Hellooooo Bolivia!

Trip Start May 04, 2011
1
35
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Trip End Feb 20, 2014


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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Saturday, October 15, 2011

Now this is one country I never ever anticipated visiting. I recall from the Roy & HG Show during the Sydney Olympics that they made fun of Bolivia for some strange reason and yelled out "Helloooo Bolivia". That is my only knowledge of Bolivia up until this point. Expansive I know.

The journey to Bolivia was long as expected and true to form for this tour. With hangovers galore and me with a sore throat, the smaller group of us (10) went down to the Puno bus station where it was identified by the tour leader that there was some mix up with our bus tickets and essentially we didn't have a bus. None of us really cared due to the fact that we were either all still intoxicated from the night before or recovering. The tour guide organised an alternate mini-bus for us to catch to the Peru/Bolivia border. The woman who had lost her passport was causing great drama and arguing with the tour leader about everything and being quite unfair. The rest of us had had enough of her and were in avoidance mode. The scenery to the border was relatively flat and poor farming country. I am so glad I have my MP3 player to tune out and relax. The border crossing was very busy with various tour groups (we see the same people from different tours everywhere!). All of us got through ok except for the lost passport woman who now had an emergency passport but no Peru stamp. Major drama, major delay for us all, major pain in the arse. I thought there would be mutiny amongst the tour group at the Bolivian border (sounds like a good song lyric actually...), but we eventually got moving and left the lost passport woman behind to sort it out with help from the tour group drivers. I had wanted to have a Pina Colada in Copacabana for fun even tho I know this has nothing to do with the Peter Allen songs, but because of the delays at the border, we only had 30 mins to grab a quick lunch and then onto the next bus to La Paz, capital city of Bolivia and highest altitude capital city in the world. At one pt the bus had to go on a 'ferry’ crossing and we got off separately – the photo explains why we didn’t remain on the bus!

We arrived in La Paz about 5 pm. We explored the main street and square with our tour leader when on the way to dinner. It is a more developed city than what I expected, but some very shoddy footpaths and the craziest power-pole wiring I have ever seen. Apparently it has a high crime-rate, but I felt safe enough and just followed my normal security precautions. English is not as well-spoken here though and that can make basic things difficult, but I did find a very well spoken chemist who helped me out with some throat lozenges. There is a judicial election this weekend and as a result all buses and public transport have to be off the road and a total alcohol selling ban is in place. I am not sure of the exact reasoning, but Bolivians must go a bit nuts during elections. The city is only 1 million people but much busier than normal this weekend because people come from outer regions to vote. The streets are very crowded. We ate dinner in an English style bar and waited nearly 2 hrs for our food to arrive – if I were alone, I would’ve walked out. It ruined all our plans of an early night.

Melissa and I added an extra night to our La Paz itinerary when planning the trip and very glad we did because 1 night would be useless to see anything. On our full day, we roamed around the streets of La Paz. The car fumes still bother me and all the footpaths are taken up by street-sellers and market stalls so u walk on the road along with the traffic. A major talking point of this entire tour has been the San Pedro prison in La Paz which is an unorthodox prison where inmates have to pay rent for their cell and bribe their way for survival. Melissa had mentioned about the possibility of visiting the prison before we commenced the tour and then 1 of the guys on the tour was obsessed with it and had read a book (Marching Powder) about the prison and intended to bribe the guards to let him in for a tour. In the end, the closest we got was outside near the San Pedro Plaza. I was happy with that; didn’t really fancy the concept of bribing a guard to get INTO a prison and have them hold my passport for the duration of the tour.

The rest of the day was spent walking thru markets, shops, the main Government square, and booking our accommodation for Buenos Aires. With the organised tour now officially over, the remainder of the tour group hired mountain bikes to ride on the ‘Worlds Most Dangerous Road’. Not my interest and I am glad I didn’t go because they left at 730 am and didn’t return until 930 pm! I wanted to see La Paz and explore a bit. If we had more than just the full day then I might have been tempted to do the mountain biking or go out to the salt flats, but doesn’t really excite me (someone died a few years ago when their breaks failed and went over the cliff!). Plus, I am 100% over any more strenuous physical exercise this break.

So that’s it for the organised tour. Some great people and 1 I look forward to forgetting. Really enjoyed the Amazon, Inca Valley, but not so much the Lake Titicaca bit. Bolivia was a nice surprise. Typing this on the plane to Buenos Aires and looking forward to some relax time.
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