Okay so it's been quite a while since my last blog post but I've simply been so busy experiencing stuff so I haven't had the time (or the patience with the slow internet connection) to sit down and take some time to update you on my adventures. Sorry Mom! ;)
Anyway, my last update was about Potosi. Before Potosi I went on a trip to Uyuni, a huge salt flat (one third the size of Belgium - and guess what, Bolivia still imports its salt), and after Potosi I went to Sucre but those stories you're going to get some other time. Right now I'll just write about La Paz as I've spent two amazing weeks here and there's so much to tell.
I arrived on April 7th with Leah, an English girl I'd been travelling with in Sucre. We got to our hostal, the Loki, which is a notorious party hostal - needless to say I met a ton of people. We spent a couple days just taking a chill and exploring the markets where they sold everything from wonderfully soft alpaca sweaters to dried llama fetuses. Interesting experience. On the third day, Leah left for Copacabana and I had booked a tour to go climb the Huayna Potosi which is a 6088 meter tall mountain peak. The altitude in La Paz is around 4000 meters so going up another 2000 would be quite a challenge. I never would have imagined how hard it would be though!
It was a three-day trip and we were six people, a couple from Ireland, two guys from England, a guy from Israel (the Israelis are all over the place btw) and me. The first day we did ice climbing on a glacier which was a lot of fun, then the next day we walked around 2-3 hours only to ascend 400 meters to our upper base camp at an altitude of 5000 meters. Just walking that distance was killing me. Above 4500 meters is considered extreme altitude and I understand why. It is SO hard to breathe and just walking makes you lose your breath. At the upper base camp we had dinner at 5pm then went to bed - no one could sleep due to the lack of oxygen though. At 11pm we got up and got ready to leave at midnight. I woke up with a bad fever, a stomachache and a horrible cough and felt utterly miserable, especially when the guides told us that the weather was really bad - there was a full on blizzard going on out there - but I was determined to go out there and do my very best.
We walked out in triplets of two tourists and one guide, all tied together by a rope. It was imossible to see anything in the snow so all I focused on was breathing and moving my feet, right left right left. We walked around 5 hours and I felt like I was going to die every minute of that. Every step demanded a great deal of effort from my side and I wanted to quit a million times. Never in my life has anything been so mentally and physically exhausting as this was. We didn't get further than 5800 before we had to go back. I was so thankful when I could lay down in my sleepingbag, colder than I've ever been, but alive and very satisfied with my achievement. The next day we heard that only the two English guys had made it to the top - the rest of our gruip and all other gruips had to go back.
After this trip, I decided to take a chill in La Paz for one day before doing my next adventure: biking down the Worlds Most Dangerous Road aka the Death Road. In the past, the Death Road has caused many deaths - surprise - because 1) it is in a horrible condition as it is loose gravels with big holes or huge rocks here and there, and 2) some places it is very narrow and it is extremely curvy. Now it's closed to cars, buses etc. It is 67 km long and it takes about 4 hours to complete it. No need to say we're going really fast! I was convinced I would be the last one to finish but actually my inner dare devil took over and I was in front a great deal of the time. Once I figured out how fast I cuold go, when to break and how to turn it went really well. It's probably the funniest and most exciting thing I've ever done! And no, I did not fall over although I did almost go over the edge one time (glad that iron fence was there to save me) and drove into the cliffside a couple times. I will recommend this to ANYONE, it is absolutely a must do.
The very next day I went to El Alto aiport and took a plain to Rurrenabaque, a small town in the Bolivian amazon basin from where I was going to do two excursions: a 3-day trip to the pampas and a 2-day trip to the jungle. I am not going to go into too much detail as this blog entry is getting way too long but a little overview of what we did:
On the pampas trip we lived in little huts on sticks in the water. We had a "pet" caiman and alligator - I ended up petting the alligator, right in between its eyes. There's a thing I thought I'd never do. Whenever we didn't have program, I spent my time in the hammocks enjoying life, trying not to sweat to death in the heat. On the first day we went on a boat cruise during the day to spot some wildlife - there were pink dolphins playing everywhere, and we saw some alligators, turtles and a lot of birds. Also we saw trees filled with hundreds of little yellow monkeys. At night we went on another boat trip with flashlights to spot alligator-eyes (and the rest of the alligator of course). We saw a couple huge ones, but even just looking up at the sky with all the stars was amazing because there is no light pollution out there. At night a few beers at the jungle bar before going to bed.
The next day we took another boat trip to go to a place to hunt anacondas. Unfortunately we didn't see any but the walk itself was great. Later on we went piranha fishing. I caught NOTHING, those little b******s simply ate the meat on the hook and scattered of. Luckily our guide, Bismar, caught 4 piranhas for our dinner. There's not a lot of meat on a little fish like that but it was quite tasty, and then when you get to play with it after it really doesn't get better than that.
On the third day we only had one thing scheduled: swimming with dolphins. It was great fun! The water was so nice although very dirty and the dolphins were very playful. We didn't actually swim with them like holding onto their fins and letting them drag us, but we were in the water with them and they would nibble at our feet and sometimes let us pet them. It was so wonderful! Then we headed back to Rurrenabaque and that same night everyone who was in my gruip met up at Moskito bar and celebrated the birthday of one of the girls. It was a real jungle party!
The next day I had to get up early to take a boat to our camp in the jungle. It was way different from the pampas as the trees were taller and we actually lived on the ground and not on the water. The program here mostly consisted of walking. On the first day we did a 3 hour walk in the jungle to spot wildlife. No we didn't see a jaguar or a puma but we saw wild pigs (our guide called them carne de la gente - meat for people), howler monkeys and lots of insects. It was so humid so I was drenched in the matter of no time, and there were so many little annoying bugs - welcome to the jungle. We took another walk at night and spotted HUGE spiders everywhere. We had to pass right by one. It was no more than 50 cm from my face but only after I passed it did my guide, dear Juan, decide to tell me that it was extremely poisonous and death occured withing 24 hours of being bitten. Once again: welcome to the jungle.
The next day we went for a 4 hour walk and Juan told us about alot of the different trees - sounds boring? Well, I've now seen a viagra tree, a tree that moves, a tree that you can drink water from, a tree that can make the color red, a tree that you can drink milk from, a tree that tastes like garlic and a tree that will kill you pretty quickly if you eat its fruits or even touch its sap. Oh and I was attacked by a tree with fruits as hard as coconuts.
I just got back from the jungle yesterday and am now addicted to malaria pills, at least for the next 28 days. Yesterday was the first time I showered in 6 days. I know, gross, but you just don't get clean in the jungle and I don't like sharing my shower with cochroaches the size of my face. That shower was the best shower EVER.
This will be it for now, I apologize for the lenght of the blog post and I congratulate you if you made it through. Yaay!
Tomorrow I am making my way to Copacabana and Lake Titicaca andthen crossing the border to Peru.
Have fun and stay explordinary!