After a week in Cusco, it was time for the second last country, Bolivia. We went with Cruz del Sur, our favourite bus company in South America, to Puno and from there took another bus to Copacabana which is next to the famous and huge Lake Titicaca. The border crossing took quite some waiting but was quite easy again.
So we arrived in Copacabana and found things to be a whole lot different again. First, our hostel only cost us about 2,60€ per person, second, the promised WiFi on the sign didn’t exist and the restaurant’s WiFi next door didn’t work.
In total, Copacabana didn’t impress us too much as everything seemed to be quite old and destroyed and there was rubish everywhere. Also, people frequently promised us things that were not true which was quite uncomfortable. Still, we enjoyed a (really tough) walk up the hill from where we had a great view over the lake and the town.
The next day, after an early morning hailstorm (really crazy), the rain stopped right on time for the early boat to Isla del Sol.We stayed in the south of the island in another cheap hostel and spend the day hiking to the middle of the island and back. We decided against crossing the whole island as there were frequent paying stops for tourists on the way, we would have needed to take the ferry back, it was hot and super exhausting (Lake Titicaca is at an altitude of 3,400 m). The views were amazing so we had a great time.
In the afternoon, David and I went for a really refreshing cold swim in the lake before we went for dinner with sunset view. On the way, we passed a local festivity and could see the really nice clothing of the Indígena women with their long skirts, shawls and bowler hats.
The next day, we took the boat back to Copacabana and then the probably most uncomfortable bus ride ever to La Paz. We were crammed in the backseat in the completely full bus which had to take a detour because of a road block and frequently had to cross over speed breaks, each time this felt like something smashing my back right into my stomach. We also got catapulted about 20 cm up each time. Crazy. Still, the views were interesting… We saw everything from cows, llamas, pigs, sheep, flamingos, chicken to a bus laying on its side surrounded by police. Scary…
During the bus ride, we could also get an impression of the political situation in Bolivia. Like everywhere in South America, election campaigning is done here by painted slogans on walls. In Bolivia, it is all about the upcoming referendum on whether or not President Evo Morales can continue in power until 2025. The opinions differ, according to the walls, however pro-Evo messages are much longer and literally everywhere in the country. Here some impressions, also the simple no-message.
After about 4 hours, we finally saw La Paz, an astonishing sight as the city lies in a valley surrounded by snowcapped mountains, which however can only be seen in nice weather. During our stay, the weather was mostly clouded so the views were more like this.
The altitude of La Paz is 3,800 m which caused us one or the other problem when walking uphill. We settled in Bacoo Hostel, quite a nice place, especially because of cook JP who made barbecue for us the first night and a local dish called Pique Macho (something like goulash in beer sauce) the second night. We cooked some German pasta and vanilla pudding for him on our last day to thank him. He was a really nice guy.
The hostel also had a great pool table (I can finally do it!), really comfy and warm duvets and okay internet (still, not good enough for blogging).
La Paz is a really amazing city, probably my favourite among the bigger cities we saw on this trip. The reason is that we had such an easy time to get used to life there. There is really little traffic for a city this big and walking around is possible and enjoyable everywhere. Also, we immediately found our routines among the local customs. There are nearly no supermarkets there, as people buy everything on the markets.
We immediately did the same and bought snacks during our walks, especially our daily Palta (Avocado) Sandwich and Banana cake. The sandwich lady next to our hostel was the best, we were so disappointed that she didn’t work during the weekend.
During the first days, we walked around and got to know some parts of the city. We also took one of the cable cars up to El Alto, the neighborhood on the hill, and enjoyed the great views on the city and also the huge cementary below.
On the way down, we stopped at the cemetery and could marvel at the grave construction and decoration. Relatives give their ancestors lots of things with them, for example bread, cookies, panetone, toys or even coke and beer. That was strange but also impressive to see. Even if we felt a bit like intruders and tried to be as respectful as possible the cemetery was really beautiful.
On our way down, we got some huge ice-cream, walked through really big markets full of everything and even by accident could watch a religious procession that really looked like carnival with the most impressive costumes, dances and music. Beautiful Bolivia, and we didn’t feel uncomfortable as tourists in the middle of this at any time.
It is really nice to see all the different indigenous clothing styles. In Bolivia, actually more than 60% of the population is indigenous which is the largest proportion in South America. Especially the women from the Aymara tribe with the bowler hats look really cool.
While in La Paz, we were aiming for a little adrenalin rush and booked a mountain biking tour on the Death Road, dubbed the world’s most dangerous road because of traffic accidents. In 2006, a new road was built, leaving the Death Road mostly to mountain bikes. We went with Barracuda and had a blast, they were really professional and the value ie really good. Concerning the danger of tje experience, it later turned out that “surviving” the Death Road is not really about not falling over the edge (it is super safe with these full suspension bikes). It is more about getting over the altitude problems as the Death Road starts at 4700 m and ends at 1100 m (this is also why the temperature changed so much on the way from ice-cold to jungle hot). Getting back to La Paz was horrible for me, I slept for a whole day before I was finally acclimated again. Here the Death Road impressions:
The conclusion: Mountain biking is fun but I prefer asphalt racing to shacking dirt roads (my hands and arms hurt so much from the vibration). Death Road is definitely an amazing experience, however plan a few days for recovery just in case you get altitude issues.
David didn’t have any problems after the experience, so he was up for another adrenalin rush a few days later: abseiling down a skyscraper face-first in a Spiderman costume. Sure, why not?! He loved it, for me watching was definitely more than enough (the company is called Urban Rush in case you are up for it).
On our last day together, before David went down the building, we also visited the Moon Valley with its interesting landscape right next to the city.
In the evening, we had a Mexican feast at La Cueva and played some final rounds of pool. The next day, we said goodbye to David who flew back to Santiago while we have another three weeks to get there. Our next destination was Sucre where we left to in the evening. Finally, some lower altitude. Bye bye La Paz, I loved you, just a bit more air would make you even better.