La Paz, Rurrenabaque, Sorata, Copacabana, Puno, Cusco
So we have reluctantly left Bolivia and are now in Cusco, Peru, ready for the next stage of our adventure!
But of course a lot has been happening in the meantime:
So we had xmas and NYE in La Paz with some of our friends that we made studying at the Spanish school in Sucre. While in La Paz we decided to continue travelling with a couple of English lads, cousins Harry and Oliver.
First stop for the new year was the jungle. There was a bit of a delay between xmas and new year because as I mentioned in my last blog the Bolivian President decided to put up petrol prices so people were suddenly paying more than double for petrol and this caused a lot of strife and people were rioting and protesting, everything suddenly cost double and buses weren’t going anywhere in Bolivia so people everywhere were stuck where they were. We were also having some pretty wet and miserable conditions meaning flying to the jungle would have been poo.
But things worked out well in the end as they somehow always do and the President put the petrol prices back down (they day after we booked our flight at a more expensive price, about $90AUD). So on the 2nd we flew to the tiny town of Rurrenabaque in northern Bolivia on the shores of Rio Beni near Madidi NP.
The town is only made up a few streets and is paradise. I really didn’t want to leave! After flying with lots of layers from cold La Paz we were hit as soon as we landed on the grass runway by the heat and humidity of the jungle so we decided to splurge a bit and pay $6.50 each for a hostel with 4 beds, private bathroom and a SWIMMING POOL!!
That night we went to one of the cool, yet overpriced jungle themed bars for dinner, cocktails and pool/snooker. The next morning we were up early to start our jungle tour. The woman at the hostel decided then to charge us 100Bs each for the night instead of the agreed 47Bs!!! We were outraged but as we hadn’t written out the price and the man we had spoken to the day before wasn’t around we had no proof and we were also in a hurry to get to the tour office so we angrily payed. Also I realised that if we booked our tour there directly through the agency rather than through the tour office in La Paz we could have saved quite a bit of money. Well we know for next time.
We had booked a 3 day Pampas tour which is on a boat on the river we left the tour office at 9:30 and drove 3 hours to our river embarking spot. We had a Spanish couple and Tim, a Dutch guy, on our tour. We had to pay an additional 150Bs each to enter the NP ($22) then we spent the rest of the afternoon leisurely heading up the river spotting animals. We saw lots of bird life including eagles, Bird’s of Paradise, kingfishers and giant jabberoos.
We saw lots of Turtles, Alligators, Capybaras, Squirrel Monkeys and Howler Monkeys.
We arrived at our lodge at about 4pm for tea and bickies then back on the boat up the river further to a jungle pub where we could play volleyball and football and drink some not so cold beer or coke and chill. On the way back we got out our head torches and shined them onto the banks to see all the red alligator eyes reflecting back at us and I was amazed at how many there were that were actually hidden in the daylight... scary. Back at the shelter we had tea then bed on a very thin mattress in a wooden shelter off the ground with a mozzie net around it.
Day 2 was searching for anacondas so we went trekking through fields and jungle and eventually in mud, very thick mud. As Biddy and a couple of other found out it was very sinky mud too and I was in fits of laughter and completely unhelpful when Biddy fell knee deep in the mud and the guide had to pull her out and then had to go back for her gumboot!
We ended up seeing only one small anaconda and it all felt very touristy because there were about 8 other boat loads of tourists gathering to see this one anaconda and take photos so we trekked back for lunch. That afternoon we went Piranha fishing and I was one of 2 people to catch one...IT WAS THIS BIG!! Nah it was only about 10cm but we took our 2 fish back for our dinner anyway.
However I didn’t really get a taste it because by the time we got back I had awful stomach pains and quickly lost my appetite. I spent the rest of my night and morning in pain, getting up and racing along the wooden planks to the toilet every half an hour with my head torch with an army of mosquitoes and other gigantic jungle bugs streaming after me. I then had to dive back under the mozzie net onto my bed . Unfortunately some of these nasties were too quick and also came under the net including a persistent giant green fly that kept kamikaze flying at my head and at the torch. This fly followed me 3 times!!! This was the downside of the trip along with having a non English speaking guide. When we booked in La Paz we were told the guide would speak English and so I think we missed out on hearing a lot more about the history and ecology of the area and the animals
Squirell Monkey at the camp
Anyway highlight of the trip was waking up at 5:45am the first morning in my hut and hearing Howler Monkeys in the forest. I raced out into the jungle following the noise and Biddy fearing the noise was been made by something that was going to eat me ran after me. When I saw them up in the trees I was so full of awe and happiness and just wanted to stay there forever. I have officially fallen in love with the jungle!
Last day of the tour I began to feel a bit better by mid morning and went back on the boat to search and swim with the elusive pink river dolphin. We found one but saw only occasional glimpses as it surfaced for a breath. Apparently if the dolphins are in the water the alligators and black caiman stay away so we shrugged our shoulders and chose to believe the guide and jumped in! It was very refreshing.
We left the jungle and climbed back into our jeep for the 3 hour ride back into town just as the rain hit! We had a torrential downpour the entire way home, considering it is the rainy season and that was only rain we had there we were very VERY lucky!
We chose a different hostel when we got back which although didn’t have a swimming pool was very nice and only 30Bs. It had some very nice hammocks out the back which we spent most of the following day in as our flight had been delayed. We were originally planning to catch the bus back to La Paz to save money but we heard many horror stories while we were in Rurrenabaque and the jungle from other travellers that had got the bus in about how hot it was, how dodgy the bus was, and how dodgy the road was and with the recent rain we knew that the road would be in terrible condition and the 20hr bus trip could have turned into days. So we decided to suck it up and pay for the flight home which had dropped slightly since the petrol prices by then had returned to normal.
We were back in La Paz for 2 nights and got a 5 bed dorm for the 4 of us. A Brazilian guy had the 5th bed which was the top bunk above me. Later that night when we were asleep he decided to bring a ‘friend’ back to the hostel. Were heard her ask “do you think they’ll hear us” and to show we were awake we coughed and rolled over so they left. But I woke up a little later to my bed shaking! Yes, That’s right, they were on the bunk above me trying very hard to be discrete but weren’t succeeding. So I coughed loudly and they stopped. But 15 min later THEY STARTED AGAIN! One of the guys got up to the toilet but this still didn’t work so I swore and told them to ‘cut it out’ and they stopped but 15 min later THEY TRIED AGIAN!!!!! So I again I used some colourful language and yelled out to them to stop shaking the bed. A few min after that the girl left the room and I was left traumatised and scarred for life. Biddy slept through the whole thing! Haha
So we got our washing done (which was a bit worse for wear after the jungle, I actually had to throw some stuff out) and gathered ourselves ready to head to Copacabana and cross the border into Peru. But then Biddy suggested we do some hiking in Sorata and so quick change of plans and we went there instead for less than $3ea crammed into a mini bus. 2.5 hours later we were in mountain paradise. It was dark and many hostels were full, very frustrating when you’re walking around a hilly town with a very heavy pack on your back and backpack on your front.
The next day we saw how green, mountainous and beautiful the place was and I was so glad that Biddy convinced us to go there. We had a nice chill out day and tried to suss out some treks to do. The next day we went on a 22km return trek to a cave. Very beautiful and not too hard. Or so I thought until I tried to walk the next day. Still I didn’t want to waste the scenery so I went on another 2.5hr walk uphill with Biddy until it started to rain.
Walking above the town
It’s interesting that so far in Bolivia I have only seen woman doing physical labour: carrying heavy sacks of grain up a mountain, running with wheelbarrows full of rocks, sawing down trees by hand. All the men seem to do is drive cabs
The view from our hostel in Sorata
The hostel we stayed at in Sorata was on a ridiculous slope but it was worth it for the food we had there. Best swiss muesli EVER, homemade tomato soup and fresh made bread rolls every morning warm with butter or as sandwiches with garlic, herbs and cream cheese. A nice change from the stale sugary bread that seems to be everywhere else! I could have stayed there just for the food!
Eventually we got on another mini bus to Huarina and then sat on the side of the road in the cold while a nasty storm cloud approached. No cars or buses would pick us up but eventually a bus stopped and the assistant told us we could sit in the aisles for a discounted price of 10Bs each which by then we were more than glad to do. We had to get off the bus for a lake crossing clamouring onto a boat while our bus was taking across on a barge. The bus nearly left without us while me and Biddy were making a quick dash for the Baños (toilets) on the other side.
When we arrived in Copacabana we checked into our hostel then went to get some food. The bathrooms have gradually been getting worse and worse as we travel. First, we can’t put toilet paper in the toilet... it has to go in a bin next to the toilet, then you have to provide your own toilet paper as well, then you also have no flush and have to pour a bucket of water down the loo and finally, we have no toilet seats anywhere in Copacabana hehe!
The next day we went down to the port just down from our hostel and got the midday ferry to the famous Isla del Sol (Island of the sun where the Incas believed the sun originated from) in the middle of Lake Titicaca. We took all of our luggage believing we would be able to get another ferry to the other side into Peru but we were wrong and ended up taking all our luggage for nothing, which involved lugging all our gear up nearly 300 steps at 4000m above sea level.
View from near the top of the island
Sunset from Isla del Sol
Inca steps at the shores of Isla del Sol
The next day we did a 5 hour walk around the Island checking out some of the ruins. It was a very beautiful walk. Afterwards it was pizza, vino and chocolate then bed. They next morning we got a boat back to Copacabana and restaurant hopped until our bus left for Puno, Peru at 6pm. We only got 8kms before we arrived at the border and had to walk with all our stuff through Bolivian and Peruvian immigration and hop on another bus once in Peru. Most laid back border crossing, a quick stamp and that was it, no customs or bag checks or anything.
When we arrived in Puno none of us had any Peruvian soles (currency). We had assumed the bus company would change them for us like they did in Chile to Bolivia. So I found an ATM and we went to a very nice hostel with double rooms with private ensuites and WIFI. It also so had a kitchen so we took the opportunity to cook ourselves a delicious meal the following night using spices and flavour, something different to the pizzas and pastas that seem to dominate local menus.
That day we also went on a tour of the reed islands. The islands are made entirely of reeds that grow in the lake. There are over 70 in total and EVERYTHING is made out a reeds and they regularly put new reeds on the ground on top as the stuff underneath decomposes.
One of the reed islands
Visiting a reed island
Travelling around Puno in the cycle taxis
The next day we caught a bus to Cusco. The town where everyone begins there tour of machu pichu! First stop when we arrived was Paddy’s, the Irish Pub for a Guinness and a steak and ale pie mmm! Expensive, but worth it for a little home comfort. We also found our friend Kev in the pub from La Paz, not a surprise for a northern Englishmen and the next day we booked our Inca trail and a 2 day white water rafting tour. We leave on Tue 25th to start our 4 day trek along the inca trail arriving in Machu Pichu on the last day. It’s going to be hard work but I can’t wait. We paid $250US per person which is a bargain. The trail closes for the month of February for maintenance so I think we got end of season prices. I think if we booked it in advance from Australia we could have payed close to $1000AUD.
So the following day we went for our rafting tour. So much fun! The first day we went down mostly class 1 and 2 rapids and learnt the commands. Our guide was getting quite frustrated with us when we stuffed up eg rowed ‘left back’ when the command was ‘right back’. Our guide Carlos said yours truly was the best rower and told all the guys to watch me as an example. Haha. They weren’t overly impressed at been shown up by a girl.
After that we put our harnesses on to go on the zip lines that were rigged up across the river.
Later our guide took us on a tour of the local village and when I got back I helped him cook our dinner and we got all the cushions from the lounge room and laid them on the floor to make a giant bed and we all drank wine and beer and played with the 2 week old puppies that were running around the base camp. Staint Bernard dad with a mongrel mum so you can imagine how cute they were and it was really nice to have some puppy therapy, and ones that weren’t strays. The next day while we waited for the following days group to come from Cusco we played with the inflatable kayaks and practiced crossing the river, very hard againsy those strong currents. After we relaxed in the sauna then went up to do more rafting. Today we did class 3 rapids and it was SO much fun. The guide told me to go at the front and as a result I got absolutely soaked. The water runs down from a glacier so you can imagine it was very cold. So even with wet suites and the sauna afterwards I think it has given me another cold!
That night was supposed to be a big night as it was Kev’s last day in Cusco but I got sick, not sure what from because I had been eating the same as everyone else so I went home early. Tday has been spent resting and so I’ve finally had time to upload my blog. Sorry it has taken so long folks! Also not so many photos uploaded this time as it takes so long so but there are heaps more on facebook so if you’re not a member already time to sign up!
I will let you know how macho picho turns out!
Until next time