Hello again! Is everybody well? Since the quite 'breath-taking' views from last weeks blog in the Salar de Uyuni, it's been a 'breath-taking' experience of another kind these past few days! I mean very literally, I have been gasping for breath too many times for my liking!
After a somewhat dodgy and freezing overnight bus from Uyuni to La Paz, and going from the remote desert to the bustling metropolis, I arrived in La Paz at 08:00 ready for some sleep! I had heard that at a very high altitude (4058 metres above sea level), even walking around this city needs to be done with care! As I snaked down towards what looked like the centre of town, my backpack felt like a ten ton weight. After asking people in my broken 'Spanglish' where the plaza de San Francisco was, every 50 metres or so, I finally 'came to rest' outside the church at the Plaza! I had found the backpacker mecca of La Paz, and it still wasn't 09:00! The Hotel Maya awaited, and they had a room (double room, but just for me), at a very reasonable price of 60 Bolivian pesos! After 5 minutes of heavy breathing (and I don't mean down the a phone line), I regained my breath in time to ask for the room. I was quick to shower, in luke warm water, and set about my to-do list. Laundry topped that list, swiftly followed by money changing, Internet and blogging! All necessary services were very conveniently located within a 1-minute radius of the hostel, so I was a happy man!
resisting the urge to sleep and waste anymore time, after over 3 hours online, I set about walking around La Paz, well I say that, I tried to walk around La Paz, but any uphill movement, and you can see from the pictures, there is a fair amount of hills, led to more breathlessness. I decided I had to eat, taking the advice to eat only a little, (with a burger and fries!). The rain began to fall, but undeterred I continued to trek through the street to see what funny pictures I could find. I found lots of very colorful buildings, and buses! La Paz definitely wins the award for most colorful buses!
I also found lots of market stalls and some kind of preparation for a festival, with flowers and soft toys filling the stalls all around town! After some very unsuccessful bartering for some deodorant and moisturiser at the local market, I needed a plan for the evening! Being so tired, and in poor weather, options were pretty limited, so I decided I needed to do something that I like to do at home! I went to the cinema and watched Russel Crowe in 'Robin Hood'. It was quite good, and I do like checking the movies out in different countries... I mostly enjoyed the popcorn and sweets I ate whilst watching the film.
Going to the cinema on your own is always a funny experience, I get paranoid that people think I must be some kind of weirdo, or very lonely person, and it's not the kind of place where people are wanting to strike up conversation - in a darkened room! Still, it filled the time and allowed me a good rest ready for the following day's trip to Copacabana!
COPACABANA - yes for many of my good friends, you this word as the infamous Barry Manilow song or the name of the Salsa club in Manchester that I go to. Ok, so it's not quite the world famous Brazilian Copacabana, but the Bolivian version certainly had it's own charm. Situated on the shores of the huge huge huge lake Titicaca (try saying that quickly after a few beers at altitude). The lake was truly amazing, so big and with endless beautiful scenery. The town of Copacabana in Bolivia, was a small town, fairly dominated by backpackers, but with some quaint little cafes, bars and eateries! I must mention the discovery of cheescake I made here, as I told my good french friends that cheescake could bever be far away in the desert of Uyuni!
I was far more concerned with continuing my period of R&R (rest & relaxation), so after a beautiful grilled lemon trout ( see picture below)
I went for a stroll along the shore, and enjoyed some sunbathing on one of the little wooden jetties!
I'd been told to head up the nearby hill, lined with religious crosses, for sunset. It was a beautiful view over the lake, and several other backpackers had done the same. I sat reflecting on the trip so far as the sun set over the lake..
On the trip back down to the city, I got chatting to a really nice English girl, (who's name I never asked for) who had been working and living in Guatemala. We went for a beer and dinner, and I have to say if she ever reads this blog, "thanks for a really interesting chat". I won't bore you all with details but we had some really interesting chats about living and working in a different culture and how that kind of experience changed our opinions about our own county, both in a positive and negative way! These random meetings, often conducted without formal introductions, are one of the reasons why I love travelling. I am still in touch with a American girl that I spent had a few beers with, back in 2001! We have never met since, but keep in touch! Just brilliant!
The following day I left to cross the border to Peru and head for the Inca ruins, which I wll write about next time!
Oh just one more funny story... the hostel in Copacabana, cost little over 2 pounds! The room was clean, but the showers were downstairs in the main courtyard, whilst my room was on the lst floor (2nd floor to North Americans). Thinking that it was a good idea to shower before a long bus ride, I headed down to the shower room in the courtyard. I spent five entire minutes looking for a way to turn the shower on (and hide possible stupidity). I eventually gave in and had to ask the owner. He explained (via a number of strange hand gestures) that I had to get back in the shower room, undress, and when I was ready for water, knock on the door, and he would then turn the water on, from outside the room. Once I was finished I was expected to knock on the door again (hoping he was still there) and then wait until he turned the water off! Fortunately it was warmish water - but what a funny way to shower! Guess that's what you get for 2 pounds a night! See courtyard and shower room below!
Thanks for reading!
Regards from Peru!