A Travellerspoint blog

Puno, Arequipa and Chivay

Crossing into Peru and getting to Cusco

We were leaving Bolivia extremely impressed with it. The landscape was beautiful, the markets colourful, cities lively and the hostels very cheap.

The crossing into Peru was relatively pain-free and with another stamp in our passport we got to Puno, a bigger town on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. It was different to Copacabana, a lot busier and dirtier. We booked a tour to the floating Uros Islands and when we arrived we were greeted by singing 'native' ladies. We then got a 'tour' of the islands with a reed boat that was actually being pushed by a small motorboat. Overall, the man made floating islands were impressive as communities used to live on there, but now we are slightly dubious as to whether or not they still do and it all seemed slightly superficial.

Our next stop in Peru, Arequipa, is called the 'White City' because of the white marble used to make a lot of the buildings. Our journey from Puno was the worst one yet, we got caught up in a hailstorm then a thunderstorm in the middle of a national park with no where to take cover. The hail was incredible painful and it felt like marbles were being thrown at us. Arequipa, Peru's second biggest city was massive and we found out they had different districts many containing the same street name, making finding where we were supposed to stay very tricky. We arrived soaked, knackered and slightly pissed off at Arequipa. Luckily it redeemed itself, slightly. It had a lovely main square where we had delicious Peruvian food, said to be much better than Bolivia's. Overlooking the main square is Volcano Misti, a perfectly cone shaped volcano, that served as the perfect backdrop whilst enjoying dinner.

Our next stop on the way to Cusco was Chivay, a town located near the Colca Canyon. Because we got there so late and had to leave early the next morning, to get to our volunteering in Cusco, we only had a couple of hours to visit the canyon. It is very impressive, being twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and a shame we didn't get more of a chance to explore it.

We left early the next morning for a ride on a road that was in shocking condition. It was a gravel road with potholes and large stones sticking out. This, and the fact we spent a lot of the day climbing, made for very slow progress. We made it to Cusco after 12 hours of riding where we were staying for 3 weeks, doing some volunteering and both had some family coming over to do the Inka Trail.

Peru/Bolivia border

Peru/Bolivia border

Peru/Bolivia border

Peru/Bolivia border


Floating Islands

Floating Islands

Reed Boat

Reed Boat


Arequipa cathedral at night

Arequipa cathedral at night

Arequipa Beer Club

Arequipa Beer Club


Volcano Misti in Arequipa

Volcano Misti in Arequipa


Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Mud tunnel

Mud tunnel

Posted by Kmoz7 06:32 Archived in Peru Tagged arequipa puno colca_canyon chivay uros_islands peru_bolivia_bording_crossing Comments (0)

Copacabana and Isla del Sol

Lake Titicaca

Coming out of La Paz was the worst bit of traffic we've come across. People ignore red lights and there is no such thing as lanes. With there not being any bus stops, the mini buses would stop wherever they like making it very slow and quite dangerous. It took us over an hour to do 20 kilometres but we were finally out of La Paz.

The short ride to Copacabana was an extremely pleasant one with the majority of it with Lake Titicaca on our left. To get to Copacabana we had to cross our small, very shaky wooden boot. After having seen coaches go on it we decided it would hold our two small bikes. The remaining 40kms was an even nicer drive with the lake on both sides, probably the most enjoyable yet. It had a mix of everything - up and downhill, enjoyable corners, smooth road and stunning views.

Copacabana is a small town by Lake Titicaca (the highest navigable body of water in the world and the biggest in South America by volume) with a number of cheap restaurants and a lot of hippies. It made a nice change from the hustle of La Paz. For lunch we enjoyed rainbow trout, fresh from the lake, in a little hut on the shore. Bellies full we climbed to the cemetery at the top of the hill enjoying the views and really seeing how big the lake is. We met with Ariel later on, our Argentinian friend from Sucre, for another catch up and cheap cocktails. Knowing we had a 8:30 boat to an island the next day this may not have been the best choice.

After missing our 8:30am boat to Isla del Sol we caught the later one. Our boat was, we thought, supposed to go to the South of the island but when we docked half way up the island and asked around we found out the boat was heading for the North. We were in the middle of the island and told that our only option was to walk to the South. The hike to the South was actually very enjoyable and took us through some very remote bits of the islands. There was a path for a very short while and afterwards we ended up slightly lost in the middle of terraced farming fields. There wasn't much in the town so missing the early boat and then getting on the wrong one, in the end, weren't the worst mistakes.

After managing to find an open restaurant on the quiet island we endured a freezing night in a hostel that offered little protection as it was a very basic concrete room. In the morning we hiked to a ruin, The Temple of The Sun, and honestly it was pretty disappointing and looked like some of the deserted cottages in Donegal, Ireland.

We returned back to Copacabana and hoped the border crossing into Peru would go as smoothly as the one into Bolivia.

Crossing to Copacabana

Crossing to Copacabana

Sunset in Copacabana

Sunset in Copacabana

View from the island

View from the island

View from the island

View from the island

View from the island

View from the island

Huts on the island

Huts on the island

View from the island

View from the island

The Temple of the Sun

The Temple of the Sun

Ariel and me

Ariel and me

Posted by Kmoz7 14:41 Archived in Bolivia Tagged copacabana lake_titicaca isla_del_sol temple_of_the_sun worlds_highest_lake Comments (0)

The Death Road

Motorbiking down the North Yungas Road

TODAY WE SURVIVED DEATH ROAD!!

Which now means we have managed to visit one of the world's highest geyser fields, the world's largest salt flat and the world's most dangerous road all on our bikes, avoiding tours and spending next to nothing.

The ride started with a climb to 15,000 feet. This not only gave another impressive view of La Paz but put us into thick cloud and snow! We had not expected to deal with snow on our journey. After following a number of tour groups (a tried and tested navigation technique) we found our way to the actual old road - a road famed for the number of deaths it has caused (before the new road was opened the death road would take the lives of 200-300 people yearly) . It is clear to see how and why the road gets its name - the waterfalls and sheer drops mean any lack of concentration or bad luck can be pretty fatal.

Fortunately the road is now one way and used almost solely by tourists. The first part of the road was particularly hairy - massive drops, waterfalls and single track road. But all-in-all there was never a particularly worrying moment and it was in fact great fun. The views are indescribable - ridiculously impressive valleys covered in jungle and clouds with this stupidly windy, stone road hugging the mountains.

Bolivia's ridiculous climate and landscape was probably the most impressive thing we took from today. Starting in the snow at 15,000 feet, we finished in Coroico with equally impressive views at 4000 feet with 30+ degree heat. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a hostel that could offer the right price and a place for the bikes so we decided to head back for La Paz, after a quick burger, via the new road where we knew we had a decent hostel and bed waiting.

If it had not been for the huge cloud taking almost all visibility from us and making the journey home freezing, the ride on the new road would have been one of the best we've done so far - a perfect combo of windy road and ridiculous views.

Tomorrow we head for Copacabana and a huge step towards Peru!

Snowy start

Snowy start

Snowy start

Snowy start

Snowy start

Snowy start

View of the winding road with sheers drops

View of the winding road with sheers drops

On the edge

On the edge

On the edge of death road

On the edge of death road

Waterfall

Waterfall

Riding through the waterfalls

Riding through the waterfalls

View from Coroico

View from Coroico

Foggy road back to La Paz

Foggy road back to La Paz

Posted by Kmoz7 11:04 Archived in Bolivia Tagged la_paz coroico death_road yungas_road motorbiking_death_road Comments (1)

La Paz

It took us 12 hours to get from Sucre to our next stop Oruro. We had heard that it was a good place to spend carnival but carnival was now a distant memory. The guide book described Oruro as dirty, with little to offer food and scenery wise. The book wasn't lying. It was a dirty town that was clearly still hungover from carnival as they had yet to clean up. We grabbed a quick pizza and decided to leave our hostel (which came complete with no wifi and no loo roll) early in the morning.

When leaving I felt a bit sick but thought it might be altitude sickness. As we were driving along I found it hard to concentrate but then remembered it could have been the pint of tap water I drank in the middle of the night. Nightmare. It took around 6 hours and a couple of sick stops but we arrived in La Paz.

Our first impression of La Paz was that it was huge and very busy. We found a hostel that promised a more relaxed vibe than the self-proclaimed party hostel directly opposite. Here we were offered free nights stay and a free meal for working behind the bar or in the kitchen. As I wasn't up for talking to people or standing behind a deep fat fryer I turned the opportunity down while Beaky decided he'd work behind the bar.

The next day we went to one of La Paz's many markets, the witches market. Here they had all the usual alpaca clothing as expected but they also had stalls and shops selling potions and herbs that were supposed to bring you luck, wealth, health etc. even some promising to improve sexual performance. There were also a lot of dead, dried, baby llamas hanging in the stalls, not for lunch but to buy as a sacrifice to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) when buying or moving into a new home, with Bolivians hoping for good luck, health and happiness in said home.

In La Paz there is one of the world's longest cable car and for 30p (slightly cheaper than the Emirates in London) you can ride to the top. Even with a slight hangover it was a remarkable view and you could see the sheer size of the city. There is also a massive contrast in housing with the centre home to high rise buildings and further out are basic brick houses.

After being in the small gentile city of Sucre for so long La Paz didn't impress us as much but still offered lots of bars and restaurants. It is a very busy, loud and slightly dirty city, which has seemed to forgot about the history and is in a big hurry.

We had planned to do 'death road' the next day, a 63 kilometre road that in 1995 was named the world's most dangerous road. We decided to go for a curry, maybe subconsciously wanting a true British meal as our last. I had a llama tikka masala, trying to add a local twist to justify having a curry in Bolivia. An Argentinian friend from Sucre, Ariel, was in La Paz so we met up, had a few beers and both lost in table tennis. An early night as Death Road awaits.

Witches market

Witches market

Witches market

Witches market

Witches market

Witches market

View of La Paz

View of La Paz

View of La Paz

View of La Paz

View of La Paz

View of La Paz

President Morales' House

President Morales' House

Posted by Kmoz7 15:26 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia cable_car la_paz witches_market telefonica Comments (0)

Sucre

Una pequeña y bonita ciudad

After regularly getting frustrated and embarrassed by our level of Spanish we decided Spanish lessons were a must, and Sucre suited well. Like many who visit Sucre, we stayed a lot longer than planned (even if our decision was helped by a little package). We ended up staying in Sucre for three weeks and really loved what is a fantastic and beautiful little city.

Before our Spanish lessons started we did a few of the touristy things in Sucre. First off, we went on a day trek that involved visiting the dinosaur footprints, that Sucre are quite proud of (judging by the number of plastic dinosaurs that are dotted around town). Realistically the footprints were slightly disappointing as they were about 200 meters away on a vertical cliff. Interestingly, when the dinarsours roamed South America it was flat and as a result of one tectonic plate going under another the Andes formed, hence the footprints are vertical. The trek was enjoyable and we walked through valleys to the 'seven waterfalls' of sucre where we got to have a refreshing swim and watch locals dive off a ledge into a pool of water of unknown depth. The highlight was probably the lunch which was a picnic from fresh ingredients of the market enjoyed sat in a valley in much peace.

As we have discovered with a lot of South American towns, often a highlight is a view of it from the 'mirador.' We climbed up to the top and had a fantastic view of the 'White City.' The cemetery is also a popular tourist attraction, with graves ranging from the size of houses to small cupboards it is very impressive, well kept and although shut for lunch (what isn't it seems) worth the visit.

Walking back to the hostel on the Monday we saw a couple of waterballoons being thrown but thought nothing of it. We completely overlooked the fact that carnival would be celebrated in parts of South America other than Rio and these waterballoons were the start of carnival in Sucre. The waterballoons became more common as did foam spray, water guns and even people throwing buckets of water off their balconies. They take a six day weekend to celebrate and the whole town is in good spirits with parades, music and plenty of drunk locals on the streets. Although the water ballooning did get slightly frustrating as you couldn't leave the hostel without getting soaked the overall experience was great and it was fantastic to party with the people of Sucre.

Throughout our trip we have decided to do some volunteering; an opportunity to see local culture closer and to give a little back to the countries that are welcoming us so willingly. We found an opportunity to work mornings at a day care centre that a Bolivian lady, Andrea, set up so mothers could work. The kids were aged between 1-5 and we spent the morning playing games with them. They were extremely cute but did not know the meaning of 'don't do that' (even in Spanish) and lunchtimes were very slow with them all being stubborn and not eating their soup, one of them decided to pour it all over his legs resulting in tears. It was a worthwhile experience, a great opportunity to practice what little spanish we had picked up and I think/ hope Andrea appreciated our help.

After replying 'absolutely nothing' to the question of 'what level is your Spanish' we're very happy with how much we learnt in the week of classes. Our teacher, Imelda, was very patient, kind and accommodating to what we wanted to learn. I completely forgot how hard it was to learn a language and starting from scratch was difficult and frustrating but now, hopefully, we have the ability to ask for food and accommodation, talk about our travels and have basic conversations with the locals. It was money well spent and is now down to practice to keep improving.

One of the things that made Sucre so great was the Hostel 7 Patas and the people who stayed there. As many people stayed and took Spanish lessons it meant the conversations were much more interesting rather than the usual 'where are you going/where have you been' chat. There was a wild range of nationalities, a large number of Europeans, Aussies, Koreans, Argentines and Brazilians that all hung out, played cards, watched films, cooked and drank together. We enjoyed seeing recognisable and friendly faces for once and hopefully we will meet some of them along the way up to Colombia.

As we had decided to stay in Sucre for a while, Beaky's girlfriend/family had sent a package replacing some of the items in the Calama incident (stolen panniers). With the Bolivians taking almost a week off for carnival, an import tax that we were unaware of and general Bolivian bureaucracy the package took a fair bit longer than expected. This just gave us more of a chance to enjoy Sucre's relaxed atmosphere, decent food and lovely people. It really wasn't a difficult place to call home for a few weeks.

With the package completing an adventure that rivalled our own and goodbyes said, we left Sucre for a long drive to Oruro.

Dinarsour footprints

Dinarsour footprints

Hiking in the valley

Hiking in the valley

Hiking in the valley

Hiking in the valley

Picnic during the hike

Picnic during the hike

Picnic during the hike

Picnic during the hike

7 waterfalls

7 waterfalls

7 waterfalls

7 waterfalls

Sucre cemetery

Sucre cemetery

Sucre cemetery

Sucre cemetery


View from the 'mirador'

View from the 'mirador'


Carnival

Carnival

With locals at carnival

With locals at carnival

Joining in in one of the parades

Joining in in one of the parades

Two trombonists sleeping off carnival on a bench

Two trombonists sleeping off carnival on a bench

Throwing waterballoons off our balcony

Throwing waterballoons off our balcony

Volunteering at the nursery

Volunteering at the nursery

Volunteering at the nursery

Volunteering at the nursery

Volunteering at the nursery

Volunteering at the nursery

A square in sucre

A square in sucre

Sucre market

Sucre market

Sucre market

Sucre market

Fruit juice stall at Sucre market

Fruit juice stall at Sucre market

Us and our amazing Spanish teacher

Us and our amazing Spanish teacher

Our mates at the hostel

Our mates at the hostel

Posted by Kmoz7 11:22 Archived in Bolivia Tagged carnival volunteering sucre motorbiking_in_south_america sucre_market dinasour_footprints sucr_cemetery Comments (1)

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