South America: Days 15 – 17 – La Paz

In the morning we set off on a bus trip from Puno to La Paz Bolvia which totalled around 8-10 hours. The coaches were comfortable so it wasn’t as much of a chore as it sounds. It helps that all the bus rides are usually pretty scenic too and this was no exception.

The first challenge of the day came when we needed to cross the border into Bolivia. We all had to get off the bus, queue outside this port-a-cabin while this jobsworth Bolivian official went ape shit at anybody who wasn’t molesting the wall and threatening to even suggest the queue may be straying from the single file.

We had a few complications, our Maltese fella had to pay some wonga to enter when the rules say he doesn’t, and one of our Aussie crew found out for some unknown reason the Peruvian authorities had stamped her passport for 10 days rather than the 60 days everybody else had been given. However, after a flash of cash from Malta, and a dash to the bank to pay a fine for our Aussie, we were all officially out of Peru and into Bolivia. Next stop, Bolivian Copacabana for lunch before the onward trip to La Paz.

Once we got to the Copacabana we only had a quick turnaround for lunch so it was a rather frantic chicken and chips sandwich on a rooftop terrace bar and that was that. Thankfully, Jamie and Natalie found a Copacabana bracelet to keep my little travelling tradition going of getting one per place so far.

The swanky, scenic bus ride story ended right there. The bus from Copacabana to La Paz while often scenic, was hellish bumpy. Tarmac simply didn’t exist and it was like travelling on a tumble dryer on wheels for hours. At some point in the trip we also got off, to cross the lake on a boat while our bus was ferried across by poor mans tug boat. Thankfully, I managed to keep hold of all my gadgets on this one so I was glad to be back on land and purchasing a 20p ice lolly from the heavens.

We got to La Paz pretty late after feeling like have worked the dodgems and walzters for the last few hours. There wasn’t much time to do much so our initial plan of seeing a local Bolivian game was out, we instead headed to a restaurant (house) run by a Dutch fella and his Bolivian wife. We had called through our order, and I had gone for this massive meat feast including beef tongue (each time I even mentioned, I couldn’t help but do the Hannibal Lecter Silence of the Lambs slthhhhhhhh).

The portions were outrageously massive so it was tough to eat a normal meal from there let alone a meat feast like I had ordered. Beef tongue, dried beef, rice, chips, chicken and pork on there somewhere too, along with vegetables which I never even dug my way to seeing.

It started hammering it down randomly late at night so we got a taxi back to the hotel and went for a few drinks in a bar around the corner. Luckily for us, the bar had a local band playing and despite us being far to close to the band, it was still decent to hear. A few of the group had booked Death Road for tomorrow so it wasn’t a big night, and once the bar closed we headed back to the hotel around the corner.

The next morning Jamie, Victor, Andrew and Kathleen were all off doing Death Road. I’d decided against it given my confidence on a bike, but it was a nice day in La Paz and plenty to do instead. We were pretty sick off toast and jam in South America so first thing in the morning Natalie and I went for breakfast next to the hotel which promised to be amazing, American pancakes etc. I ordered bacon, eggs and American pancakes and a three fruit smoothie and sat there excited like a kid at Christmas. Fifteen minutes later, the kid brings me American pancakes with fruit and my smoothie. I tell him it’s wrong and he apologies then stands there expecting me to say it’s ok… it’s not ok. The smoothie was great but I was craving pancakes, bacon and egg and eventually he gets the message and trots off. I end up getting cold (the same) pancakes, one crappy bit of bacon and scrambled eggs. Somehow, Natalie’s Nutella crepe is also stone cold continuing South America’s great tradition of things that should be warm (food) being cold and things that should be cold (drinks), warm

We wandered around the witches market and I picked up a few small statues. There was loads of weird stuff, llama foetuses everywhere, potions, remedies and all sorts. Basically Betterware and Avon for Halloween.

The plan was for most if us to do the walking tour which was around 3-4 hours long but the weather was scorching and was forecast to change so Denise and I decided to pie off the walking tour and head over to the funicular now for the views in the sunshine. We got some advice on which line to take and chanced our luck on the local buses. Don’t be thinking First or Stagecoach when I say local buses, these things you have to jump on and off while moving and there’s a guy hanging out if it with a sign of where it’s going. We managed to get on the thing although it later transpired we were in fact en route to the yellow line not red, hey ho, it was longer and higher so we went with it. The views on the cable car were amazingly, but when we got to the top we were properly in locals town. We wandered around a bit but not sure it’s a place that frequently sees tourists to be honest.

When we got back down, we wandered the food market and then went for a Mexican lunch. The markets/shops are so weird here, they’re all categorised into streets. We wandered down DIY street, shoe repairs street, alcohol street, fancy dress street… yes, these streets have only (and lots) of only these shops.

When everybody congregated again, there were a few who were keen to now do the red line so I quickly headed up there to take some snaps but there was not much to see and unfortunately we were not there for the huge flea/witches market El Alto which only runs twice a week.

We had a meal at the Cuban restaurant which was very nice, I had some dried beef effort. A few mojitos were sank then we headed to the same bar with live music last night but with a bigger crowd. We’d attracted a local weirdo who understood no English but would randomly started laughing now and again and shout CHEERS! After the bar were finished serving we shamefully went to an English pub for one which was chokka with smoke. They did however say they serve full English and show prem football, so it was duly noted for tomorrow morning when The Arsenal play Boro.

The next morning we were all fantasising over this full English with Cumberland sausages as advertised by this English bar. I hadn’t changed my watch from UK time and my phone hasn’t switched and we have been moving between time zones, but I was convinced The Arsenal were kicking off at 9am. So there we all were outside the English bar at 9am prowling for our English breakfast but it wasn’t open.

We continued to prowl and speculate but there was no movement, when we went back to the hotel to check opening times (on Google it says ‘Always Open’) we did find out that The Arsenal kick off at 10 not 9 🙂 We were starving but all craving this full English instead of bloody cold scrambled egg and toast, so we decided to wait. At 10am the doors flung open but unfortunately no premier league was showing! Turned out to be a 0-0 anyway so I don’t think I missed much to be honest. We did however, get our Full English breakfast which was pretty heavenly.

The rest of the time was spent looking in the shops at dodgy football shirts on frightening mannequins. Now we were off to Uyuni for a few days exploring the salt flats and desert.