Well, it feels it has been awhile since we've written. It has been a great time so far here in Bolivia and so far have definitely liked it more than Peru. That said, I feel (similar to Peru) like we haven't really done much.
After Copacabana and La Paz, we've skipped all the way down to Sucre. We've bypassed a lot of places between here and there, coming to find that many things to do have been foiled by the rainy season.Our last adventure in La Paz, biking down the "World's Most Dangerous Road" was an amazing experience. The town of Coroico at the bottom is a pretty amazing place as well, very tropical with lush vegetation and the smell of Coca in the air. We got very lucky on the day we rode as the weather, although changing frequently, was in general sunny and nice. However, the climate changes quite a bit when changing so much elevation…starting at some 4600m and biking down nearly 3000m (x3.3 those counting in feet) to Coroico at about 1800m.
The town itself is very small and being there in the down season felt a little "dead". Regardless, very relaxing other than itching all over arms and legs at bites from the relentless "bichos" (tiny little flying bugs that seem to land and try to bury their head into your skin leaving quite a welt).Those of you that don't know, Liz isn't much of a mountain biker, and the prize for "most improved" without a doubt goes to her…I think she even had a pretty good time! Her most common response to me while we were riding was… "Quiet, I'm concentrating!" Can't blame here really, I wanted to still have a wife after we were done, and the consequences for not paying attention is a little unforgiving.
We stayed in Coroico a couple of days and ended up getting a horseback tour through the countryside and Coca fields spoiled once again by the rain, so we decided to head back to La Paz. This turned into a quite interesting travel experience, as we are coming to find is rather commonplace here in Bolivia. Because of all the rain the road conditions are constantly changing and becoming rivers instead of roads in many places. Landslides-a-plenty and in general slow and changing travel times.
On the way out of Coroico our combi (VW type van with a dozen people piled in) got stuck and added an hour to our travels out. Along the way we passed many landslides that would block the majority of the road and usually there would be just a couple of guys out there in the rain with a damn shovel…not quite effective against a whole side of a mountain that falls on the road. Just another example of how poor the economy is here.Even the "new" road out of Coroico was rife with a crumbling mountain side and retaining walls were disintegrating after just under a year the road has been open.
Upon making it back to La Paz Carnival was starting to gear up in a major way. The streets were covered with booths selling costumes, confetti, and every other way to party including "potable alcohol". This was consumable alcohol in a bottle that would remind you of rubbing alcohol that you get at a drug store. Although we were a little late in our planning, we were able to book a tour bus to Oruro the biggest Carnival celebration in Bolivia.
The festivities were amazing and filled with all kinds of culture we in the states only see parts of…like the drinking and getting rowdy. Everything else might be comparable to "Mardi-Gras", but here it is over the top.Dancers start at 7am and dance through the streets until 3 or 4 in the morning.Groups of dancers all accompanied by their marching band come from all over the countryside in all sorts of costumes, many having extremely elaborate decoration. The man and women each having different choreography and types of dances parade through the streets from one end of the city to the other.
Of course, it wouldn't be Carnival without water balloons, shaving cream and water guns!In between groups of dancers passing by the cream and water balloons would fly, more tame in the morning and getting ever more intense throughout the afternoon and developing into an all out war with each side "invading" the other by evening. However, much different than in the states didn't see any violence at all. Maybe all the water-wars and shaving cream diffuses the tension of such a large crowd?
Upon returning to La Paz Carnival was still getting ramped up for their celebrations and wearing quick-drying clothes that you don't mind getting covered in shaving cream was a must. As you all can probably imagine, being a gringo makes you slightly more of a target. However, everyone was having a good time and all was in good fun as we finally moved on from La Paz after being in that area for over a week and a half, going and coming back.
Again, the rain spoiled any plans to go to Rurrenabaque in the jungle or out to Santa Cruz which is also a long 15+ hour bus ride our east. Even flights were unreliable as they were due to constant delays and cancellations as well.So here we are in Sucre, the "white city" and judicial capital of Bolivia. Much smaller and quainter than La Paz, however, it took us a couple of days for us to warm up to it as Carnival was still going strong when we got here. The difference being a lot heavier lean towards water balloons here.
When we pulled into town early Monday morning the streets were literally filled with broken balloon remnants. Later in the day we found out why...the question was not whether you would be hit, but how many times.Balloons were flying everywhere constantly needing to look back and forth and upwards for the next attack. Most of the town was shut until this past Wednesday while everyone was still parting and waging war at passer-bys and the bands (much less organized than Oruro) roamed the streets making more and more off beat and out of tune music as the day wore on till the small hours of the next.
Here we relax and take advantage of having a communal kitchen (getting quite sick of eating out) and the nice company of other travellers in our current hostal.Soon we move on to Potosí, a huge mining area and then continue on to Chile. Our trip to the other-worldly Salar de Uyuni will have to be caught on the way back north as the rain has once again foiled our plans. We are trying to reduce the risk of being one of the travellers that has a nightmare experience there as it is quite a harsh environment.
So, here we are at month three today and we'll soon be on to our forth country within the week. Can't believe it has been that much time already, this life goes by too fast no matter what part of the world you're in! …till next time