After another bumpy overnight bus ride we arrived in Cochabamba at 6am. The buses in Bolivia are by far the worst we have experienced in South America to date and the roads are equally as dodgy! No paved roads like Europe, USA or Australia or for most parts of the developed world for that matter. The roads are all dirt and any form of driver error can result in a plunge of anywhere to 400 metres! Plunge = fatality! Scary!
From the bus terminal we got a taxi to our next couch surfing host, Pablo and his parents, Gustavo and Monica. What a fantastic few days we had seeing the city as well as hanging out with these nice people! Although Cochabamba and the local region is known internationally more for the wrong reasons (ie the cocaine trade), we really thought a lot of the city. It had a gorgeous main plaza (check out the pictures), was easy to walk around and had an amazing big Cristo! Bigger than the Cristo in Rio and only recently been relegated to the second biggest in the world!
We also visited the “Mercado Central” where they sold everything from clothes to food and more! Probably one of the coolest mercados we have been to so far in South America. So much fun to walk around and reminded us so much of Asian markets! We were able to buy food and wine for 6 people for $10 (as we cooked for our hosts)!
We also got to meet four other couch surfers that were there when we arrived in Cochabamba. A couple from Cordoba, Argentina as well as Flurina from Bern, Switzerland and Ivan from Slovakia. So nice to meet you all as well and hope your travels are going well! Thanks again Pablo, Monica and Gustavo as you are such lovely and generous people. By the way Gustavo, any takers for the black tea yet? Hahaha lol
After a few great days in Cochabamba we were back on a bus heading to the capital city of Bolivia, La Paz. Before leaving Cochabamba we enjoyed a super authentic Bolivian lunch with Pablo and Gustavo (thanks for treating us to lunch as well – very nice of you). After lunch Gustavo was kind enough to take us to the bus station.
The bus ride was supposed to only take 6 hours, but it turned into a 24-hour marathon bus ride! Yes, this is NOT a misprint! About 4 hours into the journey we hit a road blockade and were suddenly at a stand still as the Bolivian miners were striking. For your information, it is a forever-recurring theme in Bolivia (especially from our experiences) with under paid miners striking and making road blockades – this is not uncommon. Well from early afternoon it soon turned dark and night was upon us. What seemed like a never-ending snake of vehicles, it was confirmed later that we were among some thousands of vehicles stranded on the popular Cochabamba to La Paz route. So we were informed that we had to sleep on the bus and hopefully by morning the miners would let some of us through. We were stuck in the middle of nowhere, with little water, luckily some leftover food from lunch and on a very cold bus with not enough clothes! Loads of passengers just got off the bus and started to walk as we had no idea how long we would be stuck for! We experienced everything from moving inches per hour to many fires started by the miners to miners’ detonating dynamite around the desert. What an experience and a bit scary at times. So to cut a long story short, we moved about 10kms in some 17 hours! After a very cold night with VERY little sleep, we started to move very slowly and a total of 24 hours later we finally made it to the capital city of La Paz.
We were in desperate need of a shower, water and some food by the time we made it to La Paz. We found a superb, cozy hotel that was centrally located so we checked in and got ourselves sorted before heading out for some food and to explore the city. Thanks to the Italian couple we met in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (and again in Sucre, Bolivia) we enjoyed a cheap and wholesome almuerzo – thanks!
The next day we went on a city bus tour. It was supposedly a hop on hop off bus tour although you could not hop off. Lol haha. The bus tour took in most of the city’s main highlights which included a beautiful plaza near the presidential headquarters, a super mirador with a great vista of the city (never seen a city like this before…more on that later) and in the afternoon we ventured to “Valle de la Luna” (the moon valley). Note, if you go to La Paz you needed to be super careful on the bus because when sitting on the top of the double decker bus and passing under bridges or overpasses you only have about 6 inches of “room for error” – scary and you would never see such examples in the States, Europe etc.
This section by Dean…
The following day I was booked in to do the “Yungas Pass – which is affectionately known as The World’s Most Deadly Road”. Most of you in Britain will know about it because Clarkson and Co did a Top Gear episode there a few years back. Enough said…the scenery is simply stunning and the road is likewise as stunning for all the wrong reasons. Check out the pictures and you will understand why! Basically a dirt road weaving around spectacular mountains with only about 3 to 4 metres in width (supposedly for two cars to pass each other). It earns it’s name as the Deadliest Road because more than 200 people per year died on this road when it was still operational as a commercial route. Fortunately now there is a new highway that has made this infamous road somewhat redundant for commercial use. Nevertheless tourists and locals alike still have their lives claimed by this road every year. The key is that you must respect the road! Tourists usually die or encounter problems because they lose concentration and do things like trying to take photos whilst riding down it! There are crosses scattered all along the ruta. All in all probably the most amazing downhill 60kms that I have ridden and definitely the best adrenalin rush for sure! Well worth doing if you are going to La Paz.
The following day we were also able to catch up with our friends Andrew and Cathy from South Africa that we had first met at Perito Moreno Glacier and then again on the Navimag Ferry from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt. It was SO great to catch up with you guys again! Hope you made it back home safely (and the BMW motorbike as well).
Overall, we were glad to have spent the four days in this beautiful ugly city. You must be wondering how can a place be beautiful in an ugly way? Well apart from the few colonial buildings there is nothing to write home about in this city in terms of beautiful architecture. However, the fact that this high altitude bowl is filled with this concrete and mud brick coloured mess make it beautifully unique in an ugly way (we think)!
Copacabana, Lake Titicaca
From La Paz we took a 2-hour bus ride to Copacabana, Lake Titicaca which is the world’s highest lake. We then found a great place to stay with a lovely view of the lake and town center. Copacabana is a very small town and we enjoyed walking around exploring the market, churches and little streets. One of the days we rented an off road motorbike and rode from one end of Copacabana to the other (check out the pictures and video to follow soon). It was a rather bumpy ride for me on the back of the bike, had to hold on tight and glad I did not fall off! Great scenery, cute villages along the way and a gorgeous sunset, check out our pictures!
We also visited “Isla del Sol”, which is the home of the Sun God for the Incas. We took a boat to the north part of the island and walked to the south. It took about 2 and a half hours and was just gorgeous and so much less developed and touristy than we thought it would be. Once we reached the south of the island we had a great lunch right by the water (check out pics)! It was a fantastic day trip and we wished we had more time and could have stayed a night or two on the island. Well worth the visit! We really enjoyed our few days in Copacabana, very chilled out place, great “trucha” (trout) by the lake, awesome motorbike ride and visit to Isla del Sol!
Next stop Puno, Peru where you will be hearing from Dingo:)
Hope this finds you all healthy and well xoxo