A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: stephyd

The Bolivian Pampas

Toucans, monkeys, toads versus mozzies and Fred the friendly alligator!

sunny 30 °C

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We stumbled up to the Indigena Tours office to greet Mark, Neils and Pip who we had partied with on Christmas Day back in La Paz..... a nice surprise. They had arrived with 3 more ozzies, 1 Korean, 2 Belgium girls and a German Girl!

So after being just 3 of us there now were 2 bus loads heading for a proposed interesting tour!

It was an extremely bumpy and dusty 4 x 4 jeep ride along the desolate roads for 3 and a half hours before we reached Santa Rosa.

The other group had already started their almuerzo (set lunch typical to Bolivia) in the restuarant while we all hobbled out of our jeep, clutching our sore bums!

During the nice almuerzo our group sat in silence, virtually, I started to realise our group hadn't yet bonded!!!!

It was a short ride to Rio Yacuma where we paid the park entrance fee of a hefty 60 Bolivianos each!

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We then boarded our Indigena Tour boat with yellow deck-chair like seats. At first we hated the seats thinking they were too posh for us 'roughing it' backpackers BUT not long into the 3 hour boat ride we found them to be a god send....... how comfy they were!

The sun was hot as we (2 indigena tours and a Fluvial tours boat) floated down the Rio Yacuma, spotting the odd aligator ( not too big fortunately) and quite a few birds, the most beautifull being the bird of paradise.... very big and very pretty with its colourful mohican!

Perched high above the Rio, watching everything that was going on, was a huge black monkey...... apparently it was good luck!

A little further on we spotted some squirrel monkeys, very small and cute (some were even carrying babies). They were very curious and came to see us as we quietly watched AND THEN Fluvial tours rammed their way into the action. Their guide put bananas on some of the guys in the boats heads so that the monkeys would jump on top of them...... it was quite funny BUT a bit like a circus act. The Fluvial tours guys thought they were very clever.......... SO thats how it was going to be heh...... them AND US! Fluvial Tours were now nick named the 18-30s or as I called them the Fluvials.

The ride continued where we saw 2 more groups of squirrel monkeys, all to ourselves!

After popcorn and a fight for one of the two hammocks we got back into our comfy deck chairs and headed to....................... the pub........... yes ............ this is Bolivia after all!

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After laughing at a chicken in a basket (or rather box) we all settled down on some tree stumps to watch the sun set and have a game of football or volleyball (depending on which "team" you were in!)

We watched the sunset and the Fluvials play volleyball (who couldn't give a toss that there was a sunset at all) with a very nice cerveza fria!

When the sun went down the mozzies came out............... when the mozzies came out so did the Toads..... bring on the troops boys.......... it was very funny!

The mozzies were feasting on us and the toads were feasting on the mozzies SO where was I in the food chain again!!???

We then tip toed over the toads to board the boats insearch of aligators.... or rather aligator's orange eyes!

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After one set of eyes were spotted and a few more mozzie bites we headed back to camp for la cena (dinner), spag bowl!

It was then time for a beer run which meant hopping into the boat, with torch in hand, in search of more orange eyes..... we found some and as we went for a closer look stumbled across a gorgeous big bird ( called a Guaco I think) with a beak similar to a Toucan! We then bought beer from the pub and rode back to camp......... bearing gifts, Pacenas!

The next day it was a nice, decent start at 8am to a good breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, bread and fruit!

Time now, for donning wellies and grabbing cameras before heading into the flooded plains of the pampas for a morning walk!

We followed Luis, our guide, with his machete (for cutting back the foliage or the odd anaconda if it got frisky?) into the field that quickly turned into a river. I soon noticed the hole in my left wellie, this was neither here nor there as the water soon turned to knee level, spilling over the wellies anyhow!

As we reached a small island we could hear Howler monkeys in the distance. On land we emptied the contents of our wellies before waiting quietly while our guide went looking for anacondas............ not something you usually do on a morning walk. I immediately stepped away from any nearby trees and scouted the surrounding area.......... like I knew what I was doing?

We soon got bored of waiting and started searching, finding a Toucan and some grubs (that were apparently good for asthma if eaten??!!).

The fluvials were also there, acting the ass....... playing cricket with a piece of wood and some rotten fruit........ obviously excited at the thought of possibly spotting an anaconda!!!

There was a huge commotion and we all ran through the swampy water...... suddenly forgetting all inhibitions to the creepy crawlies that swam in the murky water...... towards an ant eater.

It was a big one with a huge snout and tiny mouth. We all snapped photos before making a gap to allow the ant eater to hurry away from the chaos!

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Back to the island it was insearch of snakes again........ apparently it was very hard with this much water (being that they could be anywhere) and we had almost given up hope when our guide, Luis, spotted the diamond patterned snake skin of an anaconda curled up in a tree! By the size of its gerth they estimated it to be around 3m long!

We all took some photos but our guide did not want to disturb it and so we left it alone as we should of done.

It was then another slog across the water back to the pub, our wellies seemed 10x as heavy as before!

Then it was back to camp for almuerzo and a change of clothes before a wee siesta.

Some of us shared our left overs with a local perminent resident, Frederico the local aligator who hung out for the odd chicken leg and maybe the odd gringo ha ha!

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A few of us decided to waste a couple of hours hanging out at the pub with a couple of cervezas and a hammock before riding off on the boat insearch of pink dolphins!

After a few minutes up the river our guide stopped the engine, took his shorts off (revealing some fetching speedos) and told us all to jump in.

The guys, ofcourse, were the first to dive in. I then jumped in, a little cautious, as I think you should be in an amazon river! Guys......... don't pee!!!!!!

The water was murky and tasted pretty shit but the pink dolphins were amazing and very playfull. They nudged our feet in the water, scaring us and tail slapped. As we slapped the water so did they! They were having a whale of a time with a small group but didn't like the big crowds, as we found out when the fluvials arrived and they went quiet for a while....... so would I!?

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Back at camp we prepared ourselves for the attack of the mozzies before heading to the pub for sunset and a game of footie........ Alan nearly killed himself, running around like a loonie in the smoldering heat!

At 5am the next morning we were woken up and with big grunts we clambered from beneath our mosquito nets like zombies, into some clothes and onto the boat for an early morning ride!

As we floated downstream, without the noise of the engine, the eerie noise of the howler monkeys and the squawking birds early morning calls made the trip very relaxing....... worth the early rise!

In the distance we suddenly saw flashes of lightening and promptly turned back but the rain hit before we reached camp........ fortunately Alan had his 'emergency' poncho to hand and like a gentleman he donated it to me!

With 2 hours to spare before breakfast we all stumbled back to bed.

The pre-arranged schedule was a nice boat ride after desayuno before an early lunch and then back to the pick up point for the bus to Rurrenabaque. Unfortunately the heavens well and truly opened so any boat trip would have been miserable!

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We chilled and ate before we had to board the boat homeward bound....... unfortunately the heavens were still watering us and we got absoulutely soaked BUT it was still nice as we saw lots of birds, some cappucino monkeys and even a pair of black monkeys being romantico!!!!!

The bus arrived, back on land, with some fresh faces ready for action. We slid and squelched through the mud, jumped into the van and drove back along the bumpy road towards Rurrenabaque.

We arrived back safe and sound AND a little muddier and smellier than before......... so it was straight to the shower before heading out to the nice fish restuarant and then Moskitos for a few bevvies and a game of pool with the ozzies!

Posted by stephyd 00:18 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Happy New Year 2008

All Partied Out!

storm 33 °C

It was a very lazy morning with a wee bit of a hangover, when we managed to pull ourselves out of bed we headed for our favourite cafe Casa De Campo for breakfast......... well lunch!

When we left Casa De Campo they closed AND so did everyone else.......... apart from the odd child setting off fireworks in their hands (as every child should........ strangely enough we didn't see many Bolivian children with fingers missing??).

The only asian restuarant was still going strong with music blaring out at 1pm and the jakeys pub near lovely hostal Beni had a few customers still draped over the tables asleep ha ha!

With nothing much else we set off for a walk to El Mirador, well we walked and walked and walked past the mirador along the river Beni. It was a really nice walk but quite muddy and slippy in places which made it interesting......... as we tight rope walked along a very wet water pipe!

Tired after our big walk we crashed on the very inviting hammocks at the hostal, preparing ourselves for the pampas trip we had organised for the next day!

At about 10pm the rain started and a huge thunder and lightening storm occured with even heavier rain. Hmmmm Pampas tour tomorrow........... great fun!!!

The next morning came and the rain hadn't stopped since 10pm and we are not talking little piddly Yorkshire drizzle we are talking Bolivian Jungle Rain!!!!!!!!

Funnily enough the Pampas Trip was postponed, whether it was the weather or the fact that there were only three of us is purely down to our speculation but anyhow it was now to be a chilled day again and mmmmmm hammock time!

Its a hard life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by stephyd 23:58 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Marching Down the Death Road

La Paz Highlights

overcast 20 °C

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Alan, myself and Keiran headed straight to San Pedro Prison!!

I had read the book, Marching Powder, and interested in seeing it all in real life.

We had heard that they weren´t allowing random visits anymore but it was still a possibility and worth the walk!!

I recognised the huge grey building, next to the very nice Plaza Sucre, from the book as we approached! It was deffinately visiting day as hoards of people tried there luck at the gate...... we took a peek at the prisoners who were waiting in the courtyard near the gates to see if anyone exciting was going to pay a visit!

We tried our luck with the golden toothed (a sign of wealth and authority) prison officer outside the gates BUT as we had no contact name failed to get in!!!

I actually was indifferent with the decision, not sure whether I wanted to enter a self-policing prison at all!!!! Alan, on the other hand wanted to so we went in search of the British Embassy to find out if there were any British prisoners we could visit!

It was a fair old walk to the embassy and was deffinately in the nice part of town. Alan was the only one allowed inside, it was all very official.

Unfortunately there were no Brits in San Pedro Prison but Alan did obtain two names of British Prisoners in Santa Cruz for sometime in the future!!

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We also visited the Coca museum which was really interesting.

Evo Morales (El Presidente) has tried to change peoples opinion of the plant as a whole since the plant (which is indeed the source of Cocaine) is heavily used by the Indegenous peoples of the area but more as something akin to tobacco where they chew it as a mild sedative or calming effect.

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It´s not anything like the drug that´s derived from it..... and unfortunately the chemical version of cocaine (which has an american patent and is ENTIRELY legal ...... and used in Coca Cola etc.... means that the natural source of Coca is given a bad rap !!!

However.... the cocaine element is still rife in Bolivia and later we´d see a drugs bust and the Bolivian DEA equivelent stripping a car and people down with small white bags being layed on the ground infront of the car !!!!

So there´s always two sides to every story !

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That afternoon we found a nice restaurant for an Almuerzo and since it was xmas time and the whole city was so hectic.... it was nice to chill out for a wee while.

The following day we had a very early start with the locally owned company ´Extreme Downhill´!

We were about to ride the death road.... de de der!!!!!!!

Alan and Keiran teased me, about falling off the side of the cliff, all the way to the starting point! I obviously found this hilarious!!!!!!!!!!

There were only the three of us and the guide biking with the driver accompanied by the guides wife and young son in the minibus that followed us (well closely me as I was always at the back) down the infamous road!

After a little breakfast we kitted ourselves with warm clothes and set off on the easy tarmac road....... presumably to get used to the bikes!

The interesting part of the tarmac road was a tunnel ..... without any lights apart from a car whizzing towards us, beeping his horn........ scary!

Eventually we arrived at the main event, Death Road itself! We left the main, new tarmac road and joined the gravel steep one. Last year the road was made into a one way system and most of the traffic was moved onto the new tarmac road so the chance of dying was slim ha ha!!! Infact its not that dangerous at all if you take your time and I personally did just this!!!

Alan and Keiran whizzed off with the guide but I just took my time, taking in the views that were quite spectacular as the mist started to clear..... especially the massive sheer drops inches away from the bicycle wheel!

We passed numerous crosses, 15 people had died in the last 8 years.... 9 of which were Israeli!?!?!

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It was great fun as we cycled through small streams and got thoroughly dirty riding through thick mud........ which meant showering under the waterfalls as we drove under them!

There was a snack half way down which consisted of burgers followed by fruit and yoghurt!

Somehow none of us managed to fall off, it must of been the fact that we were highly skilled riders (although hard core Alan got a puncture and had to have a new bike)...... or that a donkey could of passed me as I steadily cycled down the road!!!

At the end of the road we had a cerveza to celebrate that we were all alive....... very dramatic I know!

We were then taken to a restuarant in Coroico for a hot shower before a huge lunch... very nice!

So the $35 we had spent for the trip went quite far as we even received a cool t.shirt and photo cd...... so forget the American Owned Gravity Assisted expensive trip at $99 a piece........... we recommend local owned!

Posted by stephyd 09:29 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

La Paz

Feliz Navidad

sunny 25 °C

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We reached La Paz on a coach, in the centre at friday afternoon rush hour! Not just any friday but the friday before christmas!!! It took ages just to get into the city centre as the traffic was pure madness! The bus dropped us off quite a way from the Wild Rover Hostal, where we had reservations, and a taxi didn´t think it was worth his while to take us there so we walked with backpacks an´ all!

I was completely shattered when we arrived at the hostal to find Jackie (the lady who we met on the inca trail) looking shattered too. Apparently having no sleep due to the bar being next door to her dorm.... no if you run a hostal with a bar and fairly young clientel and a middle aged lady wants a dorm room it would probably make more sense to place them in a room away from the bar!!!????

We later learned that there was no place away from the bar, that the bar was extremely loud with a crowd of people who obviously thought seeing La Paz consisted of frequenting the irish owned hostal bar every night, all night!!!

Alan, myself and Cullen (who had travelled with us on the bus to La Paz) were a bit hungry so found a british owned curry house....... it did live up to expectations...... just like anywhere in Bradford yum yum!!!

Unfortunately I felt really faint after the meal and needed Alan to lean on while we walked back to the hostal..... all very dramatic ha ha..... I even needed a break half way at the interesting Plaza Pedro D Murillo (home of El Presidente.... and the flags were flying)!!

The beds at the hostal were super comfy and above the bar noise we managed to get a few winks!

Alan, though, had been up all night with the runs.... bless!

Well breakfast was quiet due to everyone still recovering in bed. Jackie informed that someone had rolled her over in the wee hours of the morning to check who she was and Cullen informed us of sick all over the bathroom near his room!!! Jesus..... you would think we were on a school trip!

We decided to walk the whole of La Paz 3 times over to find a nice hostal big enough for four of us.... Alan, Cullen, myself and Keiran (who was joining us christmas eve)! We managed to find a hotel with a self contained flat at the top with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen and a living room.... perfecto!

Later on we headed out to the cinema to watch whatever film was in English. Back at Wild Rover the bar didn´t look inviting so we headed off to bed!

This time it was my turn to be sitting on the toilet all night, we had obviously eaten something really bad!!!!!!

The next morning we left Wild Rotter (whoops sorry Rover) and headed to our penthouse, among the market madness!!!

After getting a few christmas provisions Alan and myself were shattered.... whatever bug we had had taken its toll so we just flopped on the sofa and watched numerous christmas specials of friends!!!!!

At 8am Keiran woke us all up on christmas eve so after a brief catch up over a cuppa we hit the market stalls!!! The whole of the surrounding streets were market stalls, it was complete chaos but great fun.

We managed to get some great bargains, vegetables, fruit, christmas cards with llamas on (class) and even a christmas tree complete with lights (Steph had to have one)!!! Although Alan and myself still felt weak we were having great fun (inbetween running to the toilet) bartering and chatting with local vendors. Alan even managed to buy a whole chicken, intact with head, feet and heart yummo!!!

Later on that evening we had a meal at Sol y Luna before some drinks at Olivers travels. The owner was completely pissed and a bit of a prat but we had a few drinks to bring in christmas!!!

Merry Christmas.......... Feliz Navidad

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Alan got straight to work with the christmas dinner while the rest of us sat around drinking and talking.

We pulled the table out of the kitchen and placed it in the living room before decorating it with christmas napkins and party hats!!! Along with the christmas tree it all looked very festive!

Well the meal was fantastic, salad and brushetta for starters, chicken and the works for the main and the sweet was put to the side for later as we were stuffed ha ha!!! Well done Alan (and Cullen for the salad and sweet)!!!!

Alan and myself phoned everyone at home to wish them merry christmas........ it was so nice to chat to everyone (some had been on the booze already ha ha....... but it was 9pmish so they had a good excuse ha ha)!

Then Mark (an ozzie we met in Huaraz) turned up with some friends and a cake that said merry xmas Alan and Steph. I thought this was really sweet! So we had lots to drink and some cake!!!

Alan and myself exchanged christmas presents....... I received quality streets and Alan got pringles!!!!!!!!!

I managed to drink three bottles of wine all to myself while Alan had few beers........ we all enjoyed ourselves, complete with party hats!!!!

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!

Boxing day....... Alan watched football all morning while I had a bit of a lie in...... not due to a hangover ofcourse ha ha!!!

We did the typical thing on boxing day, had left overs, watched tv and ate chocolates!

Later on we managed to drag ourselves out to sol y luna for dinner to say goodbye to Cullen who was leaving the next day!

A few more drinks were had.......... well it was christmas!!!

Posted by stephyd 12:29 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Copacabana

At the Copa Co!, Copacabana Music and Passion were always the fashion

all seasons in one day 26 °C

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As the bus drove around Lago Titicaca we realised just how bloody big the lake was, passing plenty of farms and a flock of flamingo's!

We reached the border for Bolivia, just before Copacabana! Alan and myself were really excited as we have heard so many nice things about Bolivia and Bolivianos!!!

It all went smoothly as the immigration officers only seemed interested in the fees from American tourists!

5 hours after we left Puno we arrived in Copacabana, on the edge of Lago Titicaca. Immediately we warmed to Bolivianos who gave us directions to the Hotel Cupula (even the hostal touts waiting at the bus stops) and even better they were correct!!!

Hotel Cupula was great.... we were given a room with a fantastic view over the lake with a balcony..... this surely wasn´t backpacking!!!???

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We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the small town and bumping into fellow travellers we had previously met.... the gringo world is small!

In the evening we had a fantastic meal at La Cupula Restuarant.... I recommend the Mousaka!!! The temperature suddenly turned cooler but fortunately we had a nice comfy, warm bed....... luxury!

After a nice breakfast in La Cupula we walked down to the beach front (well it is a beach but not quite so fancy to call it a beach front and the water is bloody cold!) to catch the boat to Isla Del Sol. The boat was somewhat simple with wooden chairs and many leaky windows BUT for 10 Bolivians each way musn´t grumble!!!

The weather in Copacabana was rainy and cold but two and a half hours later as we reached the north side of Isla Del Sol the island lived up to its name and the sun shone!

Isla Del Sol was very important to the Incas as it is the place where the sun was actually created..... according to Incan Beliefs.

We arrived at Cha'llapampa where we bought provisions (chocolate) and bought our tickets to enable us to view the ruins and museum (for 10 bolivians).

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The museum was a bit of a dissapointment... although it did have a few artifacts from Marka Pampa, a lost city under Lake Titicaca (they don't know much about it but have found ceramics and ruins under the water)!?

It was then a walk across the beach where we some how obtained a 10 year old guide, Oscar!

Our guide took us to the Piedra Sagrada (Sacred Stone) and then onto Chincana Ruins.

Chicana, overlooking the beach, was pretty impressive. It had a room in the shape of the andean/incan cross and a natural well!

Near Chincana there is the Mesa Ceremonica where it is believed sacrifices (human and animal) took place.... nice!

Titikhar'ka, the most important to the Incas, is a rock resembling a Puma is also near. This is where the sun supposedly first appeared..... it was pretty hot!?

After taking many pictures we had to leave Oscar (and the other local children interested in the crazy gringos) as his mum would be mad if he ventured south!

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So we were on our own again and had to tackle the 'one path' walk across the top ridge of the island towards the south!

It was a gorgeous walk that took about 2 hours, we saw many flowers, sheep and the famous 'lake titicaca sail boats'!

We reached Yumani and needed a cold drink, we also ordered sandwiches but half an hour after ordering they informed us there was no bread. Oh well, with no more time to spare we wandered down the Escalera Del Inca towards the boat that would take us back to Copacabana!

The crew gave us a chance to stay for 15 minutes to have a look around Pilko Kaina Ruins on the southern tip but the majority voted against it. We would have liked to see it but the majority ruled!!!! It looked pretty from the water anyway!

After a busy day we had a meal in La Cupula, too tired to venture down the hill, it was nice again!

Mmmmmm a nice lie in before being a little adventurous and heading into town for breakfast and very nice it was!

We then headed up to Horca Del Inca, an incan made astronomical gate on the top of a hill. During the winter solstice the sun shines through the gate!

It was a bit of a climb but well worth it purely for the views over Copacabana and Lago Titicaca. Flamingos were even in sight on the edge of the lake!

We spent a while up there, taking in the views and tranquility before clambering down over the rocks.

A visit to the cathedral was next on the agenda, the bell tower at the front of the cathedral being very impressive. I also liked the simplicity of the cathedral ceiling and windows! Next to the cathedral there is a room where people light candles to thank Camarin de la Virgen for her miracles........ for example helping someone to buy a house or a motorbike ...... those sort of miracles!

This led Alan and myself to the Cerro Calvario. It was a bit of a climb (especially in the heat of the day) to a site that was dedicated to Camarin de la Virgen. Locals bought minutures of what they would wish for, say a car or a boat, and throw it off the side of the hill with a bottle of beer for good luck (obviously the Virgen was partial to a beer or two)! As the result of this tradition there was glass and broken plastic everywhere, it was a bit of a mess really. Alan and myself had bought a minuture hostel (in the hope that the Virgen would be nice to us and let us have a real size one somewhere nice one day) but couldn't bring ourselves to throw it off the side!

In my haste to descend the hill (due to my bladder being full from the 2 litres of water I drank on the way up... doh) I slipped and hit my cocyx on a nice jagged rock..... ouch!

Limping we arrived back in Hotel Cupula for a shower before we headed into town, with some friends, to the big smoke and the Cafe Bistrot where we had a meal that was half the amount for twice the price of La Cupula!!

I still have the little hostal in my backpack, waiting for the oppurtunity to make the wish!!!!!!!!

Posted by stephyd 14:08 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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