Since Our Blog we spent 2 more days in La Paz, moved to a party hostel and had a really good night out with our 2 dutch friends Sophie and Mayo in a salsa bar, although turns out the dutch don´t salsa they just jump about madly and shake their bums alot- very entertaining for us. The next day they made us walk up a very very steep hill (there are lots of these in La Paz) with a hangover, horrible but we had to admit it was well worth it when we got to the top which was a panoramic view point over the whole of La Paz and the distant snow capped mountains watching the sunset. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.We also found the witchs market where we did some shopping although we chose to avoid the llama foetuses which were for sale- they apparently warded off evil spirits, we weren´t convinced.
Next stop after La Paz was a place called Rurrenbaque, in the jungle north of the capital.To reach this place we could either pay 100 pounds return for a 45 minute flight in a tiny plane or pay 8 pound for a 18 hour bus journey along what we later found out was the new road built in place of the most dangerous road in the world. We don´t think it was that much safer now having experienced it and would definately never do it again. Sophie and Mayo chose to fly but considering the length of our trip our budget definately couldnt stretch that far so we opted for the bus. This was meant to leave from La Paz at 11 in the morning 2 hours later we were still sat on the side of the road watching anything and everything being loaded onto our bus- including raw meat in polystyrene boxes, bags of grass going onto the roof( which a man had to stay on the roof to lift the electricity cables over the top of) and a stainless steel gas cooker which went on top of our bags. Eventually we set off and endured the most terrifying and uncomfortable 20 hours of our lives. The reason it took so long was due to the condition of the road- a single dirt track winding around mountain passes with 2000m drops into a canyon. Laura closed her curtain and got into her book as a distraction but her anxiety wasn´t helped by becca who everytime we turned a corner would chime ´´oh my god that was the worst one yet´´ or "woaah that was close." Thankfully we made it past through the worst bit before dark but the fun wasn´t over yet. After the tea stop we din´t get far before we got stuck in a traffic jam, our bus driver obviously didn´t have the patience for this and instead reversed backwards onto the bonnet of the car behind us- a half an hour shouting match ensued seemed that everyone wanted to get involved so there was a group of about 20 people shouting at each other in spanish. Somehow it got resolved and we set off again, we did try and get some sleep but it wasn´t particularly easy thanks to the driver putting on disco lights and deafeningly loud bolivian music videos!Things went from bad to worse when laura started to feel a bit dodgy and was soon being sick with her head out of the window- where she spent the next 5 hours. Laura and Becca have decided hannah is the worst person to be on bus journeys with as she happily slept through this crisis. Laura would have quite literally broken down if it wasn´t for becca (who decided it was a laugh or cry moment and spent an hour hysterically laughing at the situation.)
Eventually arrived in Rurrenbaque much to Lauras relief , vowing never to get on that bus again. We walked to our hostal where Sophie and Mayo had booked us into a room where we spent the next 2 days in bed getting over the experience. They did a 2 day jungle tour whilst we recovered which meant on the Monday we were all better and could do a Pampas tour together. The Pampas tour is slightly different to the jungle as it was sailing down the river surrounded by pampas grass and partly jungle rather than trekking in the jungle where you don´t get to see as much wildlife. There was a group of 8, us 5 then a english guy called Mike and a couple Will and Mariella (who was Chilean.) We were alot luckier than the Salt flat tour and there was no character like Quentin, we all got on really well which was just aswell as it turned out to be a bit of a challenge.The first day was spent crusing down the river in the sun spotting the wildlife,we saw loads of monkeys and aligators, as well as toucans, macaws, pink river dolphins (or disgusting dirty dolphins as sophie liked to call them- they weren´t exactly the prettiest of animals we have to admit.) and most excitingly a sloth!!!! We arrived at our camp to be greeted by our nice host family who looked after us really well. We were fed a huge dinner before setting out in the dark to go aligator spotting. We were more impressed by the amazing stars and hundreds of fire flys than shining a torch into the aligators eyes. Our guide also proved that he was an absolute nutter when he began taking off his shoes and socks and wading into the river to catch an aligator. Luckily he wasn´t successful but the sound of the aligator thrashing its tail amongst the reeds was enough for us. Arriving back to camp this time we were greeted by hundreds and thousands and millions of mosquitos (beccas best friends) - after attempting a game of cards we discovered that however much mossie repellant we had on of how many layers we wore these mossies were unperturbed. So we admitted defeat and retired to the only safe haven in the pampas- our mossie nets.
Just as well we had an early night because the next day was the most challenging and tiring in a longg time- Anaconda hunting! We donned our very attractive wellies and headed out into the pampas grass in search of these snakes. It didn´t take long to realise that the wellies they provided had holes in the soles leaving Laura and Hannah with soaking wet, muddy feet. Made even worse when they had to trample through a bog that was knee deep, there were some very near misses (mostly Becca) of feet getting stuck and falling over. 2 hours later we were still tramping (and being eaten alive by mosquitos) there were still no anacondas in sight. This called for a bit of girl power and we all threw a major strop - our spanish only really amounted to " no me gusta, no me gusta!!!!" (I don´t like, I don´t like) eventually our guide agreed to take us back but not before we had relocated papeleane who was a trainee guide who had managed to get himself lost amongst the grass. This experience neededa couple of hours recovery and after a much needed shower and another massive meal we headed out again to go swimming with the dolphins. This experience wasn´t quite like the one in New Zealand because it meant we had to jump into the aligator and pirhana infested waters. Laura opted out after hearing the story about the guy being eaten alive by aligators but Hannah and becca (surprisingly) dived in deciding they could take anything on after their canyon swing experience. After 5 mintues and lots of screeching however they realised they weren´t so brave after all and clambered very unelegantly back into the boat. That evening we watched the sunset and had another early night as the next morning we were up to sail down the river for sunrise. Before heading back we did a spot of pirhana fishing which becca the veggie didn´t particularly enjoy due to the questionable raw meat that we were luring them with and hannah spent the most of her time trying to save the lives of the ones that she´d managed to flick into the boat. Laura caught the biggest fish and was very proud of her pirhana until the guide informed her it was infact a sardine- slightly less exotic. The rest of our group were more successful and between us we caught a fair few pirhanas and catfish which were later served up to us complete with eyes and teeth for lunch. Fish and chips Bolivian style. We think we´ll stick with Bimbis thanks.
Got back to rurrenbaque and decided a drink was definitely in order so spent the night in the appropriately named mosquito bar. We all had a good laugh and dance but made sure we weren´t too late as we had an early flight back to La Paz in the morning (after the bus experience we all sent frantic emails to our mothers to lend the 50 quid for the flight back- there was no way we were getting the bus back).
Someone obviously didn´t like us as the next morning we woke up to turrential rain and the news that our flight had been cancelled and could be for the next week. This prompted the dutch girls to go into major organisational mode, something that scared us abit but we were very grateful for. 2 hours later we had our own private jeep booked to take us back to La Paz which was a safer and faster alternative option to the bus. We hadn´t banked on our driver bringing his 2 dogs along called Bruce ( one of the ugliest dogs ever) and Small which delighted becca who was quite happy to have spent the 50 quid on it. Becca decided that she trusted our driver oscar when he stopped to feed his cats before leaving town- he was a very nice man.
14 hours hours later we arrived in La Paz to major altitude sickness as we had come from 100m to 3750m resulting in another night of Hannah and the 2 invalids. Hannah tried to put on a brave face as Becca climbed into bed with her after she had just spent the past half an hour being sick. Laura and Becca are both eagerly awaiting the time when they have to watch Hannah drink a rehydration sachet after the number of times that Hannah has had to force them down us.
We left La Paz as soon as we could and reached Copacabana after the slightly bizarre experience of our bus having to go on a very precarious looking wooden raft to get across Lake Titicaca. Copacabana is a very tranquil little town (we are running out of adjectives to describe towns) where we spent time recovering and shopping. Probably the highlight of this town was the discovery of scrabble in a really quirky little mexican restaurant- although a word of advice is to never play with Becca who is extremely slow at choosing words. The thing to do from Copacbana is to visit the Isla Del Sol, a sacred Inca island. We had been recommended it and we did really enjoy the day although we definitely underestimated the amount of trekking that was involved. We spent 3 hours powering up hills at 4000m above sea level- no mean feat let us tell you. We left Sophie and Mayo that day as they were heading to Cusco. We´re definitely going to miss them sorting us out but we are hopefully meeting up with them later on our travels.
The next day we headed to Puno a city on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca although as usual for us, things didn´t go according to plan when it was Beccas turn to lose her entry paper, which meant we had to go through our first experience of bribing officials to allow her to leave the country. We had used up all of our Bolvian money and didn´t have any other currency apart from 6 U.S dollars that Laura had been trying to find an excuse to use since Cambodia! Luckily these worked and we were soon on our way.
Puno doesn't´have much to offer apart from being the gateway to the Uros (floating) islands. Our orginal plan was to just do a day visit to these islands but on the bus to Puno we met 2 english lads -Tom and Tony who we got on really well with and who told us about an trip that you can do where you stay with traditional families on another island. This sounded really good so we went ahead and booked it and it didn´t disappoint. The floating islands themselves were really interesting, the way of life hasn´t really changed for 700 years so it was amazing to see how simply people lived. The islands were made out of reeds which somehow stayed afloat and we also got a ride on a reed boat and even got to eat the reeds- they really like their reeds.
Next stop was Amantani Island where we spent the night and were looked after by Hosteena our host mother, who turned out to be a bit of a piss head. We didn´t arrive till 3 and since we´d been on the go since 6 we were looking forward to our lunch, this changed however when plates of what the lads kindly pointed out looked like baby moles arrived infront of us. Becca the veggie enjoyed her plate of vegtables but the same can´t be said for the other 4 who had to solider on through the baby moles which even Becca had to admit just tasted like dirt. We then walked up another massive hill to Pachamama temple at 4100m where we watched the sunset. The night the community planned what they called a "discoteque" which turned out to be a lot of skirt swishing in the village hall. After a bottle of Pisco and us getting dressed in the tradtional costumes of the locals this turned out to be a hilarious night. We got dragged around the floor by Hosteena who drank most of our Pisco and had an iron grip- we have the bruises to prove it. The fiesta concluded at the crazy hour of 11 p.m. but by this time we had drank enough alcohol to want to continue the party back at Hosteenas place by candle light. Here we introduced her to the drinking game named "chicken Goggles"which she was surprisingly good at unlike Hannah who just didn´t have a clue.
The morning after was a very rocky boatride and yet another massive hill to walk up with our hangovers on Taquille Island. Here we had a tradtional lunch of trout from the lake and had a lecture from our guide who really like to talk in a very funny english accent. After a descent of 540 steps to be precise it was back to the boat and we arrived back on the main land in time to catch our bus to Arequipa. The plan was to continue onto Pisco which is another 12 hours after Arequipa but we got our timings mixed up and ended up having to stay the night in a dodgy establishment near the bus station although this wasn´t as bad as we first thought as our room did include a TV (we watched house ellen!) which has become a luxury for us since arriving in South America- we haven´t seen a TV since Santiago.Once again we got the timings wrong and arrived in Pisco at 3 in the morning- didn´t think this would be a problem since the quide book recommended lots of places but after an hour of the taxi driver not being able to find any of them we´ve discovered that after the book was written in 2007, a massive earthquake has knocked down most of the buildings here. On the plus side we managed to find a huge room with our own bathroom and TV and so are excited to spend tonight tucked up early in bed watching films. Tomorrow we´re going to do a trip to the Ballestos Islands - known as the Peruvian equivalent to the Galapagos Islands. Then going south to Ica and then to Nazca where we plan to do sand boarding. Enjoying Peru so far although we can´t belive it´s our last country and it´s now 8 weeks till we fly home!
Hope youre all well,
Lots of love, the Girls xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx