Monday, September 22, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Photorama time here:
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
- Sealions (two kinds)
- Sea turtles and Giant Tortoises
- Land and Sea Iguanas
- Lava Lizards
- Herons: Night, Lava and yellow crested.
- Various Darwin Finches: Lava, Cactus, etc
- Boobies: Blue-footed and Masked (Nazca)
- Oyster Catchers
- Cattle Egrets
- American Golden Warbler
- Galapagos Doves, Hawks and Ducks
- Black headed gulls and little gulls (Noddies)
- Storm Petrels
- Sting Rays and Eagle Rays
- White tipped Reef sharks and Dogfish
- King Angel-fish
- Surgeon Fish
- Moorish Idols
- Cornet Fish
- Puffer Fish
- Parrot Fish
- Humpback Whale
- Others saw dolphins, I missed them though I was on deck and looking where they pointed :(
Monday, September 15, 2008
The cabins are small but the guy I'm sharing with - Neil..a laid back Scottish guy who has been traveling for one year and is sporting a pair of blue bathers with a split up the side held together with safety pins...graciously offers me the bottom bunk which is the size of a double bed and comfy. Neil has to lie like a starfish with its suckers spread out on the small top bunk nearly falling out as the boat motors through the first night . We adapt to sharing a small space but on the first morning Neil comes out of the shower as i am dressing and i hear a muffled "oops" from behind me as he retreats back into the shower waits a polite few minutes before knocking and coming out again...i stifle a laugh because it is so English...like some kind of carry on film!
Ah well, yes, about the bathers, they had a small rip in them from Australia, which I was always quick to claim was a nip from a crocodile. I was aiming to buy some new ones before the Galapagos, but never saw any, and they would have been fine, but as I was wearing them almost all the time in the Galapagos for snorkelling and wet-landings they very quickly deteriorated so they had a slit all the way up one side and one began appearing on the other! Fortunately they were lined, and I did what repairs i could with some safety pins I had to hand for such an emergency.
Anyway, lunch, like all the other meals on the boat, was excellent, in both quantity and quality The dining room was pretty cramped with a little bar in the corner, for Hulio the barman/waiter/cabin cleaner to lurk at, but it was big enough. After lunch was our first excursion, which was to black turtle cove. This was a water-borne trip in the little dinghy, and we pootled around the mangroves looking at the bird and sea life. The stars of the show were the blue-footed boobies, who, in a similar way to penguins, are rather stupid and clumsy looking in the water, but in their preferred element are very dynamic and graceful. The boobies dive amazingly fast and plunge a few feet underwater looking for fish. Many a photo was taken trying to catch them at the prime moment. There were also pelicans doing the same thing, not so gracefully, and frigate-birds circling far overhead. Meanwhile in the water we could see fish, but were more interested in spotting sharks, turtles and rays, which we did. The turtles were hardest to see as they were quite shy and only stuck there heads above water to breathe. This site was the most tropical looking we went to and was quite hot when we were out there. Afterwards we tried on our snorkelling gear and had a swim off the back of the boat. Here you realise that the water here is 20 degrees - far colder than in Goa or Thailand where it was like a bath, but warmer than the sea in Scotland! Generally you start feeling the cold after 30-45 minutes, and some opted to go in in wetsuits. After the swim we got snacks before dinner, and then some time to hang around. After dinner we got a briefing about the next day, and then everyone headed off to bed about 9 (those were the late ones) as they were all knackered!
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Time spent: 13 days
On budget/time: Got into Ecuador with not much time to spare for my flight out to the Galapagos.
Lost/stolen: My I survived the Inca Trail certificate was lost in the confusion coming back from Aguas Callientes. After sufficient therapy I may be ready to face the world again.
Sound of Peru: History of Rock and classic rock'n'roll in Aguas Callientes.
Taste of Peru: Had alpaca a few times, never managed the guinea pig though.
Highlights of Peru: As you might imagine the Inca trail and Machu Picchu were great. Quite liked Lima as a city.
Drink of Peru: Pisco sour at the Hotel Bolivar was class. Had chicha moreno and "Macho Tea" on the Inca trail
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I got into Lima in the afternoon, checked into the Loki hostel, which was fairly lively. After eating I headed to the Museo Larco, which again had a lot of high quality pre-columbian art, with less pseudy captions this time. There store rooms were also open to the public where you could see row upon row of artefacts just stacked up, including hundreds off zoomorphic jars, divided into sections for different animals; pumas, owls and so on. However, the highlight of the museum is its collection of erotic pre-columbian pottery - I kid you not! There was some weird stuff here. As well as every available orifice being put to use, there were also skeletons getting in on the act (I'm pretty sure there isn't actually a bone there), animals, diseases, and a weird selection where the woman was breastfeeding a child at the time. And yes I have photos of some of that.
To get out to the museum was almost an hour in a little mini-bus (due to traffic rather than distance). I was happy to save on the taxi and Lima seemed pretty safe to me, contrary to the lonely planet etc. That night I went to the bar in the hostel. I played a bit of pool and then got talking to various people including some guys that worked in London and some Welsh girls. In the end I headed out to a club in the Barranco district called Dragon, with Katie from Fenwick and Edel from Ireland. We were promised 80´s and 90's music, but when we got there the music was pretty dire, until they played about 5 good songs, then it faded. Anyway it was a good night, but we headed back at an almost civilised hour as Katie and Edel were heading home. I somehow ended up with Edel's alarm clock that her ex-boyfriend gave her that I have to dispose of in a suitably dramatic fashion. As you do.
The next day I headed into central Lima. wandered around the square and visited the cathedral and the San Francisco monastery, where the tour takes you into the catacombs below where the bones of 27000 people are, buried hundreds of years ago. I also went to the museum of the Inquisition, which was pretty small and mediocre. After that I strolled in the drizzle to another of the plazas, which features a statue of a woman with a small llama on here head (a crown of flames was commissioned, but llamas is the word for both in Spanish apparently). I then went into the posh bar in the Hotel Bolivar for one of their famous pisco sours (I'd already had a pisco sour ice-cream that day). It was of course excellent. Then I headed back to the hostel and again went to the bar in the evening where it was fairly quiet at first, but I got 3 free large beers and 2 tequilas just for blowing up some balloons and tying them up for a party that was happening the next night. Perhaps that was why although I went to a club later on with all the bar people (called Sargento Piemenientos, Sargent Peppers!) and I was dancing, I couldn't even tell you what kind of music they played. I came home in a cab with some Peruvians, at some point we realised we didn't have any common language. That night in the bar had seen the appearance of these three characters who were travelling around in matching white Adidas tracksuits smoking cigars and in possession of a giant cookie monster outfit (yes there are photos). That's travelling in style!
The next day with a slightly fuzzy head I went to the Inca Pyramid thing called Huaca Pullanca. There was a quite informative guided tour, but the site wasn't hugely impressive. There had been human sacrifices found there. My bus to Guayaquil left just after lunch and was another 24 hour affair (it actually took 29!) this time it was quite a luxurious bus and half empty, and there was 2 French Canadian and 2 German girls on board as well. For the second time I saw a Spanish movie about a boy who has a Loch Ness monster for a bet (Mi Mascota est un Monster, or something like that). It was later than I planned when I got into Guayaquil, Ecuador`s biggest city, and I managed to get myself a shitty hotel in a dodgy neighbourhood with a joke of a shower! I walked down to the Malecon 2000, the developed waterfront, which was actually quite nice of an evening, and had my tea, got some cash and intenetted before getting some much needed sleep. Next morning the flight to the Galapagos left at 10am, so I was up at 7, and got to the airport no problem, ready for the next exciting trip!
Back in Cusco showers and laundry were high on the priority list. My plan to see all of Cusco the next day came to nothing, with a very late rise and I did nothing after but sort stuff out and spend an obscene amount of time on the internet, that meant I'd see Cusco the next day instead of going to the sacred valley, but I felt I'd already seen enough ´piles of Inca rubble´ and I need ed that day to rest and recover.
So the next day I set out to 'do' Cusco. I started at Qorikancha, the main Inca site in Cusco and formerly their top temple. The Spaniards had only gone and built a monastery on top of it, leaving not much to see, but there was also a quite informative section of Colonial religious art and some modern art as well. I also finally found out about the Inca astronomy our guide had been alluding too; their constellations were actually dark patches in the milky way which looked like animals.
I then walked back into the town past various Inca walls and visited the cathedral and adjoining chapels on the Plaza de Armas. These were truly impressively decorated, with a very informative audio tour. There was a saint to whom women prayed to be married, leaving notes with the address of their intended by his image, and another, the patron saint of celibate men, to whom the men prayed to be released from these attentions! There was an statue of Jesus which had turned black with age, and another Jesus which is revered as apparently it managed to stop the earthquake that destroyed most of the city after a couple of minutes! The ticket for the cathedral also included some other places on the ¨religious circuit¨so I visited another two churches and the museum of religious art in the Archbishops old palace. This again had an informative audio tour which explained a lot of the imagery. Unique to South America are representations of the Trinity as 3 identical Christ like figures, considered blasphemous in Europe.
Anyway, after all that I had certainly had my fill of colonial religious art and I headed up the steep hill to the Saqsaywaman ruins (better known to gringos as sexywoman). These were the remains of a huge fort that had been pillaged for stones to build the cathedrals bus was still very impressive (though very expensive to visit!). It was pretty cold and windy up there, but there were decent views over the City. I also climbed the nearby hill which had a Jeebus on the top (like Rio) overlooking the city.
The next day my bus didn't go to Lima till after lunch, so I did the remaining museums in the morning. First of was the Inca museum, which was overcrowded with tourists on tour and not fully labelled in English. It did have some good exhibits, including a large number of mummies nonchalantly displayed together. Finally I went to the museum of Pre-Columbian art. This had some really top drawer exhibits and definitely went for quality not quantity. They were accompanied by the most preposterous verbose and circomlucutious labels which told you nothing about the exhibits apart from how exquisite they were and how majestic their purity of form was.
I walked to the bus station I was back in that mood, and found Latin American cities far less dodgy than people and the book would have you believe (touch wood!). From there it was 24 hours to Lima.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
We had our breakfast in Ollyanatambo and there were sold at for a while as we waited for the bus. Everyone but me bought a stick to walk with. I got myself a water bottle holder, which was actually very useful. People also stocked up on Coca leaves for the tough time ahead. Our guide was Hubert (or Hubertcito as we later new him) and his assistant was Augusto (Or Gordito (little fatty) as Hubert always called him!). After another hour in the bus we started on the trail, after the all important group photo and stamp on the passport. The first day is meant to be relatively easy, and a bit of a warm up, and it was. At our first stop for lunch we were amazed by the quality of the food, and by the luxury we were afforded in our little tent with picnic tables that was set up for us everywhere. (For our group of 16 there were 22 porters, including the chef and his assistant. Many had taken personal porters to carry 6kg of stuff for you, me included. All those that didn't ended up taking a local porter for the tough second day for far more money!) Most of the scenery was nice, but not amazing at this stage, and we also saw our first Inca ruin. Hubert stopped to point out some of the flora a few times, and later at the Inca ruin he gave a long history talk, and a few people started nodding of a bit. He wasn't a great orator, with poor English grammar and a tendency to repeat everything. You see he would repeat everything, and his English grammar wasn't very good, which made his talks seem interminable, though basically very informative, because he would repeat everything. At the end of the day we had afternoon tea in our camp, closely followed by dinner, again the food was very nice and plentiful. Hubert gave us a tale of woe, about he was persecuted for abjectly failing to follow the rules of society! Can you believe the wanted to knock his house down because he didn't bother with planning permission, and then they had the cheek to shut his restaurant down, just because he didn't bother with a licence. He later told how he punched a guy when driving a lorry, and let his brother take the rap for it because he didn't actually have a licence. We began to get the idea he was a bit of a chancer! After dinner and this speech everyone went to bed ridiculously early, I know we got up at 4am and had to get up at 5 the next morning, but it was still poor! I didn't sleep great, but managed not to hear the domestic a nearby Peruvian couple were having despite almost everyone else being woken by it.
Day two and we were awoken with the hot drink of out choice in our tents! Well almost, as my tea turned out to actually be coffee. Also turned out everyone was a terrible faff, and I was packed and sat in the dining tent for 20 mins before anyone else joined me for breakfast! The highlight of breakfast was some very nice porridge with cinnamon! This was to be the hardest day, with us going over the highest pass, with a lot of climbing in the morning ( in the morning we were to climb 1400m, that¡s higher than Ben Nevis). People spread out a bit more today, with Dayan and myself usually at the front, followed by Diane, the 60 year old American lady (those two names did cause a bit of confusion!) Poor old team New York was suffering from the altitude and was often far behind. After around 2 hours or so we had out morning tea, from there we were to press on for 4 hours before a late lunch. 2 of these four hours were up, and 2 down lots of steps, many of them original Inca. The pas was called the dead woman's pass (Warmiwañusca) and Dayan and I took about 50 mins for the '2 hour' climb to the top, with me first after a cheeky late sprint. This of course precipitated a long wait for the rest, and up there the cloud rolled in over the pass and it was pretty chilly. At the final camp I gave my feet a much needed wash in the cold stream and after lunch managed a brief nap before tea. Again it was an early night for all, so I had to lie and listen to my iPod as I was not tired enough! The scenery had been better this day, and more varied. Some sections were not unlike Scotland, others were very pretty could forest.
Day three was to be the longest and most interesting day: lots of Inca ruins as well as cloud forest and two more passes. Before we left the porters all introduced themselves, and we did likewise. The first pass was straight away from the camp, and was not as bad as it looked at first, then came an Inca ruin, with a talk from Hubert and plenty time to wander around, then an early lunch. Then it was a long slow ascent to the third pass, but through some lovely sections of cloud forest, and other sections where the path really clung to the side of the cliff and had taken some construction. Just over the third pass was another Inca ruin, and after this we all went off at our separate speeds again, down a long descent on artfully constructed staircases, into what was becoming rain forest. Towards the end was an optional detour into a ruin which few people took, but I did. This was pretty spectacular as I was the only one in sight when I got there. It was mainly a huge series of terraces, but having it to myself really made it special ( some sections of the trail got really crowded, and you were very aware of the 500 people a day using it). The camp on this day was on quite a steep hillside, but actually had a bar nearby, which was surprisingly cheap for its middle of nowhere location. Dayan and I had a beer or two before and after dinner with 4 girls we'd repeatedly met on the trail who were in there own group, the bar was a bit strange and barren with its plastic furniture and incongruous 80's music (Phil Collins anyone?). This night we also had the massive faff of sorting out tips for the porters, but we got there in the end, it helped that they gave us ´Macho tea´ which has alcohol in it beforehand. We also got cake as it was the last night!
The last morning was a super early start as we wanted to get to Machu Picchu before the crowds. We had to forsake the wake up tea in our tent, but the group really managed to get ready quickly and we were the second group out on the trail in the morning. Everyone managed to keep up an impressive pace together for almost 2 hours till we got to the sun gate where we got our first view of MP. To be honest this was a bit misty and not as great as I expected, however, once we descended closed and things cleared up a bit we got the real great postcard view. We took some team photos, I revealed myself as a Puma, and then we headed down for a bit of a rest at the entrance before going on a tour with Hubertsito for a couple of hours around the site. He was actually more informative and less frustrating to listen to hear this time. After that we had as much time to wander as we wanted and our ticket for the bus back to meet up in Aguas Cllientes. We were quite weary, and after less than an hour more Dayan, Madison and I headed back as Machu Picchu seemed best appreciated viewed from close above on the hill than wandering among it. It is amazing, but we were underwhelmed by some of the attractions, such as the rock shaped like a condor (or not), the rock sculpted like a Guinea Pig, and the rather phallic sundial, which was rather underwhelming despite being sold hard by Hubersito. It was still morning when we descended on the bus, but we'd been up for 8 hours!
I'm going to have to go now as I'm shattered and have to be up at 7am to go fly to the Galapagos tomorrow, so you'll have to wait at least a week for Aguas Cllientes and back to Cusco and all the rest. This has been rather rushed too, sorry!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Anyway, to get to Cusco I'd booked on the Inca bus, a posh tourist coach with a guide that stopped at various sites. I thought that since I was rushing through this area it would be good to see a bit more. It wasn't cheap, but within the daily budget. I think I was the only native English speaker on board, with lots of older Italians and French. An argetinian guy that had been on my Puno boat trip was also on board. The first stop was at a fairly crap museum in Pucara, but it was the first inca things I'd seen. It was also in a pretty town with a nice church on the square, and I bought a dodgy empanada thing off a street-vendor for 1 soles as I was starving. We did get tea on the bus, and stopped for a very nice buffet lunch where I certianly ate my fill, including trying cebiche for the first time (yum). The other stops were at the pass (Abra la Raya, 4319m), an inca site (Raqchi) and a church (in Andahuaylillas). The pass was just to take a few picture at the highest point on the trip, it was over 4000m and I got the altitude sickness headache for a little while here. The Inca site was quite good with I huge wall, and various other buildings in a decent state of repair. The Jesuit church was also interesting with impressive art works and alterpieces, and again it was on a lovely town squre, not really worth going much out of your way for though. The guide was reasonably informative too.
I got to Cusco at 5ish, and despite not knowing where I was Iwent for a walk with my rucksack to find the office of my Inca trail tour company as I had to register that day. Turned out I was heading in just about the correct direction, and I ended up there a bit tired and sweaty a little later. They wanted to me to pay my balance there in cash, and to know my accommodation for the pick up, so I had to go a roaming around town again, and finally found a cheap hostal quite a way away (I went for my own room rather than a dorm in a party hostel as I was knackered and wanted to be ready for the trail: because of the long boat trip in Puno it was like 3 days travelling in a row). That evening I ate in a restaurant with another comedy menu. Beef with tree sauce sounded interesting (actually three sauces) but I was intrigued that the drinks menu included "gin with gin", and this was not a mistranslation as the Spannish version said "gin con gin".
The next day I just did nothing. Got this blog up to date, skyped home, got my laundry done, bought some stuff I needed for the trail and braved the dodgy looking slightly hot shower. I was actually a bit sick, perhaps it was the empanada or the cebiche I ate the day before, and I wanted it out of my system before the Inca trail too! I packed my bags up for the trail and set my alarm for 4am so I could get my pick-up the next day for the Inca Trail!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Time spent: 10 days, did a lot.
On budget/time: Yes, spent less than Chile and Arg, but probably not enought to compensate for them.
Lost/stolen: My antibacterial handwash, that I'd carried all this was and hardly used. What a loss. It will be suitably mourned.
Sound of Bolivia: ¿Donde Esta Mi Padre? and all Theo's other whiney love songs, no question.
Taste of Bolivia: Cold rice? Maybe not. Had some good llama.
Highlights of Bolivia: Many great experiences, different to anything before: The salt flats, the mine, the gravity assisted mountain biking, the prison!
Drink of Bolivia: Cheap red wine, chilled to almost freezing was popular, though we had one of those vintages later at the correct temperature and it was great. Bolivian beer was generally unremarkable (and the Potosini quite bad) but the microbrewery beer at the hostel was tasty, and their dark beer "Negro" quite interesting.
Bolivia was chaotic but fun, I was ready for somewhere a bit more 'backward' and it was more of an experience. It's quite different to where I was before with a huge indigenous population, and traditional dress everywhere but the big city centres. Customer service was often surly, as they seem to care less about getting your money as being left in peace and getting home; not to be hassled is quite good, but you ofter have to hassle them to get what you want. The protests and elections shennanigans made it interesting too.
At Copacabana I had half an hour to wander around before my bus left for Puno (after I remembered to get my passport out my rucksack, I had to wander surrepticiously past a guard who was checking them when we got off at the ferry point). The post office, which I wanted to go to was shut, so any postcards from Bolivia will have a Peruvian stamp on them. Copacabana itself looked a bit scruffy, with lots of building sites, and it smelled. There were a few nice wee nooks, but I wasn't too disappointed to have given it a miss. I then left my jacket in the bus company office and nearly boarded the next bus without it, I was having quite a day! The next bus soon crossed the border, there I briefly spoke to another Scottish guy, from Kircaldy originally. Thats 2 other scots in SA now! I also tried to take the guards stamp with me when I left the customs office! The journey along the lake side was quite scenic, especially between the ferry and Copacabana
I got in to Puno about 5 and walked quite a way through markets with my rucksack, something I hadn't done for a while as when travelling with others a taxi becomes a reasonable option. I booked a bus tour to Cuzcho two days later, changed money and checked into quite a nice wee hostal, in a single room (well it had 3 beds in it) as I was ready for a rest and some privacy. It had a nice hot shower and a tv for some olympic watching, though it was a bit chilly. That night I had Alpaca for tea, yum, and zero cholesterol apparently, err great.
Next day I'd booked a tour to some of the islands on the lake. It seemed a bit of a farce at first when we weren't on the boat we expected, and more and more people kept getting shepherded on till it was quite packed. No brits now, once in Peru the demographics changed, there were more people, more older, more younger, lots of Americans and Spannish appeared. The first stop was on the Uros floating Islands, which was pretty cool.
They are, like it says on the tin, floating islands, made from blocks of the root systems of the local reeds lashed together and then covered with layer after layer of reeds. The houses and everything else were made of the reeds too. We got quite an informative demonstration and talk, but soon it was off to the proper island of Taquile. This was a 3 hour journey on the boat (only 30km, it was a slow boat). There it was a relatively stiff climb (especially at altitude) up to where we had a talk about local customs, lunch (including an infusion of local mint, which looked suspiciously like a stick in hot water), a very amaturish local dance show (crap might be a better word) and then we climed up to the local town square on the top of the hill. The island was very picturesque, quite Mediterranian looking. It was soon time to get back to the boat for the 3 hours back home. I hadn't brought my book, just my guide book, but I'd been talking to a Swedish girl at lunch and did so a lot of the way back. In the end it was a lot of travelling for not much sight seeing, but I think it's the only real way to see the lake and I quite like being on boats. The sun here is very penetrating so I hid in the inside deck most of the journey.
It was going to be another early 6am start to Cuzcho the next day and I hadn't been sleeping well, so it was a pretty early night, after trying to get this damn blog up to date!
After dinner it was back to the bar in the hostel, as for every night in the hostel you get a free beer from their own microbrewed range, now that's civilised. We met Jodie, an English girl who we'd bumped into in the internet cafe earlier as well as Veronica from Glasgow and her friend. Veronica being this first scot I'd met in South America, despite meeting half the population of Ireland and lots of English, French and some Dutch. Anyway, a good night was had, with the microbrewed "Negro" going down worryingly easily at 7%. Things degenerated into er... Mario kart, where I performed shamefully - must have been the altitude. We left when they were very strongly hinting they wanted to shut the bar at 230am. This may not have been the best idea since Richard, Jodie and I were due to cycle down the worlds most dangerous road getting up at 630am the next morning.
So, the world most dangerous road... this is one of the big things to do while in La Paz. It doesn't come cheap, but you hope that you're getting a bike with decent brakes etc and don't want to skimp! It starts an hour or so from La Paz at a height of 4750m and finishes at a height of 1100m, so no, you don't have to do much pedaling! So how dangerous? Well 8 tourist have died on it since 2001, with many more badly injured. 200-300 used to die in traffic accidents every year but there is now a better road on the other side of the valley. Scary biscuits!
Well we turned up at the cafe we were meant to meet at at 715 rather the worse for ware, possibly still a little drunk, however, after breakfast and the bus journey we were raring to go. We were kitted out with bikes, waterproofs, helmets, goggles, gloves, and an all important snood. A safety briefing given, and the company were certainly very safe and professional. We set off on the first sections, which were on a normal sealed road, enjoying the freewheeling and getting used to the corners. The views were pretty grand, but you kept your eyes almost exclusively on the road ahead. We proceeded in shortish sections, from 5 minutes to half an hour, waiting for the slowies to catch up and having snacks and water. An hour or so in there was 2 uphill sections. We were given the option to do these in the van, as the altitude was still killer, but most declined and gave it a go. At the end of these sections was "heartbreak hill", where I think everybody had to get out and push. By this time I'd rediscovered muscle groups I'd forgotten I had, and they weren't very happy about it. After a bit more down hill we were on to the gravel track, and the most dangereous road proper. Only one lane wide, with cliffs of up to 600 ft on the side, this was fun! No really. Once you got used to the gravel you could let go a bit. There were a few rivers to cross and a waterfall to go under, and the whole thing was great fun and quite a buzz. We got to the bottom early afternoon, after descending 3600m over 60 km. At the bottom we went to an animal sactury for a free beer and a very nice buffet lunch, and a hot shower (there was also the option of a swimming pool, but our legs were very much against the 5 minute walk to get there). The animal sanctury also had some very entertaining spidermonkeys, that were desperate for attention, and threw Richards clothes in a puddle while he was showering. Obviously its not recommended that you take photos while you're cycling down, but they were selling dvds of photos the took afterwards, so I don't have any photos, but hope to get some of Richard who bought the dvd eventually. At the end of the trip we were also presented with our survivors T-shirts, all in all a very enjoyable day and a great experience.
It was a 3 hour bus trip back, and a return to the hostel bar for our free beer and to eat, after a late night-early start we were wilting a bit, Veronica popped in for her free beer eventually as well.
The next day the plan was to go to prison, the imfamous San Pedro prison no less. This is a trip that doesn't appear in the Lonely Planet or anything, but you hear lots about from travellers along the way. There is a special wing of the prison that houses all the Gringos, and some richer Bolivian prisoners. They pay to get into this section, and pay for their rooms, a varying amount to the last occupant depending on how good it is. They have it very easy for a South American jail, with cable TV and access to drink and drugs. We just phoned up one of the South African prisoners inside, whose number we'd been given, and arranged to go that afternoon. The guards let us in and we were taken first for an introductory talk by a South African woman (not a prisoner) who claimed to be working for a charity for imprisoned gringos, though its not so clear exactly what she did. There were afew cockroaches around, and we did get bitten by things as we sat on the mattresses, so its not that luxurious, but they still have it very easy. We got tour from another South African chap, quite incomprehensible most of the time, too much marching powder I think, and also saw his room and met his wife and daughter (families are allowed to stay in this wing with the prisoners, but can leave when they like). Well that's a brief description, but all in all it was a truly surreal experience, and I must say I was quite glad when they let us out. One of the strangest things I've done.
That night was my last night in La Paz, and last with Richard who I'd travelled with for 10 days, so we thought it would be good to go out properly. While having our free drink in the hostel bar we also met a couple who Richard had met before in San Pedro, where they were waiting for new passports after having them nicked. They'd just had their wallet stolen upon arrival in La Paz and said there was quite a queue to declare such things in the Police station. We headed out by taxi to try and hit the town. The first few places we tried were shut, and at this point we were cursing Lonely Planet. Then we found an English bar that was open, but would serve only vodka (because it looks like water) as there was actually an alcohol sales ban in place before the referendum 2 days later. Eventually we went back to the hostel bar which was still serving but a bit dead (many people seemed to have heeded advice to get out of Bolivia before the referendum) for a disappointing early night.
I decided not to stay in Copacabana on the Bolivian side of lake Titicaca next night, but to head on to Puno on the Bolivian side so that I didn't get stuck, which could have meant not making it to my Inca trail on time. I was able to turn up at the bus station next morning and get on a bus almost straight away.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Cathedral in the main Plaza.
In the market.
(I may have better photos, but they're not all uploaded yet.