Travel Journal

Bolivia

(Sunday 4 October 2015) by Karen O'Shea
Welcome to Bolivia....:-)

Be prepared this blog entry is long.so maybe go make some coffee first!!:-)

Today I Travelled from Puno across the border to Bolivia. It was another long journey but got to see plenty of countryside. I thought the border crossing would be more "in your face", but we were upon it before I even noticed!! It was just so low key.

That morning when I was packing my rucksack (yet again) I hung my trainers on the outside to air them. I did contemplate putting talc in them to freshen them up but thought about it a little better. Probably not the best thing to do .....having white powder knocking about leaving Peru.:-):-)

As part of our bus journey we had to get a boat on Lake Titicaca, and our bus (with no people on) had to get its own. I use the term "boat" lightly; it was more like a lighter that goes into Deer Island....

We stayed in La Paz (capital of Bolivia) for 3 nights. La Paz is actually bowl shaped, the outskirts of the city start up on the hills and the city itself is down in a valley. The amount of construction going on in the suburbs is unreal, a lot of buildings seem to be started but not finished.:-(

I Went to visit the "Witches market". It was full of bowler hat women in flared skirts selling items such as "dead cats and llama fetuses" (yes your read that right). These are used to ward off evil spirits. My god I found it absolutely fascinating. A little different from the Saturday market in Ennis..:-):-)

The streets here are so uneven, so many holes and gaps in the footpaths. I did see a buggy once without child though, it was being used as a trolley. lol

I did the open top bus the following day (as I couldn't be bothered to walk as breathing was already tough enough.) my god La Paz has the worst overhead cables I have ever seen!!!8-O There were so many attached to each pole!! Before we started the bus tour the lady said not to stand up taking photos, I was going to ignore this until some of the cables actually dipped into the bus........Crazy!!!!:-?:-?

When the bus tour ended no taxi would take us back to our hotel because the traffic was chaotic. So we ended up getting a local bus..what an experience it was........ a hi ace that was completely jammed.Guess it was one way of getting close to the locals..:-)

Found this really cool bar near our hotel, it sold bangers and mash, Heineken and played some really cool music. I was won over!!
We met up with some Mexicans and Bolivians. What I liked about hanging out with these guys and girls was, it was just a random Saturday night out in La Paz, nothing was put on for us tourists. :-)

There is a jail here in La Paz called "San Pedro Prison". It was built to house 400 inmates but there is actually up to 2000 in there now. Apparently why it is so famous is you can go and buy stuff in there. Like I could walk into the prison and buy that "white sugar". There are guards there but just on the main gates, they actually don't run it in there, the prisoners do. In fact back in the day people were trying to break in. Its all very corrupt! :-?:-?

On Sunday got up early and tuned into Clare FM for the Clondegad game. A local Bolivian station kept breaking in..I thought we had new players!!:-?

It was nice to have a few days here in La Paz just to chill out as we have been travelling quite a bit.
Got an overnight bus from La Paz to Potosi, which is the highest city in the world. The bus journey was cool for the first few hours as we got to see the Super Red moon eclipse.. (The last few hours were bum numbing). :-\

In Potosi we visited a mine. We had to bring presents to the miners, soft drinks and coca leaves. They chew these leaves constantly. It keeps away the hunger, gives them energy and helps with the altitude. Sounds like a great bloody diet! Unfortunately the leaves are only legal in Peru and Bolivia!!:-\

About 18000 men work in these silver mines. The conditions are brutal. The temperature can get up to 50 degrees C. Some of the helpers here only earn 100 Bolivian a day which is like 12 euro. There is absolutely no health and safety here. The government doesn't want anything to do with the mines. But will take a 20% tax when something is found!! The miners do really graft hard.

On Tuesday 29th (Happy Birthday Mandy). We got another local bus to take us to Uyuni. Yet another experience, 5 hours crammed into an overcrowded, overly hot bus. But all these experiences are what travel is all about.:-)
Uyuni is a desolate town in the south of Bolivia. For the next 3 days we would be roughing it across Salar de Uyuni which is the worlds largest salt flat. We were now travelling by 4 wheeled drive. My god it was like doing the Dakar rally. There were no roads, so between all the 4 wheeled drives it was like a free for all. :-?

We had the funniest driver called Barnado. Who didn't speak any English and we had very limited Spanish but for the 3 days we laughed with him all the way. Goes to show you don't have to speak the language to communicate..(although it helps!!):-):-)

We got to see a Train Cemetery where old trains have been laid to rest. We also visited a small town called Colchani which is the main plant for the iodization of salt and the best place to see the methods of salt extraction from the Salar. I was going to buy a bag of salt as a souvenir but again fancy crossing the Bolivian/Chilean border with a bag of white powder..:-?:-?

The salt flats were pretty spectacular. The flats are endless and seem to reach the sky. The photos were pretty cool. Also went to visit Fish Island which is in the middle of the salt flats covered in giant cacti. It looked pretty cool in the middle of nothing! No idea why it was called fish island:-?

That night we stayed in a hotel made of..Salt! Pretty different alright. Salt Salt everywhere and none on the table..:-?
The following day we hit the not road again. Visited so many lagoons, and got to see plenty of flamingos. I thought seeing the flamingos for real (and not the plastic ones out in my back garden) was pretty amazing. Really enjoyed that.
We drove across the Siloi Desert and got to see some amazing mountains, geysers and volcanoes. Some of this scenery Salvador Dali painted!!:-)

That night we stayed in another cold spot. Between the altitude and so many blankets on my bed that when I turned.i was out of breath!! Seriously like!! :-?

Overall I enjoyed my time in Bolivia. Its really pretty especially in the south of the country. It wouldnt be fair to compare it to Peru. What I did here in Bolivia is so different to what I did in Peru. But yeah I really enjoyed it her, the salt flats was one of my highlights, it was one of the reasons I booked this trip to begin with and I wasnt left disappointed. So a big thumbs up to Bolivia..now hi ho hi ho off to Chile I go.. :-p

Until the next time amigos....

K x

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