We settled in on the bus and enjoyed the winding roads through the mountains to the Andes. A few hours later we reached the Chilean border which we strangely went straight through, and onto the Bolivian border which we stopped at. The penny dropped as there was a building with the Chilean passport control on one end and the Bolivian on the other, how efficient! We had already fill out paperwork on the bus, but the Chilean end ignored those and stamped our Argentine/Chilean ones we got when entering from Bariloche, I suppose that's correct! The Bolivian end got a bit confused as to why the other paperwork hadn't been stamped but on seeing the previous paperwork he just stamped us in after a little confusion on my part. Then the fun began, we had to take our bags to a table, unlock and uncage our backpacks only for the guy to take one look and think where do I start! He unzipped one side pocket and then waved me on, then he just had a quick feel of Cat's and waved her on too
. A little frustrated that we'd been made to unlock and uncage our bags for nothing, Cat let out a loud scream as she picked up her bag and then dragged it over to the corner where we had to cage them back up under the watchful eye of the border police and other passengers. We then boarded the bus and carried on the journey with a movie (Avatar in Spanish) and a meal of cold pasta and a slice of meat of sorts. The rest of the journey had even better scenery with snow capped mountains and flamingos in lakes until we got nearer to the town of El Alto (which has the highest airport in the world) and was a bit run down. From there we descended 500 meters into La Paz (which is massive and surrounded by mountains) arriving at the bus terminal at what we thought was 4pm. We had arranged a pick up with our hostel/hotel for 4.30pm so sat and waited. At 5pm and still no sign we began to wonder if they were going to turn up but as it turns out we'd gained an hour and the time we'd been told was Chilean so we actually arrived at 3pm (we didn't realise this until the next day). So at 4.00pm local time a lady arrived all out of breath (as they realised the problem) to collect us, apologised and got in a cab with us to the hotel. We checked in and to our surprise we got a room with a double and two other beds and a balcony with a view of the city. Tired, we went down to a mini mart to buy some water and went straight back up the 5 floors to our room, ate our sandwiches we'd made for the bus and relaxed on our bed and got an early nights sleep
Got up what we thought was 9am (but because of the time change was 8am) and went down to breakfast which was nice; fruit, cereal, bread and jam. After breakfast we headed out to have a look around and get some money from the bank, whilst walking into the center we passed Plaza San Francisco (which is being dug up) and the Church by the same name. We also got some info in the tourist office at the end of a nice narrow plaza which seems well kept with all sorts of flowers, trees, fountains and statues and sits between two roads. How we discovered the time difference was that we finally managed to get Cat's watch a new battery and strap (her watch had stopped in Brazil) and when it was returned it was set an hour earlier than we thought. We then went back for a rest for an hour or so and then back out to get some lunch (ham and cheese croissant and a chocolate one for afters) and to find out about trains to Tupiza. We got there a little late as there wasn't enough seats on the train leaving on Friday (they book up fast here) so we checked for the one on Sunday and there is for now but it means staying a little longer than we expected. We headed back for a re-think and decided to reverse the route and catch the train back in a few weeks, if we can plan the rest of the route that is
. At 7.30pm we headed to an Indian restaurant (run by a Brit) that was recommended in Footprints and enjoyed onion bargees, veg samosas, chicken tika masala and a chicken dopazia. They were a little different than we get at home but very nice all the same and not bad at Ģ13 for the two of us!
9am seems to be a good time to get up these days especially when you're on the correct time. After some breakfast we headed to the bus station to check prices to our next destination but we still couldn't decide which place to go next, Sucre or Uyuni, so we headed off to do some touristy stuff to think about it. First stop was the mirador Killi Killi which was up a very steep set of streets, once at the top we enjoyed a fantastic view of the city and you got an idea of how big La Paz is. We then had some lunch in a plaza de comida (food hall) and had almuerzo completo, which was 4 courses, a very small empanada, veg soup, spaghetti with mushroom and ham and for dessert a small slice of pudding de pan. As it was quite cloudy we couldn't see the snow capped mountain Illimani so we decided to give the other lookouts a miss for another hopefully clearer day. To help make our minds up we went into Tupiza Tours to find out what they had to offer and as most of their tours started from Tupiza we decided to go to Sucre first and book something when we get to Uyuni
. As we were close to the supermarket we bought some supplies and then wandered back in a light spitting rain to the hotel. After a quick rest we headed back to the bus station to book our bus tickets to Sucre, and then back to the hotel which we made it just in time as 20mins later, when we were cooking our ravioli dinner, the heavens opened. The rest of the evening was spent with Cat reading up on Sucre and places to stay and me watching a movie called Mr Brooks, with a little input from me on our next destination.
Got up at 9am for breakfast and then headed out to the black market as Cat wanted to buy a new belt. The area we're staying in is quite close to the black market and even at the bottom of our road you can't walk along the pavements for the amount of stalls all selling pretty much the same things. But in the black market it is a bit more organized as things seemed to be in sections, one street full of food stuffs, one with clothes, one with hygiene products, you get the point. After a few stalls of massive buckled belts Cat managed to find a suitable belt she liked that started off as much as 15bob (Ģ1.50) but she managed to barter it down to 8bob (80p) quite easily, a little too easy but she paid what she wanted to for it so was happy that her trousers would now stay up
! We then headed to Plaza Murillo where the main government buildings (Palacio Legislativo and Palacio de Gobierno) and the Cathedral Metropolitana were. They were beautiful looking buildings with dressed guards, military police and regular police with riot Shields (a bit like Lima then) all watching our every move. After a nose in the mausoleum next to the Cathedral we went looking for something to eat for lunch and had a beef and onion baguette with chips and orange juice in a cafe on the way back to the hotel. On the way there we stopped at one of the many hairdressers and had a well needed trim for Ģ1 each. We then went back to the hotel to rest our aching calves from all the up and down hill walking in these crowded streets that both people and vehicles (of all shapes and sizes) try to occupy at the same time. After a nice hot shower we headed to the Colonial Pot restaurant for some traditional food - llama steak and llama goulash. Sorry Robert we got you a llama but we couldn'tīt get it out of the country so we ate it! Suitably stuffed, we headed back to the hostel for a movie then bed.
Down to breakfast for 8.30am, Packed and ready to go by 9.30am. Checkout wasn'tīt until 12.30pm so decided to go for a wander to get some bread. Itīs not as easy to find a panaderia in La Paz as in Cuzco but we got to see a bit more of the city and eventually found some rolls for the bus journey
. After that we headed back to checkout of the room and cook some more ravioli for lunch. As we had all afternoon to fill we went for another wander around the market streets even trying on some alpaca jumpers, (we must have been bored). Then back to the hotel to watch a movie (Memoirs of a Geisha) before catching a taxi to the bus station. On the way there we remembered that we'd left our tuna rolls in the fridge but as the traffic was so heavy (and we didn't fancy them anyway as the tuna didn't look great) we carried on and got some chicken rolls at the bus station. We checked our bags in and then boarded the bus, to our surprise we discovered that it was an old suite cama bus, (our first fully flat bus bed) the covers were torn but it was still more comfy than ordinary cama but as is the norm on Bolivian buses there was no toilet. Actually there was a toilet but it was packed full of luggage so couldn't be used. The bus left La Paz and we soon found out that the air-con didn't work but the heating did, but as it was over night we didn't mind so much. Cat's seat kept creeping back upright when she wasn't leaning on it, it was also right by a heater so we swapped as I'm heavier and feel the cold more. The ride was a little bumpy at times but I think it was more to do with the roads than anything else, and the traffic going through El Alto (at the top of La Paz with the highest airport in the world at 4000meters) was horrendous. After a few stops on came a movie, (Karate dog 2 in Spanish) but it was very easy to follow and it's fun to make up what they're saying as it was very badly dubbed and out of sync. At around 11pm we made a stop for food and toilets, so we used the facilities, brushed our teeth and got back on board to get some sleep.
4th Jan cont.