A Travellerspoint blog

Bolivia part 2!!

Sucre, Potosi and the Salt Flats

After our eventful experience in the Amazon it was back to some sort of normality as we headed off to Sucre. This was just a quick stopover but we were nicely surprised as it was a quite a pretty city with some really good restaurants and a couple of local clubs to keep us entertained. During the day we visited the 7 Cascadas (waterfalls) which was pretty cool! The waterfalls are in the middle of nowhere so you literally have to get a taxi there and then they wait for a few hours and drive you home. (For a ridiculously small fee!) Apart from thinking Peter might have died when he fell off the cliff jump....and apart from when it started raining ... it turned out to be a pretty fun day!

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The following day we headed off to the mining town of Potosi. This isn't on many people's 'to-do' list of South America but after a few extremely enthusiastic reccomendations we HAD to go! Before entering the mines you stop at the local markets to get presents for the miners ...like coco leaves, water and DYNAMITE!! (We bought some - kinda felt like we should of been arrested!) Once we had our flashlights, helmets and all the extremely unattractive mining gear on our group entered the mine for what turned out to be one of our favourite tours in South America!

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The tour takes about 3 hours and your brought right down into the different levels of the mines and you meet some of the miners down there too. It's not reccomended for people with claustrophobia as your crawling through VERY tight spaces for a good bit of it! Diana had a massive rip at the back of her mining trousers and with a combination of having to crawl through tiny spaces and the American guy behind her shouting ..."is that a bare ass I see" ..it's understandable why this was one of the day's highlights! In the mines I decided to turn my camera to black and white mode to get the full effect! (Was in my element!!)

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The youngest miner was 14 (illegal!) whilst the eldest was 70! Even after spending a few hours crawling through the dust of the mines the smell and taste in your mouth is pretty intense! How some of the men have been working there for over 40/50 years is insane! (An office job started to seem much more bearable after all!)

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After one night in Potosi we headed to Uyuni for a 3 day tour which included the incredible Salt Flats. We headed there on our first day and it was so amazing!! ....in this case the pictures really say it all!!! ...

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The following 2 days we spent driving around in a 4 x 4 and visited some spectacular scenery such as flamingo filled lagoons, a red lagoon, rock valleys and natural hot springs. Peter blew up his leftover dynamite in a rock valley (completely illegal yet entertaining) and I learnt that a geyser was in fact a hydro-thermal explosion rather than a large bird. (Was a bit embarrassing when I was searching for the geysers flying through the sky!)

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One of the mornings the driver of another 4 x 4 that was travelling the same route as us was literally pissed out of his mind. (It was common enough for some of the South American drivers to be drunk but this was another level!) The group had to kick him out of the drivers seat before he killed them and one of the guys had to drive to the border which was a good few hours away! So we were quite happy not to be in that group as you can imagine!!

After the tour ended there were 2 options, to return to Uyuni in Bolivia or get a bus through the Bolivan/Chilean border to the lovely town of San Pedro. We needed to get to Salta in Argentina and were told once you get to San Pedro it will be EASY to get another bus through the Chilean/Argentinian border and onto Salta. ...San Pedro it is!!

Posted by Julie Kavanagh 23:48 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

We LOVE the Amazon!!

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Before writing about our little 'trip' to the Amazon it goes without saying that Diana did warn myself and Sinead against going as it was rainy season and there would be mosquitoes everywhere . We didn't listen .....

..off to the amazon!

..off to the amazon!

After a short flight from La Paz to Rurrenabaque our group of 6 squeezed into a small non-air conditioned 4x4 to take us to the Amazon. It was quite a sweaty and uncomfortable 4 hour ride ....looking back it was really a sign of things to come! We also got a flat tyre mid journey but luckily the guys in our group came to the rescue! (We weren't much use so we just watched!)

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Day 1:
Equipped with the information that it was in fact rainy season myself, Diana, Sinead and Peter (new Ozzy mate!) dressed as the Blues Brothers. (We were told to bring long sleeved white tops and all we could find in Rurrenabaque was men's office shirts!) So we threw them on and COVERED ourselves in repellent spray. Us 1 - Mosquitoes 0 (or so we thought!)

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We all hopped into a small boat, met our tour guide Juan and went on a nice scenic trip to our accommodation.

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School tour!

School tour!

me and a lil monkey!

me and a lil monkey!

After some lunch Juan recommended we all go swimming by our cabin..there was a rope swing into the water so it seemed like quite a fun idea! .... AFTER our little swim Juan introduced us to the local alligator who lives in the area we just jumped into!! (ahhh ye!)

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That night we met a few other groups at the local 'bar' on the river. The guys played football with the locals while us ladies sipped some wine and watched the sun set.

Night-time fun in the Amazon!

Night-time fun in the Amazon!

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Day 2:
WELL ....the meaning got 'bitten alive' became an unfortunate reality when we awoke the following morning! We had slept with mosquitoes nets and covered ourselves in spray so were very confused about the horrific attacks! Also for some reason the main places they bit were the back of our legs and our ASSES! (I genuinely had around 200 bites!) ...We were going to take photographic evidence but realised we'd all like to hopefully find husbands at some stage in our lives!.... (we did however manage to turn all the guys in our room off women for life!)

Once the mosquitoes had had their way with us the Amazon just wasn't the same. (EVERYTHING had changed!) ...it became a constant war against the evil blood sucking insects.

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So turns out we got all the bites when we on the boat ...they bite you through all the little holes on the seats. You're SUPPOSED to put a towel or something underneath you to stop this happening... (a key piece of information our tour guide forgot to tell us!) So we all decided to turn against Juan and pretty much blame him for EVERYTHING. At one stage Diana shouted "Why didn't you tell us the mosquitoes bite your bum on the boat?!?" He just replied in broken English 'I don't understand you' ....I couldn't breath. At this stage our group collectively decided that we wanted to leave the Amazon and finish the tour early. Juan kindly let us know that this would not be possible and we would have to stay the 3 nights. Yippeee!!! I took a few pictures to capture the general mood of the group...

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So there really was no escaping and the damage was done so we lathered ourselves in repellent and anti-itch cream and went swimming with the 'dolphins'. Again Diana provided fantastic entertainment while myself, Sinead and the guys jumped off the boat in search of the RIVER dolphins. Although they are by right called dolphins to this day Diana refuses to call them dolphins as they were ....well .....UGLY!! To be fair I thought they kind of resembled some sort of tuna fish. After searching for about half an hour for them one popped up right in front of my face. I was so freaked out by the sight of it that I scared it away with my screams!

Pink river dolphin

Pink river dolphin

..looking for some river dolphins

..looking for some river dolphins


Swimming with the "dolphins" #livinthedream

Swimming with the "dolphins" #livinthedream

That night we went off in the boat searching for crocodile eyes in the darkness. It was quite uncomforting to see that they were pretty much everywhere!!

Day 3:
It was the final day of the tour so spirits were at an all time high! But of course Juan wasn't going to let us go that easily!! The activity for today was ANACONDA searching! So it was on with the wellies and off on our little adventure.... Again we dressed as the the Blues Brothers so things got a 'little' bit sweaty in the scalding sun! We were also trenching through swamps that smelt of sewage and we were looking for life threatening snakes... life was good!! LUCKILY we did actually find 2 anacondas....it was just great! Thankfully we managed to take some snaps of the deadly creatures so we will never have to go searching for one again!

Anaconda searching!!

Anaconda searching!!

We found the ANACONDA!!

We found the ANACONDA!!

At last it was time to go home!!! ...we packed our bags and LEGGED it!! We all agreed the Amazon (especially in rainy season!) is a ONCE in a lifetime experience!! ....you go once and you will never return!

Posted by Julie Kavanagh 20:38 Archived in Bolivia Tagged amazon Comments (0)

Boliviaaaaa - Lake Tit,La Paz and the dreaded DEATH road!!

So after regrouping in Cusco we headed off to Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca, our first stop in Bolivia.  We got a 14 hour bus to Copacabana in Bolivia followed by a boat to the 'Island of the Sun'. We just stayed one night on the island as their isn't too much to do there other than take in the spectacular views of Lake Titicaca. (The highest lake in the world!)

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca


On Isla del Sol

On Isla del Sol

We were lucky enough to find a decent hostel not too high up as its a steep climb with your backpack. (The smart thing would have been to leave our bags in Copacabana but we obviously didn't think of that!) At nighttime it got freezing on the island so after dinner and a hot chocolate it was straight into the thermals and the sleeping bags!

The following night we stayed one night in a hostel in Copacabana. It was really just a stopover to catch our bus to La Paz but we got to do a little roam around the town before we left.

Copacabana

Copacabana

Crazy looking van in Copacabana!

Crazy looking van in Copacabana!

The bus to La Paz was probably the worst so far ....its not too much fun when you've the back seats on the bus that don't recline yet the seats in front recline right back onto you. (Delightful!) After a few hours we were told to get off the bus as we needed to cross a river. Before we knew it we were being ferried across on a little boat with our giant bus sailing beside us across the river ....as you do!

Our bus sailing across the river ..as ya do!!

Our bus sailing across the river ..as ya do!!

So we reach Wild Rover, La Paz. (Yep we traveled across the world to stay in an Irish hostel!) ....but it was the party hostel so why not. La Paz is filled with pubs, clubs and cocaine bars - (if that's what your into!!) Once we reached the hostel we decided to go to the local square/market to do some shopping. So we bought a few things and everything seemed to be going to plan! THEN ...it starts lashing rain (a bit annoying but normal enough for Irish weather!) ...we shortly realise that there's an awful smell and the local people are all covering their faces. Turns out Bolivia doesn't quite handle the rain like we do! Potholes began to burst open on the streets and spewing out EVERYWHERE came the local sewage! After resisting the urge to instantly puke we decided to run for our lives (a little dramatic but it genuinely was like a weird alternative type of horror film!!) So we leg it to the next square ....but to our horror their was just no escaping it ....there was literally SHIT everywhere!!!! Some locals made the most of it by pouncing across the street splashing everything everywhere but we played it safe and kept running...
After finally getting back to the hostel (traumatised) we wondered just how much fun we we're going to have in Bolivia... And what exactly people meant when they had said it was a 'unique' and 'extremely cultural' country!!

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Thankfully things picked up pretty quickly, the rain stopped, the sewage stayed underground and HAPPY HOUR started at the bar!!! :)

La Paz - Wild Rover

La Paz - Wild Rover

La Paz

La Paz


Happy Hour in La Paz!

Happy Hour in La Paz!

Apart from the partying we also went to La Paz to cycle the "Death Road". A mountain bike ride on the 'World's Deadliest Road!" We decided to do it on Sinead's birthday ...with one condition ...none of us were allowed to die!!! (Oh great!!)

Shinner´s Bday!!

Shinner´s Bday!!

The DEATH Road:
Before reading on please note that my interpretation of this day differs dramatically from most peoples as (funnily enough!) nobody else in my group seemed to share my fear of bicycles!!!

Team IRELAND on Death Road

Team IRELAND on Death Road

The 'Death Road' bike ride can be quite easily summed up ....4 hours of absolute TORTURE! I thought I was going to fall off the cliff and die for pretty much the entire time and at every bend in the road I had a minor heart attach. (Genuinely think I may have done some damage to it!) It was the equivalent of a bicycle assault course with obstacles appearing in the form of stones, rocks, cars, trucks other bicyclists and wait for it ....WATERFALLS! Throughout the cycle the guides took photos and videos of the group. Don't be fooled by my fake smiles ....I can assure you I'm not actually having a good time!!!

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Fake smiling before Death Road!.jpg

So the cycle eventually ended (BRILLIANT!) and I had only fallen off twice we were all actually still alive. (Whoop whoop!!)

..oohhh the relief!!

..oohhh the relief!!

Celebratory drinks after Death road!

Celebratory drinks after Death road!

But NO NO NO the torture wasn't over ....to get home we had to get back in the van and drive back up the death road. And don't ya know it they drive on the side nearest the cliff drop ...ahhh ye! So I took a seat on the opposite side to the cliff drop, kept my eyes closed and planned my escape route in my head. Throughout the first hour the guide told us stories of cyclists and buses that had fallen off the cliff and showed us the crosses that marked their horrific deaths. (Great!) THEN our own van broke down and the driver pulled out the dodgiest looking toolbox I've ever seen! After an hour of him trying to "fix" the bus it eventually started back up and we were good to go! (At this stage my trust in the vehicles safety was at an all time low!) ..also during this time a group of men came towards our van with machetes..luckily they kept walking and we were not harmed!! ... So we continued back up the cliffs in darkness and of course the horror stories continued. (At this point there was no other option but to start drinking .....)

..there´s always a solution!

..there´s always a solution!

By the time we got back to the hostel it was night time and Australia day was in FULL swing!! Incapacitated Zombie looking Australians roamed round the hostel in search of alcohol and any thing else on offer. The smartest ones however headed straight for the tattoo parlour that Wild Rover had especially installed in the hostel just for Australia day! (How thoughtful!!)

Luckily we escaped La Paz alive and sans tattoos, alcohol or drug addictions! ....next stop ....to the Amazon!!! (Sounds fun doesn't it.....)

Posted by Julie Kavanagh 15:58 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Machu Picchu - "Ain't no mountain high enough ...."

On the 15th of Jan we got up at 6am to start our 4 day trek to Machu Picchu! After receiving some terrific advice we opted to do the 'Jungle Trek'. This trek combines hiking, mountain biking, zip lining and up to a week before it also included white water rafting. Sadly a number of tourists had died 2 weeks previously doing the rafting so the government had cancelled it until the weather conditions had improved. I'd definitely recommend the jungle trek as the cycling and ziplining were so much fun! ...unless you just LOVE walking then you could just hike for the whole thing! (BORING!!) We were in a group of about 15 people who you trek/eat/sleep with for the duration if the trip and we also had two hilarious tour guides, Ricardo y Carlito!

to Machu Picchu...

to Machu Picchu...


trekking in Machu Picchu

trekking in Machu Picchu


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The first day consisted of about 3 hours biking downhill from 4000m. I actually have a (very random!) fear of bikes so I was pretty petrified for the duration of this! The fact that it was raining and there was numerous crosses throughout the cycle track marking where people had died really didn't help the ole nerves! I have to say though apart from one close call with a car and my bike chain coming off twice it ended up being one of the highlights of the trek! After lunch we trekked on foot for the rest of the day until reaching our home stay that night.

The following morning we got up for an early breakfast before heading off for a 7 hour trek. (Whoop whoop!) Using a local fruit our tour guides painted our faces and arms. The tinted juice is also used as a sunblock which was pretty handy! While the majority of the group got Inca symbols and 'I love Peru' I UNKNOWINGLY got 'I love Ricky' painted on my arm by our Peruvian tour guide. (Cheers!)

Facepaint time at Machu Picchu

Facepaint time at Machu Picchu


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That evening after hours of walking we reached what can only be described as 'heaven'....the hot springs!! We were wet, mucky, cold and hadn't had a shower since leaving Cuzco! ...so we couldn't believe our luck to find there was HOT showers!! (The only hot shower you get on the trek!) After the springs there was an option to do another 1 hour uphill trek or stay longer in the hot springs and get a bus straight to the hostel door that night...it was a verrrry tough decision for us!! ;) After having a nice meal in the town of Santa Theresa a few of us went to a local club where myself and Diana became professional salsa dancers! (We thought so anyway!)

The AMAZING hot springs!

The AMAZING hot springs!


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After a few hours sleep we woke up for the best part of the trek (apart from actually reaching the top of Machu Picchu!) ....the ZIPLINING!!! The views from the lines were unbelievable. There were 6 lines so we did some upside down, spinning around and my personal favourite ...the 'superman'. Where a guide stands on your feet while you lie flat ..it feels like your going to fall straight down into the water but you don't so happy days!

Ziplining to Machu Picchu

Ziplining to Machu Picchu


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After lunch we did a few more hours trekking and finally arrived at Aguas Calientas. After quite a giddy "last supper" dinner we all stocked up on food and water for the final day of trekking up to Machu Pichu! We were up at 4am to start climbing so it was early to bed!

The last super ...

The last super ...

We were awoken by Diana's alarm clock at 3:30am followed by a quick blast of Aretha Franklin´s 'Ain't no mountain high enough' to get us in the mood! After a STEEP uphill trek we arrived to the top of Machu Picchu at about 6:30am. The views were incredible and the following 2 hour tour of the 'lost city' was so interesting! (Diana did catch a sneaky pic of me half asleep though!)

At the top of Machu Picchu

At the top of Machu Picchu


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We were lucky enough to have booked our trek a week in advance so we had also got tickets to climb the neighbouring mountain of Wayna Picchu (only 400 people are allowed climb it each day.) Having said that when we saw the height and steepness of it we questioned just how 'lucky' we actually were!! ....but after eventually getting to the top it was obvious what the hype was about the views were UNBELIEVABLE!!!

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en route to Wayna Picchu

en route to Wayna Picchu


Diana climbing Waynu Picchu

Diana climbing Waynu Picchu


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So all in all Machu Picchu will definitely be one of our South American highlights and I'd recommend the Jungle Trek to anyone!! Some advice I would give future trekkers: if you want to look 'really cool' on the trek then wear jungle 'themed' socks like me ...but if you´d prefer comfort and to avoid blisters then your probably better off going for the thick trekking socks that most other people seemed to be wearing!! ..similarly G.I. Jane styled leggings look the part but watch out for poor material that rip in extremely awkward places!!

KILLING it with my jungle socks!

KILLING it with my jungle socks!


G.I. Jane ...

G.I. Jane ...

Back to Cuzco:

So Diana and myself thought it would be just hilarious to pretend to 'Chundaa in Perahhh' at one of the highest points on the trek. IRONICALLY within a few hours of this photo being taken myself (and the majority of our group) got food poisoned/some sort of bug! ...so this pretty much sums up the following 3 days back in Cuzco.....

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Posted by Julie Kavanagh 08:42 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru - Chundering in Peraaahh!!

Lima, Huacachina, Cuzco

After queuing for several hours at check-in in Rio airport we were eventually told there were no seats left on our flight to Lima! ... quite strange as we had pre-booked our seats and had our tickets with our seat numbers in our hands!! Thankfully after a bit of complaining we managed to check-in our bags and get on the flight about 5 minutes before take off! (Nobodies really in a rush in South America and transport rarely leaves on time ...as you can imagine this suited me down to the ground!!) So we arrived in Lima, Peru on the 7th of January and went straight to Hitchhikers hostel in Miraflores. Most people had advised us not to stay too long in Lima as there's not really too much to do so we took their advice and just stayed the one night. Diana's cousin Sinead met us at the hostel ...she'll be traveling the rest of South America with us! ...more mates....happy days!! :)

Peru

Peru


..the 3 amigas!!

..the 3 amigas!!

Next stop was to the spectacular lagoon of Huacachina. (It's sand dunes feature on the back of Peru's 50 soles note! - very exciting!) To get here we took a 16 hour bus from Lima. We'd been dreading it but with fully reclining seats and lots of leg room we were in our element. (A million times better than a Ryanair flight!!) Huacachina was really nice and relaxing ...I'd never been to an oasis before so I thought it was pretty amazing!

50 soles note

50 soles note


Huacachina

Huacachina

The sandboarding was definitely the highlight of Huacachina! We rented boards with 'Desert Adventures' and even the rollercoaster-esque buggy out the dunes was quite eventful! We did our first sand dune standing on the board but once we moved on to the larger dunes the guides recommended we lay flat on our stomachs as they didn't want to have to bring any of us to hospital! (We agreed of course!) Face first was actually scarier as you pick up some amount of speed!!

the buggy to the dunes

the buggy to the dunes


Sandboarding in Huacachina

Sandboarding in Huacachina


Diana flying down the dunes

Diana flying down the dunes

Our hostel "Desert Nights' was ok but I'd recommend staying in one with a pool as it gets pretty toasty during the day!! (Silvias and Bananas were both good hostels with pools.) One of the nights in Huacachina we went for a BBQ and drinks in Bananas hostel. We met the hilarious Rick and Ali from England and crazy Sam from Oz. Sam entertained the group with his stories about being robbed and chased around Europe and South America!! (Very reassuring to hear!!!)

me and crazy Sam

me and crazy Sam


With Ali and Rich at Bananas

With Ali and Rich at Bananas

After 2 nights we left Huacachina and got an overnight bus to Cuzco (once the heart of the Inca empire!) The amazing views through the mountains made the journey pretty painless!

Amazing road-tripping scenery

Amazing road-tripping scenery

There we stayed in Locki hostel, it's a party hostel which is a lot of fun but if you're lucky enough (like us!) to get a room right beside the bar... good luck getting much sleep!! We stayed 4 nights in Cuzco to acclimatise before trekking Machu Picchu and of course to celebrate Diana's 24th birthday! We celebrated with the traditional Donnelly banana cake for breakfast in Jacks cafe ..and a day of pampering...an hour massage equated to about 7 Euro! To finish the celebrations off we had dinner and drinks in the HIGHEST Irish bar in world 'Paddy Flahertys". Along with our English friends Chris and James we picked up a few fellow leprechauns and headed out to Mama Africa's and Temple nightclub.

Banana cake!!

Banana cake!!


Paddy Flahertys Irish Bar!

Paddy Flahertys Irish Bar!


The bday girl pouring some STRONG drinks!!

The bday girl pouring some STRONG drinks!!

Diana´s bday celebrations!!

Diana´s bday celebrations!!

the ladies ...

the ladies ...

The crazy birthday gurl!!

The crazy birthday gurl!!

The following day we did the free walking tour of Cuzco. Our guide spent hours showing us around the historical city and also brought us to the Cocoa Museum. We learnt all about the 'Shining path' - a huge terrorist group living in the jungle who each year capture thousands of women. They then bribe their brothers to grow and supply them with coco leaves (for Cocaine) in exchange for the return of their sisters. Only within the last year it is suspected that the group were to blame for the disappearance of a group of tourists trekking in the jungle! (Just what we wanted to hear the day before starting our trek!)

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Cuzco day tour

Cuzco day tour


POTATOES in Cuzco!!

POTATOES in Cuzco!!

Posted by Julie Kavanagh 17:04 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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