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Showing posts from August, 2014


Bolivia IV - Going South

Marooned in no -man's land   My next stop was in Sucre after a horrendous twelve hour bus ride. The main reason for this was that I had my legs crossed most of the way because the one and only toilet stop was so awful. On the subject of toilets - yes ladies, you have to pay and for this you may be given a few small squares of toilet paper which you are not allowed to flush down the toilet. In this instance the toilets were so revolting -they were outdoors, none would flush and one had no door, that I opted for a stricture instead. Sucre was a pleasant town however, especially after miles and miles of dry eroded badlands. It would get my tidy town award. It had green squares, well tended nature strips and wide avenues with shade trees. There were beautiful whitewashed churches and more interesting architecture generally with the buildings properly finished and nicely painted. It is the official capital of Bolivia although La Paz has usurped most of its functions and b

Bolivia III- In Search of Something Green

Unlucky hostellers - Kevin and Andy, survivors of the Highway of Death As soon as I felt  better and had gained a little confidence in the local transport system, I started exploring the countryside. The first place I had a look at was Tihuanaco, another archaeological site.  This was one which predated the Incas, although the fine stonework and the remains of a pyramid can already be seen there. This too was interesting because of its isolation and the fact that the village which stands in the area today is very modest by comparison. The giant monoliths found there were carved from a single piece of stone and have very intricate carvings. For many years the largest one languished in a museum in La Paz but has since been restored to the site which is now World Heritage listed. The excellent museum shows pottery and weaving from this period along with Bronze Age metalwork. The loneliness of Tihuanaco These figures are carved from a single piece of stone - the largest is abou

Bolivia II - La Paz

La Paz My first impression of La Paz, population  just under a million and at 3632 m the highest Capital city in the world, was not a particularly happy one. There was hardly a scrap of green to be seen. Rubbish lined the roadsides and the rivers looked and smelled like open sewers. Stray dogs roamed the streets picking at rubbish  and as we entered the town proper I could see a body (a dummy fortunately) hanging from a power pole. I couldn't believe that there were less than a million people here. Perhaps it was because most of their houses were crammed into the valley or perched on impossible slopes and you could see them all at a single glance. First impressions Impossible traffic jams presided over by female officers in orange and black cheerleader uniforms Things did improve once I  had spent a bit of time there, though not all of it was enjoyable. The slight headache and sniffle I'd had in Copacabana turned into the worst cold I had ever had and I ended

Bolivia - I

Approaching the Isla del Sol      Bolivia is another of those places that stirs the imagination. I suppose I have wanted to go there ever since I saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Being apparently a place of rebels, outlaws and misfits, I thought I would fit right in. Certainly at this stage I was so close to the border, less than three hours away, that it would have been a crime not to have taken a peek. After all, what were  the chances that I would ever be this close again? By the way, does anyone else think it's amazing - it happens to me in Europe too, that you can practically walk from one country to another, without having to pay the enormous price we do to get off this gigantic island  stuck way down there in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific? There is however, much more cultural homogeneity here than in Europe. This is most likely because the Incas ruled from Quito in Ecuador through to Peru, Bolivia and northern Chile and they were followed by the Spani

Of Reeds and Ruins

Inca Funerary Tower at Sillistani, near Puno I had a feeling that after Machu Picchu everything would be a bit of an anticlimax, but people who had been further South talked about the floating islands on Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world, which I also wanted to see. I was also somewhat apprehensive about another long bus ride after the one from Lima, but this was only six and a half hours compared to 24. Another plus was that this one would be taking place in daylight, which meant at least being able to see a bit of the scenery. I was a bit disappointed by the way the Andes looked here. Because we were already so high up - over  3,000m, they didn't look much more than hills and with their dry grass, dusty villages and a few gum trees, I may as well have been in the outback at home.(Eucalypts are grown all over the Andes, because they provide a quick supply of firewood). There were some differences of course. Most of the houses were still made of pise and small land

Peru III - Among the Gods

The adventure begins.... Trekkers and train passengers disembark at Ollantaytambo Getting to Machu Picchu wasn't easy, even for a non - trekker.  I knew my limitations and  was still weak every time I had to walk uphill. Just walking to San Blas about ten metres above central Cusco already had me looking for somewhere to sit down. Because I felt queasy most mornings, I had started taking sirroche capsules along with my mate, though some say this is not wise since they may mask the symptoms of altitude sickness. The cost of trekking was daunting too - around $500 plus your guide and tips etc. Not that it was much cheaper the way I did it, but it was a lot more relaxing. First you took a minibus, then the train, then after an overnight stay in the valley at Aguas Calientes, you took another bus the following morning. As the mini bus trundled up and out of town,  I couldn't help thinking that nothing exemplifies the contrast between the old and the new as the sight