Greetings from crazy La Paz! I´ve been in Bolivia for 5 days and its been insane. I got the bus from Cusco last Wednesday with 3 English guys I met on the Inca trail. The bus in itself was an experience. Our bus left at 10pm and we thought it was a direct bus to Copacabana....our bus arrived in Puno at 4am and we had to get off and wait in a FREEZING cold bus station until 7.30am...that was a low point of the day!! I got a "hot chocolate" to warm me up but it was just disgusting warm milk, bleurgh. The border was hassle free, we had to get off the bus in Peru, walk to Bolivia and get on again! We arrived in Copacabana about 1pm on Thursday and found a nice cheap hostel near the lake. We had some food and a walk around the town, and enjoyed some nice red wine for the first time in South America while watching the sunset from the lake. On Friday we went to Isla del Sol on the slowest boat in the world. It took 2 hours to get to the North side of the island, where we got off the boat and walked for 3 hours to the South side of the island. A nice walk with beautiful views...apart from the steep uphill bits which were Inca Trail-esque!! We set off back at about 1.30 and stopped off at the floating islands. We got back to Copacabana at about 5.30pm...the boat journey was sooo slow I think it was some kind of mental test. The highlight of the journey was when a guy climbed off the roof of the boat and managed to put his foot through the window and smash it!!
On Saturday morning we got the bus to La Paz. The bus left on time which was a nice suprise as we´d read that the buses don´t usually leave until they´re full. After a while on the bus, it stopped, and some sailors got on board and told us we had to get off and get a boat accross the lake as the road stopped (we hadn´t read about this!!). Our bus went on a shoddy looking raft thing and we got in a little boat, another hilarious South American experience. Nothing is straight forwarrd in this place!! We arrived in La Paz about 1pm and found our hostel - Adventure Brew hostel - a really cool hostel in a big old building with an on-site brewery and free beer and pancakes! We spent the afternoon unsuccessfully trying to book lots of things and then stumbled across the witches market where you can buy a bizarre range of goods including llama foetuses which are apparently meant to bring you good luck!! In the evening we went on a hostel-arranged pub crawl which was another experience, lots of crazy Bolivian bars (and my purse got nicked!!). Yesterday we just had a lazy day, and today has been the most surreal day so far - we went on an extremely corrupt tour of San Pedro prison! We went to the park outside the prison and a guy called "Kenny" came up and asked if we were looking for him...we said yes and he took us to the prison and handed us over to a rough looking woman who whisked us quickly in away from sight in to a little cell where we had to pay 250 bolivianos each. Then we got a number written on our wrists and went past the "security" (non existent) and were handed over to our "guide", a Portuguese prisoner who is in there for trying to smuggle cocaine. We then had a 2 hour tour of the prison with him and our 3 bodyguards (more prisoners). It was absolutely insane, it took me a while to feel at ease in there!! We were allowed to take photos at certain points in the prison, and we got to go in the cells and watch the prisoners playing football, having lunch etc. Very strange. We took cigarettes in for the guards, and sweets for the kids - there are lots of families living in there. We went in one of the "bigger" cells that had 3 floors to it and just 2 small beds...a guy has lived there for 30 years for murder, with his wife and 3 kids. His wife made money for them by baking cakes, which we got to sample! We were told lots of stories about the prison, including being taken down "the street of death", a dark row of cells where lots of people have been murdered! Nice! It was an amazing, although slightly scary and surreal, experience! I value my freedom now!!
So now it´s my last few hours in La Paz, tonight we´re getting a night bus to Uyuni where tomorrow we´ll start a 3 day tour of the Salt Flats before being delivered to the Chilean border on Thursday!