Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bolivia, Parte Uno

As the upcoming months are sure to be, once again, chockablock full of adventures, I thought it best to finish writing about the last major trip in 2013, in and around Bolivia….

As Ron always says, he hardly knew where El Salvador was, let alone wanting to hang out there for 7 months in 2012, and the same can be said about Bolivia.  We knew it to be linked to more than one story of coca plant production, and the exotic sounding Lake Titicaca, but yet again, our North American pre-conceived notions had it all wrong.  There is a wealth of adventure to be had in this high-altitude country, none of it drug related.  

Starting off in Copacabana, (a more modest version of the “other” one in Brazil), this was a hippie haven, yet complete with the nicest hotel we had stayed at in South America.  La Cupala, garnering rave reviews on Tripadvisor (our go-to source for lodging and restaurant recommendations) saw us kicking back and savoring the prior 6 weeks of traveling around Peru.  Not only were the accommodations remarkable and the views spectacular, but the food was also noteworthy – a unique blend of German, Bolivian, and North American.  The breakfast sandwiches were to die for. 

View from our back veranda, overlooking Lake Titicaca
The other best thing about Copacabana were the Pisco Sours.  Having worked our way around Peru and sampling our way from glass to glass, the restaurant on the corner of main street and the beach were the finest we had found.  We had several, just to be sure.  
But don’t let their neighbor fool you into thinking they make them just as good – they don’t.  We wanted to spread the wealth, but after the first disappointing offering, we switched 2 chairs over, and were rewarded with our tried and true favourite.  

We tried ALOT of these, to make sure they made them right each time!
 After the luxury stay, complete with fireplaces, verandas, full kitchens, and lots and lots of hot water, we were off to La Paz.  In light of the most recent ferry disasters, Bolivia has actually got it right.  The bus goes over on its own, while the people head over in a smaller boat.  Latin America has got the transportation thing figured out. 

Cracks me up.....we're at Lake Titicaca!
Can you imagine a ferry like this in North America?
If the bus goes down, the people won't be trapped inside!
The capitol city of La Paz….how can one describe chaos?  A monumental high valley effort of construction, poverty, ethnicity, altitude, Andean “south-americanness”.  We loved it. 

Andean Contruction Chaos
Hanging llama fetuses in “the witch’s market”….apparently they are good luck to be buried under your front door step.  We gave them a miss.     

No words....just no words
This festival was to celebrate the neighborhood’s anniversary.  Any excuse for a party and to drink beer. This view was from the window in our room.  We were treated to band practice on Thursday night, which BEGAN at midnight, then began again each day at 7pm, until 5am, until the last cat (or llama) was hung on Sunday.  To sleep, we drank as much as the locals. 

The liquor vendors lined the streets with cases of beer, and it became EVERYONE’S responsibility to try to finish them all off.  Bolivia’s way of toasting…..almost finish your glass of beer (usually in one glug) then fling the last sip onto the ground.  This is to appease and satiate Pachamama, Mother Earth.  I can live with that.   

The photo below was taken just before a street thief reached into my open fleece pocket and tried to make off with my camera lens cap.  With my captain standing by obliviously, I ran down the street, grabbed the guy, gave him a kick in the rear, got my lens cap back and went back to taking shots.  That’ll teach him….

Everyone sells beer
We found an excellent Mexican restaurant….

but the highlight……

Not since we had left Canada 4 years ago, had I seen it on a menu.  Found this in a tucked-in-a-corner British Pub.  Typical tho….they were out.  

Ron’s most-talked about Inca site we visited was Puma Punku and Tiwanaku, located an hour’s bus ride from Los Altos (the elevated suburb of La Paz and now home to the highest continuous cable car in the world, connecting the two cities).  If you’ve watched Ancient Aliens, they have some interesting theories, but suffice it to say that we saw some stuff there that was a tad unexplainable.  

Ancient hole cutter?
Bought a necklace with this Inca shape
100 heads are better than one
Ancient blueprint or......head chopping zone?
Precision cutting
No explaining how they got them this precise
....just weird
and weirder
Dremel and router?
Whatever....another weird one

I shall now hold the captain to greater precision
The next day was much anticipated.  We had done our due diligence and had visited (it seemed like) all of the bicycle tour companies that offered a trip down “THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS ROAD”.  In true responsible style, for us, we decided on a company, not on the bikes, not on the safety gear, not on the guides or the price, but rather…..wait for it….on the design of their t-shirt.  Priorities, people, priorities. 

For anyone going to Bolivia, we consider this a “must-do”.  Starting at the top of the world – 15,000+ feet, you descend to 2500 ft. in several hours.  A few stops along the way for photo ops, lunch, beer, early dinner, and many opportunities to scare yourself silly are all part of the program.  Apparently, the Israelis seem to be the most prone to head over the edge.  Oh, and the guides too.  Lest you think there are NO risks, some 15 people have mistook a turn or two, ended up pitching over the side, and meeting their maker sooner than they anticipated.  All part of the fun.  

What a goof!
As you can see, it's COOOOOLLLLLDDDD!
Ready to go..
Still alive at the start

Surely the sign does not apply to us!
The way down..
Two way traffic....mmmm, not so much
Still not dead

Pretty amazing lunch spot - notice the obligatory waterfall

At the bottom.....ahhhhh
While it WAS cold, it was also the WORST BEER EVER

The TEAM survives
I won’t bore you with tales of our visits to Sucre, or Potosi, but I will end the Bolivia segment with the highlight of the country for me.  Salar de Uyuni, the next posting…..

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