28.06.2012 - 15.07.2012
That's it, I've decided I'm staying put in Bolivia. Not only is it the most cost-effective country to travel through in South America, it's also incredibly interesting and beautiful. We started off in Copacabana, not that famous one in Brazil, but the lesser known one on the banks of Lake Titicaca. No matter how you try, you can't get that damned Barry Manilow song out of your head though, but it's worth having Lola the showgirl running around as earworm for the amazing views you get as compensation.
Ok, one thing I have to admit to was there's no getting away from the fact we're in Bolivia during the depths of winter. So the place with the highest altitudes we've ever experienced means pretty cold nights anyway, but we're here in WINTER. My mum reminded me this morning on Skype that I was talking about chasing the sun all the way around our round the world trip, and even winter in some of the places would be warm. I was wrong. It's been bloody freezing. I hate being cold, let's just say I'm not genetically suited to it (yeah, yeah, sod the Himalayas, I've got Asian genes from nearer sea level).
So Copacabana, cold, but the hotel we stayed in had a few hours use of super hot gas heaters, which helped, as well as access to Coca tea 24 hours a day, which also helped with the altitude as well as the tea. No cocaine in the leaves though, so I'm afraid there's no funny cokehead Alia anecdotes to relay. It's a mild stimulant, but no more stronger than caffeine.
We spent a day hiking on the Isla del Sol, about 2 hours boat ride from Copacabana. That's right, I hiked. We walked for 5 hours in gorgeous scenery. In altitudes of over 4000 metres above sea level. For all of you who have known me for a while, that's a Big Deal. I can definitely tell that I'm fitter than I've ever been. Must be all the fruit, veg and eggs I'm having as a result of our vegetarian diet.
We then spent a week or so in La Paz. The conversation you end up having most often whilst in Bolivia is the altitude. I've honestly never been so interested in how high places have been before. So, La Paz is around 3900m, which is important as it means it's slightly warmer than Copa was. It also has the grandest entrance to a city I've ever had. Our bus sloped in from plateau at the top of a mountain range, and sweeped around to show La Paz in a giant valley, with buildings nestled at the bottom but also almost climbing up every curve, taking up every available space across miles and miles of land. It took my breath away.
I'm a city girl. I grew up in Manchester and loved it. I've had the time of my life living in London for the past 4 or so years. It was only right that I'd love La Paz. Pretty much anything you need you'd find someone selling it in La Paz. There's great museums, incredibly friendly people and just the right amount of hustle and bustle to make it feel alive but not overwhelming. I don't blame Dave for falling for Bolivia when he was here 12 years ago. I can't believe it took him this long to come back.
We reluctantly peeled ourselves away to have some wild west adventures in Tupiza. To go to the salt plains (Salar de Uyuni), there's the usual option of heading to Uyuni and doing a 3 day tour around the highlights of the South West circuit. We took the other option of a 4 day tour from Tupiza, ending in Uyuni, meaning we saved the Salar de Uyuni for the last day of the tour. It also meant we could spend a day in Tupiza itself, which is not far from where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid met their end. As our bus from La Paz rolled into Tupiza after 16 or so hours, we were really getting into the spirit of the wild west. Rich red hues in the mountains, sandy dirt track roads and the only plant life for miles were cacti. Pretty damn cool.
So we spent 4 days in a 4x4 jeep with another couple, travelling around the highlights of this amazing landscape. We saw Suris (Andean Ostriches), Vicunas, Llamas, Chinchillas and a few different species of Flamingos. We spent our nights in very cold, very basic hostals, having to go to sleep in every piece of clothing, sleeping bag and countless blankets to keep warm, but the days made it worthwhile. We saw volcanic hot springs, geysers, caves with ancient coral fossils and the most colourful sunrises and sunsets ever. The Salar de Uyuni is best saved for last - over 1200 square kilometres of salty desert. There is no comparison than witnessing it for yourself.
So now, we've been to Potosi, a gorgeous little town, best known for its silver mines and now we're in Sucre. After being so busy recently, we've decided to take it easy and slob out for a while, soak in the relative warmness of 2500m altitude and then possibly work our way up to to Trinidad in the Amazon jungle, before heading over to Brazil via Santa Cruz. So this is me, slobbing out. Enjoy...