Archives for category: Bolivia

With only one day left on our Bolivian visas we had to make a dash for the Chilean border. The journey here was mental. First we got the train with Tracey and Dave to Uyuni. The train guy in Tupiza was like ‘yeah sure, there’s another train tonight going to Chile at 3:30am’. So we got into Uyuni at 12pm, then waited in the cold train station till close to 3am. Then we heard that there was no train, so we headed across the town with our backpacks to try and get the bus. Found the bus it was leaving at 4am but completely sold out. Then a lovely woman in the office gave us standing room tickets and just told that we had to stand for the first 2 hours! It was agony but eventually we sat between ailes. Got to the border at 8:30am, the border was litterally a few tables in the middle of the desert with abandoned rail carriages around. The bus then dropped us in the middle of the border and then emptied out. Then we had to wait in the middle of the dessert for around 2 hours for the Chilean bus to come. They then took us through to the Chilean side where we had to empty the bus out again and do all the customs searches and passport control. Once this was over we headed to Calama another 5hour bus journey and got in at around 5 to the bus station. Then got another bus to San Pedro got in at around 7pm just over 24 hours travelling. We were wreaked.

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Last known location of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid, Tupiza is a little bit of the Wild West only not in North America. The landscape is stunning and dramatic and we headed off on horseback like Butch and Sundance. The landscape unfolded around us like a Wild west movie set and at times seemed almost fake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A quick flight and we arrived into Tarija, Bolivias wine region to sample the best of what they had to offer. Bolivias wine is very much under rated and we got our teeth into some excellent wine for some knock down prices. Even some of their most expensive wines were only costing about B$68 (€6.80) and some other great wines for as little as B$40 (€4) and this was drinking it in an expensive restaurant. We came to Tarija for Al’s birthday too and had a great night out. For the entire 3 days that we were there we ate in the same restaurant for breakfast and dinner, it was amazing food and brilliant service – not something that we were used to in bolivia!

On sunday, we headed out to the wine region to Valle de la Conception to do a little wine tasting in the local family owned Bodegas. The area was beautiful and steeped in a long history of wine production. We tried all that they had to offer, but the wines were all a little sweet for our palette.

Sucre dazzles by day and seduces by night, the capital of bolivia is small by comparison with La Paz but makes up for it with a beauty and charm that surpasses all others around it. We came into Sucre expecting another dirty city like La Paz thinking that we’d only stay a couple of nights and move on again but as usual we fell in love with the place and stayed 5 nights. We stayed at a lovely little hostel called La Dolce Vita, which was run by a lovely french couple. The place was really chilled and had a great vibe and setup.

While we were in Sucre we took in all the sights and sounds. At the same time they were celebrating the citys foundation 202 years ago. There was endless streams of processions of government workers, schoolkids, army, police and marching bands. With street fairs and outdoor concerts also on.

Check out the freaky masks at the end, which were in their folklore museum. Some of the masks are really old but you can see where the inspiration for Chewbacca from star wars came from!

From the bright lights of big city La Paz we took a taxi/bus that took around three hours cost just €2.50 to the little town of Coroico which is in the Yungas region of Bolivia. We stayed at an Eco Lodge called Sol Y Luna  it was a lovely place set up behind the village on a hill. The place had lots of different types of accommodation from your own hut to apartments to a campsite.  We just stayed in the main house that had some private rooms as it was the most economical at €4 each a night. We spent three nights there did some walking around the local area, which was quiet and sleepy. Took advantage of the deck chairs in front of the house and  chilled out with a book for most of the time drinking coffee that was grown just down the road!

Excited by the thoughts of heading to the Amazonian jungle we headed off to the airport to catch our flight. We had 2 options to get to the jungle – 1. A 45 minute flight or 2. An 18 – 28hr bus journey on some of the worst roads in Bolivia. I think it was money well spent. We got to the airport and were ushered out onto the runway to meet our 16 seated 2 propellor airplane. You couldn’t even stand up in the bloody thing! And there was no in-flight movies, the cheek of ’em! It was an amazing experience though as the small plane flew out over La Paz and was cruising along at the same height as the mountains around us. We ducked and dodged the clouds on the way over and it was amazing as we banked hard over the jungle and headed for the runway and the grass run up to the airport…

We stayed overnight in Rurrenabaque and headed to the tour company offices at 9am. We headed off in the back of another old land cruiser for a bum numbing 3hr drive. We hoped off and got on a dug out canoe for a 3hr journey on the Benni river to the Lodge. Along the way we jumped into the river to try to swim with river dolphins and we stopped to have a look at a troop of little monkeys too. After dinner that evening we lacquered up in repellent and went off to try to find some cayman (crocodiles) at night. We jumped in our little boat armed with only our torches in search of the caymans. We spotted a good few by shinning our light along the water their eyes light up in a red colour and were easily spotted. Afterwards we headed back to the Lodge and to the Hammock area, where the mosquitos feasted on us for a few hours.

The following morning we headed off in search of some Anacondas, these were not something that we really wanted to find as to be quite honest they scare the s**t outta us. Thankfully we didn’t find any – not the right time of year apparently. And it was more of a mosquito feast than a jungle walk in the end. When we got back to the boats we were bored, tired and bitten alive. Back to the lodge for some lunch and then we headed off Piranha fishing, we both would have made Pete proud with our huge specimens that we caught (see images below) We brought them back to camp where they were part of our dinner later that evening. They were tasty enough but had very little meat on them really.

The next morning was our last day and we went out to try to swim with the dolphins again, we got to this natural flooded pool that was at least 10ft deep. Our guide explained to us that during december this whole area would be bone dry and then by february the whole area would be underwater again. It made for an interesting landscape. When we came in at the start we were the only ones there but within 15mins there was another 10 boats from different lodges all trying to get close to the dolphins, it was too crowded then and this kinda spooked the dolphins and kept moving around so no one got close to them in the end. It was lovely to see them up close in their natural habitat, maybe there was no need to try and swim with them.

So we rocked into La Paz at night, to the splendor of the city lights creeping up the canyon walls all around us. The city lights blend with the night sky to create a unique sight that we have not seen before. We opted to have a bit of home comforts here and we decided to stay in the Wild Rover hostel (Irish themed and owned) where the craic was mental. This place was a full on party hostel 24/7. It was cool the first night but on the second night we were kindly awoken by a party going on in the room above and they were playing electric guitar at 8 in the morning (Oh God, we really sound old – don’t we?)

On sunday, we went to Corliocco (Womens) wrestling, this was a great laugh and was more set up and fake that the American WWE wresting. Women fought men, Women fought the referee, women fought a man dressed up as a wolf, there was fighting in the crowds, you were allowed to throw things at the wrestlers, there was florescent light bulbs being smashed on the contenders back, there was even a wooden box set alight and then someone thrown from the top ropes onto it – All in the name of a few good laughs and all done in good sport. Next day we decided to get outta there and headed to the jungle!

At the end you’ll spot one of the funniest things we saw in La Paz, at all the zebra crossings they have people dressed in zebra crossings who dance about, stop the traffic and get everyone across safely. Seems completely ridiculous but gave us a good laugh.

Arriving at our first Bolivian destination, we both were pretty tired and run down with colds etc from burning the candle at both ends. So we took it easy and rested up for two days before hitting Isla del Sol. Legend has it that Isla del Sol is where the ancient Incas created their Sun god hence the name “Island of Sun”. Isla del Sol was a 2 hour boat journey from Copacabana and in not exactly the same standard of boat that we’d have taken in Ireland. The seating in the boat was like Old School hall chairs that had been welded to the floor of the boat! The boat was powered by 2 x outboard 75hp engines (only one was ever used) which was steered from the rear too, very strange for such a large boat with over 50 passengers. Health and Safety would have you closed down at home but like many things in South America, there’s no such thing. Another strange thing about our boat trip was that it cost B$20 (about €2) for a return day trip or B$10 to go out to the island and B$30 to come back the next day!

We headed out to the island on the 1.30pm boat with all our bags including massive rucksack and front back pack. Only to find out that all the accommodation was perched on the top of around 200 Inca steps and then a very steep incline. It nearly killed us as we tried to drag all our bags up to the first hostel, where there was no shopping around. We headed off that evening to the highest point on the island to watch the sunset, it was really special from here as we could see both Bolivia and Peru from this vantage point. The next morning we got up for sunrise over the snow capped Sierra del Cordilleras of Bolivia. It was a magical start to the day and we headed off from there for a 3hr hike to the other end of the island and some Inca ruins. After seeing Machu Picchu and the splendor of the Inca city, these were somewhat disappointing but at least the hike was beautiful. We headed back through choppy waters and onwards to La Paz, the capital of Bolivia.