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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

Sore.

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?!
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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!
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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)

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

Machu Picchu - Day 26

The magnificent Machu Picchu

19 °C

We started early, around 5am, as the train to Machu Picchu left at 6.10am. The hostel organised a packed breakfast for us and we ordered a packed lunch too, so our bags were full to the brim with food for the long day ahead. The train journey was easy going, looking out onto the mist covered mountains, the powerful river and the life around. It was a bit shaky at times though and I did wonder how the train attendant was serving hot drinks without burning himself or other people at times.
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Just before 8am we arrived at Aguas Calientes and after a quick toilet stop, we didn't know where to go next. A woman in front of us didn't either and she had been to Machu Picchu 15 years earlier - it had changed that much. We got directions, passing over the same gushing river we saw on the train to get the bus stop, and another £25 later (the price of the return bus journey) we were on our way, winding up the side of a steep mountain. It was a little scary when buses coming down passed us! This is the view of the bus route once we were at the top:
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Then we were at Machu Picchu. What can I say? It is stunning, absolutely breathtaking. The location is beautiful and the fact that this city had been carved out and built on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere in the 15th century is mind blowing. And then to think that it was rediscovered as recently as 1911 and we're lucky enough to be able to travel here only 102 years later. It feels really special.
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After a short walk around the bottom of the inca city, Andrew had to get ready to climb Huayna Picchu - the mountain in the back of all the picture postcards of Machu Picchu. Here is what he says about it:
"The first part was really easy as it was downhill where you cross from Machu Picchu to Hauyna Picchu. Then it was pretty steep all the way to the top and there bits where you were very close to the edge. Some people, who were on the way down the mountain, were laughing at me because I was really heavy breathing! But I got up there in only 30 minutes, which is probably record time?! The way up wasn't as scary as I had expected, after reading all the blogs. To get to the very top I had to climb through a rock and up a little ladder, then you stand on some large boulders - a bit like Morecambe's stone jetty but a bit higher! I asked someone to take a picture of me right at the top and they didn't even get Machu Picchu in the background?! The view was really good." (Dictated by Andrew Waugh, Scribed by Stacey Waugh*)

And that's as much enthusiasm and embellishment as you will get from Andrew Waugh!! You can see from the photos that it was pretty incredible.
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While Andrew climbed I sat on a wall, taking in the view of the mountains, ruins and Llamas, and reading. At one point, a Llama decided it wanted to get involved, walked to the edge of the square, had a poo, walked to the top of the square and had another, then left us.
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Once he was back (Andrew, not the Llama), we walked around the rest of the ruins and had lunch sat in the shelter of one of the settlements.
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We then took the trail to the sun gate, which is the point that those who take the Inca trail (a four day trek to get to Machu Picchu, which is closed in February) first see the inca city in the distance. It's about an hour and a half round trip, uphill for the first half, but worth every laboured breath.
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And finally we took the short trip to the Inca bridge, which has some good views but the bridge really isn't worth seeing. Apparently it's where they used to kick the wooden plank away if they were being invaded.
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The best part of that was seeing some Japanese guys stand on the edge of the rock and pretend to lift up Simba on Pride Rock and sing! Andrew joined in:
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Just as we were walking to exit the park the rain came - we were so lucky with the weather. It was a long journey back to the hostel in Ollantaytambo, via a hot chocolate in Aguas Calientes and some sort of festival, and we were so tired when we finally arrived.

  • Andrew wanted the 'Dictated' bit in as he thought I wouldn't make him sound like him!

Posted by staceywaugh 16:43 Archived in Peru Tagged landscapes mountains animals buses mist Comments (0)

Foz do Iguacu - Day 12

The amazing Iguassu Falls and awesome Argentinian steak

33 °C

It seems like the nice hostels have rubbish breakfasts (apart from Casa Curitba) and the bad hostels have good breakfasts. Anyway, after sleeping on top of towels on the bed without decent air conditioning, it was a good start the morning. After packing our bags, and the nice staff at the hostels keeping them in a room for us, we headed out to see the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls. We were really excited about this part of the trip, and it did not disappoint one bit.

We jumped on the bus in Foz and after a few stops the bus was rammed with people. Andrew made a joke about it being worse than the Victoria Line and we got talking to a group of two guys and two girls. One guy was from Crouch End (that's two connections to our old home in six days) and the girl, noting our Northern accents, said she was from up North, somewhere called Lancaster! Unbelievable what a small world it is.

The Brazil side of the national park feels a lot like the entrance to a UK zoo, with the style of the buildings and the open top buses, giving it a 'day out' touristy vibe that I wasn't expecting. I wasn't complaining though, as it makes it so much easier to get around. From the entrance we got straight on to the open top bus and made our way past the zoo and ecological parks to the start of the viewing trail.
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The walkway quickly took us to the first viewing point and although small in comparison to what we were about to see, the waterfalls and landscape around them were still beautiful and were probably the biggest I'd ever seen in real life.
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My Dad had told me that the park was home to some animals called Quati (on the Brazil side, they have a different name on the Argentinian side), and they often steal people's food. Practically as soon as we walked past the first viewpoint I saw a large one on a bin:
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As well as the Quati there were lizards too:
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As we continued the waterfalls got larger and more impressive, we took videos to capture the sound, strength and speed of them.
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The closer we moved towards the falls, the noise became louder and you could see and feel the mist and spray of the falls. The first sight of the main falls was breathtaking, it felt like you were on a movie set. It was the most incredible thing I have ever seen - their beauty and power was overwhelming. As we stood on the platform out in the water, looking up at the falls, we were constantly being sprayed by the water and as a result some of the pictures and videos have watermarks but it adds to the impact! As we looked down, there was a a rainbow stretching out beneath us, it was just perfect.
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This was the end of the walkway but there was also a glass lift up to a viewing tower to take a look at the falls from a different angle. As we've covered, I don't like heights and the floor at the top of the tower was basically metal grates so I could see all the way down! Needless to say I was scared but it was once again worth it.
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After the tower we went to get some lunch and on the way saw a family of Quati's with their babies and what I assume to be the mummy or daddy Quati jumped up and grabbed a packets of crisps out of a man's hand!
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The flies and wasps joined us for lunch (annoying!) over looking the falls...
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...then we headed back on the open top bus, where a very cute Brazilian 1 year old girl played peekaboo with Andrew! Another bus journey back and we were at our hostel to grab our bags and go to Argentina - we were so excited about seeing the falls from that side tomorrow as everyone had said how much better it is. Today was only a couple of hours, where as tomorrow would be a full day at the falls.

We lugged our tired bodies, and our backpacks, in the afternoon sun up the road to the bus station and waited for the bus to Argentina. It seemed strange getting on a bus to a whole new country, especially when it only cost £1.30 a ticket! At the border, the bus left us. We quickly got stamped out of Brazil and then realised we need to get on another bus, get stamped into Argentina and then potentially get back on a bus to take us to Puerto Iguazu, the town for the Argetinian side of the falls. We waited for the bus in 'no mans land', as we liked to call it, in 33 degree heat under a tin can shelter. We ran out of water and went a little crazy wondering whether our mums or the British government would come pick us up and take us to Argentina because we were boiling?! Luckily the next bus waited for us to get stamped into Argentina, meaning that we had 'only' been on 6 rather than the expected 7 buses that day!

Our next hostel, Pop Hostel, was a short walk from the station (once we knew which way we were going). We had a large room, big enough for our double bed, a set of bunk beds and so much more space for activities (you're welcome Stepbrothers fans)! It was cleaner than the last place, had a shower that didn't look like a death trap, Internet that worked and it was quiet. All in all an improvement.

We hadn't been out for tea for 5 nights and Andrew had heard good things about a restaurant called Color, and they were right. We sat outside, in between a moaning Australian couple in their 60s (they didn't have her usual Cinzano and she liked capers, but not this many!) and a nice policeman from Bangor, Wales who now lives 6 hours inland from Perth, Australia. There was a band of three Argentinian men with guitars, singing what sounded like traditional songs mixed in with the Girl from Ipanema and the Greek plate smashing song!
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We weren't sure what to order but when the Welshman's plate came out we wanted exactly what he was having. The tenderloin steak was enormous, crusted pesto and served with saffron potatoes, sundried tomatoes and roasted peppers, in a Malbec sauce. It was gorgeous! Washed down with mineral water and a couple of bottles of Quilmes, and it only came to about £34 with tip and they gave us bread and chicken pâté to start on the house.
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The end of a perfect day!

p.s I saw two hotels in the Iguacu National Park today, made a note to Google how much they cost to stay at?!

Posted by staceywaugh 12:02 Archived in Brazil Tagged waterfalls animals buses steak Comments (3)

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