Bolivia

Trip Start Aug 17, 2013
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Trip End Ongoing


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Friday, November 29, 2013

We woke up at 5am to get a taxi to the bus station. Apparently the hostel only serves brekky from 8 but they were nice enough to get out of bed and make us a coca tea which is my Bolivian substitute for green tea and also helps with altitude problems. We got to the bus station and boarded our bus to copacabana in Bolivia. The bus was nice, full cama again despite the short ride.

We drove for about 3 hours on the shores of lake titikaka before we got to the border. We got off the bus to pee, change money and pass through immigration. We did the proceedings to exit Peru and then had to walk across the border to Bolivia. We took our last photos and said bye to Peru. This is a far easier and relaxed border than Ecuador to Peru. I was carrying a plastic bag that had left over pizza in it and the secure guard outside the office asked if it was my breakfast, I said yes and he laughed. You can't take fruit across Australia's sate borders but I smuggled pizza across an international one.

We had another 30 minutes or so till we got to copacabana where we got off the bus to change into a new local bus. Well this was not like the busses in Peru. Non reclining seats, no toilets etc. you get the idea. I'm glad we were on this bus Thomas it led to one of the most bizarre experiences I have had in Latin America. After driving around lake titikaka for another hour we stopped at a town on the lake that had no exit road. Where were we going? The bus drove down to the shore of the lake and we all got off. The bus drives onto a barge and we had to walk down to the dock and catch a water taxi to get to the other side of the lake. The taxi was quicker than the bus so we got an ice cream and waited. We got back on the bus and had another few hours until we got to la Paz.

The first view you get of the city is from a mountain looking into a huge valley. It is a huge city but ridden with poverty unlike quito and Lima. Something to expect I guess from the capital of the poorest nation in South America. We checked into our third and final wild rover hostel... Free t shirt! The evening consisted of walking around the city to a number of the plazas and getting lost. The city's markets are weird... They sell shrunken llama foetus's which the people here bury under any new construction to bless it. We got lost but found ourselves in a beautiful French style restaurant and Jenny and I and a girl we met on the bus all ate for less that $40. Love Bolivia.

After dinner we went to a place I really wanted to visit after ready marching powder- San Pedro prison. We walked around it and realized that it was nothing like what I expected... It is literally in the middle of the city, if one of these broke out it would be world war 3. We approached the entrance to see if maybe we could get a little peek inside but were promptly stopped by a guard who must have been pretty fed up with tourist asking to enter. We tried our luck getting in but no dice so we took some photos outside instead.

We tried our hardest to get in a taxi but to no avail. The Bolivians do not like picking up foreigners... Why we have no idea but it was a task. We went back to the hostel and booked death road for the morning and I had a Skype with mum and Alex and talked about Canada while he was in the shopping centre back home. Another milestone reached today, I paid for Antarctica!

Again after just over a month in oeru I feel it is only fit to give my opinion on the country. In a few words, I loved it. It is one of my favourite countries to date and one I feel I haven't done or seen enough so I will be back.

The best things about Peru are as follows.

An obvious first is Machu Picchu. It is easy to see why this place is a wonder of the world. The construction of it, the thoughtfulness that went into its design and development and its position in the mountains make this place an absolute spectacle. Worth a trip to South America in itself. I can't really say much more, add it to your bucket list, and book in advance to climb Huayana or Machu Picchu mountain.

Colca canyon comes in a close second. Some of the most stunning scenery I have ever seen in my life. Massive mountains rising out of the biggest canyon in the world with a river running through the middle. The altitude at over 3500metres means there are snowcapped mountains if you go at the right time of year and would make for even more stunning scenery that in summer. The condors that ride the thermal waves in the canyon are also a huge draw card and a must see on any adventure here. The drive to and from the canyon from Arequipa is also something worth keeping your eyes open for after the busy adventure

Full cama busses are a life saviour on long journeys particularly overnight ones. Not only do you save on a nights accommodation, you also get dinner and breakfast which make them far better than day busses. Just make sure you get one without stops to the place you are going. I swear by Cruz del sur, In my opinion, the best bus company I have ever used and i would imagine it is a contender for the best in South America.

The people in Peru are nicer and more helpful than Ecuadorians. The men are respectful to women and even have a lot of time for guys. They are always willing to help out a lost gringo and are really friendly in all areas, Lima, Arequipa and cusco included. It is a easy place to pick up Spanish as the people speak clearly and slowly and it is also easy to travel through if you don't speak any, as most people speak English.

Huacachina is an amazing place to visit. Being 5km from a town of over 200,000 people it is hard to believe that it is in the middle of a massive desert filled with some of the worlds tallest sand dunes. The sunset buggy and sand boarding trip is a must do in Peru but get a big group of people together before you go, not only to take photos of each other but also to negotiate a better price, which you will surely get.

Rounding out the top 6 is the ballestas islands. Nicknamed the poor mans Galapagos, but for good reason. For 50 soles (about $15) you can spend 2 hours exploring the islands by boat seeing some animals that exist in Galapagos. Penguins obviously were a huge draw card for me, but the sea lions, dolphins and unimaginable amount of sea birds were also a massive attraction. You seriously can not comprehend the thousand and thousand of birds that fly around you. You also get to stop at the candelabra which was pretty overrated.

The things that didn't really do it for me in Peru were

The biggest letdown for me was the nasca lines flight. What isn't told to you is how small the pictures actually are. You fly in a sketch Cessna flown by young pilots quite low to the ground but you almost need a zoom lens to be able to get a good idea of what you are looking at. When I examined my photos after I had to zoom in to get an idea of what I actually took a photo of. If it is something that really interests you then by all means do it, but the $90 usd is far better spent on other things.

The only other thing in Peru that I found a bit of a let down was lake titikaka. I fully understand that the native people need to adapt to modern ways of living for simplicity and their own personal development, but the ways in which the tour to the uros islands and marketed and operated is pretty poor. I guess it was just different to my expectations, wanting to see people in traditional dress with traditionally made houses and island as they were thousands of years ago. Instead being greeted by houses with solar panels, motorized boats, and very modern technology throughout was a disappointment

Overall Peru makes the cut in the top 10 places I have been due to the positive reasons listed above. The country is blessed by stunning scenery, and the people are amazing so I would recommend to extend your South America trip to Machu Picchu to include spending some time getting to know the rest of the gems in the country.
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