A Travellerspoint blog

August 2007

Lazying in La Paz

Doing nothing at all

sunny 12 °C
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From the 24th, when we were back here, and untill tomorrow, the 31st of August, we have just hung out in La Paz and done absolutely jack shit. We were going to catch a bus to Sucre, but kept putting it off, and then there was a strike down there, and thus the busses were cancelled for a few days. In the end, we bought plane tickets on TAM, and we fly down there tomorrow, friday.
From Sucre, we head for Argentina, and then we will see what happens from there...

Posted by monkyhands 12:46 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)


Jungle and pampas

sunny 28 °C
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On August 12th, we left three of our bags in storage with the hotel Torino, and went to the airport to catch a plane to Rurrenabaque in the Bolivian Amazon. La Paz's airport is apparantly the highest international airport in the world - it sits above 4000 meters and is surrounded by snowcapped mountains. After takeoff, we passed over a chain of these mountains, and then they were replaced by dense jungle with rivers. Beautiful. We arrived in Rurrenabaque, and checked into Hostel Santa Ana.

August 13th, we were woken up at 6 am by a racket next door. The hostel is expanding or someting, and there were people drilling into the other side of the wall of our room. Too damn noisy - so we decided to move hotels, and checked into the Hotel Rurrenabaque instead. The woman there was very nice, and the rooms are clean and comfortable. Then we walked around to some different tour operators, to find out about the available jungle and pampas tours. They all seemed to charge about the same, and in the end we just booked a pampas tour with the first people we had seen. My belly started acting up, I don't know what caused it, but I had to stay near a toilet all day.

On the 14th we were supposed to go away on the pampas tour, but I had had a really bad night, and my stomach was still hurting me so much, so Alan went to the agency and moved the tour to the next day. I was in so much pain from my belly, that I was moaning and rolling around in bed. Al went to the pharmacy and got me some remedies - anitacid, laxatives and some antibiotics. The pills helped eventually, but I was still sick as a dog all day.

August 15th, I felt a bit better - although I was not quit myself yet. We decided to go ahead with the tour. We caught a 4WD for about three hours along a dust road. The dust clouds came in through the windows and covered our hair and clothes. Then, we transferred to a long, motorized canoe, and sailed along the Rio Yacuma for another four hours. Luckily, there was lots to see along the way.
We saw lots of alligators and caimans



And we saw some capybaras, and so many different birds it was unbelievable!









We also saw a howlermonkey in a tree, and lots of pink river dolphins, and a group of squirrelmonkeys, who came down to be hand fed bananas.



We made it to the camp and got settled in. We then went to a bar down the river (more like a shed with some tepid drinks for sale), to watch the sunset. Then, after dark, we went on a canoe trip to look for more alligators. It was cool and eerie to see their eyes reflected in the lights from our torches. We also saw some fireflies, which I love. It was fun to turn all the torches out, and just listen to the sounds of the birds in the trees etc. Our guide caught a small alligator, and we got to hold it. Obviously, you really should leave the animals alone, but it was quite amazing to touch its skin and see its eyes close up. Tired, we went back to camp to get some sleep.

On the 16th, we got up around 7.30 and had some breakfast in the camp. Then we sailed down the river a bit, and went for a walk in the pampas looking for snakes. The pampas is like a marsh or wetland, which is totally flooded in the wet season. At this time of year, its a bit drier, and we could walk in it with wellies. We found a baby tarantula, and a cobra


and also a small anaconda



We went back to camp to siesta during the hottest hours of the day. We then spent the afternoon looking for pink dolphins again on the river. We found a few, and also saw lots of other wildlife again. We saw some turtles


and lots of capybaras, even some with babies



We then went back to the camp, to chill out. Alan tried to fish from the river bank, but the resident alligator named Antonio, kept chasing his bait.



August 17th, we skipped the planned sunrise walk, as it had turned overcast. We had breakfast in camp, and then went fishing for piranhas. There were lots of them, but they were so small that they could not swallow the hooks, and they just ate the meat off the hooks instead. The trick to catching them was to pull them in so quickly that they did not have time to let go of the meat. Fun. In one bend on the river, we encountered a large group of the pink river dolphins, and this time they got closer than ever before. It was very cool. Some of the guys jumped in, and a dolphin came right up and splashed water on them.



We went back to the camp and had lunch, and then returned to Rurre. It went faster this time, as we were sailing down river. We were back in town by five pm, and checked back into Hotel Rurre, then had dinner and drinks with the others from the tour group.

On the 18th, we were going to look around for a jungle tour, but this time Alan was not feeling too well, and so we just chilled out in the hotel instead.

August 19th, we talked to some agencies about doing a fishing trip into the jungle on the Rio Beni. They all wanted to much money, but in the end Flecha tours, whom we had done the pampas tour with, offered to do it fo 25 dollars a day - and they said we could stay in their jungle lodge, and go out every day on the boat to fish. We thought that sounded good, and so booked three days with them.

On the 20th, we thus headed up the river Beni to the Flecha jungle lodge. It took a few hours, but again the trip was beautiful. Not as many animals as on the pampas, although still a few birds, but the river here was fringed by dense jungle, which gave it a special feeling. We got to the jungle lodge and unloaded our stuff, and had lunch. To our dismay, we then realised that the boat had left, and we were stuck at the camp without any way to fish except right off the beach in front, where it was too shallow to catch anything. The guide said the boat would return the next day at noon - but that was not really the way we had agreed it with the agency. We fished anyway, as we had nothing else to do, but only caught one tiny catfish.

On the 21st, we got up, had breakfast, and then went down to the beach to wait for the boat to return. Fished to pass the time, but caught nothing. We were annoyed with the whole thing, and as we found out the boat would only be at the camp a few hours before returning to town with the other group in the camp, we decided to go back with them. We got back to town, and had to argue with the tour agency for two hours to get any money back off them, even though they had not lived up to the agreement. They claimed we had to pay as we had stayed in the camp - but we didn't really have a choice. In the end they refunded 50% of the money, but they were really rude about it, and the lady there told us to go back to our own country. By the time we had finished, the airline officed were closed, and so we had to wait till the next day to book a ticket out of town.

August 22nd, we tried to book a flight out for the same day, but they were all full. So we bought tickets for the flight tomorrow morning, and then just hung out in Rurre and waited to get out.

On the 23rd, we went to the airline office at 7 am, and by 9 we were on the flight. Made it to La Paz, and returned to the Hotel Torino. We went to get lunch in the Radisson - and on the way my bag got slashed again! They did not get anything, but it still pissed me off. Now we were ready to get out of here, and we decided to save the salt flats for when we get back to Bolivia, and instead start heading for Argentina...

Remember, there are more pictures from Rurrenabaque on www.flickr.com/photos/divingdog5

Posted by monkyhands 14:37 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

First time in La Paz

Altitude headaches and sunburnt lips

sunny 10 °C
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On August 7th, we slept in (again). Then we walked up and had lunch in a Lebanese restaurant here in La Paz. Very tasty. We then walked around looking in the huge Mercado Negro, looking for some bits we needed. We found shampoo, cable ties, socks, DVD's, hairpins and glue - talk about a one stop shop. La Paz seemed very nice, although we were very much feeling the altitude.

On August 8th, we went to an internet cafe and finally managed to update the blog a bit - the internet was slow though, so it took several hours. Then we walked around the steep streets of La Paz, getting out of breath. We had dinner in the Lebanese place again, as it is really good.

August 9th, we once again did little at all. We found a book exchange, where we swapped the Ecuador and the Sout America books for a guide book on Argentina. Then we went out for a beer. We are getting really lazy here in La Paz - we don't even bother bringing the camera out, and so have not taken any pictures at all - but we blame it on the altitude, which really is getting to especially me.

August 10th, once again we just lazied around town. Watched a movie, and hung out.

On the 11th, we went to the coca museum, but it was so tiny and lame, that we left after five minutes. On one of the steep hilly streets, we found and old man with a sowing machine, who stiched up my bag after its unfortunate cutting in Copacabana. We then packed up the dive gear and some of our clothes to be left in storage here in the hotel, and so were ready to head for the jungle.

Posted by monkyhands 14:12 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)


Bolivian beach town on Lake Titicaca

sunny 10 °C
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On August 3rd, we caught the bus across the Bolivian border to Copacabana - a town on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. The bus ride all together took only about four hours, and the border crossing was easy and cost nothing - great! We found a nice hotel, at the decent price of $20. Expensive for Bolivian standards, but it is fiesta time in town, and everything goes up then. It is Bolivian Independence Day on the 6th, and in Copacabana then party lasts all week.
It seems like a nice town though - the air is cold due to the altitude (Lake Titicaca sits at over 3800 meters), but the brilliant sunshine warms you up, and the lakefront and beach add some tropical flavor to the place. The lake is much more visible here than in Puno, and the water is deeper and bluer in contrast to the shallow, muddy bay which Puno sits on.

On the 4th, we slept in. Then we walked around town, looking at all the street stalls and parades for the fiesta. The town is busy with Bolivians, and so the tourists blend in more and make you feel like you are really in Bolivia. We went up to the cathedral, and saw a cool parade there, with dancers. We were really feeling the altitude though, so we went to bed early.




August 5th, we just walked around town again, taking pictures of all the activity. We found that people here have a tradition where they buy miniature versions of possessions they wish to acquire in the following year, and then have them blessed so they can become real. Very fun to watch them walking around with all these mini cars, houses, shops, suitcases full of money etc. Almost like you could see into their hopes and dreams.









Shortly after we left the hotel, we saw a girl whose bag had been slashed open – she was showing it to a police officer. I checked mine just in case – and found that it too had been cut open! One long cut down the side. I remembered hearing a strange sound earlier, and when I turned there was a little old woman right behind me. She must have taken a razorblade to my bag. Luckily, she never had time to take anything – and I obviously don’t carry valuables in my bag anyway. But still, it was unnerving, and we quickly returned to the hotel to leave the camera and my bag there in safety.

On the 6th, we once again walked around and took in the town and the busy fiesta. We thought we had seen all of the stalls, but today we found an area where all the “witches” were selling their stuff. They had all sorts of remedies for making spells and talismans. They had dried llama foetuses, weird herbs and beans, porcupine spines, skins of foxes and ocelots, emu feathers and eggs, cat feet and tails, various stuffed animals, lizard blood (?), and donkey fat (these stalls where recognizable by the display of donkey head, hooves and tail). We even saw a pair of condor wings – but by the time we returned with the camera, they had been sold.







After walking around this mayhem for a few hours, we decided that we had had enough of this place, and so we bought a ticket for La Paz in an hour, and then rushes up to pack. The trip took about four hours, including a short stint on a ferry. We checked into Hotel Torino, which had been recommended to us, and then just settled down to spend a week or so in La Paz.

Posted by monkyhands 14:15 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)


Lake Titicaca

sunny 10 °C
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On August 1st, we had to be at the station to catch the train to Puno at 7.30, so the alarm was set for 6.30. Alan managed to arrive back from his night out just a few minutes before it went off. We packed up and took off. The train ride to Puno, on Lake Titicaca, took 10 hours, and we had lots of great views of the Andes on the way. Alan managed to get a few hours sleep, despite the stiff seats. I preferred the train, although the bus is faster, as I could read here without getting sick.
We made it to Puno, and checked into Hotel Uros near the station. We then had dinner a a really great restaurant called Ekko or something like that, on a side street to Lima which is the main tourist area. The food was really well prepared, the best meal we’ve had in a while, and the prices are already cheaper than in Cusco and Aguas Calientes.

August 2nd, we did two tours in the area around Puno. Even though Lake Titicaca for us is just the simplest way of getting to Bolivia from Cusco, we thought we might as well check out a bit of what the place has to offer before moving on. In the morning we visited the floating islands of the Uros community. They build islands out of the roots of reeds that grow in the lake, and top them with fresh reeds. These islands are literally floating on top of the lake, and so they have to anchor them to keep them put. On the islands, they have their houses etc. It was very organised and touristy, but still interesting to see the islands and walk around on them.





In the afternoon, we went to see the funerary towers at Sillustani. These towers were used for burial by pre-Inca cultures, and when the Incas arrived, they continued the custom. The tallest tower stands at 12 meters, and the stonework was again impressive.





Tired, we returned to town. We went out for dinner with two German guys whom we have been running into since Lima - everywhere we go, there they are. We tried to go to the same restaurant as the day before, but we were told that the chef had too many pisco sours, and was unable to cook. A shame. We had a meal elsewhere, and a few drinks.

Posted by monkyhands 11:04 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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