La Paz & Lake Titicaca
26.07.2016 - 29.07.2016 22 °C
Day 8 became day 9 overnight with a very comfortable bus journey. All sorts of goodies on board, something akin to business class on a flight. We arrived at La Paz at 6am and got a taxi to the hotel. Thankfully they had the room ready for us to collapse into....Room 101!! We lost the 6 layers of clothing that had weighed us down and had a very welcome Hot shower.
Later in the morning we headed out for a walk around the city. It's a chaotic place but fun. We felt very safe much as we had in Santiago but again strangers warned us about my camera. There were definitely people who looked a little intimidating but they were mostly the shoe polishers who walk around with balaclava's and hoodies on. I used the term 'contrast' to describe the Atacama and the Salar but it wouldn't be too far removed to refer to contrast in La Paz too. There is the contrast between the poorer areas in the city centre and the more affluent area south of the town. Also there's a contrast in the people too. There's a young and modern group who walk around in their fancy suits and a younger generation who wear the trendy American gear and baseball caps and then you have the traditional older generation who wear the typical outfits you'd come to expect in Bolivia. It's a fabulous mixture of colour and culture.
La Paz Street Scenes
We had to come back after lunch as we were sweltering in our clothes having expected temperatures of 5 or 6 degrees. As you can see it was a tad warmer than that!
Once derobed we strode out again with a fresh sense of purpose and walked the Centro district and San Pedro. We returned home laden with gifts bought from several of the vendors that line the streets around this area.
We had heard about this restaurant here in La Paz that's run by the same chap that has Noma in Copenhagan. It's called Gustu and is considered the 16th best in the world! Well we couldn't pass up an opportunity to try it out. We dressed up for the first time on this trip and the hotel kindly hailed a taxi for us. Gosh it was a very worthwhile exercise. We had the 7 course Tasting menu with accompanying drinks. Fabulous food, generally focused on local produce. It was delicious as you might expect and we came out suitably stuffed and a little wasted too! We giggled our way back in another taxi and settled in for the night.
Gustu Restaurant, La Paz
....and on the tenth day, they shall rest. We did very little on Wednesday, taking the opportunity to recharge the batteries after a whirlwind week and a half. We gave the cultural museums a miss deciding instead to take a leisurely meander around the city's streets. We took a hike up to the top of Mirador Killi Killi (nothing leisurely about that but good practice for Machu Pichu!) and savoured the 360degree view of this magnificent city. It starts in the bottom of the basin and has slowly built its way up each side so that every inch as far as the eye can see is covered in housing. Some is precariously perched on the edge of huge gorges. The imposing Illumani mountain overlooks the city reminding them how privileged they are to be living in its shadow.
View from Mirador Killi Killi
Yvonne had read about a nice Veggie restaurant so we headed for that and had to walk down several of La Paz's bustling market areas where anything could be bought. We saw dozens of stalls selling Trout, dubiously marked as fresh, fruit stalls, hat stalls, hardware, car parts, in fact, pretty much anything could be bought. Hundreds of stalls lined the streets manned or should I say womanned by ladies in traditional Bolivian dress. Very reminiscent of Dublin's Moore Street in its heyday but on a much bigger scale. Incidentally lunch was delicious!
La Paz reminds us of Naples in Italy. It initially looks threatening and intimidating but once you peel away the layers, it's a city full of warm, lively and energetic people. They hate having their photo taken, but then don't we all, so pics are few and far between. I've been informed that they believe a photo takes away a bit of their soul so their reaction is understandable. We'd have liked to spend a couple more days here to explore the city even more but sadly time us against us. And so we bid farewell.
Another early start as we head to catch our bus to Copacobana. Who knew that a bus journey could be so entertaining. We climbed the hill out of La Paz and reached the suburb of El Alto which is now the fastest growing city in South America. This vast metropolis went on and on and on. For an hour and a half we drove though vast swathes of newly built but unfinished buildings of all shapes and sizes draped in a layer of dust. We thought we were nearly through it when the bus suddenly turned off the main highway, whether by accident or design, and spent another half an hour getting hopelessly lost. We can only assume it was a detour but it was a bloody long one! I think half the passengers were watching his route on google maps wondering where on earth he was taking us. In the meantime, a passenger started giving out that the toilets were out of action and had a slanging match with the driver and his assistant. Great fun!
El Alto, La Paz, Bolivia
The rest of the journey passed off incident free which was a bit disappointing! We reached the point where the bus and ourselves went our separate ways. We got off and had to cross the Estrecho de Tiquina by boat while the bus came over on a pontoon. We had 20 mins or so to kill so I grabbed a bite. Contradicted all the guidebooks and bought something that, frankly, looked revolting but I was starving so I took a chance. It was a big piece of Sweetcorn with purple potatoes and some cheese that was grilled to the point that it had the consistency and, perculiarly, the taste of chicken. Some 10 hours later, I feel ok so looks like the gamble paid off. We continued on to Copacobana....not the famous one in Rio but the main connecting point for the Island, Isla del Sol. The ferry took an eternity, about an hour and a half to make the crossing and we were surprised by the number of people who arrived. All the boats leave at the same time so inevitably there's a mass arrival at the southern end of the Island called Yumani. Within minutes though everyone dissipates and head off in different directions to various hostels on the Island. We, by some miracle, had booked one that was only 187 steps up. It was murderous on our limbs, a sheer climb with all our luggage. Even though it was relatively close compared to some we still wish we had used one of the donkeys that are lined up to help! We collapsed into our room before heading straight down for some lunch and a well earned drink.
Yumani, Isla Del Sol, Lake Titcaca
After settling in, we decided to tackle the climb to the top of the cove to catch the sunset which was on the opposite side of the Island. All I can say is that had they defibrillators on the island we'd have probably used them and worn them out. Despite our preparations at altitude, this was the hardest climb we've had to endure so far on this trip. Once we.....eventually got to the top....we bumped into the American contingent we had done the Salar with and had a beer and a glass of vino. We watched the sun go down over a very tranquil Lake Titicaca and rapidly finished said drinks as neither of us were dressed for the cold temperatures. You'd think we'd have learnt by now. A far more rapid descent saw us back into our accomodation by 7. We dropped into the accompanying restaurant and had ourselves another beer and another glass of vino or 2 and were entertained by the owners daughter! We also met a couple of lovely girls from Uruguay who were exhausted after walking from the North side to the South Side today. We intend to do the return trip tomorrow. Needless to say if you don't hear from me further, you'll know we never made it!!
We enjoyed a lie in till 8 and after breakfast tackled the climb again which brought us to the top of the village of Yumani. Our intention was to walk to the north end of the Island to spot the Inca Ruins. It was a fabulous trek in glorious sunshine which also saw us climb through some eucalyptus woods. We had it on good authority that the trek to Challa' should take around 3 hours. So we figured, a leisurely stroll there, enjoy some lunch, head back and get back to Yumani before sunset. As it turned out we had walked for over 2 hours, albeit with regular stops and we weren't even close. Another group met us and told us they had come from the other end and it had taken 2 hours. At that point we didn't fancy an 8hr round trip so we turned tail and headed back, stopping for lunch along the way. Still a healthy 6hrs altogether. A slight dampener was put on the day when I got a message from Booking.com to say that our night booked in Cusco before Machu Pichu had been cancelled. First issue we've had all holiday so can't complain. Tomorrow is a day of travel again as we head away from here at 10.30 on the ferry back to Cocacobana.
Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca