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.

June 18, 2008

Nazca, Arequipa & Puno

Filed under: peru — Tags: , , , , — paulparkie @ 13:18

We ‘ummed’ and ‘aahed’ about taking the huge diversion to Nazca for quite a while. The only thing of note to see there were the lines in the desert. The Nazca lines are a bunch of geoglyphs in the Nazca Desert, a high arid plateau that stretches more than 80 km. They are largely believed to have been created by the Nazca culture between 200 BCE and 700 CE. There are hundreds of individual figures, ranging in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks or orcas, llamas, and lizards. Admittedly they do look pretty cool, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else in the world where there were big-ass drawings in the sand… so be decided to go check them out.

june-24-paul-29The bus journey was mammoth and we decided to take the overnight bus to arrive at 6am the next day. The bus depot on arrival was manic. Touts trying to sell tours were all locked behind a gate shouting and gesticulating to us, trying to sell us their tour. It was actually completely intimidating, so Jayde and I pretending to ‘sort out our packs’ until they;d calmed down and dispersed a little. When we eventually left, a guy approached us and said he’d arrange a flight and accommodation for us. We were pretty tired from the bus ride, but he was pretty adamant that we go see the lines that morning.

We ended up just dumping our bags at the hostel and heading straight out to the airstrip. We got there about 7am. Still no sleep, or breakfast for that matter! Apparently we had to wait for the sun to burn of the early-morning haze. After an excruciatingly long wait, we finally took off in a 3 seater plane around 12 midday. The guy in front of me was sick almost straight away. Brilliant. We did get thrown around a lot being such a small craft, and we banked round each geoglyph twice, so I spent half my time just starring at the horizon trying to keep my stomach where it should be.

The ‘lines’ were pretty impressive, but to be honest, they weren’t worth the extra 700 miles we’d added onto to our trip to get here. The plane ride didn’t really offer up anything that we hadn’t already seen from pictures on the internet or in books. We were quite disappointed. We had planned on staying a couple of days in Nazi, but it really was lacking for anything else worth seeing. There was some kind of mummy museum this guy tried selling us tickets for, but it was an hours drive, and the thought of any more travel didn’t sit well with us. We made plans to leave the next day for Arequipa.

Arequipa is famous for it’s canyon, which is reputably deeper than the Grand Canyon. We were quite excited to get there and do some more trekking. However, after trailing around a bunch of trekking agencies it soon became clear that the Colca Canyon that Arequipa is ‘famous’ for is actually a further 100 miles (4.5 hour) bus ride away! Huh. So, after a quick lunch and chat about our plans, we decided our time could be better spent in Bolivia. Arequipa did have a  great Plaza de Armas though and we spent a nice afternoon just wandering the old city and not traveling! We made plans to leave the next day to Puno.

june-24-paul-76Puno sits on the North-Western shores of Lake Titicaca. It sits 3,812 m above sea level making it one of the highest commercially navigable lakes in the world. By volume of water it is also the largest lake in South America. So, it’s big. The town of Puno is slightly more Westernized than anywhere we’d been in a while… we even managed to have a beer in a bar and watch the football! In the morning we visited the floating islands which were pretty special. They’re basically just islands made from reeds. Pretty cool really. They showed us how they made them, and sang us a few songs and made us some bread. Apparently, each island (about 42 altogether) is a family group, and if they have any disagreements, then they just cut the island in half, and float away to find new moorings! Easy life hey?

june-24-paul-79We then took the boat 35km East to Taquille Island which seemed to take forever It’s narrow and long and was used as a prison during the Spanish Colony and into the 20th century, but now it’s just home to about 3000 Tackle people, who from what I can gather are governed by their own rules… and slightly communist ones at that! All the little eateries have to serve the same food on the same day and charge the same price, so that there’s no competition. And apparently (if I understood correctly), the different hats that each person wears is a sign of their ‘readiness to mate’… haha …. well at least, whether they’re married, single and desperate, single and happy etc. Strange, but I guess it saves the small talk! “Wow, hey… I see by your hat that you’re single and desperate! No way… me too!”

It was a pretty island though. We hiked from one side to the other and were collected by the boat for our return to Puno. The sunset was amazing. Like seriously one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen! We spent a couple of days in Puno, and it being our last stop in Peru, treated ourselves to a ‘posh meal’ on our last night, which I don’t think cost anymore than $5 each, including wine!

October 1, 2007

Vancouver Island

Filed under: canada — Tags: , , , , , , — paulparkie @ 00:45

At the end of September, after a few days hanging out in Vancouver, I went to see Van Island with Gen. Our only plan was that we wanted to surf in Tofino and check out Victoria, and as we were both on a budget, we decided we’d try and hitch. We got to the port early, booked our tickets and got on the next ferry to the Island. We made sure we were first off the ferry and tried to hitch with eVeRy SiNgLe CaR that drove off, and none of them stopped. Crap. Everyone I’d spoke to had told me hitching in Canada, especially on the Island, was easy!

We walked a bit up the highway and made our way to Parksville in two hitches, then the third ride pulled up and everything kind of fell into place. These guys (Denis and Michelle) were only on a day trip to Port Alberni and said they’d take us as far as they were going, which was about 2 hours down the road. But, after talking with them for a few minutes about what we planned to do, they decided to take us all the way to Tofino (about a 5 hour drive!), and hang out with us for 3 days with only the clothes on their backs! – how cool was that * and our flagrant geeky conversation and stunning scenery meant the time passed quickly.

We were up early to hire surf boards and hit the waves. We surfed Cox Beach in the morning, had a break for lunch and then hit Long Beach for a sunset surf which was amazing… the views and panoramas at sunset were completely erogenous… we just stopped surfing in the end and sat and just ‘watched’. Surfing was a larf, the ‘surf’ was pretty sweet and I managed to stand up aLmOsT as much as I face planted into the bottom.

Before Denis and Michelle left, we hiked the Wild Pacific Trail from Ucluelet which was an awesome trail that hugged the coast line and snaked through rain forest for about 4 hours. After just getting ‘used to’ (if that’s ever possible) the bears, we saw a few warning posters telling us there was a cougar in the area. Hmmm… slightly disconcerting, knowing that they’re around 5 feet long, and can jump 30 feet from standing still! That’s iNsAnE! Needless to say, we did the rest of the hike carrying pretty hefty sticks, which we pretended were just walking sticks when we met other people, little did they know they were in fact rudimentary weapons, to battle any mountain lions we may stumble upon… ha.

Every night on the Island seemed to consist of a collective BBQ with other people staying in the hostel, and then shooting the breeze into the early hours over a few beers. The pace of life in Canada is half that back home in England… and on the Island, that ‘pace’ halves again! Everyone is just so laid back, and never hurries to do anything. It took a few days to get used to, but then it was pretty sweet! During one of these twilight sessions Gen and I met a guy called James who just so happened to be making the 6 hour drive to Victoria the next day and wanted some company. As luck would have it, that’s where we’d planned on heading. So we plied him with a few beers and ‘Robert’s your mother’s brother’, we had a hitch to Victoria… wOoP wOoP.

Victoria was a pretty nice town; typically English and definitely busier than the ‘Tofino Time’ we’d grown used to. Just off the coast of Victoria was a pretty good place to see Orcas, and after managing to haggle a good price with a guide I plumped for a 4 hour trip and had a pretty fantabulous experience in the end. We found two pods hanging out together (about 80 whales) and ‘hung out’ with them for a while which was pretty special!

After a couple of days in Victoria we got a ride back to Vancouver via Nanaimo. The ferry on the way back passed through the Southern Gulf Islands, which were pretty stunning and some of the channels we had to pass through didn’t leave much room for error. The Island was much bigger than I thought it would be, and the scenery was out-of-this-world… I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings half the time [hmmm… if I was in Lord of the Rings, I think I’d be an Elf… I’m totally onboard with that whole longevity of life business they’ve got going on]. Anyhoo, Vancouver Island is definitely ‘unfinished business’. I’ve got a couple more days in Vancouver now before I head up to Whistler for the seeeeeeaaaaason … booyakasha *

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