Crossing the border into Bolivia was almost laughable, it was entertaining having to track down staff at abandoned posts to get someone to stamp our passports. But we made it in, made a cracking deal on our currency exhange and were immediately shocked by how cheap everything seemed to be. I wasn’t too keen on Copacabana, its such a strange tourist destination for La Paz weekend visitors, but this funny little commune settlement made me giggle every time we passed it.
We awoke on the first night to the loudest thunderstorm I’ve ever known and were fairly certain that the earth was quaking. We took the obligatory ferry to Isla del Sol which should have been renamed Isla del Uvia as it was bucketing it down. A festival was arriving in town so we battled our way out to get a bus to La Paz.
The capital is a strange urban environment mixed up in its mountainous surroundings with informal housing settlements balancing on the very precipice of ultimate danger. We arrived during the middle of a festival and it was absolutely heaving and pouring it down with rain. We ended up in a brewery hostel with daily free pints of heavy stout. We found a Swiss restaurant to celebrate Seb’s birthday with cheese, both literal and figurative. First time we had raclette and spatzle in months and it was perfection. We bravely or stupidly opted for the worlds most dangerous road jaunt.
We started off in good stead, at 4,800m altitude in the freezing sunshine, and although I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes in my 80s geometric jumpsuit I felt pretty competent on the smoother roads. Then it all went Pete Tong and I went arse over tit on the handlebars. Nothing broke, I was just in shock and severe muscular pain in my left arm, so off to the van for me trailing behind the other 3 riders and our former dirt bike champion guide. I made another attempt after some diclofenic and jumped back on in the driving rain but all the slipping on the rocks jolted my arm back into its socket causing me agony so I caved and sat in the van defeated, miserable and soaked to the bone. Reunited with the others at the bottom we showered off the mud and headed back to the city in time for a night bus to Uyuni. Unfortunately I was seated in front of the worlds most irritating British girl who muttered her discontented ramblings through the night, in trying to hastily avoid her wrath I forgot my Panama hat stowed above us.
We arrived in Uyuni and ate at the delicious Minute Man Pizzeria for Seb’s birthday, proper Swiss cheeses and delicious pizzas with Chilean red, which at altitude gets you pretty tipsy rather fast, which wasn’t helpful the night before an exhausting 3 day trip through the desert.
We took a typical 3 day jeep tour starting on Seb’s birthday, we lucked out and got an amazing group of two Argentinian friends and a Colombian brother and sister, the latter had a quince the next day so we had a great 48 hours of celebrations, with cakes, champagne, balloons and lots of late night cards tournaments in the middle of nowhere. for anyone contemplating the tour I urge you to take it, the value for money is amazing if you haggle and if you get a great group you’ll have the time of your life. We formed a Spanish only speaking family and had a whale of a time, the highlight of Bolivia for sure. My favourite site of the numerous stops was probably the thermal hot springs. It was such an alien landscape and the air was unsurprisingly thin at 5km above sea level and rather cold, so warming up in really hot water was a lovely treat.
After a seriously arduous night train we arrived in Butch Cassidy territory, Tupiza, where we frolicked in the rain on horseback along the edges of canyons hoping that there wouldn’t be landslides.
At the very last minute we decided to go for it and head south to Argentina instead of whizzing through Paraguay into Brazil, leaving behind the cheap nation of Bolivia without US dollars may not have been the best financial move but we felt we had a lot more to see southbound and took the plunge. Thousands of pictures were taken in Bolivia’s odd landscapes, all of which cannot be fitted into a single blog post, so the best of the bunch can be found in the gallery.