Travel Mumblings

June 24, 2008

Copacabana, Isla Del Sol & La Paz

Filed under: bolivia — Tags: , , , , , — paulparkie @ 16:02

The Border crossing between Peru and Bolivia was a breeze compared to our last one arriving in Peru from Ecuador, and a bus ride later we arrived in Copacabana, the main Bolivian town on Lake Titicaca. It was a quaint little town with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. june-24-paul-62We booked a boart trip to Isla Del Sol (Island of the Sun), which was an amazingly beautiful island on Lake Titicaca, but they were scrounging, robbing gits! They had totally cottoned onto the tourist trade, and charged ridiculously inflated prices for everything.

Even by Western prices, things were extortionate. 70 bs for a Mars Bar… that’s about $10! We’d been eating out for those prices! And also, they’d set up fake check points all the way round the hiking trail on the island. So Jayde and I, having walked the length of the island to meet our boat ended up passing through 4 of these check points all requesting 20 bs each. They even had little tables and laminated badges and everything and made a big deal of insinuating that if we didn’t buy a pass for the next part of the trail, we’d be made to turn around! Well, no-one had mentioned anything about these check points to us, so we didn’t have enough money with us and ended up just wading through the last two and telling them to ‘stuff it’ basically. Talking to some other hikers afterwards, we were told that all the checkpoints were just a sham to get more money from tourists and they’re not official at all! Gits! It kind of left a sour taste in our mouths and spoilt what had otherwise been an amazing hike across a beautiful island!

june-24-paul-75We left midday the next day for La Paz, Bolivia’s capital city. Driving the approach towards the city has to rank as one of the most dramatic sights ever. The city is nestled neatly in a massive crater… so there’s this huge city surrounded on all sides by huge mountains and volcanoes. Amazing! Getting in closer it started to become quite daunting – the sheer scale of the place was immense and it mainly seemed to be narrow unmarked streets, roads and alley ways in a labyrinth of confusion. We completely lucked out with our bus stopping just round the corner from our hostel. We dumped our bags and went to gawp at people. It was like no where we’d been so far. It was so busy and on most streets vehicles and pedestrians seemed to fight for right of way the whole time. We wandered round the Witches MArkets where they sold all sorts of weird things, potions, balms and … get this… dead llama fetuses! Kinda grossed us out at first, but after doing some reading later, we discovered people buy them for luck apparently. They bury them under the front door of a new house to bring long life and prosperity. Each to their own I guess.

The next day we explored more of the city. The new James Bond film (Quantum of Solace) was filmed there. june-24-paul-67It was a completely eclectic mix of Westernised commuters and indigenous street vendors proffering their wares. One weird thing we did notice was how similar businesses all seemed to open next to each other. Like, there was a whole street of hair-dressers… we didn’t see any where else to get hair cut than on this street. There was a whole street of stalls just offering party gear – you’d think in a city so big, they’d spread themselves out a bit!

I woke up feeling crap on my birthday. We’d had a trek booked, so Jayde went on that whilst I amused myself with wandering the city more and checking out an English film at the cinema. We had a big meal that night for my birthday which then made Jayde ill, and she was up half the night with sickness… icky.

The next day we picked up a few things for the next part of our trip, went to a cool art gallery and booked our tickets to Uyuni.


May 29, 2008

Border Crossing and Mancora

Filed under: peru — Tags: , , , — paulparkie @ 15:19

So, they show dead people on the back of papers here. No sport. Just pictures of people that have died (usually horrifically) in the past 24 hours. It´s creepy. They have like ´before and after´shots!  One photo, the ´before´ probably borrowed from their mother´s mantelpiece of them smiling, or playing on that rope swing they made last summer – aah those were the days. And the other photo, the ´after´, shows them mangled in a car wreck… or semi-decapitated with an Incan replica war axe. They don´t hold back. Anyhow, just thought you´d like to know that too, cause it´s put me off my breakfast more than once. The couple of days between leaving Banós and arriving in Mancora (Peru) were pretty crappy really. Just spent on buses, or waiting at bus stations slagging off buses.

Long, long road
Long, long road

The Pan America… the main road… no, the ´highway´ from Banós to Machala was not smooth, and was riddled with pot holes, and our ´express´ bus seemed to stop at every non-descript house and shack en-route to drop someone off, or pick-up a bag of chickens. We finally arrived in a hot and sticky Machala at 12 midnight and checked into a hostel. I fell straight asleep and left Jayde swatting bugs. We left early the next morning for the border. We knew it wasn´t going to be an easy day. The Western Ecuador-Peru border crossing has a reputation for the hardest border crossing in the whole of South America… yey.  Here goes. We took a bus to the Ecuadorian passport control, 3 miles from the border, where we had to get our passports stamped to say we were leaving Ecuador. Then, after fighting off several requests from dodgy guys saying they´ll take us across the border in their cars, we caught the next bus to take us across the actual border. Only it didn´t. Unbeknown to us, it stopped a little further down the road and everyone had to get off. My Spanish wasn´t good enough to understand why. And after seeing where we were getting off, the best I could muster, was to throw the sweaty driver a look of utter exasperation and to say rude things about his mother under my breath. We´d been dropped of in the middle of a market in a throng of mayhem, with people, rickshaws, animals, and scared gringos everywhere!  The border crossing turned out to be a market between the two countries. A smegging market! Not even a nice market. They had now ´Olive´ Lady! In the end, after walking/creeping down some pretty sketchy side streets… after being shouted at and cajoled by every-other toothless market trader to ´sample their wares´… we got taken across by a dodgy guy who didn´t appear to have enough gas in his car… it cost us $35, but we were safe and unscathed, if a little stressed. Mancora was different to where we´d been so far… a small beach town in Northern Peru. It was good just to relax for a few days… spend some time on the beach and eat lots of Ceviche. Hmmmm… so good. Our three days there coincided with the annual ´Grasshopper Hatching´ which was hilarious.


For a start, our accomodation of choice was a beach hut. A beach hut where the walls didn´t meet the ceiling… and the door didn´t fit the door frame. So even though we were under a mosquito net, every few minutes we´d hear another mammoth grasshopper land on it… it was quite a weird feeling. The bloody things were everywhere!   Eating in a restaurant one night, I was wetting myself watching a guy and his missus trying to enjoy a romantic meal in a restaurant by the sea front. There was a pretty steady flow of grasshoppers flying in through the open front of the restaurant. So this guy and girl, were sat at a nice table, with nice cutlery, a nice wine and great food in front of them. But… they had napkins covering their wine glasses and the canter. They both, incessantly were looking around to see where the next airborne assault would come from… and after every mouthful of food they´d sit there chewing it, whilst slumped forward and covering their plate with their hands… I almost couldn´t eat for laughing. Until one landed on me. Then I yelped like a girl.

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