Country number three

Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
1
5
11
Trip End Aug 16, 2006


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Where I stayed
Hostal Cactus

Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, April 2, 2006

Hello everyone,

Hope everyone´s keeping well!! I can´t quite believe how the time in South America is going, we´re on less than 4 weeks left now and still have so much more to do.
Soooo.....
We left Santa Cruz after a couple of days (We caught the England-Ireland 6 nations game before we left in a bar surrouned by Irish people, what a gutting defeat!!!). From there we caught a bus to Cochabamba with 2 Spanish (Soledad & Rocio) and 1 Swiss (Katja) girls. The town was very untouristy, and not particularly welcoming to Gringos. We climbed a hill to another big Jesus which completely took it out of me and Nick due to the 2500m altitude, although Katja didn´t seem affected and kept encouraging us. After a few days of realising there wasn´t much to do Nick, Katja and I caught a night bus to La Paz. During the night, we climbed to over 4000m and Nick suffered the first withers of altitude feeling decidedly nautious.
La Paz was a complete change from Cochabamba, and the people were so much more friendly. After a whole morning of searching for a room we found the Hostal Cactus in the Witches Market, not the comfiest of places but for a pound a night we couldn´t really complain! The witches market was a curious maze of streets full of stall selling the standard Bolivian Alpaca wool clothes and the not so standard witches stalls. Apart from many potions for illnesses or just to make you feel good every stall had a collection of dried llama foetuses which were used in some ancient ceremony. The smell made your stomach turn and is something I will always remember.
After a few lothargic days (La Paz is at 3800m and all the streets are on hills making any movement tiring and very slow!) we decided to test ourselves with a mountain bike ride on the world most dangerous road (on average one person dies on it every week!). We were dropped at 4600m at 7.30 in the freezing rain with a set of dubious mountain bikes and a few guides. The first 20km was downhill on tarmac where you had to constantly move your fingers to check they hadn´t frozen although you could go quite insanely fast. After that was a 6km uphill section at around 4000m which was so difficult it felt as thogh your lungs were going to burst. After that came the death road - a 33km downhill track which could easily pass as a downhill mountain bike course, although there were buses and massive lorries trundelling up and down. We survived however after passing many crosses on the way down to mark those who weren´t so lucky!
The next day in La Paz we went to Tiwanaku (an ancient town that was first started around 2000 BC outdating the incas. It was quite interesting although our guide could only speak his script which he had learnt and any questions we asked were met with nonsensical answers.
After about a week in La Paz, Nick, Katja and I moved onto Copacabana (the original, not the one in Rio!). It was a really pretty little town full to the brim with hippies most of whom seemed to have been there for a good few months! We climbed the hill next to the town which gave us some amazing views of lake titicaca. Our plan was to take a boat to Isla del Sol (the supposed birthplace of the sun!), although Katja, being the fitness type decided it would be better to kayak telling us it would only take 2-3 hours. Five hours later, utterly exhausted, after being chased along Copacabana shore by an army officer shouting at us to turn back we arrived at a deserted beach on Isla del Sol. We then realised it was a good 2 hour hike up the mountain to the nearest settlement which Nick and I did leaving Katja to camp on the beach with some Argetinians who had turned up. After checking into a hostel and getting ourselves fed and watered we both passed out from exhaustion. The next day we decided to catch the ferry back and leave the Kayak on the island to be picked up by the guy we rented it off. It was a great experiance but Nick and I agree that we wouldn´t have done it if we realised quite how much effort was involved.
After a nights rest back in Copacaban, we headed into Peru on a bus to Cuzco which is where I am writing this from. After getting into the town at around midnight last night we checked into a hostel recommended to us by a guy at the bus station. It was undoubtably the worst hostal so far and had the feel of an ancient haunted house. We woke up this morning and checked out immediately going to a much nicer place in the arty district of Cuzco. Nick is currently sleeping as he picked up a cold after the kayaking, and is trying to feel better before this evening.
We´ll be staying here for a few days and then going to Machu Pichu before heading back down into Bolivia to go to the salt flats at Uyuni.

Keep in touch all, next update will most likely be coming from Argentina, which by all account is the jewel of South America.

James

p.s. enjoy the photos!
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