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Bolivia

Bolivia – Expenses


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We spent 20 nights in Bolivia
The country as a whole is really cheap, beers were quite often not more than $1 and really good main meals were around $4. Doing the tours are basically a necessity to see the various things around the country and they don’t come as cheap. In most cases we selected one of the dearer companies for the various activities, but we had heard a few horror stories with the cheaper ones. All in all we were happy with every one of the companies that we used.

The accommodation that we booked outside of the tours were good, they all had Wifi and some like La Loge even had free laundry which comes in very handy! The accommodation that was part of our tours were also really good which was another positive of taking the ones that we did.

Transport included buses from La Paz -> Uyuni & Uyuni -> Sucre. Flights from Sucre to La Paz and return flights between La Paz and Rurrenabaque. There were some local taxi’s too mainly in La Paz between the airport and town

The ‘activities’ below included per person $175 for the Pampas trip, $360 for the Jungle trip, $425 for Uyuni, $245 for lake Titicaca tour, $115 for Death Road & Zip Line along with park fees and tips for the various tours. As stated, these were the upper end tours.

Values are in AUS $ which at present is on par with US $
Accommodation …………………. $ 540
Transport ……………………………. $ 565
Food …………………………………… $ 400
Activities …………………………….. $ 2887
Other…………………………………… $ 42
TOTAL ………………………………… $ 4427

Per day for 2 people …………… $221
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Bolivia Accommodation:

La Paz
La Loge (La Comedie)
Web: http://www.lacomedie-lapaz.com/en/loge
Notes: Included free wifi in the room and free laundry. The restaurant downstairs was really nice and the best place in town on trip advisor. Apartment rooms were really big with double bed as well as lounge seat that was also a double bed. The rooms had computers with internet also. Breakfast was brought up to the rooms each morning consisting of fresh bread, jams, cereal and juice. Really nice place

La Paz (second time)
El Consulado Hotel Boutique
Web: cafeelconsulado.com/hotel-boutique/
Notes: Nice hotel right near the main street and middle of town. Free wifi in the rooms and a nice restaurant attached to the hotel. Breakfast was really good. The hotel is in the converted building that was once the panama consulate so the rooms are large and show the grandeur of the buildings past.

Uyuni
Piedra Blanca Backpackers
Web: http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Piedra-Blanca-Backpackers-Hostel/Uyuni/45341
Notes: Simple backpackers but had private rooms with private bathrooms or shared bathrooms. Nice hot showers were welcome after the salt flat tour. Really cheap accommodation

Sucre
Hostal de su Merced
Web: http://www.desumerced.com/
Notes: Awesome place. Rooftop seating, old style building, big rooms, breakfast that included lemon moraine pie. Central location near the main square. Wifi available throughout the building.

Rurrenabaque
La Isla los Tucanes
Web: http://www.islatucanes.com/index.php/es/
Notes: Pool, bungalows and bar. Set a bit out of town, but was a good splurge for a night between ecolodges. The hot showers are welcome after some days out in the jungle and pampas. Wifi was only around the bar. Pick up and drop off into town and airport were free.

Bolivia Activities:

Death Road Mountain Biking
Gravity Bolivia
Web: www.gravitybolivia.com
Notes: Well maintained bikes, quality gear and good guides that we had for our group. Lots of stops and safety information. Includes a shirt and CD with pictures and video of the day within the price. We also added the zip line option on the end.

Uyuni Salt Flat tour
Ruta Verde
Web: http://www.rutaverdebolivia.com/
Notes: Organised 2 days before the tour and company fit us in on a private tour. The driver/guide was very careful and looked after his 4wd. The hotels that were included on the tour were really amazing. The food at the hotels and during lunch were good too.

Pampas Tour
Mashaquipe
Web: http://www.mashaquipe.de/english/pampas_tour.html
Notes: Camp location right on the river is basic but still nice. As its an ecolodge, showers are cool, electricity only runs until 10pm but that was all part of the experience. Our guide was very knowledgeable and very friendly.

Jungle Tour
Chalalan Ecolodge
Web: http://www.chalalan.com/
Notes: The original ecoldoge in the madidi national park. Surroundings and the camp are amazing. For an ecolodge, they are a lot nicer than you would expect. The staff at the site are very friendly and work hard to make the experience great. The guides were also very knowledgeable and sensitive to the environment. The showers were cold, but the weather was warm and muggy so it didn’t make it too bad. The only electricity was in the main building.

Lake Titicaca
America Tours
Web: http://www.america-ecotours.com/index.php
Notes: Organised as a private tour for us 4, the hostel and ecolodge as part of the tour were both really good. Boats, lunches and transport were all sorted out by our guide Joel. He also put us in contact with someone in Puno for getting out to the Uros islands (which was not part of the tour).

Posted by dbgomes 06.10.2011 20:15 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia round_the_world Comments (1)

Bolivia – Lake Titicaca

Is it an ocean, is it a sea… No it’s just a bloody big lake!!

sunny 22 °C
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Why do dogs carry a bone in their mouth… because they don’t have any pockets in their coat!!!

Our guide, Joel loved a good dad joke and he cracked out plenty of the few days we spent with him. He met us out the front of our apartment in La Paz and took us in a taxi to meet the bus for our 2hr ride to Lake Titicaca.

Lake Titicaca sits on the border between Bolivia and Peru. It is a massive freshwater lake that is fed mainly from the many glaciers of the Alto-Plano. It sits at 3811m above sea level itself and is 190km long and 80km wide. It has a surface area of 8,372km square and at its deepest point it is 281m deep. All of those numbers seem big, and when you get to the lake, it does seem like you are on the edge of a sea rather than a lake.

To save time driving all the way around the lake, we made a crossing over the thin straight at Tiquina so that we could continue onto Copacabana on the Bolivian shores of the lake. We had to hop off the bus and take a little taxi boat over the river while the bus took a transport barge. The reason for this we were told by Joel, is because a few years back, the people would stay on the bus as it crossed, however an accident happened that sent a bus and its people into the lake. None of them survived, so we were happy to be taking the safer option. Our bus made it over unscathed, and we continued onto Copacabana.

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Buses crossing at Tiquina

Copacabana is a nice little town, with the main drawcard being a nice little beach on the shore of the lake. When we first got into town we had some lunch (most of us selecting the trout option – as the lake has an abundance of trout) and then took a walk along the beach before going up to our hostel and relaxing for a few hours. The little beach was ok, although there was a bit of rubbish around and it wasn’t as nice as it looks from a distance. We were very happy with the hostel as it sat on a hill above the beach and was a great place to sit in the sun and watch over the bay.

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Approaching Copacabana on the road

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Foosball down at the beachside

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Our prime location at the Hostel

Once the afternoon wore on, we took a walk up the little mountain that is right beside Copacabana. We timed it so that we could see the sun set from the top.

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Isla del Sol – our destination in the morning

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Sharing another sunset moment :-)

In the morning we took a boat from Copacabana to the lakes biggest island, Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) on the journey there Joel told us that over recent years the level of the lake has been dropping as the glaciers in the area are receding and the rate of evaporation is faster than the refill rate. Since 2000 it has dropped by 1.5meters. Joel said that current estimates say that the surrounding glaciers will be gone in 30 yrs and the lake will then completely dry 20 years later. That’s a scary thought for the people of the area who rely on the lake for their survival. This could be something that we are seeing that will no longer be around when our children are adults!!!

We first stopped into a bay on the south of the island where we paid our fee to visit the island and climbed up 200 odd steps to a sacred spring on the island. The island is believed to be the birthplace of the Sun god in the Incan beliefs and the spring at this point is supposed to give you eternal youth. We could also see Isla de la Luna (island of the moon) from here also

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Isla De La Luna

We took the boat to the north of the island where we were starting our 5 hours trekking across the island. It was quite warm and the sun was beating down on us while we walked for an hour or so up to our first destination.

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Working the dry land on the island

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Taking the pigs to the beach for the day

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We first stopped at a sacred rock from where the sun god was born in the old beliefs before going to some Incan ruins called Chicana which are a labyrinth that people had to find their way through in order to cleanse their souls. We all managed to find our way out of the labyrinth to have lunch within the ruins.

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The sacred rock

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Inside the labyrinth of Chicana

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An Incan spot for lunch

After lunch we set off for the 3 hour walk to the south of the island where our eco-lodge was located. Shortly after setting off it was Carley’s turn to have a dose of sickness. Either from eating something at lunch or the altitude she wasn’t great and Joel decided that it would be best if he went back to the town with Leigh and Carley, while Tanya and I continue over land to pick up our belongings which were at a hotel on the way. We didn’t really like splitting up from the other guys, but we had no other way to get our stuff without Carley having to walk the entire route.

Tanya and I set off and the trail was challenging at times with the island having rolling hills going down the spine of the island. As well as some long steep inclines, the altitude also makes it hard to keep your breath. We did well and covered the track quickly getting to the hotel to pick up our gear and then arriving to the eco-lodge in just over 2 hours. Along the way we were worried about the others hoping that they were doing ok. We covered the ground quickly enough that we managed to get to the eco-lodge before the others. We were happy to see them arrive and thankfully Carley was much better than when we left her. We showered and relaxed before playing some cards and having dinner in the nice eco-lodge. The buildings were made from traditional mud bricks and roofing. They sat on the side of the island overlooking the lake and the snow capped mountains in the distance.

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The path to the South

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The destination for the others to get a boat to the south

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The view back to Copacabana

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The eco-lodge

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Views from our room

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We set the alarm for 6am to catch the sunrise in the morning. There was a bit of cloud around from a storm overnight, so after a couple of photos we went back to sleep before breakfast. We walked for another hour south to see an old Inca ruin before getting the boat back to Copacabana. At Copacabana we had some lunch and looked around the markets and church with Joel before getting on our bus to Puno in Peru. We crossed the border which was a strange exercise as we checked out of Bolivia then had to walk a couple of hundred meters to the Peruvian border building to clear the border before getting back on the bus.

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Sunrise over the Andes

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The crew back together

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Another walk

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Inca ruins

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The meat market, a little different than back home

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They let us through

On the bus ride we had front row seats on the upper deck, so we got to see lots of the countryside on the journey and stretch out nicely

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Once we got to Puno which is on the Peruvian side of the lake, we took a boat ride out to the Uros islands, which are 42 artificial islands made from reeds. A few hundred people still live on the floating islands which are a few km away from Puno. We got to an island where we were welcomed by the people living there. The first thing we noticed when we hopped off the boat was how squishy the reed islands felt. We sat down to be shown the process of how the people make their islands, what they eat and how they live. We got shown into their houses and were offered homemade items that the women make as souvenirs. Tanya and I got a tapestry that depicts the life of the Uros people. We looked around the island a bit by ourselves before getting the boat back to Puno.

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Shown how the islands are made

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Off to cook the birds

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In Puno there seemed to be a festival going on with groups of students performing dances in front of judges at the town church. We watched this for a while to pass time before getting some food and calling it a night. We had another early bus in the morning to set off to Cusco.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – I was a blown away by how massive the lake is! An eventful few days in the end, but all turned out ok in the end and we have had a few laughs since – Hey Carlz!! It really brings it home that some things like Lake Titicaca may well disappear within my own lifetime.

Tanya – Well the trout was delicious – even the 5th meal in a row :) I really liked the labyrinth ruins, even though I was the last one to find my way out of the maze to lunch. The hike was good practice for the up-coming Inca trail although my lungs were struggling with the altitude this time round. I was glad that we wouldn’t be going back down to sea level before we began the big trek. It was great to see some of the Uros islands although it was only a quick trip as we only had 2-3 hours of daylight left once we arrived in Puno and an early bus scheduled for the following day. I wonder if the islanders have holiday homes on the mainland they were good negotiators – they showed you their ‘casa’ then they started negotiating prices for their lovely goods before we could say ‘gracias’ – but they make some lovely artwork and we have a fab tapestry to take home (if I can throw something else out of my bag!).

Leigh – The shear size and beauty of Lake Titicaca is truly and impressive sight. Watching the sunset over the lake from the cliffs above Copacabana was a great way to take it all in on the first night; only to be eclipsed by the spectacular views from our hotel on Isla del Sol on the second night. Being able to squeeze a visit to Uros into our busy schedule was a great bonus, very interesting and well worth the trip.

Carley – Thank you for describing my ‘episode’ on the side of the mountain on Isla del Sol so discreetly Dan! Let’s just say it was not discreet, nor pretty, and while being unwell in the middle of nowhere and having to walk 2 hours back to a town was one of the lowest points of our trip I think, I recovered quickly and it has nonetheless entertained my lovely travel buddies for many weeks afterwards! Despite all of that, the trip was fantastic. We continue to be impressed with the quality of transport, tours, guides and accommodation in South America. Lake Titicaca was so dramatic, the sheer size of the lake complimented by the stunning views from Isla del Sol. Tan and I savoured a few hours of shopping without the boys at the local market stalls in Copacabana and came up with a few striking pieces of jewellery for bargain basement prices! I am so glad we were able to squeeze in a trip to the floating islands in Puno, a short trip, but during sunset with the most perfect light for some incredible photography.

Posted by dbgomes 06.10.2011 16:02 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia round_the_world Comments (3)

Bolivia – Pampas & Jungle

Bugging Out

sunny 33 °C
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The rivers are the roads, the only traffic is drift wood and the neighbours are monkeys, caiman and birds. This is Bolivia’s Jungle and Pampas!!!

We left La Paz to travel to Rurrenabaque up on the edge of the national park. The flight up was pretty cool as we got to have both an aisle seat and a window seat each!!! Definitely the smallest plane that I have been on! We could actually see out of the front window and it was a good experience in itself. The flight was only 30 minutes as opposed to 20 hours in a car – there was no competition! We all said that Jeffro would have been in his element on this flight, being a recreational pilot and all.

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We got from the small airport into town and to our hotel for the night. We had to wait a few hours before we could go and give our details to the tour companies, so we nestled in to the hammocks for a snooze and some light reading.

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We spent the evening in Mosquito Bar which was the place to be in town (according to the advertisements at the hotel, airport and almost everywhere else. We got there early and they didn’t serve food for a few hours, so we just got into the alcoholic beverages until they started serving food. It was actually a really good place and lots of other travellers came in over the night. We got talking to a Czech girl who was travelling by herself and taught her how to play our favourite card game over a few drinks.

The following morning started with getting picked up for a 3 hour drive out to the Pampas. The Pampas is a large expanse of wetland savannas and grassland that runs northwest of the Jungle. As it’s is the dry season the drive was very dusty and there wasn’t much to see from the gravel road. The tour company that we went with for this tour was mashaquipe. We arrived at their accommodation and it was very basic, but we knew that we were staying in an Ecolodge so that was all part of the experience. The rooms had a cold shower, bed and mosquito net. We had started to take our Malaria tables in the last couple of days ready for now, but the nets are good for keeping out all sorts of critters including malaria carrying mosquitoes.

The accommodation was right on the banks of the Yacuma River, and as we arrived in the heat of the midday sun, a swim in the river looked inviting. However our guide, Obidio, pointed out a Caiman sitting on the opposite shore. We decided instead to snooze and read in the hammocks at the back of the building – much safer.

After some lunch which was surprisingly good, we got into a canoe with Obi Wan (our new name for him) once the temperature was cooling down. We spent the next 3 hours slowly drifting down stream. We saw SO MUCH wildlife! The Pampas are the place to come to see lots of animals because with the dryer grassland, all the wildlife congregates around the rivers. So with us quietly going down stream, a lot of the animals didn’t really bother much about us. It was so tranquil and for a lot of the time we were all really silent with only the sounds of the wildlife around us.

The most common animal were the Caiman, we easily saw a hundred or so of them either sun baking on the shore, or swimming round looking really sly. There were also Capibara along the shore which are massive rodents. They are about the size of a small pig and look just like a giant guinea pig. We saw lots of birds including kingfishers and toucans, turtles all piled onto dead branches in the water and a few different types of monkeys. It was a great way to start the pampas.

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Carley was so exited that we took her to the Pampas…

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Kingfisher

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Brown Capuchin Monkey

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Capibara

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Caiman

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Sunset over the Pampas

We went straight to bed after dinner and got settled into our beds with mosquito nets. There were no glass windows in the building, just an insect screen. It was a really warm humid night so was difficult to get to sleep, but on the other hand, laying there listening to all the Pampas sounds was great. It was like listening to one of those relaxation CD’s.

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We had an early start the next day so that we could get upstream before the day got hot again. We motored upstream for a few hours seeing lots more of the animals. We saw some really friendly yellow squirrel monkeys which came close to the boat. Obi Wan told us that its because some of the other tour operators give them food. The problem is that they don’t actually need the food, and in some cases, the food will have insect repellent or sun cream from peoples hands on it, which usually kills the monkeys after a few days.

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Looks like an easy breakfast

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The main reason for going upstream was to swim with the pink river dolphins. We got there and after getting rid of a few Caiman, we jumped into the river… We did ask a couple of times that it was definitely ok, the caiman and piranha wouldn’t be a problem? The Dolphins keep all the piranha away apparently so Leigh and I braved the waters while the girls watched from the comfort of the canoe. The water was really warm and the dolphins came close at times. There were some little sardine fish that kept biting us though and they started to freak me out a bit, so I called it a day.

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Best view of a dolphin we could get on camera

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In the afternoon it was time for some fishing. We were using some raw meat, and man, the piranha were going mental for it! Before going fishing, I had been dangling my feet over the edge of the boat to cool them in the water as I thought that piranha’s going crazy was a bit of a myth. After going fishing, I didn’t put my feet in any more. Even with the meat just barely in the water, they would absolutely savage it. We lost many hooks as they ate through the line, but I landed a couple and Hansie got one too. Luckily the guides did a good job and we all had fresh piranha for dinner that night.

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We went out for a night paddle on the river to spot Caiman eyes. When you shine the torches over the river at night you get lots of reflections from the Caiman eyes. They hunt at night so there were lots of eyes staring back at us as we went along.

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In the morning we got up early again to take the boat a few hours down river to go looking for anacondas. The Anaconda stay hidden in the grassland, usually near to water pools to keep them going through the dry season. It was a baking hot day again and by the time we got down stream and off the boat it was about 10.30 and already 37 degrees with a fair bit of humidity. We walked along the track while Obi and the other guide walked in the waist high reeds and grass looking for the snakes (I was happy to be on the track just quietly!!) We were out for about 1 & ½ hours and all we could find was one dead anaconda. It was about a 1.5 meters long and was kind of interesting to see it dead actually as we have seen plenty of alive snakes before.

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I was happy to let the guides do the finding

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We left the pampas ecolodge and took another 3 hour drive back to Rurrenabaque to spend a night. We got a really nice hotel in town that had a pool and some pretty nice little condo type huts that we stayed in. Rurrenabaque itself is a nice little town, it is really sleepy and relaxed. It sits right on the edge of the Madidi National Park (jungle) and there are a few hills surrounding the town which makes it quite picturesque.

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In the morning we had a 5 hour boat ride to take up river to get to the Chalalan Ecolodge which is on the Tuichi river. Chalalan is renowned as being the original and the best ecolodge in the Jungle. Chalalan was started by a local community (San Jose de Uchupiamonas) who lived further up the river. They had an area of jungle that was going to be used for planting fruit, however some outsiders persuaded them that tourism would be a better option. To begin with, they thought that tourist would just be interested in seeing how they hunted and lived, but soon realised that more tourists were interested in conservation and seeing the wildlife in their natural habitat. The community built the chalalan lodge by themselves over the space of a year using all local resources and opened in 1998.

The boat ride was really enjoyable, and to be honest it didn’t feel like 5 hours. The river level is quite low at the moment given it is dry season, so at lots of points they boat crew were checking the water level with a stick and having to push us over some shallow sections with big wooden poles. We stopped for a short lunch break on the bank of the river which was eventful when Leigh went into the water to get the rope for the boat, but didn’t realise the water dropped off so much. We didn’t laugh too much, but he had a nice wet pair of shorts for the second half of the boat ride. There were lots of really big trees that had fallen into the river from the wet season when the river becomes really powerful and takes some big chucks out of the jungle.

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It’s all just a little too much for some people

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When we finally got up to the spot for Chalalan, we had to take a 1.7km walk through the jungle to get to the lodge - decked out in our Haviaanas from the relaxing boat trip! This was the first taste of the jungle, and it was pretty awesome. It was really thick jungle and we went by some howler monkeys which were eating fruit up in the canopy. Getting to Chalalan was like walking into a little slice of paradise. Because they used all natural materials, it fits in to the surroundings really well. There is a big lagoon that the ecolodge is built next to. It is fine to swim in the lagoon, although as the water is used for the lodge, you needed to avoid swimming with sun cream or insect spray, as this pollutes the water. The sleeping huts were really nice with polished wood inside and personal hammocks out the front.

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Our room

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Our hut – the white hammock was our room

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Our swimming pool

Our guide for the Jungle was Yad, who was a young bloke from the jungle community. Chalalan is owned by the jungle community, and all the people who work there are from the community. He had really good English and was extremely knowlegable about the jungle. He was always asking us questions to lead into telling us about something. The first thing we did after lunch was to take a short walk on one of the many paths that go into the jungle. It was really informative thanks to Yad’s information and we saw lots of insects, flowers and different trees along the way. We found a tarantula hiding in a tree and Yad got it to come out for us.

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Whats that hiding in there

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At night we had another nice dinner, before going out for a night walk in the jungle. It was a little bit worrying walking at the back of our group given that it was pitch black behind us and there were the occasional sounds. There were lots more insects out, and the best thing was seeing green reflections from the spiders eyes staring out at us from the darkness. There was a party back in the main hall at the camp where we got some traditional drink, was taught how to eat coca leaves and danced around with the traditional music being played by the staff. Getting into bed, the rooms again had no glass windows, and the sound of the jungle while falling asleep was a really memorable experience. All in all a great first day in the jungle!

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The following morning we set out for a 5 hour hike through the jungle. We ended up doing a complete loop of the lake. We started out coming across 2 groups of howler monkeys which were making a fair bit of noise arguing over some territory. Just walking through the jungle was a really good experience, the cycle of life and death was all around us. Everywhere you look there was decaying vegetation, but out of all of this there was plant and animal life emerging. We came across some wild pigs, plenty more insects and butterflies, flowers, mushrooms and all kinds of trees.

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Yad took us on a canoe around the lake in the afternoon with the highlight being when a big group of around 100 yellow squirrel monkeys and brown capuchin monkeys were moving location at the lakes edge where we sat in our boat! I had a shower before leaving so that I could have a swim in the lagoon. I jumped in a few hundred meters from the jetty and swam back. It was beautiful especially because the water was so warm!

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At the end of the evening we went back out on the boat after dark. We spotted a few caiman eyes on the lake. The sky was so clear I even spotted a few shooting stars. We treated Yad to the boat ride to make a change for him, he enjoyed sitting at the front of the boat looking out for wildlife while the 4 of us did the paddling.

In the morning it was time to say goodbye to Chalalan. Going downstream back to Rurrenabaque took half the time as coming up took. When we got into town, we were told that our flight that evening wouldn’t be leaving as there were protests in La Paz and so the airline couldn’t get any fuel. It wasn’t going to mess up our plans too much and we had heard that this is the kind of thing to expect in Bolivia, so we went back the hotel we stayed at before and booked in for the night. After being there for an hour and just about to email our La Paz accommodation we were told that the airline had got hold of some fuel, so we would be leaving on time in 4 hours time. The hotel said they would still be charging us half the cost of the room, so we thought we may as well make the most of it so we all had showers before checking back out. We dropped off some washing for a 2 hour express clean as we were getting low on clothes. They weren’t quite dry when we picked them up but at least they were clean.

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We took the short plane ride back to La Paz and spent a night drying out clothes and catching up on the internet jobs before calling it a night.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – The Jungle and Pampas were both awesome in different ways. The pampas has so much wildlife there to see so easily, and the Jungle has the appeal of being so far away from everything. Chalalan was amazing, and its easy to see why it’s the best ecolodge there is, definitely recommend paying the extra for the experience. The food at both places was a lot better than I expected. I will remember lying in bed listening to the many sounds of the jungle for a long time to come!

Carley – I was blown away by the jungle and pampas tours. The amount of wildlife that we saw swimming, crawling, flying, swinging by, and often only centimetres away, was both fascinating and terrifying! I will never forget the giant black caiman eyes slipping quietly under water as our boat, and my fingers on the edge of the boat, glided by! I am not a huge fan of bugs and am pleased to say that the high deet insect repellent and keeping as much skin covered as possible, works a treat – no insect bites for me! One of my most memorable moments was in the early evening the four of us sitting by the lagoon in Chalalan, in itself one of the most tranquil places I’ve ever come across, and a tribe of yellow squirrel monkeys came flying across the treetops, rustling through the leaves in typical acrobatic monkey fashion, there was so many of them, with the most cute curious faces. I had to keep reminding myself that this was no zoo, this was real life in the jungle.

Tanya – We did the Pampas tour first and it was as if the wildlife came to see us cruising down the river. In the middle of the vast grasslands, the river was the only place for miles with any luscious vegetation so there was so much to see from the comfort of the boat, I cant believe how many cayman there were – and to see their eyes shining back at us from the boat at night was amazing. Seeing fireflies was cool too – I almost thought I was imagining them! And seeing tarantulas in the jungle and all the monkeys and toucans, and snakes, and butterflies… – the whole Pampas and Jungle trips were such a treat!! Carley – you forgot to mention pants tucked into socks too :p

Hansie – It was great we had the chance to be able to do both the Pampas and Jungle tours as they both had so much to offer and in very different ways. I loved the ease at which we could see the wildlife in the Pampas, cruising down the river in a boat and being able to spot caiman, monkeys, birds, capybara etc from the comfort of my chair was fantastic. However being immersed in thick rainforest on our jungle tour really was something else. While the wildlife was often harder to search out, our efforts were always rewarded. The lake in front of the Chalalan lodge was also something out of a National Geographic magazine. Another amazing trip with the crew.

Posted by dbgomes 25.09.2011 21:16 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia round_the_world Comments (4)

Bolivia – Sucre

The sweet taste of Bolivia

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Are we back in Europe? That’s the impression we got from Sucre. We got a morning bus out of Uyuni and after nine hours we travelled over some impressive countryside with big canyons and dry scenery all around. We passed through Potosi which is supposedly the highest city in the world, before getting into Sucre in the evening. There were two Swiss girls on our bus who hadn’t booked any accommodation, so they came with us to find our place.

We got to the hostel and were very happy with the place. It had so much character and was an old family house that had a big open courtyard In the middle and a roof terrace. We went down the road and had some dinner with the Swiss girls. The food was good and all very cheap.

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For our 1 full day in Sucre we decided to just walk around and see the city. We headed for a convent up on a hill that overlooks the city. It did have some good views, but we were all quite happy to be somewhere that wasn’t so cold after spending the last few days in high altitude places. We sat up at a café on the hill soaking in the warmth and enjoying the views with some beverages.

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After that we went for a walk to find somewhere for Leigh and I to get our haircuts. We thought it might be an interesting experience as our Spanish is not so great. After eventually finding somewhere I asked for a ‘numero dos (while pointing to my sides) y medio (pointing to my top)’. The haircut only cost us $2 Aussie dollars and the guys did a pretty good job.

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We walked around town a little longer and then decided to get some beers and wine to take up to the roof terrace at our hostel. The afternoon was great and we played some cards watching the sun setting before heading to another great restaurant down the road. We worked out that for about $10 aussie dollars we had enjoyed a massive meal and around 5 very boozy cocktails each!!!

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The following morning was out to the airport for another short plane ride back up to La Paz for another night before flying up to the jungle. This was our last night with Jeffro too. We went out for a meal, which again was fantastic, but unfortunately Jeffro was feeling really bad from something over the past few days.

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The AeroSur planes are all painted as different animals, the Croc was ours today

Jeffro left on his early morning flight and we got out to the airport later to take our flight north. It was really strange with Jeffro not being with us anymore. Over the last 2 weeks it was great being the 5 of us sharing the experiences and laughs. Also Jeff was our best Spanish speaker, so we will definitely miss him even more from now on!!

FINAL THOUGHTS
Jeffro – I instantly fell in love with Sucre – the city has a very Mediterranean feel with it’s whitewashed buildings and terracotta rooftops …a pleasant change from the bustling La Paz and the almost ghost-town like Uyuni. A cheap place to relax after the Salar tour….couldn’t believe that a huge meal with many drinks worked out to around A$10 per person. Definitely placing this one on my “would visit again” list.

Daniel – Yep, Sucre was great. Relaxing, beautiful buildings, great hostel, warmer weather and great nights out. Sad to see Jeffro leave, he so should have quit work too come travelling with us! The famous 5 are now down to the fantastic 4! Credit for a lot of the photos over these few posts has to go to Jeff and Carley too!

Carley – Dan forgot to mention that the hostel served lemon meringue pie for breakfast – winner! Sucre was really pretty, a major city but much quieter in terms of people and traffic, than La Paz. It’s layout, architecture and sights did remind me more of the cities you see travelling through Europe and I think that gave us a bit of home comfort. The scenery on another long bumpy bus ride was again pretty spectacular, and a break in the sunshine after chilly Salar de Uyuni was most welcome.

Tanya – Glad we managed to fit in a good night out while Jeffro was still on board (sorry to see you not so well on the last night Jeffro). Id call Sucre the pretty city of Bolivia. It was a lovely place to relax and wind down after the salt lakes.

Leigh – Sucre was as if a bit of the Mediterranean had landed in Bolivia. Lovely buildings, sunshine and cheap food and drinks, a great place to take it easy and after the ruggedness of the Salt Plains. Definitely worth the 12 hour bus ride from Uyuni and not as bumpy as expected.

Posted by dbgomes 20.09.2011 18:20 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia round_the_world Comments (1)

Bolivia – Salar de Uyuni

Can I get some more salt on this please?

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We did some proper South American travel finally, and what an experience it was! The overnight bus from La Paz to Uyuni leaves La Paz at 9pm and takes 10 hours. We booked on a Todo Tourismo bus which are the best ones you can take in Bolivia. They do have a good recline on their seats, they serve airline style food for dinner and breakfast. The journey started off with Jeffro sitting next to a really annoying bloke, he was just a pretty average human being. He kept poking the bus attendant, swearing at him lots and not trying to speak a word of Spanish but expecting him to understand his complaining. He was an embarrassment to all travellers!

Starting the bus ride was fine on the tarmac roads from La Paz, but at about 3am we hit the gravel roads. The bus maintained some serious speed on these roads and at times seemed to get airborne and really roll from side to side. I managed to sleep for a fair bit of the journey, even on the incredibly bumpy gravel, it was like being in a massage chair, but lots of other people didn’t get a wink of sleep from that point.

Getting into Uyuni at 7am though, we were pretty knackered, and we had to wait a few hours before our tour started at 10am. Uyuni is a town in the south of Bolivia, which seems to exist solely for the conveyor belt of tourist coming through to get onto the salt plain. There wasn’t much to see or do, so we got some breakfast in a place that wasn’t flash just to pass the few hours. We got back to the Routa Verde tour office and loaded up our 4wd with our bags and set off.

We picked Routa Verde as we had read that there are many dodgy operators out there with poorly maintained vehicles, lack of supplies and dangerous driving. Routa Verde generally had the opposite things said about them. Our Driver was Valerio who was local to Uyuni, had a 90’s Lexus land cruiser and spoke very little English. We had considered paying extra for an English guide, but some other people we spoke with said it probably wasn’t needed and it would be another person in the car with us which would make it even more cramped with the 5 of us plus the driver. As it turned out between all of us we could make out most of what he was saying in Spanish over the journey and it was fun to try and improve our Spanish. Valerio was good also because he spoke really slowly to help us understand.

Valerio drove us out to the train cemetery first where trains come to die. It was actually pretty interesting to climb all through the rusting steam locomotives and seeing the heat exchangers and internal workings of the trains.

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We then went onto a salt processing town just north of Uyuni, Colchani. There are 10 billion tons of salt in the Salar so its no surprise that Salt is the number one export for the country. The man there explained in Spanish that the whole process of digging the salt, drying it, treating it and then bagging it up is all manual. He gave us a demonstration from the pile of salt in his premises and gave us a couple of bags to take home and try.

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We then got onto the Salar itself and stopped at the salt farms and some natural springs for some pictures. The Salar de Uyuni sits at 3653m altitude and is the remnants of an ancient sea that dried up leaving all the salt in the basin of the sea. At its thickest point the salt is 10 meters deep and covers an area of 10,582sq km. In other words, its freaking massive!!

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Salt ready to be processed

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Natural springs in the salt

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Its not until we actually started to drive from the west coast to Isla de Pescado in the centre that we got an appreciation for the size of the salt flats. It was 63km to get to the island and in the middle of the drive the view of bright white salt all around us was really awe inspiring. We stopped at a really flat area where we got out and took all of our photographs. With the flat salt and horizon, you can do lots of cool looking photos where you play around with the perspective. It’s almost compulsory to do these types of shots, and here were our first attempts.

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At Isla de Pescado, we got to walk around for 40mins and check out the small island. It is completely covered in ancient coral and cactus. It was really crazy to be walking over all the coral covered rocks thinking that when there was a sea here, the entire island was under water and would have been so colourful with the coral and fish. Quite a contrast to how it looks now. We had lunch on the island before hopping into the 4wd and heading to the northern shore of the lake to Tahua which sits at the base of Volcano Tunupa.

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The hotel at Tahua is made out of salt and was an interesting place to stay at. It was really nice, but absolutely everything was made from salt, even the chairs and tables. We had a good dinner and Valerio joined us to eat so it was good to practice some more Spanish with him.

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The following morning it was an early start to get back onto the salt. We drove from the northern shore to the southern shore. We stopped again to try some more perspective photos and got these ones

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We eventually drove off the salt lake and onto rocky sandy earth. We stopped into a place called San Juan and got out to look at an Archaeological site. Valerio didn’t tell us much, just to meet him back over in the town for some lunch. We kind of wondered into the site and saw these large rocky mounds that had little openings in them. I climbed up the first one and absolutely crapped myself. Starting back at me was this…

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There were lots of these mounds around and once you knew what was in them, it wasn’t so bad to look in, but that first one did freak me out a bit! We spend a little while looking in them to see pottery, bones and complete skeletons with clothing in some of them.

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After some lunch we got back in the 4wd and continued south. The further we went the more dramatic the landscape became. At times it felt like we were on Mars with red sand and rock everywhere and absolutely no sign of vegetation at all. We crossed the train tracks that run to Chile just before a train came along so Valerio stopped for us to get a picture of the passing train. We passed countless volcanoes including some that are active and were peacefully just smoking away.

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Because of the altitude, at times it was bloody freezing, especially when the wind picked up. The drive went on and on as we passed by some lakes that had ‘Mucho Flamenco’s’ as Valerio would constantly say. The flamingos were really bright pink and enjoyed just walking along eating whatever it is that they eat. We topped out at 4600m along the road and there was a fair bit of ice around at points. It is quite strange and the sun can be really strong, but because of the altitude, the air is really dry and cool. We were constantly taking our jackets and jumpers off in the car but putting it all on again when we got out to see something.

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The hotel that we stayed at this night was at 4400m and for starters as soon at the sun went down it was incredibly cold. We sat in the restaurant for dinner trying to get warm from the little fire that they had going. The hotel had some snow around it and it would have easily dropped to something like -15 that night. Luckily the hotels all had lots of fleecy blankets on the beds and they were nice and warm. At both of the hotels the water was only hot at night, so we were straight into the showers as soon as we got in

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The view from our hotel room

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The final morning we left the volcano hotel at a god awful hour in the morning as we had a long day ahead of ourselves. We first stopped at some rocks that had been worn away with the desert winds, before driving on to some lakes of varying colours and then onto some geysers high in the mountains. We got above 4800m at this point and could really feel the altitude.

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Geysers in the mountains

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We got to some hot springs at the side of another lake around mid day. It was still very cold outside, but Jeffro and I got up the courage to brave the cold air. It was a good choice as the springs were super warm and a good relax for 15 mins.

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The driving for this day went on and on, but the views were always changing and the vastness of the area was awesome! We passed more lakes and mountains, and towards the end of the day we went through the valley of rocks with impressive columns of limestone rock exposed by the elements among the sand.

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Our group including Valerio

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Matching the lake colour

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We did have a few car troubles on the final day. It all just seemed bad luck. First off the car cut out a couple of times after we hit the undercarriage on a rocky part, but Valerio managed to fix this with redoing a bit of the cars wiring. Then we gave our spare tire to another vehicle which had already had two flats. As you would expect, it would be after this that we actually got a flat tyre!! Valerio kept calling into towns on the way back to Uyuni to pump up the tire. And on the final stretch of road a rock flicked up and must have taken a direct hit on the exhaust as it immediately went really loud. Valerio had a look under the car and said that there was a big hole in it. At least all of this happened on the final day and was simply bad luck.

We got back into town, had a nice hot shower in our hostel, ate at an average place in town and called it an early night after such a long day. Another bus ride was in store for the following morning.

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The last views from the epic days of driving around Salar de Uyuni

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – The Salar was pretty awesome, I’ve never been somewhere so flat (and that includes Norfolk ) where the horizon on all sides sinks away to hide the mountains. Had lots of fun with the photo taking with all 5 of us. The hotels were cool and unlike any other place we are likely to stay in again. Routa Verde were a good company to do it through and Valerio was a great driver!

Tanya – Llama, llama - mucho llama! I was quite surprised at how much sightseeing was involved on this trip. I knew we’d get to have fun taking pictures on the salt flats – and wish we spent more time doing this in the 1 warm hour we managed to find. Although there was a lot of driving the scenery was constantly changing and there was so much to see! Valerio was a great guide and he took great care of his car and it was just unlucky that we had a few minor issues on the last day. Fab time!!

Jeffro – After the bone shaking overnight ride down from La Paz to Uyuni I was surprised to have any teeth left. The 3 day guided tour of the Salar was amazing and it is easy to see why it is high on so many travellers agenda. Electing to not have an English speaking guide was a good decision, and one of the highlights for me was attempting to communicate with Valerio the driver in dodgy dodgy Spanish. The Salar and surrounding region is an other-wordly experience that all South American travellers should not miss!

Hansie – Definitely a must do and all Bolivian adventures, the Salar de Uyuni did not disappoint. The blue skies, pure white salt lakes and vast rugged landscapes had me staring out the car windows with fascination each day. Not a one trick pony this Salay de Uyuni, we moved from the salt lakes of day one to continually changing landscapes of brightly coloured lagoons, hot springs, volcanoes, and my personal favourite, mucho flamencos.

Carley – Massage chair, Dan?! We spent a looong time on very bumpy roads on buses and in the 4WD these past few days, so it’s nice to stretch our legs and walk around a town again. That said, the scenery of Salar de Uyuni was absolutely amazing and it really is the only way to get to see these sights. I actually didn’t realise I would also be seeing active volcanos, colourful lagoons, and so many cactus, llamas and flamingos on this tour! As the others have said, we were again pleased with our choice of tour company - an excellent driver who was also a pretty good chef and knowledgeable tour guide, who also gave us a great opportunity to practice our very average Spanish. Spending that little bit extra for the hotels with hot water, warm blankets and heating was very worthwhile.

Posted by dbgomes 17.09.2011 17:37 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia round_the_world Comments (1)

Bolivia – La Paz

Lots of fun at High altitude

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La Paz is dizzying in every aspect. Its well known as the highest capital city in the world, but the city is also pretty frenetic with cars and people around everywhere! Our arrival into La Paz was done through another drawn out series of transfers. We left New York really early in the morning and flew through Bogota in Columbia through to Lima. We decided to sleep in another airport as the time to go into town and then come back in the morning was not worth the hassle. This time it was Lima airport and luckily we managed to check our bags through early so that we could get through to the departure lounge where there were some bench seats that we could sleep on. The following morning we took an early morning flight with the Bolivian Football Team (who had played Peru in a South American qualifier match the night before) through to Santa Cruz and connecting through to La Paz. Our carbon footprint from this trip already is looking pretty scary!

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The Bolivian football team

When you land at the international airport in La Paz (highest international airport in the world) you land on the AltiPlano, which sits at 4061m above sea level. We had some great views coming over the Andes to land at the airport. We got a taxi from the airport and once you drop down from the AltiPlano, La Paz city sits in a large canyon with the buildings stretching up both sides. It is a pretty impressive view to welcome you to the city.

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We were definitely looking forward to getting here to La Paz because we were meeting up with friends to spend a few weeks travelling with. Leigh and Carley are doing three months through North, Central and South America and will be with us up until we complete the Inca Trail in 3 weeks time. Jeff was also meeting us here on a few weeks off from work. We have done many awesome trips with the three of them back in Europe and were looking forward to more good memories to be made here in South America.

Tanya and I were first to arrive at our nice little apartment in downtown La Paz. We had a few hours to kill before Jeff got in, so we started to get a few things done on the Wifi. After a couple of hours though, I started to feel the effects of the dreaded altitude sickness. I came over really light headed, had a cracking headache and started to feel a bit nauseous. We walked down the road to get some take away pizza and I was hoping that the fresh air and food would help but I still felt really bad. I decided to get to bed early as the advice says to get plenty of rest. We had come from Lima which is basically at sea level, so feeling the effects should not have been a surprise. I ended up getting into bed really early to sleep off the altitude sickness. I got up once Jeff got to the apartment and felt a little better while we were catching up on the events of the last 3 months since we had seen him. We didn’t stay up too long and I was a little worried how well I was going to fare with the altitude given the way I felt that afternoon. All I can describe it as is like having a hangover from a big night - headache, little fragile in the stomach, room still spinning ever so slightly.

The following morning we relaxed in the apartment for a few hours and looked into a few things for the next couple of weeks. The sleep had cured my altitude sickness, but we all started to get onto the coca tea (made from the same coca leaf that makes cocaine) that morning to help keep us feeling good. We then headed out to see what La Paz had to offer. Luckily for us, today (Sunday 4th September) was national pedestrian day. Very few cars were allowed in the city centre and there were lots of stalls, markets and entertainment set up along the Prado, which is the main street through the city. We enjoyed seeing all the activity going on, however we walked a fair distance and most of it was up hill, so at that altitude, it is tough going. I felt pretty reasonable, however Jeff had the altitude sickness kick in pretty strongly and Tanya was not feeling 100% either. After a couple of hours walking around, we got back to the apartment and spent the rest of the afternoon drinking coca tea and relaxing so that we were all acclimatised to the altitude.

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Our cool apartment

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Pedestrian Day

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Typical dress style in Bolivia

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Painting the road while no cars are around

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Leigh and Carley arrived in the early hours of the morning so we met them after another nice lay in. After another quick catchup on whats been going on since we last saw them, all 5 of us headed out to get a few things booked in La Paz. The first thing we got done was visit a travel agent to help us fit in our tours of Uyuni Salt Flats, Jungle and Pampas and Lake Titicaca. We had looked into this stuff back in England, but it was hard to fit it all in and get flights and transport sorted. A lot of information says that it is easier to book once in Bolivia, and as it turned out the lady was very helpful and we managed to get everything booked in for the next few weeks with her (except Uyuni Salt Flats as we had a company in mind already for this).

The next task for the day was just as important! The next day was Leighs 30th birthday, so we had decided to cycle ‘The Worlds Most Dangerous Road’ to celebrate. Its basically a downhill mountain bike ride that goes from 4700m to 1100m altitude over about 69km. We booked with Gravity Bolivia as they had the best reputation from what we had seen. Tanya, Leigh, Jeffro and I booked on for the ride and Carley booked to come along in the bus and be our official photographer.

We passed some time walking around the streets before going back to the apartment to get ready for Leigh’s birthday dinner in the restaurant below the apartment (La Comadie - best restaurant in town according to online reviews). The dinner was great, I even went for Llama as my main course (got to try the local dishes). We were all really full thanks to a free desert from the chef after we sung happy birthday.

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Birthday cheers

It was an early start to meet at a local coffee shop for our day of riding the Worlds Most Dangerous Road (WMDR). We took a couple of mini busses up to La Cumbre at 4700m to get acquainted with our bikes. There were around 12 of us including us 4 in our group as well as another similar size Gravity Bolivia (GB) group and some smaller groups from other operators. The bikes were pretty beastly with hydraulic disk brakes and big shock absorbers. GB make it well publicised that they are not the cheapest company out there, but they promise that every bike is serviced with official parts after every ride and their bikes are top line bikes that will get you down the road without failure. Given that this road has had 18 bike deaths since 1998 (the last being a Japanese girl in June whose breaks failed after going with a cheaper company) we were happy to be paying a bit more for the added safety.

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So after a quick offering to pacho mama (Inca’s earth god) we set off on the tarmac road. Although we share the road with public vehicles there weren’t too many and then the ones that were on it were generally slow busses and trucks. The first 20km were all downhill on this new road and so we were basically getting into speed tucks to go as fast as we could down this relatively safe part of the road. The biggest annoyance was the incredibly smoky busses whenever they went past. You were already struggling with the thin air, and a good dose of bus smoke was not helpful. It was some good fun but a little taster of an off-road section made we look forward to more of that.

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A drink to Pacho Mama

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The tarmac road winding down the slope

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Before we got to the actual WMDR, there was 8km of flat and uphill road that we could either ride up or get the bus to take us. I felt like I had to do it on the bike – taking the good with the bad. At 4000m it was pretty much self inflicted torture. By the time we got up heartbreak hill at the end of the section, my lungs were on fire! The facial expressions on the photos below tell the story! After a rest at heartbreak hill, we were back onto the bikes for a short flat section then we turned onto the old road. We stopped here for lunch and got a rundown of the way to ride the next 45km of gravel and 600m sheer cliffs.

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The faces say it all

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So this is known at the worlds most dangerous road as up until 2006 it was the only road between La Paz and Coroico,. Built in the 30’s it goes over extremely mountainous terrain and at many points is not wide enough for 2 vehicles to pass. At this time there were on average 200 to 300 deaths per year on the road. Due to this number, it was given the name of the Worlds Most Dangerous Road by a Inter-American Development Bank report into third world areas that require funding. With the completion of the new road, very little traffic takes this road now, albeit for a few tourist cars. Along much of the road there are sheer drops of between 100 to 600 meters which have claimed busloads of people many times when it was in use.

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This is why its known as the WMDR

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The start of our ride on the actual WMDR was helped by the fact that there was a lot of cloud in the valley, which meant the stunning views were not distracting our attention from the road. It was pretty awesome fun though and we got some good long rides before stopping and regrouping again. Even once we dropped below where the cloud was, it was surprising how focused on the track you were. Many times one of us would say did the others see something on the last section but everyone was oblivious to it.

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Hansie broken down

We stopped about 15 times down the road to regroup and listen to stories of accidents (both car and mountain bike) that had happened at the particular points and to take in the awesome scenery. There was only one incident on the whole journey. Luckily it was the other Gravity group, rather than one of us. We were cruising through a section about 2/3 of the way down and our guide had mentioned at the last stop that it was in the coming couple of sections where 80% of the non fatal accidents happen. Not because its difficult, but people start to get over confident. I came around a corner to see Leigh coming to a stop behind our lead guide who was attending to a bloke on the side of the road. Us three were the first there, so Leigh and I recovered the blokes bike which was a couple of meters off the road. Luckily this section of the road was not on a steep cliff area. The guy lifted his head from the road with a grunt and had smashed up his face pretty good. The rest of our group came in and stopped while he was attended to before getting on our bus and taken back to hospital in La Paz. Our guide said he saw it happen in front of him. The guy had panicked as he was going to the edge, grabbed the breaks hard and gone over the handlebars and face planted the track. We were warned at the start that these breaks are probably the best breaks we would have used, and if you were too hard on them you will have the most common accident which is flying over the handlebars.

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Success without injury

So after the fun and incidents, we ended up in Yolosa where the road finishes. All 5 of us had booked onto the zip line here, so we changed out of the bike gear, put on a harness and hopped on the back of a truck to take us up to the zip lines. There were 3 lines, which were all really long. The longest was 500m and zipping over the valleys was an awesome sight. After the zip lining we were taken to an animal sanctuary with lots of exotic birds and monkeys which are rescued from illegal traders. We got some dinner and a hot shower here before getting on the buses to drive all the way back up the WMDR. On the way up in the car we got more stories at sections. There was one part where a bus carrying 108 people fell off the cliff while trying to pass. Absolutely crazy!!

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We were pretty exhausted by the time we were back to La Paz and had an early night and a good lay in the next morning. We were catching the overnight bus in the evening so we relaxed at a few café’s in the afternoon before getting a taxi up to the bus station. We did visit the witches markets which sell all kinds of things, but the main one being Llama foetus’s which the locals put in the foundations of their houses as a good luck charm. Interesting…

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FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – WMDR was awesome, and to be able to do it on Hansie’s birthday with him, Jeffro and Tanya was definitely the highlight! There were times where us three boys were right with each other cruising through sweeping s bends and hairpin turns with the cliffs and awesome scenery off to our left. Great memory to add to all the others we have done with them. Proud of Tanya for doing the ride after not being on a bike since getting hit by the car in the UK

Tanya – Altitude sickness was not so much fun and the headache lasted for a good 4 days. But its easy to forget about a headache when sneaking a peek over the edge of a 600m drop! The scenery was soo stunning, it was just a bit hard to concentrate on it most of the time we were cycling at full speed (full personal speed which was enough of an adrenaline rush for me). It has been refreshing to catch up with great mates and was fab to help celebrate Leigh’s 30th – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Jeffro – I thought a one night stop in Cochabamba (2500m) would prepare me for the high altitude (3600m) of La Paz. I was wrong! My first day in La Paz was spent curled up in a ball on the bed, but thankfully full health returned in time for the ride down the famous “camino de la muerte”, what better way to spend Leigh’s birthday with a bunch of good mates! A white knuckle ride down for 60 odd km with huge drop offs to the side, a thrill I will remember forever. And if the ride down wasn’t enough of a thrill then the drive back up the road afterwards only served to remind us even more how dangerous this road actually is. Advice for other travellers, do not tell Mum you are doing this until AFTER the ride is complete.

Carley - I can’t believe that the last year of casual conversations about ‘meeting up in South America’ have all come together! It’s great to be travelling with Dan, Tan and Jeffro again, and a totally memorable way for Leigh to spend his 30th birthday. I have to say I have no regrets about not doing the cycle down death road, it was great to see the others complete the exhilarating ride but just not something I would have been confident to do, I was satisfied with my official photographer duties! Zip-lining was great fun, even the part where I crashed into Jeff and Dan on the duo line and had to monkey crawl to safety! I was impressed with the tour company and felt totally safe at all times.

Hansie - From what was already an exciting itinerary in Bolivia, meeting up with and being able to celebrate my 30th birthday with some good mates was the icing on the cake. And what better way to do it than to head down the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” on bikes, naturally. After managing to rid myself from the obligatory high altitude headache, the 60 odd kilometres of rocky white knuckle downhill riding was a great introduction to what Bolivian roads had in store for us.

Posted by dbgomes 14.09.2011 15:07 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia round_the_world Comments (4)

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