A Travellerspoint blog

Inca Trail, Illnesses and a rapid change of plans

Peru

sunny

First let me apologise to all, sorry it’s been over a month since my last blog but things have been a bit crazy lately! Once again a lot has happened since my last blog entry so I have a lot to fill you all in on! From what I remember the last thing I mentioned was white water rafting in Cusco and I was eagerly awaiting my Inca Trail trek to Machu Pichu, hereon in referred to as MP!

Ah Cusco, what a crazy, touristy yet beautiful city! You can definitely see and feel the Spanish influence but the indigenous Quechuan heritage remains strong! We had a couple of days R&R after our rafting before we started the inca trail and another $8 massage was in order after all that hard work paddling for 2 days.

Then I got sick again! Yep the big bad belly was back for another round, I was so familiar with it coming and going by now that I wasn’t overly fazed and just made sure there was always a toilet nearby and I kept a stash of toilet roll with me. Unfortunately, on the 3rd day when I was due to start the gruelling 4 day hike that is the inca tail I was still sick! Early start, 4 hours of bus rides and 4 hours of walking was not my idea of fun when you are feeling like I was! I was sculling coca tea at every opportunity, which the Andean people believe cures every possible ailment, and really helps with altitude sickness as well! It did actually calm my stomach a little.

Cusco___Ma..chu_007.jpg
Day 1: Some of the first runis we saw

We all had a lot of concerns for the 2nd day of the hike, renowned for been the hardest day on the trail: 4 ridonculous hours of non-stop, steep, uphill trekking, followed by a good hour (if you were quick) of steep downhill. We also had more rain forecasted and we were already a bit wet from day 1.

Our guide Percy made me some celery tea, that first night and again I ate very little but the next day for by some miracle I was feeling much better, though the slope was still a killer. It rained ALL DAY!!! I ended up teaming up with 2 other Aussie guys from Melbourne that were about my pace or a bit slower, which gave me a chance to stop for rests while they caught up (Biddy being Biddy and our English fellows charged on ahead).

Cusco___Ma..chu_027.jpg
Day2: Up, up,and up!

Cusco___Ma..chu_014.jpg
Day 2: rest stop half way through the 4 hour uphill trek

We climbed to a height of about 4200m and so it was a struggle to get enough oxygen into our lungs. Just when you think you’re about to die, a porter rushed past you with all the food and camping gear and you can’t help feeling completely in awe of these men, They do this all day, everyday with pack that probably weighs more than they do, and most of them only wear sandals for footwear , which must have been horrible in the muddy, sludgy path that was forming in the rain. They pack up the camp after we leave and have to arrive at the next camp and set up again before we arrive. They even carry little plastic chairs and a dining hall tent for us, which all seemed unnecessary (there were 30 people in our group in total, 6 Aussies, 2 English, 1 American, 1 German, 2 Chileans and 18 noisy Argentineans).
To top it off it was so cloudy and rainy at the peak that we couldn’t see more than 10m in front of us to the amazing view that we knew was below. Oh well, the whole experience was still pretty spectacular. Amazing mountain scenery, luscious greenery to trek through, beautiful inca ruins along the way and the rewarding thought that you are doing a once in a lifetime experience.
So that was how I spent Australia Day. I had one rum and coke off one of the Aussie guys to celebrate but drinks were limited as we had to lug them up the mountain in our packs. Some people opted to pay extra for the porters to carry their packs as well but I was determined to pull (carry) my own weight! haha!
That night was one of the coldest I have ever been in my entire life!!! I wore all my clothes (that were dry) and climbed into my 0C sleeping bag with gloves and beanie and froze. I actually woke Biddy up in the middle of the night to come and snuggle up next to me, It took a few goes as she was sleeping very deeply and kept asking me if we were at the hot springs or if it was time to go in the bath! Bahaha! However, it was a very sleepless night, impossible to sleep when you are that cold and to top it off we were woken up again at 5am to pack up and be at breakie ready to start trekking asap. The 3rd day was longer but a little more balanced (some uphill some downhill) except for the last bit which was 2 hours continuous downhill! We had all hired or bought hiking sticks and with my dodgy knees and ankles I had 2. After a while my knees started to ache a lot and I figured it was easy just to plough forward and not hesitate and tense up each step and I passed everyone and led the trek downhill. 100m from the camp site the porters caught up to me and I started chatting to one of them and he wanted to listen to my ipod with me. So we stood there for over 10min while everyone gradually overtook me and beat me to the finish line. I knew it was not a race but I still couldn’t help my competitive instinct, yet my porter friend seemed very pleased to have had a taste of some Australian music hehe!

Cusco___Ma..chu_043.jpg
Day 3: the clouds clear for a moment so we take advantage of the scenery with a quick happy snap

At camp that night we got warm showers and cool beer (not quite cold)! The porters cooked us a feast and as is custom we had a celebration for the porters to say thanks. We were all expected to give a tip as well (50 Soles each or $20) to the porters and considering there were as many porters as tourists that’s not a lot each. There were even some rumours that this was the only payment the porters received for the whole tour so we were more than happy to pay. It was a little disappointing that most of the Chilean and Argentineans only put in a few coins each. I would have thought that if we all had enough dinero to pay for the trip then we should have all been able to spare a tip for these men who had worked incredibly hard!
The next day we were woken up at 3am!! Quick breakie then walking downhill again in the dark for an hour before the sun came up! Would have sucked to have been one of the people that didn’t have a head torch! :)

Cusco___Ma..chu_086.jpg
Day3: Some of the spectacular scenery

We couldn’t walk the rest of the way to the sun gate and out over machu pichu because there had been a landslide a few weeks earlier (they had blown up a section of the mountain on purpose to expand the hydroelectric plant below) so we walked along the train tracks to the small sweet town of Aguas Calientes, the last town before MP and as it names suggests, famous for it’s hot springs. There we left our bags at a restaurant took cameras and the dregs of our rain gear (what hadn’t ripped to pieces...cheap pieces of poo) and took the 20min bus to the mountain!
At that point the sun came out for the first time in 4 days and it was absolutely magnificent! MP is all the good things that people say it is and it! It completely took my breath away! The photos just don’t do it justice! The only annoying thing was we were too exhausted to even do anything and explore further than the main areas. One of the funniest things was when we sitting down near the entry and the guide Percy was explaining how sacred the area was. At that same moment Biddy crosses her legs in the cheap and nasty rain pants and in the serenity we just hear this big RIIPPPPPPPPPPP! Bahaha, everybody lost it laughing!

Cusco___Ma..chu_107.jpg
Day 4: Finally made it!!!

Anyway when we got back to the town Biddy and I ordered the biggest wood fired pizzas and gorge fed and drank beer and red wine! Then I went up to the hot springs to soak my tired muscles for an hour before getting on the train back to the town of Ollyantambo then the bus back to Cuzco.

Two days later my bad belly was back and Biddy called a doctor to come to the hostel to see me because I was sure I would soon be fine again. The doctor spoke pretty good English and we went back with him to the clinic to get further tests. So lots of needles and prodding and poking later my results came back and I had not 1, but 4 different intestinal infections! Bacterias and parasites galore. They asked me if I had been bed ridden for a while and when I told them I had just done the Inca Trail they didn’t believe me! They said some of my levels were over 20 times normal levels. They let me listen to my stomach through the stethoscope and it sounded like a rave was going on in there!
So they hooked my straight up to a drip and started pumping me with 200ml bottles of different antibiotics and bags of electrolytes intravenously! I had to stay in overnight and was given a diet of rice and dry toast. No fat, dairy, meat, alcohol (obviously) or spice. Actually the first thing I did when I got out was eat a shepards pie and a bread and butter pudding from the local Irish pub, which tasted amazing at the time but I regretted it a few hours later. The next couple of days I had to go back to the clinic for antibiotic injections. My travel insurance took a little while but they were very good and paid the expenses for me as soon as I paid the $100 excess over the phone. I was also given a course of oral antibiotics and antiparasectics, which I have finished now so hopefully no more bugs for me for a while!

After Cuzco the awesome foursome got a night bus to Arequipa with our new friend from the inca trail Saket! Also awesome! We found a cute little family run hostel that did banana pancakes for breakie and had a couple of days to chill before booking our Colca Canyon trek. The canyon is the deepest in the word! Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon!
On the day we got picked up at 3am and were given blankets as we climbed into the bus! But sleep for me was impossible in the bumpy 3 hour drive to the town where we got a basic breakfast. We then drove to a popular condor viewing area and was lucky enough to see a condor soaring back and forth across the canyon.

Feb-Mar2011_016.jpg
The condor flying across the canyon

We then began our hike down the canyon down a steep, dusty, slippery, rocky path to the base!

Feb-Mar2011_034.jpg
The view when decending into the canyon

Our guide was a bit disappointing and did very little other than point out some white fungus on a cactus that was made by a local insect and when rubbed produced a bright red paste, still used today in dyes and lipsticks etc. So we all had a great time war painting each other, which turned into an actual war to see who could get the most red on each other.

We got to try an interesting fruit that was like a giant pea pod, pealed like a banana and had balls of a soft fleshy fruit inside with a large seed inside them.

Feb-Mar2011_046.jpg
Trying the local fruits! MMMMM!

We stopped for a quick lunch then continued up a short way to a local town. There were only 55 families in the town and apparently the people had existed there since 800AD and just as we arrived they were in the middle of their Carnival celebrations! Lots of colourful dresses (yes even the men were wearing dresses) and beer been passed around and dancing and a band playing and bouquets of not only flowers but of bread and oranges on sticks to! I got dragged into the celebrations and danced a few rounds with the locals. After half an hour the rain started and we decided to keep moving to “the oasis”, our accommodation for that evening.
We drank beer and ate a simple dinner. Then we were woken up early (man, I love the 5am starts!!) for a 2.5 hour uphill trek. We didn’t even have breakie so I was glad I had some sweets and snacks in my bag because even then we were ravenous when we got to the top.

Feb-Mar2011_079.jpg
Made it to the top, Yah Hooo!!: Harry, Olly, Me, Biddy and Saket

We drove back to Lima and reached a height of over 5000m at the top of a mountain and it was snowing! I love this country! They have every kind of terrain and climate in such a small space!
After that the canyon trek it was time to say a sad farewell! Saket was heading to La Paz and our loveable laddies from Rugby were heading to Peru’s northern beaches. Harry only had a couple of weeks left in SA and wanted to get have a go at surfing before he left. Biddy had made a reservation a Pisco Sin Fronteras to do some volunteering to help rebuild houses after the earthquake. It sounded fun and meaningful and cheap ($6-$10/day) but I wanted to save my volunteering time for the jungle to work with the animals. I decided to head there with her though because it was in the same direction we were headed and if they had an extra space (apparently reservations are necessary) then I would stay for a week or 2 and if they didn’t then I would keeping heading north and catch up with Biddy later. When we arrived it just so happened that they were at full capacity but 2 girls were leaving and so their beds were free. We got there right in the middle of the morning meeting. The two girls kindly cleared their beds so we could crash. Even with the noise of coming from the workshed downstairs we slept like logs. Ear plugs are a wonderful thing!

So began our brief adventure at Pisco Sin Fronteras (PSF). The next day we went down to line up for breakfast at 7:30am then sat down for the morning meeting at 8:30. This is how every day began. The lead volunteers led the meeting going through the announcements then explaining the projects that were being conducted at the time. Then they went through the projects and you had to yell out your name to get on a project as there are only selected places and we were over capacity. Biddy and I managed to get on a project called “Edison’s Ramp”. For this project we were to build a ramp and 2 rooms for a family whose son is in a wheelchair after his back was crushed when a wall fell down in the 2007 earthquake. There wasn’t much work, just digging up concrete and levelling the ground. Until we got someone who knew what to do on the project wecouldn’t do anymore so we just had to call it a day after that. The next day they didn’t need as many people on the job so Biddy and I missed out on getting on the same job (if you were on the job the day before you got preference but they had cut the number of people they needed). So we decided to do some DIY. Biddy was on a top bunk which had no ladder so we decided to build her a ladder. After the meeting however, I was approached by 2 vollies come over from the school house (an offsite accommodation for PSF vollies who want some peace and quiet). They said that a cat that lived on the roof had given birth to kittens the night before but hadn’t separated them. Then they said, “Katie, you’re a zoo keeper right? Does that mean you’re a vet? Can you save our kittens?” I said no and I couldn’t promise them anything but went with them anyway. I looked at the 6 kittens all connected in a buddle of umbilical cords and placenta with a very concerned and confused mother standing over them. The other vollies looked at me expectantly and I thought back to when I helped my vet friend in Broulee do an emergency dog caesarean. So I got a few pairs of forceps, some surgical scissors, antiseptic solution, towels and alcohol. So I went back to the kittens and cleaned, clamped and cut the kittens apart. I saved all but one that had its umbilical cord wrapped twice around its back leg, cutting off circulation and maiming the leg. The leg would have had to be amputated but after I left I found out one of the local Peruvian guys took care of it “Peruvian style” :’( But the other are all healthy and doing well! It’s hard enough for the local people to care for themselves and their children let alone pets.
Anyway next I went back to the main building to start on the ladder. We went across to the wood yard and got some timber and spent the next hour or so cutting, sanding and drilling! Eventually it was ready and we had a great time testing it out :)

Feb-Mar2011_097.jpg
Working on the ladder

Feb-Mar2011_106.jpg
The finished product

Then we didn’t really have anything to do for the rest of the day. Nobody needed our help so I chopped onions in the kitchen to help the dinner crew. Every second or third day you have to put your name down for cleaning and kitchen duties. 4 people to get up early to cook breakie, 4 people to cook dinner for 80 people, 4 people to clean bathrooms, etc. The next day we got on another project that involved building a bathroom for a man named Caesar and his family. We spent Friday and a half day Saturday digging a trench for the sewage pipe.

Feb-Mar2011_115.jpg
Digging Caesar's trench

The family would make us lunch each day which was always very delicious. We always had our reservations though because their kitchens are often little more than a shed on the dirt. But we didn’t want to be rude and no one from that site ended up getting sick. ‘Pisco Belly’ was a common problem among the volunteers. No matter how sanitary we tried to be (there was hand sanitiser in every corner of the building and food rules were very strict) people would still get sick. I also found out that Typhoid injections don’t exactly protect you from getting Typhoid. Even people who had had their injection were getting sick with the disease!!

Sat afternoons and Sundays are our free times. That weekend some of the vollies had arranged a beach camping trip to Parracus! It was so nice to be at the beach again! It was a 45min bus ride there and back through desert country and a steep walk down to the camp spot on the sand. We were all loaded up with lots of luggage and watching people drop stuff and then chase it as it rolled down the slope towards the cliff was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. That night Biddy, Yvette, myself and another girl were on dinner duty we bought all the ingredients earlier Saturday afternoon to make a big campfire stew. Although a lot of people protested to a vege stew saying “I don’t eat vegetables” most changed their mind as soon as they had a taste. The next day we had a day relaxing and playing at the beach and man it was good to be in the ocean again!
On Monday we were back at Caesar’s house finishing the trench and getting supplies for concreting the floor the next day. That night some London guys that had been volunteering at PSF were leaving so we all went out to see them off. Now the next part a lot of you know already. A bit later in the night Biddy was up on the terrace area with our friend Chris they walked out onto the roof area and then the roof gave way and they fell through! Chris caught himself on the roof beams but Biddy fell the 4-5 metres to the floor below. She fell on the stage behind 2 bikini clad dancers. She was picked up and rushed to the local Pisco hospital with Chris and a few other volunteers. I meanwhile was out the back in the beer garden talking to some other people. An hour later I was ready to leave and walked around the bar trying to find Biddy. After a few laps I decided to ask some of the other vollies if they had seen her. When I asked them an Australian girl called Mel turned to me, gasped and put her hand over her mouth. She said, “Oh my god, Katie doesn’t know” and I said, “Know what?” and she took a step towards me looking very serious and said, “sweetie, Biddy fell through the roof”. In that instant I thought the worse and started feeling very dizzy. I struggled to comprehend what she had just said and I think Mel saw the look of terror on my face and said, “oh, oh no, she’s okay, it’s okay. She’s been taken to the hospital. She was bleeding a little but she was conscious and even walked a bit to the taxi.” I looked at the roof and tried to figure out how anyone could fall that far and walk away. It turned out Biddy was picked up straight away by a security guard who then acted inappropriately. She wriggled out of his arms and staggered painfully the few steps towards Chris who had ran back down the stairs.
So I went to go straight to the hospital but everybody told me that about 8 people had gone to the hospital with Biddy including our friend Yvette that we had met in Sucre, Bolivia. They convinced me that there was nothing I could really do at the hospital now and it would be best if I go home and sleep. So I went back and slept for an hour and a half then headed into the hospital first thing in the morning.
The hospital in Pisco was very VERY basic. They had rebuilt a lot of it after the 2007 earthquake but I imagine as with everything else there at the time that their resources were limited. None of the staff spoke English and they did very little to help Biddy. Most of the time they all sat around at the nurses station watching Mexican soap operas on their little TV. Whenever I asked them for something like a towel or a clean sheet or to explain that Biddy was in pain they just rolled their eyes and acted like I was asking them to eat poo.
Biddy burst into tears when she saw me and I knew then that I shouldn’t have waited. She had a cut on her head with 6 stiches and had had an x-ray to check her lower back but they hadn’t found anything. Biddy said her left leg was numb (though she could still move it a bit) and she had a lot of pain in her lower back. Apparently no one would listen to her when she first arrived. A drunk French med student had gone with Biddy in the taxi to translate but she turned out to do more bad then good. Eventually Biddy asked for another translator and Christian, a Spanish guy was our translator from then on. We were so lucky to have him help us over the next few days. Nothing had appeared in the x-ray so the nurses tried the next two days to ask Biddy to sit in a wheelchair but the pain in her back when she tried to move was excruciating so they gave up. Then on the third day the doctor said maybe it would be better if she didn’t move at all... 3 days after the accident they say that haha! The hospital procedures were very strange as well. Each morning the doctor would come and do his/her morning rounds. They would “assess” each patient and then give a list of the medicines the patient needs for the next 24 hours to a friend or relative. The friend/relative (me) would then have to take the list to the hospital pharmacy. The chemist would go through the list and write down prices for the items he had in stock. I then had to take the price list to the cashier and pay and then take the receipt back to the chemist to pick up the items. For the things he didn’t have in stock I had to go to one of the pharmacies outside the hospital and buy the rest. We had to buy absolutely everything! A thermometer, her vials of morphine and other drugs, her syringes and needles, a gas mask for her cough medicine, everything! I then had to take this back to the doctors who would write Biddy’s bed number on it and put it on a bench behind the nurses’ station and administer it as needed. When we left this hospital they gave me the remaining medicine to administer myself... 2 large syringes with needles and 2 vials of morphine, hahaha!

So Biddy had 5 horrible days of this. The incompetent staff had no idea what was wrong with her and she needed to get an MRI. Understandably she was very frightened and upset and just wanted to know what was wrong with her. I spent these days travelling to and from the hospital. I was usually there from 8-9am until 11pm, popping back to PSF or the shop occassionally to get food and supplies. Almost every day these past few weeks I’ve had to buy pretzel sticks for Biddy. She has become addicted to them and I think they have got her through this hospital experience. I also spent a lot of time on the phone to Biddy’s family, the insurance companies, the embassy, doctors in Cusco, etc. I spent 2.5 days trying to arrange a working phone and in the meantime some kind people at PSF lent us their phones so that we could receive these calls. Eventually 4 painful, frustrating days later we were on an air ambulance to Lima, the capital of Peru so that Biddy could get the right medical treatment. Fortunately they let me and all of our luggage in the miniature aeroplane with Biddy. Her air ambulance staff escort included a doctor and two nurses who all spoke English. They were very professional and we were finally felt like things were going to be okay. The insurance staff assured me that the staff at the hospital in Lima would also speak English but it turns out they were wrong. Usually I can understand enough Spanish words in a sentence when someone is speaking to me to understand what they are saying. But when they are delivering a medical diagnosis it is not something you want to have a guess at. Then Biddy’s sister in America put us in touch with a friend in Lima, Jaime. He has proven to be a guardian angel in disguise. He has been here almost every day helping us translate, getting us what we need, speaking to admin staff for me to obtain medical documents, showing me where I could buy supplies and food at nearby shops, taking me out around Lima, everything! I don’t know where we would be without him. I even went to his grandmother’s 93rd birthday party (lots of fun!). It has really been amazing how many visitors we have had, even if I go out Biddy barely has a moment to herself during the day. Pisco is only 4.5 hours away on a bus so friends come and visit on the weekend or on their way to somewhere else. So many complete strangers have come to our aid and these acts of kindness have really restored some of my faith in humanity!

Feb-Mar2011_136.jpg
Biddy in the hospital in Lima with our friends Yvette and Cassandra

I think after this past month I am a fully qualified nurse and carer. I help Biddy with everything she needs. She cannot get out of bed or even sit up so I wash her hair, give her her food (I had to feed it to her for the first week), help her go to the toilet, etc. Her mum arrived in Lima yesterday and two days ago (three weeks after the accident) she finally got approval for her claim from the insurance. So we can all take a breath now. Tomorrow we have a phone conference with Biddy’s doctor and the insurance and their doctors. Hopefully we can arrange Biddy’s transport home.

Feb-Mar2011_167.jpg
Enjoying the sites in Lima

Feb-Mar2011_187.jpg
Lima sunset! woo go life on the west coast!

Feb-Mar2011_280.jpg
Having lunch with Jaime (front left) and some of his family at their counrty club

Feb-Mar2011_366.jpg
Carnival on the streets on Lima!!!!!!

So I think I will continue travelling next week heading up north to the northern beaches of Peru then into Ecuador and eventually Columbia. I am still trying to figure out what date to change my return flight to. I only get one shot to do it online hassle free. Anymore changes will cost a fortune and have to be done over the phone so I have to get it right! I’m thinking maybe July or start of August, not sure how my dinero will hold up but if I’m volunteering along the way I should be able to keep the spending down. I won’t be completely alone either. My friend Oliver, one of the English cousins, is back in Lima so we might head up north together and my other friend Yvette might come too. But it will be very weird travelling without Biddy. We have barley been apart in the last 4 months. But hopefully when she is well again in the future she will be able to come back to South America and pick up where she left off.

So until next time folks...ADIOS!!!
xoxoxoxox

Posted by katieOZ 20:37 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Bolivia to Peru

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.

Bolivia_West_210.jpg

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.

Bolivia_West_171.jpg

We saw lots of Turtles, Alligators, Capybaras, Squirrel Monkeys and Howler Monkeys.

Bolivia_West_312.jpg

Bolivia_West_193.jpg

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!

Bolivia_West_260.jpg

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 :(

Bolivia_West_337.jpg
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.

P1010385.jpg

P1010367.jpg
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 :)

Bolivia_West_354.jpg
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.

P1010458.jpg
View from near the top of the island

9P1010461.jpg
Sunset from Isla del Sol

P1010491.jpg

P1010521.jpg
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.

Puno-Cusco_008.jpg
One of the reed islands

Puno-Cusco_017.jpg
Visiting a reed island

Puno-Cusco_019.jpg
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.

Puno-Cusco_104.jpg

Puno-Cusco_116.jpg

After that we put our harnesses on to go on the zip lines that were rigged up across the river.

Puno-Cusco_068.jpg

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

Adios! xox

Posted by katieOZ 15:57 Archived in Bolivia Tagged peru to bolivia Comments (1)

The Bus Ride From Hell and Beyond!

Sucre-Uyuni-La Paz

Warning in advance for this one folks, there’s a few details into the effects of travel so far on our bodily functions.

Well as nice as it was not living out of my pack in Sucre, we were getting itchy feet and it was definitely time to move on. We ended our stay in Sucre in style, starting Friday night with the traditional Bolivian cooking class at the school, where once again the teachers cooked and we drank vino then going out on the town and to the local clubs. Biddy and I ended up with separate bunches of people and I’m not sure where I went but I know Biddy and a couple of our pals crashed a wedding reception with a stray dog that had taken a liking to our friend Olly and humped his leg for a good 45min while he walked and tried to escape. The dog eventually got kicked out of the reception much to Olly’s relief by some of the wedding guests.

Still in Sucre:
Uyuni_001.jpg
This is a real moth. Waaaaaa!

Uyuni_003.jpg
Cocktails!!

Uyuni_020.jpg
Some of the Spanish School students at our leaving do

Uyuni_028.jpg
At the Mirador (Lookout) at Sucre. Day after our leaving do, feeling a little under the weather :)

So we left on the Sunday 19th December. I was at the end of a nasty cold but otherwise we felt fine as we left for Uyuni, Southern Bolivia. We travelled on an old bus for 4 hours to a small mining town called Potosi where we didn’t realise we had a 2 hour stop over. So we went and ate some chips and fanta (the only vego food we could find), actually I ate most of the chips and that may explain while I was in the state I was in a couple of hours later.

We boarded another little old bus for an 8 hour bus ride on a very bumpy road to Uyuni. I took my usual travel ginger tablets as I have been getting travel sick on the bus rides so far but nevertheless I still started to feel very nauseous and so began “the bus ride from hell”.

Biddy was also feeling very unwell. She had tonsillitis and a chest infection but half way through the bus trip I threw my bag at her and tried to get up but just vomited into the aisle, then the bus driver stopped for me while a Bolivian stranger helped me off the bus so I could continue my business outside in the freezing rain. But it didn’t stop there, oh no! I proceeded to vomit for the rest of the journey in a bag, not in a bag, out the window and out of the taxi when we arrived at 1am on the 2 block drive to our hostel. Then at the hostel I was sick all through the night and decided that it was probably gastro and not just travel sickness that caused this one.

I have also self diagnosed myself with Giardia thanks to the internet, and in the words of biddy both of us just wanted to do a ‘mighty great s**t’ instead of water and gut pain. My bowels have not been normal for weeks and apparently these symptoms last for 6-8 weeks (google them if you like, they’re not pretty hehe). I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to a normal bowel movement so much in my life. I finished my antibiotics boxing day so hopefully things improve! Haha! I hope I haven’t grossed you all out too much!

So the next day instead of showing up at the tour office in Uyuni town at 10am for a 3 day tour of the Bolivian Salt Flats that I had booked, we laid in bed and slept (and went to the toilet constantly). On that note, I’ll also mention that the hostel didn’t provide toilet paper and biddy and I had bought a limited supply of tissues. Also they only let you have max 5 min showers and bang on the door if you take too long and the beds collapsed into a cavern when you laid in them so they swallowed you up like a hot dog and couldn’t roll over. They had also taken the power sockets out of the room so we couldn’t freely use the electricity. We had to go to a power point in reception and apparently leave our stuff on the floor there to charge. But laptops and Ipods used too much electricity and were restricted to ½ hour only of charging. Our second hostel in Uyuni that we stayed in after the tour was not like this at all and the staff were much more pleasant. So next morning I dragged myself to a stall around the corner to buy water and toilet paper. At 5 pm we staggered to the tour office, apologised and arranged to start the tour the following day. We then went to get some dinner (which lasted all of about 15min in my belly) then went to rest for a big day that was to follow. The past 24 hours we had just been taking it in turns to look after each other depending on who was feeling worse at the time, again I am so glad to have Biddy to travel with because that experience would have been unbearable on my own.

So the salt flats were amazing, I think we would have enjoyed them a bit more and been our lively selves if we weren’t so crook. We went with a company called Red Planet had a great guide named Oscar who was enthusiastic and very knowledgeable, but the other people on our tour (there were 6 of us crammed into the back to rows of the 4WD for 3 days with the guide and the driver in the front) were borr-ing!
There were two Japanese girls who were sweet but spoke very little English and a Bolivian couple that by the end of the trip we were close to throttling. Every time we stopped they took a million photos of each other from every angle and wandered off so we all had to sit around the van and wait for the to make their way back on Bolivian time (which is generally whatever you want it to be, nothing is set in concrete. I don’t think I’ve seen a clock here yet that has the same time as my watch or any other clock!). Also Biddy and I tried very hard at the start to talk to them and stimulate conversations with the bit of Spanish we had learnt but they didn’t ask any questions back and eventually we ran out of things to ask/say.

So the first day of the tour we went to a train graveyard just outside of the city. These trains used to transport the areas rich minerals to Chile for exportation overseas but they were abandoned in the 1960s after Wall Street crash and the minerals lost their value and all the rich mine owners packed up and left. They were then used then in 70s and 80s as passenger trains but there is no trees for miles and these trains ran on coal so they were expensive and eventually replaced by diesel trains that still run today a few times a week.

Uyuni_034.jpg

Uyuni_043.jpg

Then we went to a basic community run salt refinery to see the process of converting it to table salt.

Uyuni_055.jpg

Then we went out to the salt flats themselves and took the photos that you have to take when your there!

Uyuni_102.jpg

Uyuni_116.jpg

Uyuni_121.jpg

Uyuni_124.jpg

Uyuni_128.jpg

Uyuni_135.jpg

Uyuni_142.jpg

Uyuni_059.jpg

We then went to a cactus Island in the middle of the salt flats. It takes 100years about for a cactus to reach 1m. Some of these cactus were over 10m!! Oh and of course there were llamas!

Uyuni_143.jpg

Uyuni_144.jpg

Uyuni_147.jpg

Uyuni_149.jpg

Uyuni_213.jpg
The group we travelled the salt flats with

Uyuni_238.jpg
I can't rember whta these animals are called but they're like fine coated miniture llamas and they were nearly hunted to extenction a few years ago because their wool is so soft but now they are a protected species.

Uyuni_241.jpg

Uyuni_242.jpg

Uyuni_264.jpg

That night we stayed in a hotel made almost entirely of salt: walls, floors, ceilings, tables, chairs, bed frames, etc.

Uyuni_081.jpg

Uyuni_082.jpg

Uyuni_222.jpg

Uyuni_226.jpg

The second day we left at 8:30 and drove to see some lakes including the famous Red Lake. It contains a red algae, which not only turns the lake a red colour, but almost changes the pigmentation of the equally famous pink flamingos that eat the algae and are native to that area. We were reaching altitudes on this tour above 4000m so this really wasn’t helping our sickness situation.

Uyuni_266.jpg

Uyuni_285.jpg

In the afternoon we drove further south into the Bolivian desert and saw the ‘rock tree’ and other interesting rock formation made by volcanic eruptions . There were a lot of volcanoes in the area, most inactive.

Uyuni_337.jpg

Uyuni_340.jpg

Uyuni_371.jpg

Uyuni_095.jpg
Our drive Ronaldo and guide Oscar

That night we stayed in a very basic refuge where it was rumoured got easily into the minuses over night. Our guide made us all a hot water bottle each and me and Biddy prepared ourselves with thermals and jumpers and thermal sleeping bags and 4 woollen blankets and although it was cold, it wasn’t that cold and we very quickly kicked off all these layers. Biddy’s nights were spent coughing and coughing and coughing and my were spent waking up every hour to run to the toilet so you can imagine we weren’t overly impressed to be woken up at 4am on our last day to see the sunrise from the crater of an active volcano. Our driver however, like most Bolivians here, had no apparent need for speed so we practically missed the sunrise and Biddy was ready to murder someone if she missed the reason she got up at 4am.

Uyuni_379.jpg
A couple of kids at the refuge that sang traditional xmas carols for us (in return for a few bolivianos)

Fortunately for Biddy though she had no problems sleeping in the car, no matter how bumpy it was while I tried desperately next to her to sleep without any luck. The volcano was pretty impressive though and there were bubbling mud pits that were boiling at about 150degrees, holes in the ground blasting out steam and unfortunately a thick cloud of stinky sulphur in the air.

Uyuni_383.jpg

Uyuni_424.jpg
Boiling mud

We then went right to the southern point of Bolivia to the Green Lake (green because of the copper and arsenic that exist in the water) and on the other side of the mountain range behind it was Chile on one side and Argentina on the other. We then went back up the road and had breakie at some thermal hot springs and by now there was enough sun so stripping down to bikinis and climbing into the steamy 35 degree water wasn’t so ghastly.

Uyuni_447.jpg

We then began the long drive back through the desert on a short cut back to Uyuni, stopping for lunch and arriving about 6pm. Me and Biddy were more than happy that the tour was over and crashed instantly back at our new hostel.

So it twas two days before Christmas and the plan to go back to Potosi on a bus the following day (a town of pretty much nothing) for the Christmas weekend waiting to do a mine tour on the Monday no longer seemed very appealing. So we gratefully rested in this new hostel in our private room with ensuite (for about $10 each per night), had pizza for dinner at a nice pizzeria directly next door and made the decision to go back to La Paz the next day instead as we had some friends there and it least it might feel a little more cosy and Christmassy.

So our bus was the following night at 8pm (Christmas Eve) and it was a 10 hour bus ride. Biddy was feeling nauseous the whole way so it was my turn to attend to her again as I felt more human. Biddy opened the window at the start so she could have some fresh air but then the window was broken and kept flying back open every time we went over a bump, Half way through the trip a rude Japanese guy came and yelled at Biddy for the window and she couldn’t explain that it wouldn’t stay closed... poor Biddy! We arrived in La Paz at 6am Xmas morning. We were the last to get off the bus and it was pouring with rain. We just threw ourselves into a taxi who then took us to our hostel. After a brief kerfuffle checking in (the hostel hadn’t received our booking that we made on hostelworld.com the day before) we were finally settled. I still had one single thing I wanted to do before I slept and that was talk to my parents on Skype as Perth is 12 hours ahead, Biddy wanted to the same but the hostel staff didn’t know the right password for the WIFI so we tried for over an hour and again luck was not on our side so eventually we crashed exhausted into bed to sleep for a few hours.

I felt very, very homesick and once we got up about 11am I spent the whole day trying to find a familiar Christmas meal, breakie with bacon, roast for dinner, anything that would make it feel like Christmas but alas I never got there. So had a very normal lunch (Fijian chicken and rice with a fried banana) and dinner and the same place (there wasn’t much open). We then spent almost an hour in the rain with our friends looking for a bar that existed on the map but not in real life where other friends supposedly were waiting... without a jumper or a coat. Drank more vino tinto with dinner and went back to our friends ‘party’ hostel and partied until 2am. Finally came home and got the internet working and spoke to my family on Skype so I ended the day at 3:30am finally feeling a bit of Christmas cheer.

The next day we went for a tour of the San Pedro Prison in La Paz and this was quite possibly one of the most-strangest experiences of my life. If anyone has read the famous book Marching Powder they would have some idea of the horrific history of this prison. This book has been bumped up my list of books to read after my tour today. Basically, the guards are on the outside but inside the prison is run by the prisoners themselves. It used to be a very dangerous place and people would get killed all the time, stabbed to death and thrown into a garbage heap and nothing was ever done about it. Now they have a proper little society and government inside. They have delegated heads of sections and one senior delegator. They can buy/rent a cell if they have money ranging in size and comfort depending on the cost. They have shops and everything they need in there. It is like a little village. Some of them even live there with their wives and families and they have a kindergarten for the kids. Sundays and Thursdays are official visit days but woman can visit at anytime providing they pay 5 Bolivianos or 10 if they stay the night. People work and have different roles and look after each other. Biddy accidently said to our inmate guide “you never have to leave!!!”. To which we just stared at her in disbelief. :)

We weren’t really sure how the tours worked, only that tourists could do them on the weekends. So waited outside the prison where family members of the inmates were queuing up for the Sunday visits and finally I got up the courage to ask a scary armed guard about the tours. We then got escorted by a scary lady with drawn on eyebrows to a man at the door of the prison who took us inside to a guard/police officer where we left our belongings (cameras and mobiles not allowed so sorry but no picture folks) and paid our $400 Boliviano entrance fee, about $60AUD.

We were taken into the prison then and into the hands of the inmates. Our guide was a young guy who spoke great English and was a convicted drug dealer although he said he only had a small amount of drugs on him and the police lied about the amount they found on him so that they could send him to prison. I felt very sorry for him because he gets out on 7th January but has no family or friends and has never had a visitor so he has no one to celebrate with when he gets out. We also had a guard come around with us. All the guards are inmates that are given these roles by the police and help to maintain the peace within the prison. In return the get a reduced sentence. They are all convicted murderers we found out afterwards. When we found this out neither of us could look at him. Eeeeek!

All through the tour we were offered handcrafts the inmates had made, it’s how they make their money and make their way in the prison. We found out often by helping them we were also helping our guide who would be rewarded by the guys we bought off later with things like protection, nicer food, etc. The motto of the prison is ‘everything is legal as long as you don’t get caught’ but before you freak out tourists do these tours every weekend of the year and as a major source of income for the inmates, as their customers, they go out of their way to ensure we are safe and no harm comes to us. If something bad were to happen to a tourist in there, that man would be a dead man because it would ruin the reputation of the prison and tourists wouldn’t go there anymore if it was dangerous. It was still a very frightening and strange experience nonetheless and when the guide asked me to give him a discrete tip so no one else esp the guard would see so it wouldn’t be taken from him later. I then became extremely nervous and was suddenly aware of how much the guard was watching every move me and Biddy made, obviously aware that the guide was trying to get his own tip secretly. But I gave him $50 Bolivianos eventually and found I was shaking uncontrollably. It was just so strange. All the inmates can mingle and wander around out of their cells between the little sections as they please (unless they are in solitary). The maze of alleyways feels like you could be walking down any street in La Paz.

At the end of our tour we were taken into a room and were informed that was where we ‘officially’ tipped and if we wanted to, buy drugs (cocaine and marijuana). I was shocked and asked how do people buy drugs and then walk out when there are police swarming the prison outside and our guide informed me that most of the money made from the drug sales went to the police anyway! Man, how corrupt is that! So Biddy and I hurriedly left a very generous tip and said we were ready to leave. I think we held our breath until we were safely out of the prison. It took us a good hour after leaving to recover from the whole experience!

We had lunch at a Lebanese Vego place (first time in a while food hasn’t given is a belly ache) and then got a taxi to the major cinema on the other side of town. When we were in La Paz lat time about a month ago this was the only cinema that had Harry Potter 7 in English. We walked in and I looked at the programme and they were no longer showing HP7 in English and I nearly cried. I tried in Sucre also when we were studying there but they didn’t have it in English either. I guess it’s one of those things that just isn’t meant to be and I will just have to keep my eyes on the pirated dvd stands.

Anyway we ended up seeing a movie called The Tourist with J.Depp and A.Jolie because it was in English. I climbed over 2 people to get to the seats I wanted and turned around to see Biddy trip over a man and poor half the contents of her box of popcorn into this man’s lap! Bahahahaha! I’m still laughing. Then on the way out Biddy noticed a toy shop with heaps of board games and mentioned they might have Monopoly cards. Kylie, Linds, Chris, you know what we’re talking about and Biddy and I have been keeping an eye out for this game since we’re been here. I was already on the upward escalator and had to race back down like a retard and we ran in and saw monopoly cards and squealed and jumped up and down. We didn’t have enough cash to buy it so we got a taxi to the hostel. We made the taxi wait while I ran in and got my card and then we got the taxi to drive as back. He was quite confused...BUT we bought it! We then spent the next 2.5 hours walking around La Paz trying to find a bar where we could sit down with a drink and play. Very slow walking because Biddy is still quite sick and any physical exertion sends her into a coughing fit. Eventually having walked around most of the city we gave up and came home to drink a bottle of wine that we had in our room.

Monday was another odd day and the taxis were charging us double. We were very confused but very quickly found out from a cafe owner who spoke English that the very corrupt Bolivian President yesterday had increased petrol prices by over 100% and the Bolivian people had gone from paying about 50cents for petrol to over a dollar, overnight!! The people here are poor enough as it is and they just can’t afford it so the buses were all striking and La Paz came to a standstill. Anyone in Bolivia hoping to travel by bus that day was screwed. It was okay for us as we plan on staying here until just after NYE.

Also we had to go to Immigration because we forgot that we had only asked for 30 days on our Visa. Biddy was in a bit of a panic and was yelling “we’re gonna get deported, I don’t wanna leave yet!!” and I thought they would slap us with a fine but it was all very easy and we just had to supply the man at the office with some photo copies of our documents and got another 30days stamped in our passports.

After new years we hope to do a pampas tour for a few days in Rurrunabeque, Northern Bolivia. Pampas is on a boat. But we want to book it asap because as you would realise the rise in the price of petrol is causing a rise in the price of everything. Some as much as double!!!
After that we will head north to Copacabana and Lake Titicaca and cross through into Peru. At least that’s the plan but as you can see the plan always changes. I will keep you posted though as always!

Ciao for now Señors and Señoras!!
xox

Posted by katieOZ 13:11 Archived in Bolivia Comments (2)

Sucre, Bolivia 2

Still Studying...

Hey all,

So we are still in Sucre, Bolivia studying Spanish at the Bolivian Spanish School. We have individual classes and it costs about $6USD/hr. We do 4 hours a day from 2:30 until 6:30pm with a 15min break in between. It's really nice to be stopped in one place for a while and be able to unpack my things and Biddy and I are still sharing a room for about $6.50AUD a night each. We have formed great friends here, most of them are English people and it's bad because we should be practicing our Spanish but we all talk English to each other! They have good kitchen facilities so biddy and I cook a lot and it's also quite cheap to eat out even with drinks, and it's only about a 5-10min walk to the main square. There are a couple of supermarkets in town where we buy groceries every 2-3 days but our fruit and veg we get from the market where we try and practicing our Spanish and bartering skills. We can't buy too much at once because we only have a tiny bar fridge, which is silly considering the hostel has the capacity for at least 10 people. The worst thing about this place is NO couch! So we all sit around in plastic or little wooden chairs.

This weekend we had a bbq. On Wednesday nights we play walleyball, Thursday night is salsa class...don't laugh! Friday night is usually a cooking class. They have a few fun bars and clubs in town so that's where we've been the past couple of Saturday nights and Sunday is usually spent relaxing aka recovering. It’s been really warm and sunny here and has only rained a couple of times, except for yesterday when it was strangely freezing and I had 5 layers of clothing on.

So we will be sad to leave Sucre at the end of this week.

I think we will get a 4-5 hour bus to Potosi where we will stay for a night or 2 and do a mine tour then we will get a bus down to Uyuni where we will do the famous Bolivian Salt flats tour for 3-4 days, which will bring us very close to xmas day so hmmm who knows where we'll be then?

Then I would like to head north maybe to Santa Cruz near the jungle and then across to Copacabana at Lake Titicaca and through into Peru. We may stop in La Paz again on the way for new years eve celebrations as some of our mates from this hostel will be there!

Anyway I will keep you all informed either way! :) Below are some more pics from our time so far in Sucre

Ciao!

Sucre_004.jpg
Chilling out in the hostel kitchen

Sucre_010.jpg
Dinner with some of our fellow students and hostellers at JoyRide- a Gringo Restaurant

Sucre_012.jpg
Biddy and I getting our groove on

Sucre_023.jpg
Drinking games with our Bolivian Teachers and Hostel workers at the BBQ (la parrilla)

Sucre_024.jpg
Some of our fellow Gringos at la parrilla

Sucre_047.jpg
Recovering the next day, a very very hot sunday! Bolivia is land-locked and we miss the ocean terribly, esp on days like this!

Sucre_067.jpg
We have to be careful what we order in Spanish, we thought we ordered a jug of beer and instead got this concoction which tasted like mouth wash! haha

Posted by katieOZ 06:06 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

Sucre, Bolivia

Part 1

Hello all. We are currently in Sucre and studying Spanish.

We finished up our time in La Paz. Our supposed one night stay turned into a week so you can guess how fun it was.

P1000939.jpg

P1000984.jpg

Our last few days we went on a bus trip to a archaeological site of some pre inca ruins and I had llama for lunch at a local cafe. It was like a cross between beef and pork but was quite sweet and a lil tough.

P1010022.jpg

LaPaz_to_Sucre_069.jpg

Biddy_SA_Pics_563.jpg

I don’t think elevators have made it to La Paz yet and trying to climb stairs at 3600m is tough.

LaPaz_to_Sucre_157.jpg

Our hostel bar was on the 4th floor so by the time we got there our daily free beer was well deserved.

On the Friday we went paragliding off a mountain top just outside the city in La Paz. Not as scary as I thought it would be. It was tandem and the guide even let me have a turn at controlling the glider! I don’t think they’d let you do that in Aus! Then afterwards we went for a beer with the paragliding guys and I tasted (which I found out afterwards) deep fried intestines! Like tubes of pork crackle but a little chewier and not as tasty. Apparently it’s a local delicacy.

P1010163.jpg

LaPaz_to_Sucre_166.jpg

P1010181.jpg

LaPaz_to_Sucre_192.jpg

On our last day we went to a local music museum, which was in my favourite street in La Paz.

P1010079.jpg

LaPaz_to_Sucre_143.jpg

LaPaz_to_Sucre_138.jpg

P1010094.jpg

We got to play a lot of the instruments and there were guitars made from armadillos and all sorts of creatures. It was insane but quite interesting. We didn’t end up getting to see Harry Potter even though I wondered around the city for 1.5hrs 2 days previously and now we are in Sucre and the local cinema doesn’t have it in English  so its going to have to wait. It was a 12 hour bus ride overnight to get here from La Paz and the bus didn’t have a toilet. We paid about $23 for a cama (bed) seat and the bus was pretty dogey so it wasn’t an overly comfortable ride and we only made one toilet stop the whole way at 10:30pm at the dirtiest banos (toilets) I have seen so far. Then when we arrived we waited 25min for the Bolivian Spanish’s Schools bus to come and get us but apparently they don’t really check their emails on a w-e so we got a cab instead.

It’s very nice here. We are in a hostel called the Travellers Guesthouse right next door to the school. Me and Biddy are sharing a double room so it’s nice to have a lil more privacy. There are only about 6 rooms here/ singles and doubles and a really cool bunch of people from different parts of the world. Most are doing the same as us 2-4 weeks and so it’s already started to feel like a nice safe family environment. We are directly opposite a beautiful park and have a good view of it from our window. The only bad thing is that there is a car every morning that parks on the sidewalk below and has a very sensitive alarm and every time a car goes past it sets the alarm off so it goes off all day everyday and drivers everyone in the hostel and the school bonkers! We have classes mon to fri, 2:30-6:30 with a 15min break in between. The teachers are great. After the first class I decided to get some private lessons because the other girl in our group class and Biddy both had had a couple of lessons already and so I didn’t know what on earth was going on haha! So we are doing lots of study, well trying to at least and have homework to do each day. We also have excursions and other activities. On wed night we went to play basketball and walleyball. No I didn’t spell it incorrectly. We played in a squash court with a net across the middle and you can hit the ball off the walls. So much fun!

LaPaz_to_Sucre_209.jpg

And last night I did a salsa class. There was only and Irish couple, an English lad and I so none of us had any natural rhythm and the dance teacher told some of the local teachers to leave the room and stop laughing at us. I couldn’t stop laughing myself. We must have looked quite a sight.

LaPaz_to_Sucre_212.jpg

LaPaz_to_Sucre_194.jpg

LaPaz_to_Sucre_216.jpg

LaPaz_to_Sucre_220.jpg

LaPaz_to_Sucre_221.jpg

On friday after lessons we had a traditional cooking class that turned out to be the teachers cooking us a dinner while we all sat around talking and drinking vodka. We weren’t allowed to help so I didn’t learn much haha! Then we went to check out some of the local night life afterwards. Sucre is a university town and so it was quite lively and we had a really big night.

Well that’s about it for now!

Ciao!!

Posted by katieOZ 18:19 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 15) « Page 1 [2] 3 »