Hola and welcome to Bolivia!
I'm currently in the highest city in the world Potosi. 4070m above sea level and it's fresh to say the least. We just spent the weekend in the highest capital city in the world La Paz which I loved. I would have enjoyed more time there but as always life on the road continues and if I want to conquer 32 countries in a year I can no longer afford to hang about!! (And there's just 4 more to go!!)
My last entry came from Peru and as nice as the country was I was glad to leave having broken my toe, camera (but it still works) and got pickpocketed it was certainly time to move on as I felt pretty down on my luck!!
So Bolivia it was after a heavy New Years Eve in Cusco which was dampened by the fact I was pickpocketed whilst in the queue to a club. My friends bailed me out though and lent me some money so I could still purchase quite a few Caiparinhas! We left Cusco the next day at lunch and endured a very quiet truck day to Puno, a port on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The majority of the group opted for an excursion the next day which involved a home stay on one of the islands on the lake but 5 of us opted well out (it involved staying at a locals house being dressed up in the local costume and taught to dance in a community hall..for 25 dollars) or alternatively you could book a days trip on the lake and islands for 6 pounds which we naturally did. Firstly we spent a day in Puno not a lot to do apart from follow in the footsteps of Michael Palin and visit the oldest ship on Titicaca the Yavari..it was built in 1861 in the UK shipped in kit form to Africa then carried by mule and man across the Andes to reach Puno 6 years later! Anyway it's now on the lake and in need of restoration so it's open as a museum to drum up some funds, Mr Palin visited the Yavari and Puno on his full Circle tour so there's a fact as dull as it may be. ( I know Maff will appreciate it!)
So Lake Titicaca the highest navigable lake in the world was our playground the next day. Five of us left at 7am and joined some other randoms. it was good to get away from our rather large group and meet some other travellers from Berlin and Brazil. The trip started at the reed islands to visit the Uros people, crazy folk who basically live on several very small islands made entirely from reeds. The photos will illustrate it well but as I'm 4070m above seal level or even sea level the connections are very weak here so I'll upload my recent pics when we reach Argentina at the weekend...
The reeds in Uros on Lake Titcaca are replenished from above so the ground is always soft and springy it was an interesting first stop especially as we caught sight of one of the islanders pets, a nine month old condor with a huge wingspan as you'll see in the next installment of pics... The islanders use the reeds for their homes, boats handicrafts and food and appeared to be completely self sufficient..It was odd to see that they all had solar panels and tv's though.
After the floating islands we headed out into the great lake itself for a two hour journey to the next stop the Island of Taquile where they speak the local lingo of Quechua. The islanders here also maintain their lives away from the mainland and it really felt as though we were a world away. The island was only 1km wide and 7km long and all inhabitants follow quite a few strange customs..If you want to get married you can but only on the 1st of May each year...you don't need to send out invites as 3,000 of the islanders have to attend.. 25 families are 'in charge' of the island on a rotational basis and meet every Sunday to discuss any problems people may have... If you have a problem between Monday and Saturday you have to wait until Sunday for any assistance! There are 28 restaurants on the island again run on a rotational basis and the chief at the time of your visit decides where the visiting tourist group eats. The local dress reflects your social and personal status so you can tell by a certain colour or style of hat or dress as to whether or not you are available for marriage or part of the chief group etc etc! Very strange but very interesting!
We had a 3 hour journey back to Puno across the vast expanse of lake Titicaca and after a traditional lunch our whole boat fell asleep apart from El Capitan of course! All in all a great day and another culture to soak up and reflect upon. After Puno it was a fairwell to Peru and onto the border of Bolivia country number 27...We crossed without a hitch the Aussies were very excited about doing it overland but having crossed so many now on foot/in the truck I wasn't as impressed!
We had a long drive day ahead to reach the capital La Paz on Friday evening. After a quick orientation tour by Pish our tour leader we headed out for Adam's 25th birthday...Unfortunately 4 other overland trucks were already booked into the same restaurant so we had to wait two hours to eat. It was however worth the wait and with Bolivia being almost as cheap as Iran and China we ate well (well us Poms did the Aussies dollar isn't as strong!)
The next day was a free day to explore the city and Moon Valley South of La Paz an incredible lunar landscape formed by erosion that has left a series of bizarre pinaccles and canyons. At a height of 3,636m above sea level La Paz is the highest capital city in the world and we certainly felt the altitude walking up and down the streets. La Paz is one huge market, basically you can buy anything you want from any side or main street from Fridges to toilets to insoles to olive oil along with of course the usual Alpaca handicrafts! After our city tour we ended at the witches markets which are full of lotions and potions and the occasional Llama foetus, for good luck apparently...A few of us then went for lunch where I was able to watch the F.A Cup highlights on the big screen a treat for the only Pom at the table! (It looked damn cold in the UK though you poor souls)
After lunch Michelle and I strolled through the markets for what seemed like a lifetime before settling down to a glass of Vino Tinto at the Hard Rock cafe of all places. It was a suprisingly cool bar and we sat and chatted away for hours, we felt as if we could be in any bar in the world, it was cool to hang out with her as I hadn't spent much time with her before. She's travelling in Europe after this trip after working in London next Spring/Summer so I'm sure we'll be seeing more of each other in the good old UK. I met a group of Israelis in the bar so after popping back to the hotel with Michelle (she had to get up at the crack of dawn for a bike trip) I headed back out to Hard Rock to hang out with some new folk.
The next day in La Paz was posting home day (Mum one more package on it's way to you with S.American presents inside via a slow boat of course they said it would take about a month...) after this more sightseeing in what has to be my favourite city so far in South America, just wish we had more time.
After a final night out with the Israelis on Sunday it was an early leave on Monday morning to head to Potosi where I am now.. We're here for just two nights so we're leaving tomorrow for Uyuni to visit the salt flats and the best pizza house in South America...After that it's onto country number 28 'Argentina'... we'll be arriving there on Saturday and I've already booked onto a white water rafting trip now that my toe is on the mend I can begin to exercise properly again.
So adios for now I'll upload the next set of pics in Argentina at some point at the weekend. Happy Birthday again for the copious amounts of you that have birthdays in Jan, hopefully I mentioned all of you in the last blog!
Gracias for keeping in touch and see you in a few weeks from now.
Missing you all