Wednesday 10th of August, and I land in Bolivia, breeze through customs, change a bit of money, and arrange a lift into the city. At 3630m above sea level, La Paz is the highest capitol city in the world, and the snow capped mountains which surround it were stunning scenery on the way in.
The altitude hasn't been a problem for me so far (writing this a week in), but there was oxygen at the airport if anybody needed it. I booked into Hotel Condeza which at $8 a night is ok, although the room was a bit chilly.
The following day, I spent having a wander around, booked a trip to Tiahuanaco, and transfered what is now positively the last money I can from one account to another. This brings my daily average spending money back up to the whopping $20 mark.
Wednesday was the trip to Tiahuanaco, and although it was a long day and i was setting new records for sitting on the toilet (again!) before setting off, it was worth it in the end. We were only a small group of another solo English guy, an English couple, a French family and an Israeli couple, who for whatever reason, caused some friction between themselves and the guide. I'd heard along the grapevine that the Israelis can be overly argumentative and arrogant at times, but I'd never witnessed it until now. It was quite bizarre really, almost as if they were deliberately provoking the guide, but then when he stood his ground and snapped back, they seemed to respect him for it and stopped. Different cultures behave differently I guess.
We arrived at the site, and the English guy from the couple was clearly suffering from altitude sickness, and looked a right state. If I ever look that ghostly white, I'd like shooting please! Tiahuanaco itself was not that spectacular, but there were a couple of interesting points to make the trip worthwhile. Two or three weeks previously, the archeologists had uncovered thirteen skeletons very close to the main temple, which was an unusual find, and they were still working at removing the dirt from around them as we were there. I only hope that they can find some way to erect a protective casing around them and leave them where they are, but I fear that they are destined to end up in a box in some dusty museums storage area.
The area known as Puma Punku was the highlight for me though. Some of the stone slabs, transported from over 80 kms away, were colossal at over 100 tonnes, and the stone blocks which were left scattered around were so perfectly finished, that they looked as if they could have been made in a mould, or cut using an angle grinder. The quality of them, from over two thousand years ago, is the most unique thing that I have seen so far, and the more I looked at this section, the more mysterious it appeared. You can easily see where Von Danekin gets his spaceman theories from!
Sunday the 14th, and I went on a bit of a shopping frenzy in the area of La Paz known as the Witches Market, whose name comes from some some of the stalls which have large amounts of dead, mummified things on them quite weird. Much as I would have liked to have taken home a freeze dried Llama foetus, I stuck to buying regular gifts for everybody, and for myself, an excellent Alpaca top which at £6.50 was just too stupidly cheap not to buy. When I got back to the hotel, I noticed that the cleaners had thrown away the plastic bag I use to put my wash bag in. I was really upset about that. I know that you shouldn't get attached to a plastic bag, but it was from the Kumar centre in Thailand, and I was expecting it to last longer than the T-shirt that came in it. I must have spent over half a year seeing that bag whilst travelling, and now it's gone. R.I.P. old friend. The El Griego bag from Quito is not quite the same, but we are in the early stages of our relationship, so I just hope it works out!
The bus ride to Copacabana the next day passed through some stunning scenery, and I must say, that Lake Titticaca has one of the most spectacular settings I've ever seen. Life must be harsh for the people that live in this area, but as a tourist, it's beautiful. There was a short ferry ride over which broke up the journey, where the passengers boarded a motor boat, and the bus went over on a separate launch. Don't think I would have wanted to be on the bus launch as the photo's show!
On Tuesday, I got up early and had breakfast before catching a ferry over to the Isla del Sol. I sat up on the topdeck, where I was quite glad of my newly purchased, if slightly hippy looking, alpaca top, as it was a bit chilly at that time. The views on the way over were spectacular, and although some people were calling it ‘hardcore', I prefered the 2001 phrase of ‘sweet as', or even the 1998 ‘mega'. We were dropped off at the north end of the island, with the intention of walking to the southern port. Everybody milled about aimlessly on the beach waiting for someone to head off first, so i thought it might as well be me, and as i walked to the gold museum, I looked behind, and sure enough, people had started to follow… Bahhh!!
Anyway, got on the ferry, off it again 2 hours later in Copacabana, and walked into a restaurant where I ordered the biggest pizza the world had to offer, and a litre of coke. Well deserved, i thought!
Had a bit of a lay in the next day, and after breakfast, bought some more souvenirs, and swapped a book. The bus for Puno, Peru left at one thirty, and the border crossing was one of the smoothest I've been through. On the Peruvian side, typically, a delay kicked in when the bus suffered a puncture. Many of the tourists on board had clearly never witnessed anything so exotic as a flat tyre before, so they took as many photos as they could, which I'm sure made the labouring driver the happiest man alive. Twenty minutes saw us on our way again, and we soon arrived in Puno, where I booked into a hotel for a couple of nights, and booked two trips. (this travelogue continues onto Peru for the second time)