Argentina, Bolivia · 9 Days · 18 Moments · November 2017

A whirlwind tour through Bolivia

21 November 2017

17. After much discussion we the night before, the girls in our group had decided we had to be up super early, ready to go on day 3 by 4.30am in order to be the first people to the hot springs that morning. Shock, at 4.30am we were ready, but the 3 girls surfaced around 5am. Anyway, we saw the volcanic geysers first thing which were very cool, but it was still so cold over 4000m at that time in the morning so we quickly got moving to the hot springs. Over night our guides brother had driven to find us, so by this point we had a working car which was nice! It meant we had plenty of time to enjoy the natural hot water which was a blessing after being so cold earlier and having not washed for a few days by this point! With one final stop at the lago verde before heading to the Chilean border it was time to say goodbye to the group. It had been a brilliant few days, full of unforgettable landscapes and so much laughter. In a way, even breaking down had added to the tour and its uniqueness!
15. Which, it has to be said, were really cool! The never ending baroness occasionally opening up into another sprawling lagoon, with the Andes as the backdrop. We had lunch overlooking the flamingoes and then, an hour into the afternoon drive, disaster struck. After a lot of botch jobs our car finally gave up and broke down. Over the course of about two hours, we had slipped to the very back of all the tour groups and the car wouldn’t go anywhere. We were in the middle of the Bolivian desert with no help and some pretty bad hangovers. Fortunately we found a few more beers and laughed it off. Our guide managed to get enough help to get our car going again and slowly we made our way through the rest of the day, seeing the wind shaped rocks and the final massive lagoon. It was so cold and windy by the time we made it to our shack that night. We ate our awful dinner and went to bed, sharing a room with Tyler and Cody, laughing at what had been a compete contrast to day 1!
13. Later that afternoon we arrived at a giant, Arizona style rock in the middle of the desert, covered in cacti and offering great views of the vast white desert. We couldn’t be bothered paying to go up the main track so we walked around the other side and scrambled up the loose rocks. Finally we were driven to a very odd spot for the sunset before arriving at our salt hotel that night. Literally the whole building was made of salt. By this point we were all quite tipsy from the alcohol fuelled road trip, so we took the rum and were driven back out onto the flats to do some late night stargazing. It was hilarious and all in all it was one of the best days I’d had travelling over the entire year. We had packed so much into one day! We had a good nights sleep in our salt room and were up nursing hangovers by 6am. After a crappy breakfast we were on the road for a very long day of driving across the desert. The morning was spent stopping at several Lagoons full of Flamingoes.

20 November 2017

10. Next up was a small market where we had lunch and stocked up on beers for our road trip. Listening to Tyler's country music and drinking a cold beer we ventured out into the salt desert. The first stop was just a small taste of what was to come as we started attempting our perspective photos. It was much harder to get it to look realistic than we had first thought! Then we all squeezed back onto the car and drove another 45 minutes into the desert, reaching our own private spot of pristine white salt flat. We stayed there in the heat for hours, taking photos and generally just having a good time as our guide helped us get into position for the posed pictures. We had bought a few props, but ended up using anything we had in the car to see what we could make out of it. The guitars ended up being a great group pic, as did the coronas. I like mine and Emily's few attempts of pictures together as well, especially her face in the group jump! Eventually however, we had to move on.
9. So that night the four of us got the night bus to Uyuni, the starting town for tours through the saltflats ending three days later in San Pedro, Chile. Our bus arrived in the tiny town of Uyuni at 3.30am, a truly terrible time for a bus to get anywhere! We walked to a Hostel 10 minutes away and checked into a room to get a few more hours in before morning. Tours set off around 10am and we hadn't booked anything yet, so we had to be back up at 8 for breakfast and to get ourselves a place in one of the many land cruisers setting off that morning. We settled on a relatively cheap tour, about £80 for 3 days, including all transport, meals and a Spanish speaking guide (thank god I'd had lessons!) and along with 3 other girls, the 7 of us were on our way. First stop was the train cemetery, a strange place where very old trains had been left to die. It was a good spot for some pictures and an interesting spectacle to take in, but before long we were on the road again.
8. We had our fun taking pictures of the replica dinosaurs and were back in the centre of Sucre by lunch. I went off to my Spanish class while Emily bought us bus tickets to Uyuni for the next day. That afternoon Emily bumped into Micheal, who we had trekked the Salkantay with and the two of them contacted Tyler and Cody who had also just arrived in Sucre. The 5 of us met up for dinner and drinks at the guys Hostel, where it just so happened that Ollie and Owen were staying (2 guys from All Hands). Several drinks later we were on the dance floor, having a great night and completely ignoring tomorrow's best laid plans. We got to bed by about 4.30am, meaning I missed my final Spanish class (which was due to start at 8) and Emily missed her morning bus to Uyuni. Oh well, it was worth it for a good night! Also, Tyler and Cody decided to join me on the night bus that night and Emily managed to get a ticket for that evening as well. The 4 of us decided to do the saltflat tour together!

16 November 2017

7. As Emily was far more advanced with her Spanish skills, she opted to have a few chilled afternoons, taking in the sights of Sucre instead. Meanwhile I was finding that 4 hour lessons are hard, but I remained focused and learnt a lot, despite still struggling to actually put many sentences together under pressure! On day three in Sucre, we walked to the cemetery in the morning. Morbid I know, but the cemetery was huge and immaculately well maintained, certainly worth a look. I smashed another Spanish lesson and the following morning, along with two of Emily's friends from Ecuador, we went to Crustacio' Park, Bolivias answer to Jurassic Park. The site contained the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world, over 12,000 of them preserved in the valley that had been discovered by the nearby cement factory. It was a site to behold, however the park was also hilarious, as they had built replica dinosaurs all over the place, taking away from its soon to be Unesco status.
6. Somehow the little girl made it out of the pigeon attack alive and we headed out of La Paz on our next night bus, destination Sucre. La Paz had been a tough few days, not least because of the alcohol, but also the city is built in a massive bowl like valley at 3650m, meaning that even the shortest walk would involve a really tough uphill at some point. Sucre was starting to get a little lower and the city was perfectly flat, with a more colonial feel to it. It was a really nice city that many people spent a long time in. We arrived early morning having had almost no sleep on the night bus and checked into a really nice Hostel near the centre of town. It had a beautiful big garden and good facilities, meaning it would be a good base for at least a few days. I had decided that while in Sucre, I would give learning a bit more Spanish a real go and so I signed onto 4 days worth of lessons, 16 hours over 4 classes. The first day was excellent for me as I tried to take it all in!
5. We got a table in the bar with Phil, Immy and another friend from Cusco, Al and got the beers in. We drank through happy hour, got some cheap bar food and drank through the next happy hour. We had all agreed we wanted a good night with nothing booked the next day, so it proved to be. By midnight we were dancing on the bar, doing shots and heading for the club. It was all of our first proper night out in South America as was evident by the hangovers the next day. Being that hungover in the highest capital city in the world was a serious struggle, but the night had been worth it. The next day was obviously a total write off, but we did have a fry up and the Bolivian version of a roast dinner throughout the day. After a very good sleep that night, our last day in La Paz was slightly more eventful as we visited the market (I bought a very fetching Llama jumper) and found a proper curry this time around. Finally we visited the central square, aka pigeon central!
4. We both enjoyed a very odd take on curry for dinner that night, had a good sleep in our weirdly decorated, green room and both felt refreshed the next day, ready for the capital La Paz. Before the bus departed on the 5 hour trip, there was time for a failed attempt at walking to the viewpoint (it was really hot and very tiring!) and a trip to the local market for more fresh trout. An hour into the trip to La Paz, we all had to vacate the bus in order to cross Lake Titicaca. Passengers boarded a very small motor boat and the bus was loaded onto floating wooden platforms, powered by a very small motor attached at the back of the flimsy structure. It was a site to behold, watching the platforms slowly transport the vehicles while we kept our fingers crossed that our bags wouldn't go down with the ship! Fortunately everything survived and by 6 that evening we checked into our first party Hostel in South America, Wild Rover, ready for a late night!
3. Travelling being the small world that it is, meant that we bumped into a really lovely British couple called Phil and Imogen at lunch. Emily had met them at least once in every country she had been to in South America so far and I had met them on the Salkantay trek, or more precisely, the zip lining where Phil had been the most nervous person on the day. We had lunch, agreed to meet Phil and Immy in La Paz the next day and went for a little wander before our boat headed back to the mainland. The island was beautiful, looking like what I imagine parts of Southern Italy to look like, with its steeped gardens overlooking the blue water. We walked for a bit, going up and up, running out of breath very quickly as we were still up near 4000m. After half an hour we figured we'd seen enough of the tiny little community built into the side of the rock and ventured back down the hill to the boat. A good long nap on the boat later and we were back in Copacabana.
2. We decided to have one full day in Copacabana, so that we could go on a boat tour to a couple of islands on Lake Titicaca. The first island, Isla de la Luna, was a very small patch of land which was home to some of the oldest known inca ruins. While they were very interesting, it didn't take long to look around the tiny site and before long we were heading for the larger island, Isla de Sur. On the boat happened to be a guy called Ollie who had been at All Hands with us and a girl called Femka who had trekked the Salkantay in a group that basically followed us everyday. It was obviously really nice catching up with both of them while the incredibly slow tourist boat made its way to the next island. When we arrived onto the idyllic little island, it was lunchtime. We were only given a couple hours to explore, but I was more than happy sitting on the restaurant terrace, overlooking the sea and enjoying the fresh fish for lunch. A perfect way to spend at least an hour!
1. We had left Cusco, but before we got into Bolivia we had to stop for one night in Puno, one of the worst towns I'd seen while travelling. The only thing it had going for it was that it was built around Lake Titicaca. Once me and Emily had seen that, we continued on our way to Copacabana, not the Brazilian one that inspired the catchy song, but the Bolivian one on the other side of Lake Titicaca. The border crossing was as easy as any I had done and before long we were dropped off by the ginormous lake. Emily was still feeling the effects of the increased altitude, which didn't help her on our walk up some very steep hills to the Hostel that night. 'Oh god that was awful', she said remembering the moment fondly. It was one of the stranger hostels I'd stayed at. Very picturesque with lovely gardens and rooftop terrace, but the owner was very attached to the place, taking forever to do anything and decorating the place very interestingly! An immediate taste of Bolivia we wandered?

14 November 2017

12. Honestly, so many pictures didn't make the cut!!
18. And that was it, our whirlwind tour of Bolivia was over. It was clearly a poor country, but it had some amazing sights and was well worth the 12 days or so we spent there! Next stop Chile which involves crossing one of the most run down looking immigration buildings in the Bolivian desert!

13 November 2017

16. And some more!

12 November 2017

14. I took a lot more photos than when I was with Dan!
11. Lots of pictures!