“Are you the sort of person who can turn around when you have nothing left, and find that little bit extra inside you to keep going, or do you sag and wilt with exhaustion? It is a mental game, and it is hard to tell how people will react until they are squeezed.” ― Bear Grylls, Mud, Sweat and Tears
Wow what a ride on the bus from Rurrenabaque to La Paz.. It was meant to take 18 hours but took 24 hours. We got stuck on a few muddy sections waiting for big lines of trucks trying to get up the hills.
One place we were waiting 2 hours.. I started feeling really sick at around 6:30pm.. Not sure exactly why? I was thinking maybe it was altitude because we were climbing but I had no idea…. Feeling horrible and close to vomiting I hung my head out the window of the bus to get some fresh air.. Nothing wanted to come out though..
Finally around 1am my mouth filled with saliva and I pulled open the window to let it rain….. All over the side of the bus. Unfortunately I didn’t feel any better.. I managed to get some sleep because thankfully I had 2 seats to myself which was nice.
We stopped somewhere for breakfast in the morning. I just got myself some juice and went back to the bus.
It was a great view arriving into La Paz. Full of mountains and snow. I was happy to arrive and took a taxi to my hotel- los balcones blancos. I highly recommend this place. The owners are great people who help out with everything. I was feeling horrible so took a shower and went to bed for a little while then woke to find some food.
The second day I walked around the city an I had a look at the folklore museum which is full of pottery, clothing made from feathers, masks and artifacts. It was a really nice museum and cost 20 bolivianos. Next I made my way to the gold museum but unfortunately it was closed… I took a seat on a park bench and had a little rest. I was really feeling the altitude. I made sure I took diamox which does make a huge difference.
Once I gained some energy I made my way to the coca museum. It’s a museum with a very detailed history on coca from when it was discovered, all it’s uses etc.. I had a translated copy in English and it was quite large but a good read with many photos through the museum. The cost was 15 bolivianos.
I took a look around the artisans and bought a couple of little things including some coca lollies which are amazing!!! I really wish I could take home coca lollies, tea, liquor.. It all tastes amazing. I’m still waiting on an email from customs to see if I can bring anything home.
I have been eating at cheap restaurants for a while for lunch etc.. Usually 10 bolivianos for a soup and a main meal of rice and meat.. Very nice but the lack of vegetables I’m feeling pretty dull..
I managed to find a nice Chinese restaurant that I had a nice meal of beef an oyster sauce with fried rice.. Not really the veg I needed but it was nice an enough to feed me or two meals..
Day 3- I didn’t get up to much. Just walking around some more and was deciding wash at your company I wanted to go with for the worlds most dangerous road. I ended up at one tour agency and I saw some great photos if the mountains near by that you could climb. I can’t remember the name but it was 3 days with everything included.. I really wanted to go but was feeling pretty crap from the altitude and I didn’t think it was a good idea to go up another 2000m until I was acclimatized.
The lady suggested to go to watch Cholita wrestling that night for 70 bolivianos.. I thought why not get out an see something different. We left the city at 4pm on a bus and made our way to the top of the mountain of the city. We stopped to get some photos of the city and mountains in the distance. It was really nice. I think we drove around 45 minutes and then we entered the big tin shed where there was a fighting ring.
I got my free coke and popcorn that was part of the ticket and made my way to a seat!! It was super cold in the shed so I got on all my layers..
They show started with some guys wrestling and they were pretty entertaining.. Next up came a young Cholita and a woman dressed up as a witch. The fight was dirty but a great watch. A few more fights an extreme stunts that would put me out if I tried.. Really takes skill to perform some of these moves. Big flips and awkward falls. Wouldn’t take much for them to hurt themselves. It was a good show to see once in my life.
Day 4 -I went mountain biking down the worlds most dangerous road with Xtreme downhill. I used a dual suspension and the cost was 450 bolivianos for the day including breakfast and lunch.. Very simple but it was food..
The ride starts from the main road where you ride super fast for around 40 minutes then hop bak in the car for a hilly section. It’s very cold and it’s recommended to wear a few layers… We then arrived to the beginning of the dirt road.. We were above the clouds which was awesome but it was much warmer here so I only wore a tshirt with the jacket over the top.
I was missing a frame bolt on my bike so the guys fixed it and off we went.. Going downhill I love going as fast as I can so I was passing as many people as I could then bam!! The chain would come off.. Well this continued many times which was a little annoying because i had to stop and get the chain back on then pass people again.. The views were nice.. It’s hard to appreciate while riding though. Even if your going a little slower.
We stopped many times to get photos etc.. I have a cd with the photos but couldn’t find a computer with a CD player to load them.
The ride on the dirt went so fast! Was around 3 hours but didn’t feel like it. We arrived near the end to stop and pay the 25 boliviano park entry. I took of my pants and jacket to ride with shorts because it was really hot. We dropped from around 4700m to 1800m.
Not much further down the road my chain came off once more and was jammed nicely between the crank and bottom bracket.. It was only around 10 minutes more to go so the guide gave me his single speed bike and I finished up.
We stopped for a pretty simple lunch of rice and salad with chicken then chilled at some hostel. I wants really feeling the day and was happy to make our way on the 3 hour drive back to La Paz..
It was a beautiful ride for the views but I suggest if you have ridden a mountain bike on trails.. Go for something a little more technical. I would have preferred it.
The next day I spent looking around the city for a few gifts. Some hand made scarves etc.. There are so many stores with all of this stuff but it’s expensive and mass produced. I managed to find a nice older lady on the side of the road making some nice things. I bought a few things from her and even better she gave me a 25% discount just like that!!
I needed some new hiking boots and I managed to find a few stores that I liked on Llampu street. I am so picky I went in and out of each store to try boots on then couldn’t decide then would need to return. I finally decided on a pair of Merrell Charmeleon boots which are nice but may be half a size too small because I got the biggest.. I spent a good 3 hours walking in them on Isla Del Sol an they were nice. Gave me a bit of a blister on my toe where they bend. Hopefully that passes..
The time came for me to go an I took a 1:45pm bus to Copacabana. The ride was pretty easy and we arrived around 6pm. There were a few ladies waiting to get you to their hostels. I talked with one and she took me to the hostel puerto Alegre which was very nice with a good balcony overlooking lake titicaca for 35 bolivianos for a private room.
I made my way down to the lake to catch the last part of the sunset! It was amazing. It reminded me of being at the beach back home in Austrlia.!
I found my way to a nice looking restaurant with a soup and a main for 20 bolivianos.. Then I made my way to the hostel.. Well about 30 minutes later I went to watch a movie in bed an I felt horrible!!! I ran to the toilet and was vomiting like crazy… Finished up back to bed and 10 minutes later again!!! This time it was even worse.. Back to bed feeling slightly better I tried I sleep at around 8pm… But no I had more to expel!!! Back again for round 3!! Throwing up so hard with all the food from the day coming out my nose and causing it to bleed… This was the worst I had felt in the 7 months of travel… I was slumped on the bathroom floor against the wall just think what did this.!? Well i felt this was it.. Cleaned myself up and made my way to bed.
I managed to sleep the night and woke feeling super weak.. The señora came to knock on more sore and said it’s check out time.. I forgot to tell her I need more nights.. It was ok I just needed to change rooms. I said I was sick and she asked if I needed to go to the hospital. I said I was ok just needed some food and water. She offered to go and buy me toast and get me some coca tea!! Such a nice lady.
I spent the morning watching movies drinking hydralyte to rehydrate myself because my pee was the worst colour I have ever seen.. Later in the afternoon I went out to get some fresh air and some fruits etc.
I ate very simply or the day and slept early. Waking up early to get ready to visit Isla Del Sol.. The boat ticket was 35 Bolivianos.. Then if you visit north and south of the island there are 3 separate entrance tickets you need to buy on the Island at each point.. The north 15bob, south 10bob, middle 5bob..
Our boat set off from Copacabana at 8:30am and it was a slow trip to the north of the Island where we would start and you could walk to check out some ruins. There was beautiful beaches and this place really rim index me of Wilson’s Promontory near where I grew up with the islands popping out everywhere .
You can check out he north island for a couple of hours then get back on the boat to go to the south of the island and check it out or you can walk the 8 Km’s to the South which I opted for. I needed to prepare for a mountain climb coming up soon in Arequipa Peru. I also needed to break in my boots.. I was gutted to find all my photos with dirt spots.. It was so dusty on the walk I failed to clean my lens and I need to do a lot of work in Photoshop to clean them up.
The walk was not to difficult yet there was a lot of ups and downs, the scenery was amazing. It was great I managed to walked most of the way without seeing anyone else. You can take a tour of the island but the groups are huge so it’s much easier alone.. You don’t learn much about the island but I prefer a solo trip.
Arriving near the south I met a young girl Vanessa who was working the donkeys, she was no more then 8 year old but really sweet. She asked if I ha any Australian money to give her. I said that’s a great idea but unfortunately I don’t have any and have her a banana instead.. It wasn’t till then when I thought some small 20c coins would make great gifts because they have the platypus on them!! Too cool.. Next time I will carry some.
Making it back to the South Island I jumped on the boat for an hour trip back to Copacabana. Everyone was sleepy and falling asleep dropping their heads, including me of course.
Once we arrived I found a nice restaurant to buy some fresh trout from the lake. It was delicious.. A full trout on the plate with some chips. It’s was a little hard to eat because of all of the bones but the flavour was amazing.
I made my way back to the hostel and started watching the movie Transcendence with Johnny Depp, it’s about A.I where he is dying from radiation poisoning so he uploads his mind to a super computer. It’s a great watch but unfortunately my battery ran out so I decided to sleep and I will watch the movie later.
I woke nice and early to make my way to the bus station. I was to make my way to Puno, Peru. The cost was 30 bolivianos and the trip lasted a little over 3 hours… It was the worst trip so far!!!
So we arrived to the border of Bolivia to stamp out! I knew I had gone over my visa by a few days.. The guy behind the desk was trying to tell me it was more then one month!! He was happy and told me to see the other guy who counted the days on the calendar..
I want over my visa by 4 days so I as I pay 80 bolivianos…… Hmmm but wait!! I only had 50!! Crap what to do!? Lucky enough for me there was a nice American girl near by who was happy to give me the 30 Bolivianos. I was saved!!
I was the last one through and knew the bus would be waiting for me so I ran down the hill to enter Peru.. I lined up and one person before customs I thought I would look at my passport… Crap!! Where is my exit stamp!?? There is none.. I thought in at the desk now I will try! So he looked and said no stamp!! You need to go back..
Everyone was on the bus and I said to the driver I need to go back.. He was saying we have to go let’s go!! I said give me my bag I will find my own way.. But he insisted that I go and run…
So how does it feel to be entered into an 800m sprint that you wee not prepared for at nearly 4000m above sea level!!??
It was like being thrown into a torture chamber.. Every breath was like sucking through a straw getting a little oxygen feeling my brain say nope you need to stop or I’m going to stop you.. Quick stop then boom off again.
I tried to run through the plaza where there was a huge military show to which I got stopped very quickly and pointed in a different direction.. Crap I had to go further… I arrive back to Bolivia and said where my stamp I need it my bus is going to go!! He stamped it and of I went!!!
Running like Forest Gump only I felt like I whale trying to run on the ground… Back to Peru the line was huge!! I couldn’t speak.. My lungs wee burning.. I felt so rude but I pushed past everyone back to the guy I saw at the desk. An older couple were like what the hell!? Did you see this? Finally I could speak and tell them what happened and thy understood. Thankfully..
I made it to the bus and off we went.. I couldn’t take one breath without going into a fitful cough. It was so painful and still one day later I seem to have quite a bit if fluid on the lungs. It’s freezing at night which didn’t help.
So some advise when you cross a border. Take money… More then you need because you can always change it.. Also check that you have an exit stamp before you go to enter.
If I did this in the south if Chile when entering Argentina I would have died.. Marc and I walked 3 hours from the border if chile to Argentina because no cars came past.. Imagine if we had to do the 3 times!? Wow..
Arriving in Puno I took a taxi to my hostel Manzano b&b. Very nice and relaxing. Unfortunately the rooms are very cold because they don’t get a lot of sun. I made my way to the supermarket for supplies and some food for lunch. It was nice to see a huge supermarket where I could by anything I needed.
I relaxed in the hostel for the afternoon and met a girl from Egypt and a girl from Peru who asked if I wanted to walk the city. We went out to check out the sun set and the city. We thought we would go for something simple for dinner, hamburgers. The wait was long an the burger sucked.. Ah well..
In the morning we walked some more and went up to the condor mirador to check out the city. There’s some really nice views. The girls made their way to Arequipa and I went to see the museum Dreyer. It’s a nice small museum with a lot of pottery an weapons with 3 mommies. The cost was 15 soles and well worth the visit.
I spent my afternoon speaking to the coordinator if My Small Help in Peru http://www.mysmallhelp.org close to Cusco who are a volunteer organization who help family with special needs. The main program is to help 15 children get to and from school on the bus then help with either teaching or help families at home with building projects to make things easier for the family at home.
I will be going to Ollantaytambo to volunteer for 3 to 4 weeks. I’m really looking forward to it.
I made my way to the docks to do a short tour and visit the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. I found a guys selling tickets the the closest isalnds Uros and it was 30 Soles for 3 hours.
It was a relaxing boat ride through the reeds, which is one of the main staples for the people on the islands. As we got closer it was like going on the set of water world.. It was like a small city all made from dried reeds. We made our way onto the island and was greated by a few of the families, ariumd 5-6 families live on each island. The islands are made from a peat mosss then topped with layers of reeds. Its really something else. The families farm fish to sell and make blankets, clothing etc to sell to tourists.. They need To buy food they cannot grow like rice etx. Life seems quite relaxed for the people on the islands. You can take longer tours to some of the more remote islands of Lake Titicaca and sleep with a family for the night.
I made my way to the bus station at 2pm to go to Arequipa. I went with Cruz del Sur and the experience was a lot like taking an aeroplane. We were scanned with a metal detector and two people checked our passports. A guy walked through the bus at every stop people would get on to put the camera in your face and say your seat numner, guess its a good way for security if the bus should crash and they need to identify people. The in road service was nice with drinks, food and movies and it was nice to have a toilet again.. unlike the Bolivian buses.
When arriving to Arequipa I’m planning on climbing Mount Nevado Mismi the mountain that is the source of the amazon river.. It’s around a 3-4 day hike and with a company it’s around $400US.
I want I look around and see if there is anywhere cheaper otherwise if there is a good map I will tackle the mountain myself. We need to wait and see. Not too many people do this trip. The most popular is the Colca Canyon. I will check it out too but need I save wherever I can.
That is my final update for Bolivia. I will write up an overview soon of my 94 days in Bolivia. My highlights. Some advice. My Spendings….. Which went way way way over my budget!!
Thanks a lot Bolivia! I’m going to miss you but I will be back!!
Always remember: “You’ll never find your limits until you’ve gone too far.” ― Aron Ralston, Between a Rock and a Hard Place