Recovering in La Paz.
La Paz is one of the highest city’s in the world, along with its upper neighbourhood of Alto.
It’s a huge sprawling city spread across a bumpy valley surrounded by steep mountain sides and distant snow covered mountain peaks.
We visited a few museums. The Coco museum, a small place hidden behind some shops it’s dedicated to the story of the coco leave which is chewed here for giving better stamina at the high altitude.
The museum of San Francisco cathedral, the tour was fun mainly due to our extremely friendly guide who’s name was actually called Snow White. Snow White led us cheerfully around imparting information as we went, it’s amazing the places they let you wander such as right up over the roof and bell towers with not too much regard for health and safety (It’s very refreshing to be treated as adults able to steer away from dangers, unlike our own countries obsession with all things safety related).
The local Witches market had some interesting stuff for sale, dead dried baby Lamas and Foetus hanging for sale, one use of these products is by builders, when buoyant new home as it’s believed that the carcass will ward away evil spirits and prevent accidents.
We tried to take a local bus to the Luner valley but had chosen the wrong day as there was a strike action on. Instead we used the very efficient and clean cable car system which spans the city, this was the best bit of the trip as we were able to view the extents often city from above and see all the various roadblocks that the bus drivers had set up. The luner valley (so called because Neil Armstrong had stated that it reminded him of the moons surface) was interesting but as we had walked up the hill to get there we had already witnessed the terrain before we entered the park.
We watched a ladies wrestling show, the ladies dressed in traditional costume complete with bowler hats. The show was OK if not a bit repetitive, obviously all staged but even so there were some pretty acrobat Judo moves. We had used the cable cars again to reach the high Alto where the wrestling was and walked through about a mile of busy market. Unfortunately during this we came across lots of groups of drunk men which takes the edge of the safe feel of the area.
After the wrestling we had thought we would jump in a taxi but there were none outside (most people go by a tour operator hence only prepaid tour buses were waiting. We had to walk back through the market, it was after dark and the market was starting to pack away. This time though we managed to reach the cable car without meeting the drunks.
Ginette – the city is full of contradictions, no real landmarks, protests and parties within streets of each other. Cobblestones hit concrete, and Gothic spires vie with glassine hotels, La Paz is a crazy, noisy, dirty city but we liked it, it was a great place to chill for a few days. We’re both feeling a lot better so we will be heading off tomorrow
On 28 Aug 2019,
Border crossings and adjusting to cycling together again lake Titicaca
We decided not to cycle out of La Paz due to the traffic and the very steep, busy, hill we had to climb.
After first trying the main bus station we had to push our bike up a very steep hill to another station near a cemetery.
We were lucky and after a short while we were loaded on a small bus with the bikes on the roof and on our way to Tiawanacu.
On arrival late afternoon we booked into a very basic hostel. There is a large archeological site in this town which we had planned to visit but the entrance fee was 100 Bol each. Now this is only £12 but it’s a lot of money in relation to standard Bolivia rates, for example the bus trip to get there, including the bikes was only 15 Bol each.
We decided not to go in and instead had a relaxing afternoon in town supping beer.
It was a very cold night, we woke with a little ice in our water bottle (which was inside our room) and when I went outside to the bikes they were covered in Frost.
We set off wrapped up warm, the road was not overly busy but the cars and lorries were travelling fast. I used the hard shoulder as much as it would allow but Ginette preferred the smooth main road, coming off when she could hear a car coming. This bothered me as in my mind it was not worth the risk but today was also a day of re-adjusting to cycling as a pair.
Ginette – even when we were cycling on the hard shoulder the drivers were giving us a wide birth, I was very careful and came off the smooth road whenever I heard a vehicle behind me or whenever I saw a vehicle approaching. The hard shoulder was very rutted and uncomfortable to ride on. Gary was a little grumpy and tired all day, after lunch I rode in front of him and this made him a little more relaxed. As Gary says it will take a day or two of riding together for us to find our rhythm again.
We crossed into Perú at Desaguadero, a mid size town split in two by a river from lake Titicaca. We had dinner from a street vendor in Bolivia, then went to cross one of the bridges, however this first bridge was closed, the locals were crossing the river in a large array of colourful small boats. We moved downstream to a second bridge and crossed the border. The border control on both sides is obligatory according to the signage but the locals ignore this and pass by into each side with no cares. We could have done the same but opted to be sensible and have our passports stamped. In each of the towns near the border men and women cycled bikes with carriages that were used for transporting people and goods.
Once through the border we had a few hours cycling in Peru, we headed around a small inlet of lake Titicaca and on to Copacabana, which is back in Bolivia.
There is not a lot of difference to note about Perú other than it’s currency and the dogs have a bad attitude.
Ginette – it is not a very pleasant feeling being chased by large snarling, barking dogs.
Crossing the border into Bolivia meant a bit of a hill climb, not so easy when you are close to the 65 mile mark. The last 4 miles into Bolivia also treated us with hill climbs as we had a small peninsula hill to climb before dropping into the very picturesque fishing village of Copocabana.
Wednesday 28th Aug
Isla del Sol tranquility
I was not in a great mood this morning so Net had to put up with Mr grumpy
We had breakfast out in one of the many cafes which wasn’t great
A walk around the cathedral was good, it is a large and well kept cathedral with good artwork
We then walked up a steep hill to a set of 7 crosses that are a pilgrimage site. The walk up was tough on the heart and lungs as we are over 13000ft. The views over lake Titicaca were impressive but the rubbish strewn around on the walk up was not, including several old nappies.
Our ferry ride over to Isla del Sol was a slow and uneventful trip of approx 1.5 hours, but arriving at the island it was as if we had been transported back in time. A busy little port but no cars or motorcycles only people (tourists and Bolivians) and donkeys
We walked up the steep Inca stairway and settled into a small hostel with stunning views over lake Titicaca.
More uphill walking took us along cooled narrow lanes, dodging the donkeys and the local men and women with their loads wrapped onto there backs in colourful blankets.
At the top we found a terrace bar complete with rocking chairs so we sat and supped beer and watched the lake, we could see for miles but the lake is so big you can not see it’s end.
Another walk up a gert big hill and this time 360 degree views so taking in lake Titicaca and the Peruvian banks one side and the Bolivian banks the other.
We stopped at the terrace bar again to watch the sun go down, far below in the lake we could see activity in the water where something pretty large was surfacing and dashing across the surface, it must have been pretty large for us to see it from this distance
Needless to say my mood is far better this afternoon.
Ginette – Isla del Sol is stunning and I was really pleased it worked its magic on Gary. It would be very difficult to stay grumpy in paradise. We hadn’t booked any accommodation but we there was plenty of choice on the island, in fact there were a disproportionate amount of hostels/hotels and restaurants for the number of tourists staying on the island. We loved it and would fully recommend to others visiting Bolivia or Peru.
Getting off Isla Del Sol
Our room with a view meant we was treated to a stunning sunrise which could be viewed from bed through the window as was Ginettes warm option, or from the cold barrier free balcony, my option.
After breakfast on a balcony with lake views we set off to walk as much as the southern part of the island we could in the hours we had before the ferry at 3pm. The island itself is in some kind of dispute and tourists are no longer allowed to venture into the north of the island, hence only a small part is accessible.
The walking involved some steep rough paths, encounters with donkeys, Lamas, sheep, shepherds and shepherdesses.
Ventured down to the lake area where we had seen the large fish breaking the water from afar, it turns out it was ducks diving underwater and swimming at speed to catch fish, they were pretty fast and left a bubbly trail in the water.
Back in Copacabana we managed to book the same room in the same hostel and where reunited with our touring bikes. Tomorrow we cycle back into Peru for more views of Titicaca Lake.