After my stint on Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca where they obviously have no Internet service, but surprisingly DO have mobile phone reception (!) I've just uploaded a chunk of images from Peru, namely Cusco and Puno (launching point for Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side)
Took the morning boat from Isla del Sol for 25 Bolivian ($3) at 8.30am, arriving back to Copacabana about 10am.
From here I'm heading on to La Paz at 1.30pm. When I get there I intend to check out the infamous "World's most dangerous road" (aka "Death Road") downhill mountain bike tour for tomorrow or the next day. One of the main things I'll want to know if there's any serious uphill (my knee is at me after the massive 20km uphill trek yesterday) and, of course, do they have elbow pads. Don't want to shatter my OTHER elbow now. Having one metal elbow is enough thank you very much.
After you complete the tour you get a cheesy t-shirt. Bonus!
OK so I've got about 1 hour before my bus leaves ... I'll try to write up some blog entries, but as my upcoming itinerary is so solidly packed (1 month and 11 days left to take in the rest of Bolivia, plus Argentina, and parts of Chile including a week on Easter Island) I'm going to have to start writing shorter bite-sized entries (a typical blog entry for me takes about 1-2 hours each!)... I'll update them all in more detail when I get back home...
The ride to La Paz from Copacabana was LESS than comfortable given that I've now discovered the buses in Bolivia are nowhere near as good as those I've been getting used to in Peru. Firstly I'd asked for the seat with the largest leg-room on account of my sore knee so that I could keep my leg fairly straight-ish. What I was recommended was the front row seat, but little did I realise until I boarded the bus was that the front row seats tend to have the LEAST room. Not only that, but the Bolivian "tourist" buses have "Bolivian-sized" seats.
This wouldn't have been too much of a problem if the person sitting next to me was of fairly slight build, but unfortunately I got stuck beside a huge, fat, SWEATY yank. It was almost comical as I saw him approach: "No, don't consider this seat.. there was another one at the back I'm sure... oh shit he's approaching... oh crap he's starting to sit!"
He took over HALF my seat as well as his own! The guy was even scoffing down on chocolate biscuits throughout the whole trip. The only saving grace was that I had the aisle seat, so at least I could try to sit sideways and put my leg out into the aisle. Unfortunately, no matter how closely I sat towards the edge I could still feel Fatty's sweaty dew-flaps rubbing against my back whenever the bus took a sharp turn (of which there were many).
I was not a happy camper.
Thankfully about 1 hour into the trip we had to get off the bus in order to cross a short section of Lake Titicaca (the Copacabana peninsula is essentially cut-off from mainland Bolivia by Peru! ... poor Bolivia, it even had to secede the Atacama region and access to the Pacific ocean to Chile about 100 years ago during the Pacific Wars).
The river crossing involved putting the huge bus on a precarious-looking raft, while we went across on separate smaller passenger boats (for which we had to pay extra on top of the trip fare!). It made sense as there was every chance that the slightest breeze would have toppled the bus (and all our luggage) into the lake below.
Once we crossed over to Bolivia proper, I went into charm-mode and asked the driver if it was possible to sit in the very front of the bus where there was a spare seat normally reserved for the ticket-seller. This seat had loads of legroom, plus I'd get an excellent view out of the buses front window. When I'd asked the ticket-seller originally she said "No! Es prohibido!", but the driver was less strict and agreed! Thank God. Not only was I happy, but I think I probably saved Fatty's life, as it was only a matter of time before I'd strangle him and would be left sitting next to a chubby corpse for the rest of the trip.
The rest of the trip was pure bliss, as not only had I plenty of room, but I had an outstanding view of the road ahead and the Bolivian landscape and villages. For future reference, the middle-seat in the LAST row is the best seat to get on these kinds of buses as there is unlimited leg room!
First impressions of this part of Bolivia then. Wel, l the Bolivian's seem to have a knack for living in uncompleted houses. Every town we passed through seemed to have a plethora of inhabited-yet-incomplete redbrick houses with construction wires still coming out of the sides and top of the walls. There was even an entire village in this state. I don't know if this is down to laziness, or lack of funds and the possible idea that "if it keeps the rain out, then it's finished", but I have to admit that the towns on approach to La Paz distinctly lacked any charm and all looked as if they had been founded in the past 10 years.
La Paz is quite stunning though. Well, at first.
The entire city is built in a huge valley and ringed by huge mountains. The city is densely developed because of the small valley area and it's really quite a sight to see practically every inch of the area covered by buildings. It's quite pretty though, and a testament to how modern society can actually make something quite beautiful in a strange industrious sort of way.
Yet it's not exactly the most "stunning" city: on approach from the north we briefly passed through the suburbs of Alto which seemed to have a preponderous amount of drug addicts and dodgy folk wandering the streets, and then once we passed the toll-bridge that marks the entrance to La Paz itself, there were yet again loads of unfinished redbrick houses lining the roads.
I hadn't bothered to read up on La Paz prior to arriving, so I hadn't any plan on where to stay, so I ended up sharing a taxi into town with a couple from Argentina that I kept on bumping into in Peru and then Bolivia. They had selected a hotel which was a little out of my price range, as they were on their last 2 days of hols, but the area (around Plaza San Francisco) turned out to have an excellent array of hotels serving all budgets. I decided I'd splash out a bit and settled on a place for $20 a night (Hotel Diamante Azul) which had an excellent view over the city, free buffet breakfast, plus the best thing: BBC News on the telly!! After 2 months of nothing but CNN, or worse, Fox News, BBC was a lifesaver. After paying for the room I literally sat on the bed for the next 3 hours watching Jeremy Paxman ripping into some Israeli government official, and other similar progs. A breath of fresh air with none of the arrogant "celebratory-presenters" that CNN keep shoving down your gob.
Later that night, I met up with a few guys I'd met in Puno, Peru and we ventured out on the town for a few brewskies. La Paz at night is fairly safe, although there's still an air of dodginess akin to what I experienced in Bogota, Colombia.