After the wedding in Lima about a dozen of us went to Cuzco for a week or so, checked out the ruins, sucked wind (there’s not much air up there), drank coca tea and did the things you do in Cuzco.
After celebrating my last night in Cuzco by staying out way too late at the disco, drinking too much and meeting some fellow travelers, I dragged myself out of bed at six in the morning to catch the train south to Puno on Lake Titicaca.
This is a beautiful train ride, even hung over and running on two hours sleep. But it’s a long one too; about twelve hours if memory serves.
After spending a few days in Puno, I made the journey around the lake to cross the border into Bolivia and head down to Copacabana. This is a cool little town on the south side of the lake, and not the namesake of the Barry Manilow song. Interestingly, the namesake in Brazil was named after this Copacabana. Or, so I heard somewhere.
You can’t go to Copacabana without visiting the Isla del Sol, or Isla de La Luna or both. I just did the former, but it was beautiful. I spent Thanksgiving Day, 2006 there, and enjoyed some truly delicious lake trout with quinoa vegetable soup in place of turkey and stuffing while meditating on the sunset you see below.
Copacabana and Lake Titicaca
La Paz and the World’s Most Dangerous Road
I liked La Paz a lot. Small enough to not be too crazy, but big enough to be an actual city, at least by Bolivian standards. And it just has an interesting, hilly quirkiness that I dug.
I also took bike ride down the “world’s most dangerous road,” which was a blast and something I highly recommend. Pro tip: spring for the full suspension mountain bike though. I did, and my ass was still sore for days. I can’t imagine trying it with a hard tail.
After La Paz, I took a long bus ride south down to the quaint town of Uyuni in the southwest part of the country. It’s actually a cool little town, but most people come here to see the amazing Salar de Uyuni nearby. At 4633 square miles, it is the world’s largest salt flat, and home to salt brick hotels, weird islands, pink flamingos and some really tough people.
From Lonely Planet:
From strange islands in a sea of blindingly bright salt to delicately colored mineral lakes in the Andean mountains, this is an unforgettable Bolivian landscape.
True dat. Even truer:
However, travellers should take great care in choosing which tour operator to go with when visiting the salt flats. Fatal accidents due to unsafe vehicles and drivers are not unheard of. Make sure your vehicles have seatbelts, emergency radio transmitters and first aid equipment, and don’t shy from asking about guides’ levels of training and experience. Of course, there are also many reputable tour operators in the area who will ensure your experience of this natural wonder is both memorable and safe.
Our guide, while not unsafe so far as I could tell, was a bit of a grumpy douchebag. He must have been buying the cheapest tires in Uyuni too, since we had about five flats on the trip. Oh well, all is forgiven. The scenery is amazing, and my hat’s off to the people who live there.
The train museum is cool too.
Basically, it’s a mountain made of silver that has been one of the richest treasures in the Americas since colonial times, and much suffering and despair has accompanied that wealth.
There are times when I’m traveling that I really feel like an overprivileged wanker wandering around amidst poverty and struggle. Taking a tour through this mine and seeing miners aged 12 to approximately 112 was one of those times.
The tour guide did make and set off a bomb for us. That was cool.
Pretty town. I think I’ll leave it at that. You know how to use Google.
One of Bolivia’s most economically and socially progressive cities. Known for a public uprising against privatization of their water utility back in 2000. Suck it, Bechtel!
I got caught in a storm here right before my bus was supposed to leave. Think hail the size of peas and torrential rain. The streets were flooded but people didn’t seem too concerned.
Nothing like rushing to catch a bus through knee-deep water in the streets. But everything worked out and I was soon relaxing on the night bus back to La Paz.
Before heading home I had to return to the lovely town of Coroico. Coroico is in the cloud forest the at the end of the bike ride down the sketch road from La Paz, so some of these photos are from earlier.
We visited Senda Verde Ecotourism Resort, which is an amazing place and where all the photos of monkeys come from. Lookit’ that baby spider monkey! Too cute.
Visit Bolivia if you have a chance and you won’t be disappointed. It has a distinct character and beauty that is incredibly touching, at least for me. No coast, of course, but nobody’s perfect. Blame the Chilenos.