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Santiago - Day 52 & 53

And relax...

27 °C

We've been having a relaxing time here in Santiago. Yesterday we explored the city a little, taking us to a beautiful cathedral where a ceremony was taking place. It sounds so much more interesting in Spanish!
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A lot of the major buildings we went to see, following the map we had picked up from tourist information, had works being done so we didn't get to see too much. On the way round, we walked straight into a protest or riot! People we're being held off the street and there were so many police and fierce looking riot vans, it was actually a bit scary.
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We spent the afternoon up on the roof, sunbathing and swimming, which was just what we needed. The view from up there was fantastic too. We even came back up later that evening to see the sunset, which was lovely too.
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Shame about the crane in this one!!
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Today we found an Irish pub to watch the England v Wales rugby match in the six nations. I was missing a sunny day for it, but Andrew really wanted to see it so we went. Andrew got us there an hour too early for kick off, but 'coincidentally' Aston Villa were playing at that very time too - good for Andrew, not so much for me! Just before the rugby started the pub got a lot busier, but we were outnumbered massively by Wales fans. As you will all know by now, England lost, the Welsh men and women in the pub were shocked but deliriously happy. We left the pub. Good job Aston Villa had won (minor miracle?) beforehand...

We made the most of the lovely day by exploring a bit more of Santiago, in particular a place called Cerro Santa Lucia, which is a pretty viewpoint out to the city. This must be the place to go if you're courting (as Andrew's Dad would say!), as everyone was cuddling and kissing. So now you know what's going to happen if your Chilean boyfriend takes you to Cerro Santa Lucia in Santiago!
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It was Saturday late afternoon and all the shops in the main area seemed to be almost empty. We wandered down to the main square again and that's where everyone was - it was packed with people watching street artists, musicians, dancers. There was a whole group of people playing chess in a pavilion. It would be so nice (if not slightly damaging to the economy) if more places in English towns and cities were like this!
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:06 Archived in Chile Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises churches buildings skylines landmarks 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)

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