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Lake shiticaca

June 21st, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 17-Bolivia - (0 Comments)

Following our Pampas tour we headed back to La Paz for another night and then onto Copacabana, a small town on the edge of  Lake Titicaca (on the Bolivian side), the largest lake in SA.

Tourists flock here in their droves, but for what we are still unsure, it is just a lake…why were we expecting anything more?  There are several tours you can do on the lake, floating islands, trout fishing etc.  We declined and headed off the following day. 

We did however enjoy our time in Copacabana, the only town in the world where they christen vehicles.  Men and women from every walk of life from around Bolivia make the journey here annually to have their taxi, buses, lorries etc. blessed.  If, it seems, your vehicle is a revenue generator then it should be blessed with good fortune for the coming months.

That evening, we saw the ritual being carried out on an American Hummer, we didn’t take out our camera for fear of being shot.  A clear sign that the drug trade in Bolivia, the largest producer of cocaine in the world, is reaping the rewards and clearly the owner wanted his good fortunes to continue.

Our last stop in Bolivia before we head into Peru.  We’ve been here just shy of a month and cannot speak highly enough of the Bolivian people and their culture, the country should be a must for any traveller in South America.

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Our Pampas (Amazon) Tour

June 15th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 17-Bolivia - (3 Comments)

A trip to SA wouldn’t be complete without a jaunt somewhere down the Amazon.  It is said that Bolivia’s slice of the Amazon Basin is one of the most pristine that can be found.  Our reading and research suggested that it is far better preserved here than in Brazil or Peru. The rivers are also smaller so you can get closer to the wildlife!

We signed up for a 3–day, 2–night excursion – 80 euro each inc. transportation and food, plus 50 for a return flight.  An absolute bargain considering.

We flew from La Paz to Rurrenabaque on a twin prop plane, an exhilarating 45-minutes.  During the flight the landscape changed from mountains to rainforest and then the pampas (not sure what the difference is between the Amazon and the Pampas, nobody seemed to be able to provide a definitive answer).  We landed on a grass strip in Rurrenabaque Airport, something we’d only ever seen in the movies.  A great start! 

Our tour wasn’t starting until the following morning, so we found a nice place to stay and wandered around town for a bit – a really cute place with very friendly people.  We travelled and shared our tour experiences with an Irish couple, Jamie and Claire.

The 3 days were just outstanding: we drove to Santa Rosa in a jeep (about 3 hours on a dirt road) then caught a boat for another 3 hours up the Yacuma River to our Ecolodge.  From the start it was pretty much all go.  Without blabbing too much, we had various boat trips and saw an abundance of wildlife.  Lots of birds, monkeys (the common squirrel monkeys were the cutest – jumping on our boat and running around like crazy), capybaras (biggest rodents in the world), alligators, one black caiman, yellow-spotted river turtles etc.  The highlights were swimming with the pink river dolphins in alligator, pirana and snake infested waters, pirana fishing and anaconda hunting.  Yes, we caught a few anacondas, smelly feckers!

It was great to see these animals in their natural habitat! We had a fantastic local guide, Yuri, who spoke the Queen’s English and treated the animals with nothing but respect. 

After our drive back, we stayed a further night in Rurrenabaque, went out for a nice meal and had a few too many beers with Jamie and Claire.  We were scheduled to fly early the next morning, but it had rained and the plane couldn’t take off on the grass.  We finally took off when the bad weather had subsided.  We were lucky, some are stranded for days.  It was honestly the worst flying experience we had ever had.  The turbulence over the mountains was beyond belief, it felt like the plane was dropping hundreds of feet at a time, creeping ever closer to the mountains, and to make matters worse, we could see the pilot fighting with the controls.  I’m never getting on a small plane ever again, period!

That said, it was an absolutely fantastic tour overall and it will certainly be in our top ten – the stuff of dreams!  We hope you like the photos, it was difficult narrowing down some 600 odd photos.

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In 1995 the Inter-American Development Bank named the North Yungas Road (also know as the Death Road) — an approximate 64k long road between La Paz, Bolivia's capital and Coroico, in the Amazon region — the "world's most dangerous road."

It's estimated that 200-300 travellers were killed yearly along the road, which has crosses marking many of the spots were vehicles have fallen over the side.  At the end of 2006, after 20 years of construction, a new, considerably safer road from La Paz to Coroico was finally finished and opened to the public, resulting in a marked decrease in use of the original North Yungas Road by travellers.

However and although still used by vehicles, an increasing number of insane adventurers now bike it for thrills (some web site).

Yeeeee haaaaaaaaa.  That’s me… Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

Yeah I did the death road, it was a fantastic and exhilarating 4–5 hour experience.  I almost went overboard a few times (seriously) but I survived!  It was a close one, it must be the spirits of the dead, what gets to you along this trail.  Luckily for me the trip ended up at Hotel Esmeralda, Coroico. Cold beer and a spectacular view of the snow capped mountains which lye behind the death road.

I would highly recommend it to anybody trying to top the buzz of a skydive.

Shit, what next?

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I’m second behind our crazy guide!!!

City of Potosí

June 6th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 17-Bolivia - (0 Comments)

The capital of the department of Potosi in Bolivia, the highest city in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site all rolled into one – need we say any more – an absolute must visit!

At 4,090m it literally takes your breath away just walking the streets.  Founded in 1546 as a mining town (mainly silver), it produced fabulous wealth, becoming one of the largest and richest cities in the Americas and the world with a population exceeding 200,000. As the silver depleted so too did its wealth.  Although the mines still operate today, there is little else on offer other than its 400 year-old architecture and history. 

There was a mine tour on offer which most tourists visit.  You get the opportunity to purchase and blow up some dynamite for around one US dollar – it seemed to be the highlight for most visitors.  60m underground for 4–5 hours seemed a little too claustrophobic for us and instead we walked around taking photos.

A really great pit stop for a couple of days, albeit a little tiring.

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Uyuni

June 5th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 17-Bolivia - (0 Comments)

A quick pit stop in Uyuni in south Bolivia following our Salar de Uyuni tour before we head for the UNESCO sites of Potosi and Sucre and then onto La Paz.  At an elevation of 3670 meters it is damn damn damn cold .  Not too bad when the sun is out, but after 4pm you’d better layer up.

Supposedly, it is an important transport hub and the location of a major railway junction. Four lines join here, respectively from La Paz (via Oruro), Calama (in Chile), Potosí, and Villazon on the Argentine border.  Looking around, it seems the locals haven’t yet capitalised on the movement of people.

It was mothers day while we were there and it seemed to be well and truly celebrated.  It was great to see all the ladies out in their best attire, top hats and all .  We enjoyed walking around and people watching, hence the photographs below.  Great to see some real culture again.  It seems as if little has changes here for centuries...

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