After Galápagos we had a series of days travelling – a night in Quito (Ecuador), a night/day in Cusco (Peru), and then an overnight bus that took us into La Paz (Bolivia). The “BoliviaHop’ bus we took stopped at a couple of places en route. First at Puno to see the Floating Islands of Uros, and again at Copacabana across the border in Bolivia to see Isla del Sol. By this point we were pretty tired from a busy schedule, lack of sleep and altitude – so we booked an apart-hotel in La Paz to chill out.
All this above for less than £20 in Cusco (opposite the hotel Ma, Pa and Dan are staying at in a few weeks)! Cocktail (pisco sour, no less), fresh salad with palm hearts, radish, avocado and an amazing orange dressing. Food is AMAZING in Peru. At last, healthy, tasty and cheap!
Uros (above) is known as a tourist trap – that’s how this tribe make money in a modern world – but they live this life, on these islands, for real. So yes, it is amazing to see the islands, walk on the spongy surface, feel the freezing air and shade your eyes from the very bright sun. Tough place to live. They use root balls of reeds as floats, covered with around 5 meters of reeds to make each island. An island lasts around 50-80 years, but the layer of reeds has to be maintained each month. Each island is named (we saw “Chumi”) – it holds 5 families/houses, has a central seating area and look-out point, all made of reed material. Each house is s simple hut with bed, and a TV hooked up to a battery (if Chumi is anything to go by!). The floating islands are in three areas on Lake Titikaka (“Titi” is Aymaran and “Kaka” is Quechuan – the two indigenous groups here). The area we visited had islands (somewhat ironically) anchored around a huge central “lake”, and the families use boats to sail across to each other or the “bar, shop and tourist digs” island. We got our passports stamped as if this were a separate country!
Whistlestop: Isla del Sol
View from Isla del Sol. Copacabana seemed like a cute, hippie town on the Lake shore (“so many Gringos!”). An hour away by boat is Isla del Sol. Inca legend says that Viracocha, the bearded god who created the universe, emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca and created the sun at this location – there’s a small temple in honour. Otherwise, there’s no motorised traffic, only donkeys and boats, or you can hike over the island to the little, beautiful town of Yumani set on a steeeeep slope.
Chilling out was going VERY nicely indeed in La Paz. Plugged Jim’s hard drive into the TV and watched movies, got some healthy (ahem) pot noodles (56p though) and bread and philly from the local tienda (and some amazing pastries/cakes – La Paz does good cake!).
And THEN … there was a leak at my flat. So for a couple of days we stayed near wi-fi to communicate via cyber land, and tried to chill whilst dealing with unresponsive and secretive neighbours, second guessing what was happening and worrying. Thank goodness for “The Doolan”, my enforcer ;-). If we manage to get some sort of resolution I’m considering a gift of Pringles as thanks. Maybe an alpaca jumper. Pot noodle?
Even after the worrying about my flat subsided, we stayed pretty still for another couple of days. A hiatus from the hiatus. A break from the new norm. Time to upload a million Galápagos photos to the blog. Also, I still have a massive gash between my little and neighbouring toes, after nearly ripping off my pinky on a boat, and it isn’t healing. So I fashion “toe-tectors” to keep the toes separate and try and dry it out, not walking on it too much.
Did enough walking around La Paz, however, for Jim to make fun of me crossing roads, negotiating paths, and always hurting my toes:
“I don’t like you making fun of me and my spatial awareness anymore!”“I thought you would have seen that coming, but of course you didn’t”“I’m tired of you making fun of me, I need you to have someone else around for inspiration”“You are my a-muse”
On Tuesday 3rd we headed for Uyuni via a bus to Oruro and then a train. Our bus was stopped in another protest blockade, but – being old hands at this – we got out, got backpacks on and walked a couple of kilometres to the end and picked up a taxi. Luckily the protest was close to the city.
The train was excellent. They rolled out the carpet for us to board. Not really.
On train:“Do you want to take a photo of me through the window?”
“OK. Go outside then…”
We drank beers and ate dinner in the dining cart, then slept and read as the train trundled all the way to Uyuni 7 hours later.
Next day we shopped around for a day tour to Salar de Uyuni, the vast salt flats. Found one going that day, so off we went in a van straight away with 14 others. Job done!
Absolutely stunning place – an extinct sea, over 10,500 sq km, at an elevation of 3,656m. Clear skies, a flat salt crust a few meters deep, and salty brine bubbling up in some locations or covering the crust to create amazing reflections. I guess its like a vast snow scene, except its hot and the clouds are really low at this altitude.
The tour was great, £15 each for the day and lunch. We stopped at a train graveyard first for some climbing and photos, then a local market, some bubbling brine, and then Isla Incahuasi for lunch. 4 of us climbed the remains of this volcano covered in coral.
2 more stops, one to take the obligatory ‘perspective pics’ (great fun!) and then to watch sunset reflected in the briny water.
On the return journey we played quiz games with the youngsters.
“OK, this round is ‘Guess the Movie from its Tagline’. The first one is ‘Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.’”“If no one knows, here’s a clue – it’s what was really annoying you on the bus earlier.”
“The Asians?”<hilarity>“Err, no, the answer is ‘The Fly’”
Perfect length of trip for us. A lot of people do 3 or 4 day trips, which involve a lot of driving in a land cruiser with 6 people, staying in ropey hostels with no hot water and probably in the same room. The pay off is a couple of lagoons, flamingoes, some amazing rock formations and the Salar itself. We went for the main event, the alternative seemed a lot of hard work for little reward given we’ve seen the Galápagos so recently. #spoiledalert!
“I’m sure you’ll be offered loads of jobs”
“Yeah, but we need to give Brighton a chance”
“All I am saying, is give Peacehaven a chance”
“I don’t think patience is a virtue.”“Its not your virtue, that’s for sure!”