! This is where I was unlucky enough to meet the worst type of traveler, the most annoying German tourist I have ever had the misfortune to come across. He seemed OK at first and we were heading the same way. The plane was a tiny 12-seater and the views were amazing, over the salt lakes and 'moon valley’ close to La Paz. La Paz is the highest capital (well, administrative technically) city in the world, surrounded by mountains. I was beginning to realize teaming up was a mistake when the Most Annoying Tourist insisted on inspecting several beds to find a good mattress – it’s only a couple of nights and this is a budget hotel in Bolivia, FFS! After changing his room several times he found one that was adequate. We headed off for some sightseeing …. Clue number 2 – the Most Annoying Touristwas wearing a bum bag and ‘I’m a Tourist!’ llama-wool hat that every gringo apart from me is wearing, yet he told me off for carrying a rainjacket as it ‘makes me look like a tourist’. In the afternoon we walked around the city taking in the sights mostly churches as with all the South American cities, and climbing up to a look out over the city and moon valley. La Paz is surrounded by the neighbouring city of El Alto. The ‘witches market’ was a strange sight, with the llama fetuses hanging from every market stall. I was getting very annoyed by now –despite speaking good English, the Most Annoying Tourist only wanted to talk in Spanish despite the fact that I told him that I actually can’t talk in Spanish all day so therefore we cannot actually talk. All he did was criticise my Spanish and tell me repeatedly how he was fluent in every existing language. And eat coca leaves like they were sweets – coca leaves are used to relieve the symptoms of altitude sickness until aclimatise, you’re not supposed to need them to get through the day or walk a few feet! Back at the hotel having sime much needed time to myself, next thing I know the hotel guy is bringing up a phone to my room ‘because your friend need to call you’
The next day, against my better judgement but because he could speak Spanish and because I wanted to take local transport but didn’t fancy it by myself, I decided to go on a day trip with the Most Annoying Tourist to visit the ruins of Tiwanaku, a couple of hours from La Paz. It was like the dalla-dalla’s of Tanzania! Souped-up minivans race down the streets with someone hanging out of the door shouting the destination in extremely fast Spanish. At Tiwakanu you can hire a guide, - without a guide I wouldn’t have known what I was looking at and probably would have given up after 10 minutes, I certainly wouldn't have spent half an hour in the museum looking at pots. W_XXX is pretty interesting, this is a pre-Inca civilization. Afterwards we wandered into the village to take a peek, and stumbled across the annual fiesta taking place! The streets were filled with entertainers - endless groups of singers, dancers, dragons – and locals had come out in force to watch. It was a great to experience a traditional celebration completely by chance! Everybody was extremely friendly, in fact the whole of Bolivia people have been.
Two days in La Paz was enough as whilst everyone was friendly I didn’t feel particularly comfortable especially at night, it was time to pack up and take the 6 hour bus to Copacabana on the shores of the highest lake in the world, Lake Titicaca
. Copacabana had a much more relaxed feel to it, lots of Gringos and therefore tour offices and restaurants and I felt more at ease exploring by myself. Not that there is much to explore – the purpose of coming here is to take a trip to Isla del Sol (island of the Sun) in the middle of Lake Titicaca. I literally stepped off the bus, walked a few feet down the street and found a lovely ‘hostal’, my own room, bathroom and TV for about 5 pounds. Unfortunately the Most Annoying Tourist was going the same way.
The next day I took the boat over to Isla del Sol. I decided to just go for one day, expecting a leisurely walk around before taking the afternoon boat back. Instead, the boat dropped everyone off at the North shore and would pick us up around 5 hours later at the South shore. What I didn’t realize was that the walk from North to South took 4 hours and was a tough hike up and down, up and down …. I ran into some people I’d met on the bus the day before, and we were so focused on getting to the other side in time that by the time we reached the information sign we realised that we had already missed three of the ruins. A smug French girl going in the opposite direction informed us that it was only an hour and half and was mostly downhill, which turned out to be a blatant lie. Nevertheless I made it across in time for the boat, and the hike did have some spectacular scenery
. It felt like being on the shore of the ocean, not on a lake, as the horizon was full of tiny islands. It’s definitely worth spending a night on the island and having time to enjoy the views. I had to only go for one day because the Most Annoying Tourist was going for two, and I absolutely had to avoid him by this point. We had said goodbye before he left - he said that he had tried cocaine the week before and it made him feel extremely confident for a party. I didn’t believe him. After I turned him down, politely, for about the fifth time, he came out with a classic. ‘Just one question’ he said, as he was leaving for the boat, ‘is it because you like girls?’Huh?! I couldn’t believe a man had actually asked me if I was a lesbian just because I wasn’t interested in HIM. I told him that he had obviously been taking too much cocaine.
There isn’t much else to do in Copacabana apart from hang out with the hippies, so the next day I got on the bus headed for Puno, Peru. Three guesses who was on the bus! Ha! I was one step ahead though – unfortunately I'd made a mistake when telling him my next destination so I hopped off the bus a stop early :) Next stop Peru!
All Bolivia photos here:
The rest of my time in Bolivia went very quickly – after the trip to the Salar de Uyuni (salt lakes) I got a cheap flight to La Paz, the one hour flight was around $30 more than the 12 hour overnight bus journey. Got scammed by the taxi driver – I paid the fare including the 2 Bolivianos for the tax or entrance fee to the airport (it's a military airport). But the driver took the route across the dirt field and stopped when the airport was just a blob in the distance, telling me I had to walk the rest of the way. Like an idiot I got out and walked, struggling to carry my bag in the heat at an altitude of 3,670 meters above sea level. Something didn’t seem right – I soon realized when I eventually reached the airport after walking across the runway that I’d come in the back entrance and everyone else was getting out of taxis and buses on a nice paved road the other side of the airport. Obviously this was just a scam to pocket the airport tax without paying it