A Travellerspoint blog

February 2013

Sucre - Day 37

19 °C

We arrived in Sucre just after 8am. I woke up to Andrew, wide awake and telling me his new business ideas...not unusual for a morning, but after little sleep and a 13hr bus ride it wasn't what my brain needed! At the bus station we swapped details with George and Lucy, as they were planning to do a 3 day tour in Uyuni too so we figured it's better to spend 3 days in a jeep and room with some people you've met and like, than complete strangers.

Casa Verde B&B was our room for the next 2 nights and what a room! A double with ensuite and a mezzanine seating area, it feels enormous compared to what we've been used to. Our door and window looks out on to the courtyard, which has sun loungers and a small covered pool. We decided to stay 3 nights instead!

We were too early to check in, so we went down the road for breakfast at Flavour. Tea, orange juice, fruit salad and pancakes with maple syrup was only £2.90 and just what we needed after the long bus ride. After check in we showered and sat out in the courtyard and read for a while. The warm weather was so nice after being cold for the last week or two.

Back at hostel we showered and then sat out by the pool and read for a while. Then we had a walk around the town. With all its white buildings and greenery, it is so pretty. We had a fried snack for lunch from a stall in the park - mine was potato and cheese, Andrew's potato and meat - and they were good! Bit like a scallop from the chip shop but round with cheese in the middle. And we had this pastry stick thing with sugar syrup on that tasted as it sounds. The park was lovely, with people sat out on the benches enjoying the weather. In the centre was a miniature Eiffel Tower that you could climb but the top didn't see past the trees so I am sure what the attraction was?! At the end of the park, Andrew said there was a look out over the city, according to his map, but there wasn't. The map, which was from the town itself, was wrong, and placed it at completely the wrong end of the town. I did say that it was odd to be walking down hill for a viewpoint!
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Tonight we ate at a packed out placed called Tenciones, which to be honest was the first busy place we saw - we were too tired after the lack of sleep last night to wander around. It was a very modern looking place compared to most of the places we've been in South America and I think ideally positioned for the students at the university here. Andrew saw some girls eating buffalo wings and decided that with it being cheap, we should order those with hot sauce on to share to start (even though they were a main). They were good, but I was getting full so let Andrew continue and he was only on his last wing when his massive burger and chips came out. He'd been so looking forward to a burger this whole time and he was too full from the wings and the milkshake he ordered to even eat half! I however ate all my spinach and ricotta pasta. The moral of the story has something to do with greed or, as my mum and dad always say to me, "Your eyes are bigger than your belly" which in Andrew's case was true.

I took Andrew's massive eyes back to the B&B and slept a long, comfortable sleep

Posted by staceywaugh 05:24 Archived in Bolivia Tagged food landmarks Comments (0)

La Paz to Sucre - Day 36

Overnight bus to Sucre

19 °C

We woke up late and decided to go to Sucre for a couple of days, so we had to pack quickly and get out of the room - we're getting quite good at this though. We spent the rest of the day booking our hostels in Valparaiso, Santiago and Auckland and feels good to have things sorted in advance as we've been playing things by ear recently.

Andrew had wanted to go to the English pub, Olivers, so we went for something to eat. I had beef and ale pie and mash, and it was real comfort food! They had tons of travel books in there too so we picked up a New Zealand one and did a bit of planning, while we had a shandy.

To get to Sucre we have to go on an overnight bus this evening to land there at about 8am tomorrow. I'd heard they were cold so I bought some big wooly socks just incase on the way back to collect our bags from the hotel.

At the bus station we had to leave our backpacks at the ticket office, which felt weird as usually you see them go into the hold of the bus. I wasn't convinced we'd see our bags again! George and Lucy, who we'd met last night were there and we're getting on the same bus. The bus seats fully reclined into a flat bed and were also quite wide, which was great. What wasn't so great was that there was no toilet and we'd be on this bus for 12 hours!

We watched a couple of programmes on the iPad and then tried to get to sleep. It was only 9.30pm but it was dark outside and the bus was quiet, so it was quite easy to drift off. The chairs beds worked well when you were stationary but when you're swinging round mountains and bumping down roads, you tend to slide around a lot!

I woke up in darkness as the bus came to a halt - it must be a toilet break! Rushing to get my shoes on, I get outside to see...nothingness. Except the shady outlines of men peeing on the side of the road. Andrew, George and Lucy had got off the bus too and we were just deciding where to hide - finding places to go to the toilet being the most difficult thing for the girl traveller - and then the bus starts to pull away without us! We've since learnt this is just a Bolivian technique the bus drivers use to make you be quicker. But at what must have been around midnight in the middle of nowhere it was scary and we just jumped back on, still needing the loo. The next two hours was an uncomfortable wait until the real toilet stop, with no sleep and just the wild rocking of the bus at it takes a corner in the dark to keep us company.

2am the bus stopped and I was like a ninja - my shoes were on and I was off the bus before anyone else had got up from their seat! I paid 1 boliviano to use a loo - for which you also get a strip of toilet paper as they don't have it in the cubicles in Bolivia - with no toilet seat, no flush and even better at this time in the morning, no light! This is becoming a pattern. However, from what Andrew told me of the state of the men's toilet, it may have been best I didn't see what it was like in there.

Back on the bus, after mandatory hand sanitiser, I dared to have a drink of water for the first time in around 6 hours, I was so thirsty and dry lipped! Finally I felt like I could sleep...

Posted by staceywaugh 05:14 Archived in Bolivia Tagged buses Comments (0)

La Paz - Day 35


19 °C

OMG!! I'm sore! I honestly don't think my entire body as ever been in so much pain. I can barely sit down. Given this, our activities for today were limited. We booked bus tickets to Uyuni, where we'll take a 3 day tour around the salt flats and desert in Bolivia, ending in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, and then headed out for a walk.

We went for lunch in a cafe near an old church and then to the market in La Paz, which is so different from the others we have seen. Instead of stalls, each seller has a kiosk that looks like a mini lock up garage, no matter whether they are a bookshop, drinks stand or cafe. It was also really hard to navigate as rather than have one staircase, they had a staircases in between each row of shops that zigzagged up to the top. It was certainly a popular place for lunch and with there only being space for maybe 6 people in each tiny cafe/garage, there were people crammed outside waiting to get in.
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Andrew tried a fruit smoothie for 50p that they blend fresh for you and to his delight it came in a plastic bag - he has loved drinks in bags since Thailand?!

On the way back we saw the witches markets that had dead Llama fetuses and baby Llamas hanging from the ceilings. Apparently they bury these under their houses for good luck. I just think they're gross...
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And some buses that Andrew thinks are cool:
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Back at the hotel, the lady who booked our bus tickets informed us that there was a strike tomorrow night so we could no longer go to Uyuni on the bus tomorrow night. This was a blow as we really didn't want to spend any longer in La Paz, as there wasn't much we fancied doing. We then tried to work out whether to head to a different town for a few nights - maybe Cochabamba, Oruro or Sucre. We'd do some more research later.

Here's me ready to go out for dinner tonight in my snazzy Bolivian jumper...full shot this time!

We met Amy and Joshua at Vertigo Biking and they'd had a Thai place recommended to them so we headed there. As soon as we'd got through the entrance of Try Thai the man at the door with the menu sign came inside - obviously getting 4 people into your restaurant is enough for one night! As it turned out he was also the waiter, and given the service, possibly the cook too?! Another two people came into the restaurant and they were at Joshua and Amy's hotel so they joined us - George was also from Australia and Lucy was from France. The restaurant had been Thai Palace before - apparently different management/owners now, despite the menus, signs and trays all saying Thai Palace on them, just expertly covered with Try Thai stickers! The menu didn't just confine itself to Thai either, you could get Japanese, Chinese and Indian too, although when the mains came out you couldn't have known which cuisine it was. We all ordered and it took forever for the food to come, the gyoza were good but the spring rolls were practically cold. The mains took even longer and then wrong dishes came out and some didn't come at all. We actually felt quite sorry for the guy at one point! Luckily we had lots of beer to keep us occupied, the music was brilliant - Coolio, Ace of Bass and the 'Land Down Under' song are particular highlights - as well as good company of course, so we just laughed and talk all the way through it.

Posted by staceywaugh 05:06 Archived in Bolivia Tagged churches markets buses llamas jumpers witches_markets Comments (0)

La Paz - Day 34

Mountain biking down Death Road was Unboliviable!

21 °C

We got up at 7am, had a quick breakfast of jam and bread - getting bored of this as a breakfast option now! - and headed over to Vertigo Biking. Apparently we were late, as the woman last night had given us the wrong time (there was due to be a blockade so they needed to set off earlier), so we were ushered straight into the van and hit the road.

There were only two others on the trip, Joshua and Amy from Sydney, then the driver and the guide. It only took an hour to drive to the top of the mountain but as there was no blockade we stopped for snacks. I needed the toilet and it has to be the worst I have ever been to - no toilet seat, no flush and no door! We all just had to laugh and get on with it.

At the top of the mountain, 4600m, it was cold but fresh and the mountains were snow capped. The driver and guide got the equipment out, we dressed in shin and knee pads, thick trousers and jacket, elbow pads, gloves and our helmets, and tested the bikes on the flat. We looked great ;)

The first 25km of the 63km downhill ride was on wide tarmac roads, that still have vehicles going up and down, but you have enough space not to worry about them. This part was exhilarating, a smooth downhill ride with the wind in your face, winding down through the top of the mountains. The scenery was beautiful. Andrew and Joshua were zooming down, Andrew copying the guide's aerodynamic riding position! Amy wasn't far behind and I was taking my time at the back!

You stop every 20 minutes or so, so you never feel really tired, and it wasn't long before the tarmac ended and we jumped in the car to do the short uphill journey before starting Death Road.


The next 38km section was a mixed bag for me! It was still fun and I got up to speed again on some parts, but the rocks and gravel made it so bumpy and I couldn't keep 'stood up' on my bike for that long! It was quite foggy up top so the heights didn't bother me and most of the way the road was actually quite wide, so there wasn't much of a few of falling off - my bike or the mountain! As we descended it got hotter and hotter in our jackets but the waterfalls running on to the road really helped keep you cool when they soaked us through. It was a long way down but thankfully all but 15 minutes (on the flat, much more tiring than you would expect!) was down hill, otherwise I don't think I could have coped with the 4 hour bike ride!


Andrew loved the entire thing! He was going fast, which meant he did come off his bike at one point but luckily into the mountain rather than off it. I'm glad I was trailing behind and didn't see that!

At the bottom, I was sore and relieved, but happy to have ridden safely down Death Road! They really have done a fantastic PR job on that as we've met so many people who are terrified to do it, but I feel if I can do it, literally anyone can. The only thing I would say is that I was slow and steady all the way down, and so I imagine if you take the road quickly and don't concentrate the entire time I am sure it is easy to come off. But, of course, accidents happen all the time. Apparently 2 people a year still die on the road. I am glad I found this out afterwards, otherwise I probably wouldn't have done it.

We jumped in the van and celebrated with an ice cold beer, while the driver took us to a local hotel for a shower, a hot buffet and the opportunity to use their swimming pool. The journey back was 3 hours, which was filled mainly with talk of TV shows and films we all liked, except when the guide saw other Death Road biking company's vans and moonied them through the passenger side window as the driver overtook! He got up to seven on the journey and he was so proud!?

Back at Vertigo Biking, we got our tshirts, which say - Front: Unboliviable (our new fave saying now!) Back: I've got what it takes to cycle down the worlds most dangerous road - and made arrangements to meet Amy and Joshua for dinner tomorrow night. On the way out, we saw a newspaper clipping and memorial on the wall for an English boy who had died on Death Road only a few years ago. I definitely don't think I could have done it after reading that. It was so sad but he loved biking and his parents said he died doing what made him happy. I said to Andrew later that night, it was great and I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't do it again, it would feel a bit like tempting fate.

At 8pm that was the day done, we were already starting to ache a lot and were so tired, we didn't have dinner and just went to sleep.

Posted by staceywaugh 11:33 Archived in Bolivia Tagged waterfalls mountains mountain_biking death_road Comments (0)

Copacabana to La Paz - Day 33

The day I saw a coach cross a river on a raft...

22 °C

Sadly we have to leave Copacabana today, but we're heading to La Paz. We've heard La Paz can be a little edgy but we're arriving in the daytime, so it's safety first! Before the bus, we managed to get in a little shopping - another fancy jumper each but I missed out on buying some Bolivian material that they use as their bag, which was a shame - and some lunch in sunshine. We also saw a really strange event - it was Sunday morning and there was a line of cars and vans from the church all the way down into the main road. The cars were covered in flowers and bunting, people were throwing firecrackers in front of them, popping bottles of cider and having their pictures taken in front of them. There was a priest with a bucket of water and a flower, putting water on the the cars and their engines. It was odd. Turns out it was a car blessing ceremony that happens EVERY Sunday here in Copacabana!

The bus journey was only to be about 3 hours and we passed more stunning scenery along the way.

Then we stopped after about an hour, everyone was getting off and we didn't know why?! Turns out, you have to cross water on this trip, so on to a 'ferry' we went. After seeing how the buses crossed, I was glad we didn't have to stay on them...

Arriving in La Paz, the city was amazing - buildings crammed into and up the sides of a large valley - and above snow covered mountains. It was really beautiful and I was expecting that. Pulling into the bus station, we saw a drunk - or otherwise - throw himself at a moving coach....more expected!

We took a taxi to Cruz de Los Andes hotel. Similar in decor to Hotel Utama in Copacabana - they love their murals! - Cruz de Los Andes seemed fine, despite our room being on the 4th floor. The altitude still gets you out of breath walking up stairs!

The main reason we came to La Paz was the Death Road. This is a 63km mountain bike trail, down the side of a mountain, on a thin road that previously was used by cars that frequently fell off the edge. Hence the name. It was still scary though looking at the pictures and hearing the stories. So many people we know or have met, either know someone or did fall off and hurt themselves badly. Also, I'm not a biking enthusiast or expert, I don't think I have really ridden a mountain bike since I was 13, and I'm scared of heights!

Anyway, we'd been in contact with Vertigo Biking, who had great reviews on tripadvisor and were a lot cheaper than Gravity, and they'd told us they had another couple going tomorrow so we should join them. At their shop, they showed us the pictures and the trail, and I still wasnt sure if I could do it. She told me she'd done it twice and I asked her whether she had died either time?! Then she pulled out the safety helmet - a full face trail bike-style thing, and I freaked out. To add to my list of cowardices, having things over my face is another one! It took me about 20 minutes to get the helmet on to try it out! Andrew really wanted to do it and he didn't want to leave me on my own all day as it's 8am-8pm, and I didn't want him to miss out and after my safety hat trauma I didn't want my fears to win so we booked it. We're going to ride Death Road tomorrow!

Dinner was the only thing that could take my mind off the biking. We walked a little while and went into a restaurant called Little Italy. We had a delicious 3 courses - soup, creamy chicken pasta and a baked custard - for £3 each. Still loving it.

Posted by staceywaugh 14:48 Archived in Bolivia Tagged landscapes churches boats buses ceremonies Comments (3)

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