A Travellerspoint blog

La Paz

Bikes, beers and beginners luck!

So the bike ride down the worlds most dangerous road was AMAZING!! You could choose your own pace but we went down soooo fast and the view was incredible, actually for the first half you couldnt see much becuase there was so much fog, prob a good thing that we couldnt see over into the 500m drop below, but when it cleared up it was unreal!!
So picture this, you start up at 4300m when theres a fine snow like hail falling and your huddling like penguins while the guide reads out the dos and donts.

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Yours truely is in the middle, dark blue shirt. Biddy at the front.

Then the first third was on bitumen road. Long windy bends and slippery because it was wet. Plus this part is still a major roadway so had to be wary of traffic.

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Then the road divides into 2, one down the new safer road built in 2006 and one down the worlds most dangerous road. we all piled back into the vans to go up hill then it was back on the bikes to tackle the dirt rocky road.

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Me at the front and Biddy just behind me.

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Admiring the view below

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The majority of the ride down the mountain was through jungle and it was amazing! These pics really dont do it justice but there were waterfalls and ferns, palms and vines of the greenest green on the mountain side and looking out over the cliffs you would see equally impressive vegetation on the mountains around us! I think the most dangerous part of this ride is the scenery becuase you just want to look at the view in awe rather than watch where you're going. We had a few stacks on the trip ( miracuously it wasn't me or Biddy!!!) by either people going to fast or slamming on the front brakes.

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We had really good guides that spoke great english. As we went further and further down it got hotter and hotter and we had to strip off layers. The finally we made it to the bottom 56kms later at a height of only 1800m. Stopped at jungle hostel for swim, shower and buffet lunch then the scariest part... back up the mountain... in the vans! But finally we arrived back at our hostel alive and in one piece.

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The next day I was feeling a little ill and biddy was terrible so i went on a little wonder while biddy slept all day. Then I went for my free dinner at a local britsh pub called Oliver's Travels. The night before out bike ride we went to get our free beer at the other hostel building and they had a free poker tornament and Biddy said we should play and I have never played properly before and didnt know the rules and got the dealer to write out a list of the hands in order from highest to lowest. So we played. Over 20 people to start with. Biddy got out pretty early so after that i though I would just try to get out so we could go to bed and get an early night for tomorrow. So the majority of hands I placed outrageous bets on in an effort to loose chips ie a 2 and a 7 or a pair of 4s... and I kept winning, somehow I just kept winning. All these pro blokes sat around me getting angry that this new girl who had no idea what she was doing kept winning. Most of the time I didnt understand but they just kept pushing all the chips to me. And in the end I WON! haha so a free dinner at the british pub, a free stein of beer and an unlimited shot a vile gasoline liquor into my mouth until I sat 'no', which I took a raincheque on.

So today, feeling much better, we went with the germans and an english girl back to Oliver's for a proper english breakie (getting a bit sick of pancakes believe it or not).

Biddy's gone to the markets, and having booked us another night here at our hostel, I am now off to find a cinema to see if we can see Harry Potter in english!

Tomorrow I would like to book a tour to the valley of the moon or some inca ruins so ill let you know how that goes!

Ciao for now señors and señoras

Posted by katieOZ 09:24 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

La Paz

Altitude sickness, Coca Tea and free pancakes!

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Well here we are in La Paz. It wasn’t in the ‘plan’ to come straight here but to get to Sucre, Bolivia for our Spanish school we had to come via La Paz. So at the bus terminal in Arica we were trying to ask the bus agent if we could stop somewhere for a night or two on the way to La Paz that was half the altitude because for those of you that don’t know La Paz is the highest capital city in the world at about 3600m above sea level. This however was quite had to translate and we must have looked quite a sight: me madly flipping through the phrase books and biddy drawing pictures of mountains and mimicking vomiting from altitude sickness. Eventually he called his friend that owned a hostel opposite the bus station and he came across to translate haha! Pretty much there was no way around it unless we flew. So we booked a 7hr bus trip to La Paz the next day. Bit disappointed with sunny days hBiddy_SA_Pics_617.jpgBiddy_SA_Pics_577.jpgostel in Arica. Was supposed to be NZ guy and Chilean woman running it but only Chilean woman was there and she didn’t speak any English and was mean and charged us $9ea to do a bit of washing!! Reviews said how helpful NZ guys was to western tourists but he wasn’t there 
The bus ride here was great, apart from the tight squeezeArica-LaPaz_014.jpg. More desert, majestic mountains and wild LLAMAS! Arica-LaPaz_017.jpg Arica-LaPaz_033.jpg
Arica-LaPaz_036.jpgSo to continue onto Sucre straight from LaPaz it would have been another 12 hour bus ride so we’ve booked in a hostel here for two night but will prob stay longer. We left the bus terminal in search of an internet cafe to book some accommodation but the biddy spotted a western looking tourist was walking behind us so we asked her if she spoke English and turns out she was from Greenwood, Perth haha! She recommended her hostel around the corner and we checked in there. We are in a funny old building with high ceilings with detailed cornices but like most buildings here its quite run down and the downstairs smells like wee so we are up stairs in a 12 person dorm but luckily we are only sharing with 2 other atm and ear plugs are a wonderful thing... but for about $5.50AUD a night you can’t complain!!Arica-LaPaz_044.jpg Pancakes provided for breakie and quick shower now we are off to explore La Paz. It is an unreal city, teered in a canyon and all the streets are steep and cobbled and the whole place looks as though it’s about to fall apart.Arica-LaPaz_025.jpg

We don’t seem to have much altitude sickness, just a bit of shortness of breath and a slight headache but they say symptoms pass after the 1st 24hrs or so as you acclimatise.
So for our 1st full day we went to top of city to a dodgy lookout then some smelly rocky markets. Arica-LaPaz_057.jpg I love seeing all the local woman (cholitas) in their local dress. Someone tried to pick my pockets while we were wondering around. It was quite crowded and someone stepped on my foot. I’m not sure if they were working together or whether she just took advantage of me being distracted so while limping I felt a hand slip in my pocket (had my phone in) and turned round and yelled “hey” and pushed the hand away of this beggar woman and she just grumbled pulled her hands back and wondered away. Then we came back to hostel, we were travelling in vans that are old communal taxis that run round and round the city with a person leaning out yelling the route there heading. It’s a cheap way of travelling costing about 1-2 Bolivianos each way (20-40cents). On the way back we were 2 of 20 people crammed in the van bahaha!

Dinner at the main hostel building. We only had 3 pints (plus a shot of mysterious liquor that our table won at the quiz night...ugh) but drinking + altitude = mega hangover so we didn’t feel grand this morning but could have been a lot worse. More free pancakes for breakie then off to see San Francisco cathedral then browsing local markets, a lot nicer than the ones we saw yesterday, and then a 1hr hot rocks massage. It wasn’t the best but you cant complain for $12!!

So now here we are at the main building of our hostel drinking our daily free beer with Kev, a Derbyshire lad that staying in our room and I can finally get wireless on my laptop!
And tomorrow we are mountain biking down the Worlds Most Dangerous Road!!!! WEEEEEEEE
Wish us luck and hopefully there’ll be another blog! Haha nah just kidding its actually really safe, no one has died with our tour company for 18 months!
Adios amigos!

Katie

Posted by katieOZ 15:38 Comments (0)

Arica

Day 4

sunny 30 °C

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Arrived in Arica (coastal city in northern chile below peruvian border) this after noon after a 30 hour bus ride!! Man that was insane! Biddy and I have both travelled for 30 hours before but that was swapping planes and airports etc but this was just continuous. The bus did stop every now and then to upload/drop off other passengers but for the 1st 18 hours we were too scared to get off because sometimes the bus would stop for 30 sec and sometimes for 10min and we were worried if we got off and it was a short stop the bus would leave without us. the bad thing about these phrase books is that ir teaches you what to say but it doesn;t prepare you for the response. eg if I ask "how long until the bus leaves?" I have no idea what his answer means! Me and biddy get quite excited/proud when we ask for something in a whole sentence in spanish but when they answer we just stare blankly and wait for them to turn the till/calculator around so we can see the price. Still everyone continues to be patient with us and we are told chileans speak really fast and "sloppy" in comparison to the rest of south america so hopefully things will improve.

So we are in Arica. As soon as we came in we put on our bathers and went down to the beach for a swim in the pacific. Everyone at the hostel in santiago said how freezing the water here would be but we found it quite refreshing. we then went on the hunt for a supermarket "super mercado" but couldn't find one so bought some stuff at a vege market and the rest at a convenience store so a bit more expensive but OK cooked our black beans again and it was the best dinner ever!!! Biddy cooked and did a great job with the few ingredients we had! So the packet of black beans will continue its journey with us.

There is a nice retired Canadian couple in hostel and they just came from peru so giving us some good travelling advice and there is also a german girl and a french girl. We had a bit of trouble finding the hostel this arvo. We were given instructions from the guy at the santiago hostel but ended up heading in the complete wrong direction. Standing with packs on looking confused obviously alerts locals that we need help and help they did, they were so lovely. 5 sets of helpful people later we found our hostel (a pharmists who spoke no english but showed us how to use the payphone so we could call hostel... hostel staff didnt speak english either so that didnt really help, a man walking a motorboke who tried to get us a taxi and helped us get walking directions in the right direction, 2 young men who directed us again half way, an old man who spoke good english and then found us two boys to show us the rest of the way. By the way BTW this whole trek was about 600m! Haha

So the drive itself turned me and biddy a bit crazy. we each managed to sleep a bit which was good but unfortunately we chose the semi cama instaed of the cama and it turns out cama is fully reclined and semi cama is only semi reclined but still ebtter then a plane seat so it was ok. AND we scored seats at the front of a double decker bus which was good and bad... good beacuse we got to see the scenery all the way. Mostly desert mountains which you will see in the pics. Actually it was exactly like planet Tatooine from star wars where luke lived with his aunt and uncle, I was expecting a band of tusken raiders to jump out at any second (wow thats' really my inner geek coming out!! haha) and a few shanty towns, and bad because we felt the full force of near death experiences as the driver overtook illeagally as oncoming traffic was heading towards us and see over the teetering edges of the mountains we were going up.
There was a lot of little shrine house along the side of the road constructed out of all sorts of material, some very extravagent and other quite plain, all about the size of a dolls house. I think these were for road side victinms but I couldn't believe how detailed they were and how many there were!

So here for 2 nights so we can recover from 30 hour trip and book our next bus trip across the border into bolivia where we will make our way slowly to the bolivian spanish school in sucre. I will keep you posted when I can.

Biddy is currently trying to get the hostel cat to come and cuddle with her, he is a bit more timid than beautiful botcat but she's determined. haha. A funny point of conversation we had today:
Me: "Wow llamas!! That's the first Ive seen in south america!!!"
Biddy "Really???................ hmmm me too!!!

well thats all for now, i need sleep!

love to you all

adios,

Katie

Posted by katieOZ 15:42 Archived in Chile Comments (3)

Day 2

Santiago

sunny

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Santiago first night

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16/11/10

Had a great day. Didn't get much sleep last night, I think because of both my body clock is out of whack and the noisy traffic in the street below. Free breakie in the hostel (vegemite on toast and half apple) then it was off to book a bus to Arica (Northern Chile). We tackled the metro system, no one spoke english so buying tickets is confusing but somehow we managed and found our way the the bus depot that the hostel staff had told us about. Buying tickets here was even harder. Cama or Semi cama? which bus did Simone and Lorence say was better? How long will it take? What time do we arrive? haha This latin american phrase book has become my bible.

Then we missioned it back to hostel to pack some lunch and head on an adventure. We noticed everyone was staring at us and we were getting a lot of wolf whistles (universal lingo!) and then looking at other women we noticed almost all were wearing long pants and we just had shorts on. We asked back at the hostel later if we were dressed inappropriately but they said we were fine and its just a combination of shorts/blonde hair/non-latin american looking, which is good becuase its too damn hot to wear long pants, and as we head north it's just going to get hotter!!!

So our afternoon adventure took us to the mountain on the edge of town called Cerro San Cristóbal that has a statue of the virgin mary on top. Took a little cable car up the side of the hill and was amazed to see from the top how big santiago city really is. Apparently there are about 16.5million people in Chile and about a third of those live in Santiago so its pretty hectic and lots of smog!

We went to a grocery store on the way home and bought some stuff for dinner and snacks for out trip tomorrow. There is a bbq tonight so we might hang out here and have a few beers. Our bus leaves at 7:40am tomorrow so we have to get an early start. The beer here comes in cans or HUGE 1L bottles!!!

Last night we had some beers and dinner at a little local restaurant and one of the staff spoke good english and was very funny. Everyone we have met has been very nice and patient with our poor spanish vocab! But still can't wait for the spanish school to learn more.

Ok I will now try and figure out how to attach photos to my blog!

Bye for now,

Lots of love,

Katie

Posted by katieOZ 13:25 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Chile

Santiago1

sunny 28 °C

Finally arrived in Santiago. Got delayed for 2 hours in Auckland but otherwise no dramas. The restavit tablets did their job and had a good snooze on the plane. I think we paid a little high for the transport to the hostel hehe, I really need to learn Spanish...and fast! Hostel seems nice and in central location. Can't wait to go out exploring!!

Well just wanted to let everyone know biddy and I are safe and ready to start our adventure!

Adios

Katie

Posted by katieOZ 12:24 Archived in Chile Tagged santiago Comments (1)

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