Cruising Lake Titicaca, Zooming down death road, and Braving the Amazonas...
So I guess after being on the road for about 4 months has taken its toll… Laziness has finally set in, and instead of creating posts on each place I’ve been, this time I’ve divided the country by regions. So far I’ve entered the high altitude country of Bolivia through the Western Lake Titicaca, and have ventured further inland to the capital La Paz, and then North to Rurrenabaque, gateway to the Amazon Basin. In a week or two I will have made my way South to the desert lands and horse country of Tupiza, and the spectacular Salt flats of Uyuni. But that’s next week.
Copacabana and Isla del Sol.
Having met some Argentinians on my tour to the Colca Canyon who were passing through to Bolivia through Copacabana, I decided to tag along and enter Bolivia through Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest altitude lake at 4000m absl. Crossing the border proved to be a painless experience, and the journey from Puno (Peru) across to Copacabana (Bolivia) took a mere 3 hours on a bus for just 10 Soles (USD4). From Copa, we caught the ferry across to Isla del Sol, an island where the Incans apparently discovered the sun. Finding a place to stay was easy, as the island was littered with numerous options, the only catch being that you had to lug your bags up the hill, not an easy feat at that altitude.
The plan was to head off for some trekking to the North of the island, and try to make it back to the South again in one day, however being that I was traveling with 2 Argentinians, who let’s just say were more than a little high more than most of the time, we of course started our trek a little later than expected. Knowing it would be at least a 6 hour round trip, we brought our headlights with us, realizing that we would get caught in the dark, but not expecting what more was to come.
After enjoying the view of the sunset across the water, we made the decision to continue North, and try to find a place to sleep there for the night. Using only the map on the back of the park ticket, we of course got a little lost, and after the skies turned black, we even caught sight of the lightning storm on the mainland fast approaching. I guess I wasn’t too worried, knowing that if I was going to get stuck in the wilderness it was a good thing I was with two doctors… although I admit I might have been even less concerned had they not been high the whole time.
In the end everything worked out. We found the village, and a place to stay, and the journey back the next day was more than pleasant, creating the perfect end to a great adventure.
La Paz and the Death Road
The big busy capital of La Paz was infinitely different to the small towns I had been passing time in, but it was a welcome change for New Years. I managed to head out to a local bar for the countdown with some friends I’d met at the hostal I was staying in, and decided to take the new year with a big bang and head out to bike the death road. Maybe it might not have been the best idea to bike down the 64km, 3.5km vertical drop gravel road, otherwise known as the world’s most dangerous road, tired and maybe a little hung over, but it was an amazing experience nonetheless.
The start of the bike trip was easy, requiring just a quick scoot down an even paved road… I guess it was more to test and get used to the bikes and equipment. The next part was challenging, maneuvering the bicycles downhill on a loose gravel path, no bigger than the width of a sedan, with the edge of the road ending in a deathly vertical drop. Being that it is rainy season in Bolivia, the journey might have been a little more challenging than normal, especially during the brief hail storm at the beginning of the ride.
The views were amazing, on the occasions that I’d dared to take my eyes off the path to enjoy it. At several points we also had top zip through some shallow waters, and under some gentle waterfalls. Altogether a thrilling experience and a great way to start the new year!
Note to Self: New Years resolution 2013? Live on the edge…
Figuring that it would be a shame to travel South America and not reach the Amazon, I decided to take the trip up north to the sleepy jungle town of Rurrenabaque to check out tours to the amazon basin. After the horrible 22 hour bus ride, bumpy enough to have churned milk into butter in that time, I decided to book myself on a 3 day tour to the pampas, and then return to La Paz via airplane.
The tour itself was great, consisting of many daily activities, as well as a night time boat trip to look for animals (Look for the reflective eyes by torch, red for alligators, blue for the caimans, and green for the anacondas!). We encountered many different types of birds during the day, as well as numerous sightings of river alligators and Amazonian caimans, monkeys and capibaras (enormous Amazonian guinea pigs), as well as ample opportunities for swimming with the playful pink dolphins.
The tour also included a trek to search for the elusive anacondas, although we didn’t find any in the end, and a few hours of fishing for piranhas, after which we also enjoyed them grilled with lime for dinner.
On the way back to Rurrenabaque, our group convinced the driver of the jeep to make a quick stop in the nearby town of Reyes, as the local folk were celebrating their town’s anniversary with a “local” rodeo, complete with a bull-riding ring, and more than enough Gauchos riding around on horseback.
Avoid the bus during rainy season, as many will get stuck along the way… it’s worth the few extra bucks just to take the flight.
There are more mosquitoes in the Amazon than there are trees, so bring lots of deet: although they’ll still get you inevitably, and they can bite you through your clothes too!
You can bring snacks, but avoid chocolate… you’ll just wind up with a mass of melted cocoa in your bag… It’s the Amazon… it’s hot out there.