La Paz is the first city we've been to where I've felt a little unsafe. Both hotels we stayed in were covered in posters saying not to take anything out with you except the cash you needed. Which is why unfortunately I have no photos of the crazy "witches market" where the main item on sale is dried llama foetuses in all colours and sizes! Blog spoiler here though: surprise surprise, of course nothing happened to us. We just had to keep our wits about us and it was as safe as anywhere else!!
On arrival in the city and after a short rest we were taken on a short walk to get our bearings before heading to a slice of home, the very British "Oliver's Travels" bar where we had steak and a lovely pie served to us by the Brummie owner!
The next day we were on our own, Tucan tour over :-( We had to change hotels though as it also happened to be the first day of out G Adventures tour although we weren't due to meet until the evening so had a whole day to ourselves.
Along with an Irish guy from our Tucan tour who also happened to be joining a different G Adventures tour that day, we decided to tackle the city with the aim of getting to the Moon Valley, a crazy landscape on the edge of La Paz.
After a couple of hours wandering the city, we stumbled upon the tourist office where a guy very helpfully gave us the numbers of the buses we required. Buses is La Paz however could mean anything from a full 20 seater to a transit van with a couple of benches. We managed to flag down the later, negotiated the fare system and managed to get to the Moon Valley with no issues, fully proud of ourselves.
The landscape is pretty cool and kept us occupied for an hour or so before negotiating the journey back home. We picked up another minibus on the way home, not quite so successfully this time as we were dropped off a good 45 minutes walk from where we needed to be but still, it was a bit of an adventure.
After moving our bags to our new hotel where we had an encounter with a very pushy porter who almost refused to leave our room when we didn't tip him enough, we met up with our new group. It was actually only the tour leader and 4 others as (we hadn't realised) the rest of our group had already been together for a month and we were joining them in Santa Cruz the next day. Our new tour leader was Laura from Italy, and lets just say that from the beginning we didn't have much confidence in her.... We went out to dinner with a few people from our old group and had an early night to be fresh for our new tour.
Next morning we still managed to keep everyone waiting in the bus to the airport as we were a tiny bit late. However Laura's first slip up was taking us to the wrong gate at the airport....... Flight went smoothly though, despite my new fear of flying which seems to be getting worse and worse.
We met the rest of the tour group at the airport and made our way into the town as we were only there to spend the night before taking an overnight train to the Pantanal. After Peru being a little colder than we expected, the heat felt just amazing, it was absolutely sweltering!
The next day was to be spent killing time before our overnight train which we were to meet for at 5:30. We weren't really given many options on how to spend the day, which we found a bit strange. While Santa Cruz was quite a cute town it didn't really have much to offer. We decided to spend the day wandering and then settled in for a bit of people watching on the main square (how we'd also spent the previous afternoon). We hadn't been there for long when Laura came running up to tell us that the train time had changed (??????) and the we had to be there by 2pm (it was 1!) and had we seen any of the others!! After a frantic 15 minutes hunting down the rest of the group all over town (there were 13 of us) we were back at the hotel just missing one. Laura decided that we would have to leave Claire and that she could make the journey herself by bus. We were stunned but had no other option. Just as our taxi was departing the hotel for the train station, Claire came running round the corner, thank god! I still can't believe that she could have been left to travel on her own because of the incompetence of either the tour leader or tour company!
Pete and I got separated in different taxis on the way to the train station and I was starting to get quite concerned when he didn't arrive. Suddenly an English couple approached me asking if I was travelling with Pete Flockhart. It seemed strange but I thought they must have a message from him to me. Turns out he's their travel agent and they'd seen us together earlier that day in the supermarket! Pete turned up not long after and directed them to the right platform (they were on our train), seems you can never be completely off duty! We've actually seen them around quite a bit since!
We boarded the night train to the border. It would be 12 hours and we only had some small change in our pockets but this was fine as Laura had informed us that meals would be provided, dinner and breakfast. We settled in quickly, the seats were comfy and film were playing on the TVs but we shortly found out that meals wouldn't be included!!...... So we used our last pennies to buy dinner (no breakfast for us) and settled into what was a fairly comfortable journey, at least 3 hours longer than Laura had told us (????) but other than being hungry, it wasn't too bad.......