A Travellerspoint blog


La Paz, Lake Titicaca and Cuzco

Day 57
La Paz Bolivia

Arrival in La Paz was one of the easiest of anywhere we have been.We were on a smaller plane and walked off onto the Tarmac and into the baggage claim area. Our bags arrived in five minutes and we went outside to waiting marked taxis.

Cab ride into the centre was a fixed rate of 60 BOL. On the way we saw hundreds of riot police. Not a comforting feeling really.

It took about half an hour to get to town and then about 45 minutes to go a few blocks to the hotel. Complete gridlock.

We met a couple from Australia who just arrived and said that their bus had to circle the city for ages before being able to come to the airport area. They then took a cab and videoed what was going on and showed me. The sex trade workers in the El Alto area are experiencing violence from the residents there, so they are striking, making it all but impossible for traffic to go through.

On the video I saw tear gas canisters, small bombs, yelling etc and then this lovely looking older woman starting throwing large rocks at the cab they were in and smashed the window.

These two were really shook up about it, understandably. It appears that the strikes are a common occurrence here, as I found out when I googled it.

We went for a walk down to the main square, or pigeon park you could call it. There were thousands of pigeons and people would stand with food in their hands to feed the birds so they would land on them. There were many photos taken of people with six or more pigeons on arms, shoulders and heads.

We sat and people watched for over an hour and a half and then went into a small modern art museum nearby, admission was free.

I am having a terrible time breathing. I almost collapsed at one point. It is mostly due to all the diesel fumes as La Paz is very busy. The population is around 4 million and there are so many small busses and cars on the road. The altitude is also at 14,000 feet so the combination of the two is not working well for me.

We decided not to stay in La Paz and arranged for a bus to pick us up in the morning and go to Copacabana, on Lake Titicaca.

We purchased tickets on line and will arrive in Copacabana at 11AM, overnight and then leave at 6:30PM the next day to Puno. Puno for two nights and then the bus to Cuzco. It is a nice tourist bus with reclining seats and the total for all three legs is only $34 each.


Day 58,

Copacabana Bolivia.

The scenery on the way to Copacabana is beautiful past rolling hills and countryside.

The girls in front of us reclined their seats and we were feeling a little cramped, until we looked out the window and saw an 18 passenger van with twenty people and lots of packages in it.

Copacabana is around the same altitude as La Paz but there is very little traffic so the air is much cleaner. We took a cab the short distance to our hotel because it was up a hill and rolling suitcases don't do too well on cobblestones.

The Hotel Cupula is just perfect. We have a lovely room overlooking the bay and the grounds are full of flowers and hammocks. You can tell that the people who run it have a lot of pride in their work. The building is Moorish in style, all white and rounded tops. There are a great many different styles of buildings in Copacabana, some very unique and interesting buildings.

A walk down to the town and along the boardwalk shows many paddle boats and kayaks for rent. It is low season so not many people are out on the water.

Copacabana is definitely a tourist town, and probably in the high season the tourists would outnumber the 6,000 residents I would think. It is again a backpacker haven and we are clearly at least 30 years older than any other tourist we have seen in town. Rastafarian hippies are everywhere as well as lots of young people making their way around South America, just like we are.

I would much rather be in a town where the average age of the tourist is 25 rather than 85 however.

The local shopkeepers and people on the street are not very friendly I found. They seem fed up with tourists even though it looks like the town's main source of income.
The people in hotels and restaurants are nice however.

We did not do much in Copacabana. We just relaxed, walked around and enjoyed the clean air. It was lovely during the day but really cooled off at night and early in the morning. There are tours to the outlying islands and that is why most people come here. I had done it 6 years ago and didn't care to go again and Doug was just fine with that as well.



Day 59. PUNO, Peru

Our bus to Puno left at 6:30PM so we paid for a late check out of the room. The cost of the hotel was only $33 a night. Once again, we are the oldest on the bus by far. We had to sign in and put our names, nationality and age. I looked up the list and the youngest was 18 and the oldest (other than us) was 33.

This was a double decker bus with the nice seats downstairs. I asked if we could sit downstairs and she said yes which was great.

Half an hour out of Copacabana we stopped at customs control, checked out of Bolivia and then walked up the road to check into Peru. We were able to exchange our BOLs for Peruvian Soles there as well.

The trip took about three hours and just before we arrived in Puno a man got on the bus and was chatting us up, and eventually told us that he was selling tour tickets. We bought two tickets from him to go to the floating reed island (Uros) tomorrow for 35 Soles each.

Upon arrival in Puno we found a cab right away and for 7 Soles he took us to our hotel, Casona Plaza which is just off the main square and very nice. The cost is $41 per night including breakfast.

They kindly kept the restaurant open for us and we had a small dinner before bed.


Day 60

I did not have a good morning, couldn't breathe. We are at 14,000 feet or more and I don't have the signs of altitude sickness, just really short of breath. I can't seem to walk more than a half a block without stopping to rest.
I asked reception if I could go on oxygen for a half and hour and that really seemed to help. Most hotels in Puno and in Cusco will have oxygen available as it is a common occurrence for people to be short of breath when they first arrive.

We walked the short couple of blocks to the main square to look around and find an ATM. We can only take out 400 soles, or around $160 a day here which again is a pain.

It is international women's day and many of the women are walking around dressed in their traditional outfits. I spoke to one woman in Spanish who was from the island of Amanti and she had embroidered her blouse and shawl. It was just beautiful.

I don't remember these from six years ago, but there are hundreds of small taxis, like Asian Tuk Tuks on the streets as well as the bicycle tuk tuks.

At noon we were picked up by a van with 12 others and taken to the pier where our boat waited for us. We sat inside on route while the guide told us about Lake Titicaca and the reed islands we were on our way to visit. There are many islands in the lake, some are real islands but a lot are floating islands made of reeds.

We came to one of these floating islands and disembarked to sit in the hot hot sun while the guide and the local president of the island explained how the islands were built from the reeds. The homes are also made from the reeds, which grow in abundance in the lake. They even eat them and we were each given one to try. I just pretended to eat it.

This island has six families that live here full time. The children are taken by reed boats to school every day and there they learn to speak English and Spanish. The local dialect here is Aymara.

Each group of us were taken inside one of the huts, which were very pleasant inside. It was scorching hot outside, but rather cool inside. The hut is very small and only a bed and a few blankets plus hooks along the walls to hang clothes. They have solar power and two light bulbs hung in the middle and they had a small tv. I asked how many channels they got and they replied 6, but Dad likes to watch sports most of the time.

Then the embroidery came out, wall hangings and pillow covers. They were very beautiful but you couldn't help feeling like a fish in a barrel in their home while they show you this beautiful work. Of course we did buy one pillow cover for 50 soles ($20) which is a lot but the work that goes into it is amazing.

From there a few of us went on the reed boat to the next island while a man and woman rowed us. It looked like very hard work and we felt guilty just laying back while they seemed to be struggling. The kids came along for the ride too.

The next island had a restaurant and gift shop which I did not go into. I had been here six years ago and it was a different experience from this one. It is very touristy and you feel like you are being set up to buy things, but it is also a great experience to be able to see how they have lived for over 900 years on these islands. There are a lot of islands that people live on where tourists are not allowed to go to, only those who choose to share the experience do, and it is a source of income for them as well.


On the way back we asked to be dropped off at the bus depot as we needed to get our seat assignment for our bus tomorrow. I am so glad we did because in Copacabana the woman took my voucher and gave me a piece of paper in return. When I handed it to the fellow in Puno today he said there was no leg from Puno to Cusco. It took more than half an hour to sort out, but in the end he said we had paid.

I then found out that the 8AM bus were were booked on did not have a bathroom. 8 hours with out a bathroom was not an inviting thought. He changed us to the 11:30AM bus instead, so we were so glad we made this stop on the way back to the hotel.

Day 61. Puno to Cusco

The bus left on time and we had upstairs seats with a platform in front of us, so plenty of leg room. I had brought lots of books and things to do on the 8 hour journey but the scenery was so beautiful we just looked out the window the entire time until it got dark.

Green rolling hills with farmland and the snow capped Andes behind. Half way into the journey four women got on with buckets and baskets, one with a baby bundled on her back and oldest one with a huge bundle in a blanket. She threw it down on the platform in front of us, opened it up and peeled back the brown paper inside. It was a huge piece of cooked meat of some kind.

From one of the baskets she withdrew a huge butcher knife and started cutting and hacking away at the meat, putting pieces into a plastic bag and then a potato from somewhere went in too. The other women were going up and down the aisles taking orders and delivering the goods. The bus has taken of again now and the women worked for the next half hour of so until the next stop. I assume they would hop another bus and make their way back again. It was great entertainment

Especially because she was right beside this 30 something European ( German I think) couple who were so serious and impeccably dressed and seemed really uptight.
The older woman had her butt right in his space the entire time and they would lean over him to pass things. Very entertaining. He didn't say anything but did not look pleased.


The bus station in Cusco is huge and there were probably hundreds of big tourists buses like ours. We needed to move from the bus with our luggage to get to the taxi area and it was just jammed with people.

A cab to the Plaza de Armas was supposed to be 5 soles but we were quoted 10 which was fine.
Our hotel is La casa de selenque and is right off the plaza. Cost for one night with breakfast is $70CAD. The rooms is spacious and clean and you can't beat the location.

I was here 6 years ago and can't believe the difference. There is a Starbucks beside our hotel, KFC on the square and high end shops. The square was packed with people, Saturday night, and it was exciting to be back here.

Sticker shock. I don't remember it being this expensive, but maybe it was just because Bolivia was so inexpensive. We got to the point in Northern Argentina and Bolivia that I didn't even look at the prices any more, they were so inexpensive.

We ate on the plaza tonight, each having a bowl of soup, salad and leamonaid and it came in at 80 soles. With a tip that is $35 and it wasn't very good either. I guess we need to look more closely at prices and realize that Cusco is expensive now.


Day 62
How lucky are we? We woke to find that there is a parade today for Carnival, and right in front of our hotel in the Plaza de Armas.
First we did go to Starbucks for a real cup of coffee and it was wonderful. It's been a long time since we have had a good cup of coffee, as a matter of fact I have just not even bothered for a long time.
The parade lasted a few hours and had many dancers, singers and musicians in their native dress from the different areas. This was a much more polished parade than the one we saw in Sucre, but we still enjoyed both.

The plaza was packed with both locals and tourists. There are many tourists here, and a lot of young backpackers. Once again there are many people with waterguns, balloons and the foam spray cans. Everyone seemed to get in on the act here, and so many of the young tourists were having such a great time spraying the locals, who returned the favor. No one was off limits and everyone just took it in great spirit.

We were talking to some of the people in the parade and they took pictures of us in their hats and gave Doug on of their guitars for the pose.

The day was beautiful and warm and at 5PM the skies opened up and it just poured. How wonderful that it held off and the parade did not get rained out.


the little goat (kid) is only four days old.

My breathing is so much better here. I can make it up a couple of flights of stairs without problems now. Such a relief.
We will be heading to lower altitudes now. We purchased train tickets on PeruRail to Machu Picchu but this time of year the train does not leave from Cusco, so we need to take a bus to Ollyantambo first. A visit to a travel agent to arrange all the other details and we are off tomorrow morning to the Sacred Valley.

We had two wonderful meals today and really enjoyed our time in Cusco so far.

Posted by debbep 19:32 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)


Please pass the salt

sunny 23 °C

Day 49

We arranged a cab to pick us up at our hotel in Purmamarca and the driver took us to Tilcara which was the next town where the bus station was. The station was just an area where the bus pulled in and our 11AM bus showed up at 10 to 1.


The bus arrived at the border town of La Quicaca around 5, where we grabbed a cab for $2 to take us to the border into Bolivia. There was a line up to leave Argentina, paperwork filled out and handed in, and then another line up to enter Bolivia with more paperwork. The entire process took around 40 minutes.

We are in Bolivia now. There are money exchange stalls every two feet so we are able to trade our Argentine pesos for Bolivarios. There were busses that went to the town of Tupiza, where we were headed, but instead we negotiated a cab for $34 for the two hour ride.

Tupiza is a small town in a lovely setting with mountains surrounding it. Our hostel is very basic but only cost $28 including a very meager breakfast. We immediately went off to find our travel agent that we had been working with to pay for our tour tomorrow.

Day 50.
Mario picked us up at 9AM for our two day tour in a Toyota 4x4. He spoke very little English, but that was okay as we wanted to practice our Spanish.

The scenery north changes every half hour and is beautiful. This is where Butch Cassidy and the SunDance kid had their last big shoot out.

llamas are everywhere, large groups of them on the hills and in the meadows.

The road to Uyuni is a very narrow, winding gravel road with many switchbacks over the mountains. This is the only road and the one we would have taken had we decided to take the bus for the five hour non stop ride. It would have driven me crazy to not be able and stop to take pictures on the way. Mario would stop many times during the day to let us take photos and just walk on some trails and meadows.

Three hours later he pulled off the road and down into a meadow where he suggested Doug and I walk for an hour. There was a large group of llamas and donkeys with their new born babies, some only weeks old. They were not too sure about us and kept moving further into the hills as we walked towards them
Upon our return we find lunch waiting for us, set up on the tailgate of the Toyota.


The road is in great condition for the most part. We seem to be following the Dakar race route as this where it started off before ending in Valparaiso Chile on the day we were there. There are areas however where the road just seems to disappear into a river bed, lots of times with water flowing quite strongly in the river. I am not sure how the bus does this route.

A small mining town was on the way so we stopped and walked around for about half an hour. Everyone in town does some sort of job associated with the mining. Bolivia is very rich in minerals. They have been mining for hundreds of years but the supply is still plentiful.


Quinoa was growing in fields on the top of the mountain. It does not require any irrigation, only rainwater, and grows in the high altitudes. It is more expensive to buy quinoa here than at home. Bolivia does not export it's quinoa to other countries only uses it for themselves.


Mario once again pulled off the road up onto a hill and told us to walk down to the lagoon and he would meet us on the other side. The water was a pinkish color and we see that there are many flamingos in the lake which was a nice surprise.


An hour out of Uyuni the landscape changes to flat land with small brush, certainly not as attractive as the area around Tupiza. Mario drove us into the town and helped us to buy our bus ticket for two days from now which was great.

There is a tourist attraction that is on all the tours called the 'train graveyard'. We drove past it but said we did not need to get out of the truck. It was just a bunch of rusted out trains in my opinion. Sure they were the first ones involved with the mining industry, but not that interesting in my opinion. Train travel is very scare in Bolivia now. Every thing goes by truck and passengers by bus.


We finally arrived at the Salt Flats outside of Uyuni town. The lake is massive. Mario said it is the size of Switzerland but I have not checked that out yet.
We are lined up on the edge waiting for the sunset. A shallow skim of water in on the ground and when the sun goes down it looks like a mirror on the ground. It was so beautiful.

It is really chilling off now as we head to our hotel for the night. A lot of people, especially the younger back packer crowd, do a four day tour staying in dorms with no heat, shared bathrooms and bunk beds. We considered this but it would be far too tiring for me to have four full days in a row. They also sometimes put up to six people into the trucks which can be rather uncomfortable on these long rides to say the least.

We arranged a two day private tour and were so happy we did. We saw everything that we wanted to see and could go at our own pace.
We also opted for a unique hotel instead of the unheated dorms. A salt hotel on the lake, with everything made of salt. Walls, furniture, even the floor. This is a newer hotel and quite nice. Dinner and breakfast were included, which was a good thing seeing as how the hotel is miles from anywhere, and we enjoyed this unique experience. It gets extremely cold here at night but we had electric blankets to keep us warm.
The only thing I did not like was that the floors in our bedroom were salt, coarse grains of salt which made walking in your bare feet to the bathroom at night a little uncomfortable.


Day 51. Salt Flats.

Mario arrived at 8:30AM and we drove through the water of the lake for around 15 minutes and then there was only salt. Miles and miles of blinding white salt. It is so hard to get your head around the fact that it is not an ice field.

We stopped to take some of these goofy pictures for fun and then headed to an island a couple of hours away.


The flats are now dry, which is so lucky for us as it is the rainy season. We could drive right up to the island and Mario told us to go for a walk for and hour or so while he made lunch. The island is covered in huge cactus and had a lot of lava rock and coral rock on it. It is very well designed and well taken care of by the five residents who live here. We walked the trail to the top of the hill, slowly. The altitude is getting to me here, we are at 12,000 feet already and then climbing higher. We had to sign in when we arrived with our name, nationality and age. Mario and I looked at the ages of the people over the past few weeks and they were all 20 or 30 something. The other older folk like us did not climb to the top so we were quite pleased with ourselves that we made it. Slowly, one foot in front of the other, but we did it. It was so peaceful at the top, we had this part of the flats to ourselves, not another truck in sight.


From this vantage point we have a 360 degree view of the salt flats and can imagine just how big they are. Bolivia again does not export any of this salt, just for their own use.

After we made our way back to the bottom we find that Mario had cooked some quinoa for me ( I told him I loved quinoa) as well as some meat for Doug and vegetables. We enjoyed a wonderful picnic in this amazing setting.

Our long ride back across the salt flats I am wishing that I had a good pair of sunglasses instead of the cheap ones I bought on the street in Santiago. It is like the Arctic, blinding white everywhere. A large flock of flamingos flew overhead in formation like Canada geese, but they were pink. So cool.

Mario takes us to our hotel and we say our goodbyes. After checking into our room and a short rest we head out to explore the town of Uyuni for an hour.
The women all dress in the traditional way, the bowler hats, large skirts, and long braids. Some of the women wear straw hats and look like a darker version of Anne of Green Gables with the braids. There are street stalls set up and everything from clothing to food being sold.

Teenagers are all running around with water balloons and large squirt guns shooting at each other. They also spray each other with foam and we hear firecrackers going off. Not sure what the celebration is, we will have to check it out.

Uyuni is backpacker haven. There are so many young people here with huge backpacks and most likely doing one of the many treks or adventures available in the area. It seems most are South American or European.


Day 52

Our bus to Sucre was not a luxury bus, but not as bad as I had feared. No bathrooms for the four hour journey, but they promised to stop half way. The cost of the trip was $5.

Our departure time was to be at 10 AM. At 10:15 the locals are yelling, "Vamos, it's past 10" in Spanish. Bolivians appear not to be a patient as Argentinians, but it worked, we left.
The scenery through the mountains is again very beautiful as we climb even higher.
As promised two hours in we stopped at a roadside building for refreshments and a bathroom or smoke break, and none too soon. (the bathroom, not the smoke).

We arrived in the city of Potosi just after 2PM. It is a large city high in the mountains, 13,450 feet. There is a three hour layover here so we decided to see about taking a cab the rest of the way. The taxis that went to Sucre were on the other side of the station, up a steep hill. I am so winded I can only do three steps at a time, but we finally get to the top.

Women are running full speed towards us. I guess we don't blend in like we thought we did..... " Sucre??? " They were offering transportation to Sucre.

The first quote was for 400 Bolivanos, twice what we were told it should be. When we said "no, 200" one woman looked at the other one and said in Spanish something like "what are you nuts? It's not 400 BOL"

In the end they quoted us 160, ($26) which is funny cos we said we would pay 200. The car looked good, the driver was a young man in his late twenties, Nicholas. It ended up not being a cab, but the police were there and he had a receipt book that we needed to fill out with our names and this seemed to make it all legal.

One hour in I realize that the exhaust is coming into the car. We have a 2 1/2 hour ride ahead of us and we are being asphyxiated. We travelled with the window open the entire way, listening to 80s disco. One of the longest rides of my life. The scenery was spectacular however, through the winding mountain roads. These roads have been recently paved which makes the journey much more pleasant and faster. The only way to get to Sucre from Uyuni is by bus, the flights go through La Paz to get here.

We finally arrived in Sucre around 6 PM and are dropped off at our hostel which is right across from the Central Market. A lovely hostel with a large clean room and only $35 a night with private bath and breakfast.

Day 53. Sucre

Saturday. The altitude here is down to 9,200 feet and it feels much better. The population is 600,000 and there are a number of Universities so lots of young people. The sidewalks are very narrow and extremely busy. Sucre is in a valley, with the main square being in the middle and then it all goes up from there.

We made our way up to a travel agency that claims to be non profit. We sat and had a wonderful Cappuccino and a cup of cocoa tea as well while we waited for our guide Rogero to show up. A private three hour tour was arranged for $10 each. Rogero was a lovely young man of around 25 or so and we started off walking towards the main square, Plaza de Mayo.


Rogero told us a lot about the city of Sucre, history and the country of Bolivia as well. His English was pretty good and we would revert to Spanish sometimes as well so that we could practice which he appreciated.

One of our stops was in the market across from our hostel where we enjoyed a fruit smoothie which was delicious. There were a lot of potatoes for sale in this area. Bolivia has over 350 different varieties.


Our last stop was the Mirador, which means lookout. Of course this means that it is on top of the hill, up a very steep hill. I did well however, stopping at the end of each block, but not as bad as I had feared from the bottom looking up. The view overlooking the city was wonderful and the air was so much cleaner up there. There is a lot of diesel fumes in the busy streets which makes my breathing ever harder. The side streets are so much better for both of us.

We said our goodbyes to Rogero and went for lunch at a wonderful cafe at the top and enjoyed a delicious lunch. Muy Rico!!


There are a number of stalls at the top of the hill selling hand made alpaca items as well as other handicrafts. We just looked and took stock of what was available.

Later in the evening we went to a dinner show which was fantastic. Three hours of dancing representing the different tribes and communities in Bolivia. The young people performing had endless energy and we really enjoyed it.


Day 54
Next week is carnival in Sucre. This morning there is a parade for 'pre carnival' which will have people in different costumes from the various regions in the area.

Even yesterday no one knew exactly what time it started, even Rogero who is in the parade! They figured it would end up at the main square at noon, so we headed off at 10. This was after finding out that the final hockey game at the Olympics was on our TV (we haven't turned the tv on since we left home) It looked like a shoe in for the Canadians so we headed off for the parade.

A few blocks away we can see that the sidewalks are packed with people eeking out their spot. A few blocks up we found a little space, in the shade which was a bonus, and sat on the curb and waited about a half hour until we could here the bands coming.

It was a lot of fun to watch, most of the participants are either really young, (like 7 or so ) or really old, in their 80s some of them. Got to give them credit for dancing for a few hours non stop.


We found out that the water fights are all about carnival. For at least a week the young people go after each other with the water balloons, water guns and an aerosol spray can of soap foam. Everyone in the parade was fair game for the water or foam and everyone took it all on good fun. When there was a break in the parade the young ones would go into the street and soak each other.

We had a lot of really young ones sitting near us and they would get about two feet away from each other and have all out wars. We got quite a bit in the cross fire, but it was only water and soap. I did put my camera away however when it got really crazy.

Doug and I were the only tourists in our area that we could see, so when the women in the parade would come by with bags of rose petals or confetti they would put a big handful on my head which they thought was pretty funny.

Some of the participants were handing out eggs. The woman beside us gave it to me and we figured out that it was a hollowed out egg shell, filled with water and then sealed over again with paper. They instructed me to break it over Doug's head, which I did quite happily.

It was a really fun time and we are glad that we were able to see some of carnival as it seems we are a week too early everywhere we go.

In the streets are many vendors with masks, colorful wigs and other dress up items for the main festivities next week.

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in our room until time to go out for dinner.

Selling water balloons is big business during carnival


Day 55.

A trip to the post office to mail some winter clothes back home, but it was going to cost over $90 so we said forget it.
Three small museums were explored today. The Anthropology museum which was interesting and had artifacts from all over Bolivia and from thousands of years ago. There were many weapons, pottery and jewelry on display as well as six mummies, but not in as good repair as the ones we saw in Salta. A number of elongated skulls were there as well. The Inca royalty would bind the heads of children to have them change to conical shape, similar to what the Japanese did to children's feet.

There were two other museums in the same building but one was closed so we only went to the small modern art museum. It had some really great paintings on display.

I thought that I would have a very difficult time with finding vegetarian restaurants in Bolivia, but I have had some amazing meals here, as has Doug. For me I have a different salad and sometimes soup every day for lunch and dinner. There have been some fantastic varieties that I will try when I get home too.

Back up to the Mirador to visit a textile museum. On display were various styles of embroidery and clothing from the different areas of Bolivia. Fascinating and intricate works by some very talented men and women. I bought Doug a leather and embroidered wallet that he liked as an early birthday present.

Some alpaca items were purchased from the street vendors and then back to the hotel for a rest while Doug went on a fruitless search for more Coca leaves.

Tomorrow we fly to La Paz in the north. We really enjoyed Sucre and Bolivia in general. Now to explore the north.


Posted by debbep 20:43 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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