a bit scrubby and not the nicest of places but a perfect stop over point to some of the surrounding Islands.
Una booked us into an eco lodge on Isla del Sol where we had our own little caban. We took a two hour boat to get to the island. It was absolutely stunning. The only traffic system is donkeys. The lodge was a 45 minute trek across the island but the donkeys carried our luggage. We were treated to the most incredible views and the lodge itself is probably one of the most amazing places I have ever stayed in. It’s entirely run on solar energy and everything is biodegradable. We ate dinner and breakie here and both nights we had the most amazing trout dinners (probably some of the nicest food of the trip so far). Breakie was a different level and once again I got overwhelmed. There was amazing cheeses and breads. I seized the opportunity to suss us out with sambos for lunch. It reminded me of the time me Sinead and Orla were in Greece and took robbing the buffet to a whole new level. Our daily challenge was making jumbo seized sambos at dinner. One night I got screwed by trying to wrap my sambo in the white linen table cloth! Never again! Anyway on this occasion Una’s influence made the operation more seamless.
It’s a shame you can’t visit the north of the island as of a year ago. There’s some archaeological site in the north where tourist paid to see . After a while the middle of the island got wind that there was money to be made and build a lodge also charging tourist to pass the route towards the north. Once the north heard about it they got dynamite and blew up the lodge. Since then both the centre and the north are completely closed off until they can solve their differences. Another interesting fact about Bolivia is you can legally buy dynamite! It’s such a shame and the locals depend so much on tourism for their livelihood so everyone is really a looser! We spend our days exploring Yumani (the south) there are amazing view points, eating trout, reading and soaking up the fresh air. A welcomed change from the chaos of La Paz.
I couldn’t have asked for a better way of ending the roughest start to the week. La Paz is such an interesting place and so nice to see their unique culture still alive. Unfortunately, the altitude had me in ribbons and I was sick as a dog. Delira Una got off scot free we’re milling coca tee like there’s no tomorrow. It’s so nice catching up with Una, god love here though she is having to foot the bill for absolutely until my finances get sorted.