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Category: La Paz Page 1 of 2

Santa Cruz and return to La Paz

After three hours in a mini bus, which was so steamed up I don’t know how the driver could even see out of the window, I arrived at the trufi office in Santa Cruz in the middle of the strongest rain shower I’ve seen. The rain hadn’t stopped during my travelled and some of the roads looked more like rivers. I quickly put on my wet weather gear, which I’ve only previously worn in Patagonia, and tried to find the best place to hail a taxi. Luckily it didn’t take long and I was soon in the centre of town.

The taxi driver didn’t seem to know where the hostel was but I did so I got out the car and walked to the location. I was greeted by Ceci, who I had met on the walking tour in Valparaiso and was working at the hostel, and was soon shown to my room and had a warm shower. The city which normally has temperatures of 30 degrees was deserted, despite being a Saturday night, and was freezing. I stayed in the hostel and that night I had agreed to meet another friend Pamelita. She took me to a couple of bars, the first being open air which was freezing and deserted. I can see how it would be amazing place in the sun. The Bar decided to understandably call it quits and we went to another bar near the hostel.

The next day I was pretty tired and the weather was still terrible. I relaxed at the hostel and ended up having a quiet night with some pizza. The Monday was a bank holiday and because Pamelita works for a government company they take part in a big parade. I was invited to her parents house so I could experience a Bolivian BBQ with her family. There was a lot of meat including a cheesy sausage. The meat here is really good and it’s only really flavoured with oil and salt. Afterwards I went to experience the parade which fascinated me. You can see in the photos below lots of red signs, these are in reference to the president breaking the constitution and trying to run for a fourth time despite the county holding a referendum and the answer being no. In Santa Cruz the people are particularly opposed to him.

After the parade I returned to the hostel to have some more pizza and played beer pong which is a regular game they play. I sadly don’t have any photos but you can see that the hostel has a great view of the Church as it’s right by the main plaza.

The next day I went to San Jose, and you can read about it here. I returned to Santa Cruz on the Friday in time to go to a BBQ with Pamelita’s colleagues. This time there was even more meat and karaoke with songs sung in Spanish, Portuguese and English.

On the Saturday I realised I needed to do some life admin which included washing most of my clothes which I’d failed to do in San José despite the heat. I met Claudia, who is Dutch and it was her first day in South America and a French girl who was going home that day and finally explored the city in the sun.

Now there is a cat in the hostel called Khaleesi, which is the perfect name for a cat. She seemed a little nervous but after some time playing with her she decided to be friends. Claudia and i did a little photo shoot when she was asleep.

At 5pm we were supposed to go on a city tour. Claudia and I headed out with a group of Spanish nurses who had been volunteering in Bolivia. The guide didn’t show up so we investigated the church on the main plaza.

I spent the night in the hostel hanging out with friends and the next day I took and Uber to the airport to catch my plane to La Paz. It’s only an hour flight so I had time to check into my hotel and meet up with Miri, who i met on the bus to Santiago, and her boyfriend. They were about to go on a 5 day hike of the mountain range just outside La Paz and they have a tonne more experience than I do. Afterwards I grabbed a Mr Pizza, some beers and headed back to my hotel room so I could do some photo admin and catchup on Netflix. You won’t believe how much time I spend deleting, transferring, backing up and uploading the photos to this blog. It takes hours especially if the WiFi is decent which it’s often not, well not good enough to upload photos.

I awoke early the next morning as I had a tonne of things to do. I went to the bus station and brought a rock to Copacabana, then I went to the Killi Killi mirador which as you can see has amazing views of La Paz.

Afterwards I took the new cable car line down to Zona Sur. I knew the cages down there and wanted to get my haircut.

I decided to go to a cafe first and chose one I’d been to before as I knew the WiFi was decent. As I approached someone shouted “David Lortal” and i thought I was about to be told off. Emma and David from Upclose Bolivia were there and invited me to Darik and Michelle’s leaving party at Colribi Camping.

I had lunch and then quickly got my haircut before returning to Sopocachi where I’d agreed to meet up with Andrea for a few drinks. She had to leave around 7pm so after I jumped in a taxi to Jupapina and joined in the party. I joined in with some of Michelle’s line dancing, picked up some more travelling tips and had a farewell Ron and Cola with Darak before jumping back in a taxi and packing as I had an early rise the next morning as the bus left at 8am.

I was probably over early and managed to leave another card in the cash machine on the way to the station. Again I cancelled it with no many taken and I really shouldn’t get cash out when I’m tired but I still have two cards left and I’m glad I didn’t say no to seeing friends over organisation. But I boarded the bus and I was finally on my way north to the border with Peru.


I jumped in the colectivo my guide from the El Choro trek flagged down for me and we wound our way up the mountain until I reached the small village of Coroico. It seems to be primarily a holiday destination for Bolivians set in beautiful jungle surroundings and a perfect place to escape the cold and craziness of La Paz.

I was exhausted after my hike and pleased to discover that my Hostel, Hostel Chawi, was close by, so I followed the directions and found it quickly. There was no bell so I let myself in and there was no one to be found and no obvious reception. I put my bags down and started wondering the complex, finding half of it a building site, which is a shame as it has real potential. I found a dorm and through the windows I could see that people were staying there, so that was good. I went around knocking on all the doors until eventually a lady answered. She “checked me in” in the loosest possible way but I had a key and could take my first shower in three days.

I wanted to explore but was too tired so took to sorting my photos instead. There was no wifi so it made everything a little difficult. After and hour or so two German girls returned from a day out, one had to leave right away, but the other Eva was staying the night. She told me it was just us at the hostel and she had booked another hostel for the next night. I went out to explore and found pizza so had that and an early night.

The next morning a British guy who worked at the hostel greeted me. He was in La Paz the day before and gave me a little introduction to the town and a map. There was no breakfast at, what is the weirdest hostel I’ve stayed at so far, so Eva invited me to her new hostel which had a restaurant where we could buy breakfast. This was great as there was nowhere else in town for breakfast and it was also on the way to my hike.

After a delicious breakfast I said goodbye to Eva and started on the hike to the top of the mountain on which Coroico sits, Chutokollo Uchumachi, which is a 4km hike up, and four back. Having walked further in the last couple of days and in the past I thought this was going to be easy and I planned on hiking to some waterfalls afterwards. However I massively underestimated my level of fitness.

The path starts at the top of the town near the church, so if you are in town add another 10-15 minutes to the hike. Again, the trail is clearly marked on Maps.me

I started the climb and some locals waved at me from their house. Very quickly I reached the first morador, which is about 1.5km up the trail and you can see the views get good very quickly.

The path turned from grassland to tall shrubs to jungle and then back again several times before I reached the top. I did worry a little in the jungle as I wasn’t sure if I’d be dumb enough to tread on a snake or get bitten by a spider but I decided to leave that to fate and carried on. Although the path is well trodden I didn’t see another soul on the path and it did occur to me that no one knew where I was. Still it was fairly easy and not along any cliff tops as most of the paths I travel. Soon I saw a sign for the top but it turned out to be a false summit and there was more to climb.

Nearer the top I saw the bushes rustling and they stopped as the animal spotted me. I was a little afraid for a time as the guide had told me there were Pumas in the hills but if it had been a puma it would have attacked already. Also by this point there was only about a kilometre to go. However I really should learn that when walking up a mountain the last kilometre is the hardest and steepest. Still I battled to the top and took a well earned rest.

On the way back down I took my time and took some more interesting photos along with spotting another bird that flew close overhead.

I also saw a grasshopper who jumped out of my way.

I arrived back in town exhausted but in desperate need of some ice cream. I walked around town and unlike everywhere else I’ve been so far in South America there was no ice cream shop. The guide book pointed me to a restaurant that was a little walk away so I decided to hike a little further and headed towards it. My route took me down the sketchiest stairs which seemed to be part of several people houses and annoyingly after all the effort the restaurant was closed. I took a different route back to town and found some ice cream in Carla’s Pub. But the detour did allow me to take some interesting photos of the town.

Afterwards I headed back to the hostel and decided to relax before heading out for some more food. I had been told that there was food fried chicken to be had near the plaza and not one to say no to fried chicken I headed over. The booths that I had seen closed earlier were open and busy. I decided to break my own rule of eating out and sat at an empty booth ordering a plate. I was soon joined by some dogs, one who put his head on my lap whist I was eating but I didn’t share. With no other entertainment and no one to speak to in the hostel I decided to have an early night and leave early in the morning.

In hindsight I’m glad I did as the journey to La Paz took longer than I thought. This time it was a three hour ride by minibus. This followed the new road back to La Paz which had replaced Death Road and I was keen to see it. Despite having opened in 2006 the road was bumpy and had a tonne of potholes. I realised how hard it must be to keep the road open with the extreme weather conditions and it must be difficult to repair as it weaves its way up to 4600 metres up the side of mountains. Still I was glad it existed. I also timed it well to see the Death Road riders starting off and had a view of the valley.

I arrived in La Paz, jumped on another mini bus to my hostel and then to Colribi Camping where I was created by Emma, Belle and David and invited to lunch which was a really nice thing to happen. I stayed for a while and chatted before heading back to the hostel, out again to the bus station to by a ticket to Cochabamba and then had an hours rest before I met up with Amanda and her cousins from the US and we had burgers at Vicios, which I was told were the best burgers in La Paz. They were really good. After I went to sleep ready to say goodbye to the city for nearly the last time.

El Choro Trek, Day 3

I’m hoping that Julia will be proud of me for getting up for the sun rise. After a quick breakfast we left the camp just before 7am to complete the final 16 kilometres.

It was cloudier on the third day and really warm. It made for interesting pictures as the Sun was rising and the way the rays of light hit the mountains.

We crossed another stream and the guide played with some vines while I had a break.

Finally we found a bridge that hadn’t been destroyed by heavy rain. After te bridge is one of the best preserved parts of the path. It’s steps leading up quite steeply and it reminded me of Tomb Raider. Being exhausted and carrying a heavy pack was starting to really drain me but I wondered how Lara Croft effortlessly ran, jumped and rolled across similar terrain. Then I remembered it’s a computer game and not real.

There are tonnes of waterfalls like this and I can only imagine how big they are during rainy season when this is pretty much impassable.

After reaching the top of the hill we came to another small settlement and shop. I was upset to see the trees had been chopped away but then it afforded this view. You see that mountain in the distance. Yeah I hiked from there. Well further actually. At this point Sara who had been hiking with is left and when ahead while my guide chatted to a friend. We had arranged to meet at the end of the trail but I didn’t see her again. I suspect it’s because I was so slow doing the final kilometres.

We passed one final settlement which looked like a fun place to camp. It had a lot of buildings and some donkeys.

I found the final stretch really hard. We stopped again for lunch with about two kilometres to go and I barely made that. I then had to walk the final two kilometres and literally took one step at a time. My guide offered to sepa bags as his was now lighter but I had brought everything and was determined to carry it. I honestly don’t know how I made it through the pain which I’m sure was worse than Torres del Paine but we covered more ground each day here so that probably didn’t help.

When we did reach the end I had transport prearranged. Apparently it is expensive so you can hike 12km to the next village but there is no way I would have made that. I climbed into the taxi and finally relaxed. We were driven to an interchange where I finally had water. I forgot to talk about this but I was given so boiled water for the third days I thought the guide would buy another bottle but with him only speaking Spanish I must have misunderstood so being dehydrated didn’t help. If I’d realised I would have brought more but it’s odd they only provided water for the third day, so watch out for this if you do go on a tour.

At this point we parted ways as I went to Coroico and I was really happy with my experience for the last few days. I think it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve done and like I said I’d do it again over Death Road and I’ve heard from others it’s the best thing they have done in Bolivia.

El Choro Trek, Day 2

I awoke after a freezing night in the tent to a bright sunny morning. I decided to stay in my sleeping bag until I heard people outside as it was still really cold. Breakfast was a awaiting me as I got out the tent and again I just needed to sort myself out. I went around the campsite taking photos while the guide packed up my tent, I really wish I remembered his name, and you can see in the pictures below the bridge that is no longer there. Big water surges took three of them down this year. The camp site is actually situated in a really beautiful location and it was nice to be able to experience it as the day before everything was covered in grey.

Keen to get moving we left the camp just after 8am and continued down the path. Sara opted to stay and would catch us up and overtake quite soon. The first few hours of the trek were yet again downhill which is actually really hard on your legs. But later today there would be a lot of up to balance it all out.

Our first rest stop of the day was by a waterfall. We reached some stones and walked around to relax and pose at this scene. I’m glad we did as for most of the rest of the trip the stream became more of an acquaintance as opposed to the good friend it had been up until this point.

The path led up and we walked around the mountains at roughly mid level which is what you do for most of the rest of the trek. Having crossed the river the day before for most of the morning we traveseases along the west side.

After passing through another hamlet we reached another river crossing. This one was also down and requires us to walk along the river bed. Luckily someone has painted bright yellow arrows that are easy to follow although the bridge does look pretty sketchy.

After the crossing there is a big up. The path is also pretty scary here as it’s just where people have managed to walk around the trees to where the bridge was. When we had finished going up you stay at this level for the rest of the treck excluding when you have to cross a couple of tributaries. We met Sara at the top and had a well deserved rest and enjoyed the views. You can see Bella Vista in the distance and this is where we stopped for lunch.

I enjoyed stopping by Bella Vista. There were lots of animals and interesting things to photograph, so after lunch I had a play. I also brought a couple of bottles of coke for us to enjoy.

After lunch there was only 4 kilometres to the camp site. I was already aching a lot today-one piece of advice I’d give is don’t get only 5 hours sleep before you start this as you only make it harder for yourself-and I was really feeling not having had my bag on my back for all this time. It reminded me of Salta when I had to walk a punishing 2.5k with my bags after having not eaten for four days. But I was determined to make it to the San Francisco camp and it was only 4km away.

Above you will see that yet another bridge is out. This one I thought was a little more confusing but you can see where you need to get to in terms of where the bridge was so climb up there and you will find the path. Again there is a big down to reach the stream and then a steep climb which circles right around the mountain when you reach the camp on the other side.we spotted some nests, spider webs and caves.

When I reached the camp for the second night, San Francisco, I made friends with a brother and sister. The little chap was playing with his hat and I mimicked. Before I could react he was sat next to me and I spent an hour showing him and his older sister my photos. Afterwards they insisted that I took pictures of them. I really like the way this came out as it shows so much of this boys mischievous personality. It was also really nice how they both helped me with my Spanish. They helped me take pictures of the animals and it was really fun to play. Again dinner was made for me and Sara and I chatted until the mosquitos started biting. The night was so much warmer and we went to bed early for the 6am start.

Volunteering at Zoológico Municipal Vesty Parkos Sofro with Up Close Bolivia, La Paz

I spent 5 weeks volunteering at La Paz Zoológico with Upclose Bolivia and you can read more about my experience living in La Paz here. In this post I will just be talking about the zoo as I have a tonne of animal pictures. I’m also gonna say that the zoo does really good work, yes some of the cages are small BUT over 90% of the animals have been rescued from cruelty and death. It might not be perfect but many cannot be released into the wild and I know that everyone who works there cares deeply about them and this is the best situation. It could be better, yes, but so can everything. Maybe you could make a donation if you feel strongly and would like to help.

I only had two shifts as the zoo on the first week due to one being cancelled and spending sometime at the horse centre. Vary met me on a very cold grey morning, sometimes the mornings in La Paz are Perry grey but true sun soon burns he clouds away. I was taken into the zoo and introduced to a bunch of people who’s names I instantly forgot, but I would learn over the course of the 5 weeks. I got given a special pair of overalls and I was off to work. Johnny number 1 (there are two) took me to one the cage where this guy lived. Yep I’ve forgotten then name.

Johnny was carrying a petrol powered strimmer and he told me that I was going to cut the grass. I was a little concerned as I hate strummers and this was powerful. I soon found out he was cutting the grass and put on lots of safety equipment. My job was to take the grass and take it to the finish area. I was soon introduced to Santiago who looked after the animals in this area which included bears, parrots, doves, a turkey, hawks and owls. I spent a lot of time with Santiago and cleaned out the cages. My main jobs was assisting the zoo keepers with feeding and cleaning the animals but there were other fun things to do.

The next day I went around with Johnny 2 who looked after an ostrich, tortoises, condors, vicuñas, pigs, llamas and aplacas. With Johnny I spent several shifts. On one occasion I had to split up some llamas as one was being the alpha male and attacked another, I cleaned the water pools and each time I turned around the alpacas had creeped up on me but ran away at the sight of my face. To be honest they are weird looking creatures and I was kinda scared of them. One day a little baby llama was born so let’s start with pics of him. Johnny didn’t speak any English so it was fun trying to make myself understood. Especially the day he had the afternoon off and had to rush back to El Alto to watch the France vs Belgium semi final.

And the pics of the Jonny’s other animals

The final zookeeper I spent a lot of time with was Alison. Alison did speak English well but I was trying not to speak too much. With Alison I looked after sheep, pigs, rabbits, parrots, condors, turkeys, more parrots as there were a lot of species. One cage is particularly as fun as the birds were a little aggressive and when I was laughing as the vet ran away from the birds that were chasing her this guy jumped on my head.

With Alison I did a deep clean of the cages. On Thursdays they clean the animals cages much more throughly and due to the cleaning products involved they can’t feed the animals as they normally would. This is where someone the enrichment comes in and I’ll come on to this later. And here are some of Alison’s other animals.

On one of my last days Alison took me on her weekend round that included anacondas, which I was fine with until she opened the door and told me to hose the area down. It’s humid and requires lots of water. Luckily for me they were well fed and stayed still the entire time. I also got to count the turtles and see a few other reptiles Upclose.

Another area that I was sent to a few times had some horses donkeys and vicuñas. It was fun to get Upclose and feed them and there was a new born goal that was in a larger area outside the cages who delighted in stealing all the food I was trying to give to the other animals.

As I said above I spent a lot of time with Santigo, despite only knowing a few words of English he always smiled and went out of his way to make me feel welcome. Another task I complied with him was the weekly cleaning of the rabbits and guinea pigs. Luckily for these guys they were not on anyone’s menu unlike the donkeys who I fed the loose hay. But let’s look at the cute animals first.


Okay so now death. We had an interesting conservation with John and Sharon about this. In the hospital there was a field of donkeys and Santiago one day told me they feed them to the carnivores, as the zoo has Pumas and Jaguars who need to be fed. I tried to keep an eye on the number of donkeys but one day John, who is the and was volunteering at the zoo with his mother Sharon, asked if they were feeding the donkeys to the animals as he had worked out something was going on too. We had a discussion about the ethics of it and all decided that the meat has to come from somewhere. So is it any worse to have live animals on site and slaughter them for meat or to buy it from a slaughterhouse. It did make me feel uneasy watching he donkeys who were effectively on death row, but I eat meat and it’s exactly where it comes from. I suppose by shopping in supermarkets I’ve become desensitised to the process and it was interesting to discuss and question. I don’t think the zoo are doing anything wrong, they are simply being the hunter in the process as they can’t let the cats hunt. Speaking of which here are the cats being fed some chicken.

One day Sharon, Matthias, John and I were told that we were going fishing. There is a medium sized pond with ducks and geese and a tonne of fish. We took our lines, filled a bucket with water and headed to the water. Walking out on one of the platforms we had one hour until the zoo opened. John went first and soon had hauled up a fish using the bread as bait. It turns out they are hungry and no so bright. I think I’m the end we caught 7 fish, 4 of which were Johns. It was really challenging to get the hook out their mouths and I had trouble keeping them still when we did. I wasn’t wearing gloves and they jumped all over the place. We put the fish in the bucket and they were distributed to the cats cages so that they had something to play with at dinner time. I was also impressed that I managed to catch a fish and I had a second go in my last day when it was just myself and the zoo keeper, that time o caught three but she caught eight in a row. Still successful fishing. Tick.

One fun task we did was to make nice for the monkeys. We had to collect bottles, lean them, make holes in the lids and fill the bottles with fruit, milk and vitamins. The juices where then given to the monkeys. Sadly I don’t have pictures with them and the juice but I do have a video I’ll post when I can.

At other times we would do animal enrichment which meant making toys for the animals to play with. We did this for the pigs several times and as these are intelligent animals we had to find a game that would be worthy of them.

We went collecting bottles, cut off the necks and slotted two identical bottles together. We melted small holes in the side and pushed food through. The idea behind this is that the pigs push them along with their snouts and the food falls out, but it’s not too easy for them. Here’s it in action.

So I could go into loads of detail about my time at the zoo but I think this is enough to give you a decent idea. Whilst I now know I wouldn’t want to be a zookeeper full time I would jump at the chance to do it again. Everyone was so lovely and even write me notes when I left. The language barrier was a small challenge but it didn’t stop me interacting as best as I could. On the last day I took a lot of photos with the animals so I’ll leve you with those for now.

Up Close Bolivia, volunteering in La Paz

On this trip I was very keen to volunteer and most of the research I conducted before I left was into volunteering. I did this at Aldea Luna, which was my first stop, and I kinda knew that I wouldn’t have time again in Chile and Argentina due to the amount of places I wanted to visit. Upclose Bolivia was one I was particularly keen on as it would give me the opportunity to work at a zoo, I’ll cover the specifics in another post, as it has been something that I’ve wanted to try for a long long time. A few weeks before I was due to arrive in Bolivia and thanks to references from Kelly and Dave I was accepted to the programme. In this post I talk about my time in La Paz. If you would like to read about the zoo then read this post.

Just rolling back a little, as the last few posts have been a little disjointed in terms of time line and the reason being is that I couldn’t cover 6 weeks in one post, as I’ve not talked about my first few data in La Paz.

When we arrived in Uyuni all of us from the Salar de Uyuni tour realised we didn’t want to stay there long so booked our places on various night busses. Benny and Emma decided to head to Sure and the rest of us headed to La Paz. I was tired and confused when we arrived in La Paz at 5am and jumped in a taxi with Michelle, Ruben and Niklas which dropped is at our various hostels. Mine was kind enough to show me straight to my bed and I had a restless few hours. I gave up on sleep and the hostel manager suggested a few things for me to do. One was the Red Cap city tour and as I’ve said before it’s good to help you get adjusted to the city. Niklas joined me and we met the others and Nathalie, a friend of Michelle’s after, heading up on the Teleférico to the El Alto market. We also brought Death Road tickets but I didn’t end up going because I was still awake at 3am and I’ll talk about this in my El Choro trek post.

The next day I extended my visa and hung out with the girls as I was feeling rather sheepish. We were tired after a week of little sleep and when I got back I found out the police had looked through all of my things as the two rather rude Germans, just these guys most Germans I meet are lovely, had been caught smoking weed. It creates a weird atmosphere which was weirder than it already was. I ended up going out for tapas with Nathalie that night, you can see the results in the La Paz food post. The next day I met up with Andrea who lives in La Paz who I had made friends with online. We went to a few bars on a very cold and wet night and then a club and the others joined. At 2am I decided to call it a night as I needed to go to to Upclose for 10am.

One thing that is really important here is the weather. I don’t think I explained how cold it was when we arrived. Bolivia was having some really unseasonal weather. From January to May there is rainy season and this was the dry season, where it is not supposed to rain! It was also unseasonally cold, despite it being winter. It’s normally sunny all day, warm when the sun shines and cold at night as it’s kinda a desert. It was so cold actually that they couldn’t run the Uyuni tours due to the cold and this added to my mood as I thought I was in for 5 weeks of this.

I awoke early on a cold and wet day and followed Vary’s instructions to the letter. Vary is my amazing coordinator at Upclose Bolivia who always replied in minutes if I had a question and thanks to Vary that I managed to go on most of the hikes in La Paz, see the earlier posts. I got a trufi, a shared taxi, to Jupapina which is a small town just to the south of the city. I was greeted by the lovely Vary and met David, Jazmín and Fabioand was shown to my room. I nearly cried as I realised I would have a private room for the next few weeks and it was so nice to unpack. I sat on the bed for the next two hours enjoying the solitude before I was given a welcoming lunch and met everyone. But before I introduce everyone let’s see some photos of Colibrí Camping, which is a campsite also run by Emma and Rolando, who I will also introduce shortly.

The above pics are from the Verde House which is where I lived for 5 weeks. Below is the rest of the camp site.

At the dinner I met the Belgium couple who were Work always at Colibri Camping. And Marcelo and Mariana who work at the campsite full time. There were probably other people there but I forget as it’s been a few weeks. That evening we had a pizza and movie night where I got to meet everyone again and it was a really nice introduction. the pizza is from a local Italian restaurant and is delivered by taxi. I found this out one night when I was headed into La Paz and the taxi that picked me up dropped off a pizza. He then pulled up outside the restaurant, beeped the horn and a waiter came out to collect the money. One thing I’ve noticed during my stay here is how trusting people are and also how honest they are in paying.

I think the stop was exactly what I needed after 4 months plus of travelling. The chance to unpack and just stop somewhere, to have a room of my own and not sleep with strangers snoring or waking me up at stupid times of the night was amazing. I really took advantage of the solitude but the weather was still freezing. I went to my room at 8pm every night and I didn’t realise it at the time but I was pretty grumpy for the first week. Again I think this was to do with fatigue and just needing to relax and watch Netflix was amazing.

The next day Vary took me to my first project, the horse treatment centre. She also showed me zona sur which would become my second home, helped me by socks and food from the supermarket.

I’ll be honest and say I didn’t enjoy the horses. The people there were lovely but I’ve grown up around horses and I now definitely know they are the one animal I do not enjoy being around. I had applied to work exclusively at the zoo but on my application I talked about my experience growing up around horses and I probably confused things. It also didn’t help that my first zoo shift was cancelled so I went back to the horse centre. This mainly involved me cleaning out the stables for 9 horses. I hated doing this as a child and I hated it now. But for me I wanted to learn new things and being around horses I wasn’t learning anything. After the forth shift I spoke with Vary who instantly changed my schedule so I was exclusively working at the zoo. I do want to just clarify that this is a personal choice and opinion. Pippa and the others loved working with the horses and they do good work there so check the website for more information-I won’t detail it here. I am just being honest with recording my time travelling.

After my first morning with the horses Vary took me back to Colibri and there I met Raquel my Spanish teacher. Upclose Bolivia can also arrange Spanish lessons and this is something I wanted to take advantage of whilst staying in one place. Raquel is Bolivian and a really great and patient teacher. Especially with me as I find it difficult to remember words. I’ve realised I’m like a child learning a language and the only way I learn is pure exposure to it and repeating things when I see them. This means most Spanish speakers end up handgun out with a toddler, but I suppose when it comes to me there is not much difference for English speakers either. But after another 20 hours of lesions I have a much better understanding of how the verbs work which is a testament to Raquel considering no one has been able to do this before.

The campsite and volunteering accommodation are situated above the Valley of the Flowers, so called because it is where the locals grow flowers for th markets. It makes for beautiful views and in my first week I took a trip down to the river, which is a little stinky as it runs through La Paz.

This is the river from the valley floor.

And some sunset pics from the trek back up to the campsite.

When I arrived Emma, Rolando, Bell and David returned from holiday. Emma is British and runs Upclose Bolivia and Rolando is Bolivian and manages he campsite. They are both heavily involved with the loca community and they managed lots of projects between them. Emma moved here for three months as per of her PhD and is still here. Rolando was great always with a smile and making sure I got in all of my early morning taxis. Bell and David are their children and the first thing I need to say is how welcoming the whole family is. By the end I did feel as if I had a second family and all of them are so happy to help out whenever they can. One day I was at the supermarket trying to return a razor that didn’t work-you won’t believe how hard it was but luckily David was there and stepped in to assist. He was a big fan of the World Cup and invited us to watch all the games. Bell was also great at giving me travel advice, tips on where to eat and where to buy things. She also taught me a lot about politics, education and how things worked in La Paz, providing me win information I wouldn’t get otherwise. I personally think she would have a great career in politics considering her fair and strong opinions.

We were all invited to their house for Jazmín and Fabiola leaving dinner, everyone gets a goodbye meal and it’s a really nice touch. You are also five a symbol, a chance to reflect on your time volunteering and the family and Vary also give you feedback. It’s something I’m not used to doing in England but it’s great and I rank it alongside Bolivians saying hello and goodbye to everyone in the room as they arrive and leave. One kiss to the cheek for women, which is standard in South America, and a handshake or hug for the men. It’s actually really good as I saw Vary do it at a party and it immediately breaks the ice. You don’t sit there thinking “who are those people”? But I’ve digressed and the tacos that evening were delicious.

I could talk more but this is one of the highlights of the stay, feeling part of a community and learning more about the culture. Previously on the trip I’ve met people but because I move so fast I’ve not had the opportunity to feel part of anything and if you are planning a long trip here, or anywhere, I’d really advise if you can to stay in one place for a while. What’s great about this is that we were not in a compound mikes away from anywhere, but on the edge of a city and were free to roam. We had to get to the volunteering ourselves which meant getting to grips with the mini-busses. And working with local people.

The minibuses in La Paz are special. Outside of the teleférico there is little in the way of formal public transport. What you have is a million minibuses. Now there is some form of regulation, it’s not completely random. So like busses each mini bus displays its destination in the window, normally multiple so you can see where it goes. You can either wave one down, they will tend to beep at you or just open the door wherever it happens to stop, red light, roundabout etc and open the door and jump in. You can even ride shotgun with the driver if you want. When you want to get off just shout something in Spanish. Esquina Por Favor is normally the best, not Escooner which is a long running joke that I will dearly miss. And the striver will stop. If you are at the back the bus will empty out so you can get off and everyone jumps on again. There are no seatbelts and they drive fast but carefully and it’s a bumpy ride. I will truest miss them. And at 2 Na it’s a bargain. I knew I was here a while when in central La Paz I walked out into traffic and jumped on a bus stopped at a light, I even got acknowledged for my Buenos Noches. But this is one of the many things La Paz has to offer. Zona Sur is great and there is so much more than staying in the centre of the city and I think you can see that reflected in my other posts.

Jumping back to the family there are also three dogs, one is called Tilly who became Pippa’s favourite and Phoebe, smelly cat, because of her farts and you can see her below. I didn’t get any shots of the dogs.

During my time there were lots of people who came and went. Sharon and her 10 year old son John, a fine gentleman in the making. Sharon is from the US and she sponsors a Bolivian girls education. She was only able to meet the girl for one day so decided to volunteer for two weeks with John. After which her husband and two younger children joins them for a two week holiday where they got night-busses and experiences Bolivia. I was so impressed and they told me at their leaving party that there is never a good time to do something and it’s still good experience for the children even when they are young. If you wait to do something it may never happen and I wholeheartedly agree. Sharon and John worked with me at the zoo, along with Mathaus, a high school student form the US who was visiting his grandfather.

Michele and Darik moves into the house on the third week. They are staying for eight weeks and replaces the Belgium work aways. Pippa and I had a really fun time with them and all quickly made friends, made especially easy with Dariks very British attitude to beer. At Pippa’s leaving party with her Bolivian friends Darik became my designated drinker because I had to go on a hike early the next day. It’s a task he took to well and I’ll call on him in the future if I need the service again.

For the World Cup Pippa and I were invited to the ambassadors house to watch the quarter final. Luckily it was a win but it was so nice to have the invitation extended.

We watched the semi final in the bar with the family, their British friend amad Michelle and Darik who helped to console us after the loss. There were many more pole and many more things, I’m not sure I introduced Pippa properly, but this is becoming too long and I hope it’s given a flavour of what I did in La Paz. I’ll write another post for my animal pics of the zoo as that is another huge section. But here is us at the leaving party.

Red Caps Food Tour and all the other food I’ve eaten (and remembered to photograph) in La Paz.

So yes I had guinea pig, not as part of the tour and I’ll come on to that later. The tour surely counts as my most awkward date ever, although it wasn’t an actual date as I had paid to go on a tour, but the problem was no one else showed up. I suppose I should really look on the bright side as I was given a private tour at the cost of a group tour but really one of the things you want to do on a group tour is meet people. And to be honest with no vested interest in one another by the time we got to the fifth restaurant and had already discussed Bolivian politics to the extent that we could both understand there was very little left to say. Besides that it was pushing 9:45 and I think my guide wanted to go home so she could concentrate on her university studies.

That aside the tour is actually really enjoyable and does give you an insight into Bolivian cuisine. I’m not 100% sure why I did this as I’d been in the country for 5 weeks at this point eating local food but Gary, Mike and I did this in Hanoi and it led to us being more adventurous with our choices. As I was about to start travelling again I suppose I wanted to be given more confidence. If I go to a Bolivian place for lunch I can get a menu for 10-20bs, I might get food poisoning mind as there is 0 health and safety requirements here. As a quick aside one Bolivian friend told me she has had salmonella poisoning 6 times in her life BUT it’s not good business to poison people and I suppose once word gets around people don’t eat there. So rule number 1 is only go to places where you can see others eating, ideally where you can see the actual food being served. Although don’t do what Gary did in Vietnam where he saw something he liked on another table, found out what it was and then ordered us all raw chicken that we had to cook at the table! On this occasion the waiter was so worried he took it to the kitchen for an extra fry.

Anyways I’ve digressed. You can get a lunch menu for 10-20 bs which is generally soup followed by a meal. Remember Bolivians tend to have their main meal at lunch with a snack in the evening. The only problem with this is the main meals tend to be meat, sauce and rice, which is great. Accompanied with salad, which I can’t eat and neither should you as you don’t know where it was washed, one or more of the 400 varieties of potato’s, boiled, bland as anything, yuk and giant sweet corn that I also don’t like. Having said this I generally find food here delicious. Also in La Paz there is a wide variety of international food cooked amazingly but is sadly much more expensive. If you want really good food my tip is to pop to Sopocatchi or down to San Miguel in Zona Sur. Which brings me on to the other reason as to why I’m writing this special post about food. Normally I’d just include the pics along with the location but I’ve stayed here for 6 weeks and I didn’t get any gourmet food on the hikes so here it is instead. Oh, one last thing. Burger King is delicious here!

Red Hat Tour

I may have already put you off the tour but I honestly don’t mean to. I’ve been told it varies in size massively and there is no particular day of the week where you are likely to get a bigger group. I suspect later in the week and weekends is better but who knows. I went on a Tuesday and the night before there were 10 people on the tour. Maybe find out when I’m planning to go and book a different night.

We met, i can’t remember my guides name, outside San Francisco church at 6pm. After establishing that it was just me we headed over to Mercado Lanza, which you can see from the square. If you’ve done the free walking tour you will be used to this, if not it’s worth checking out. Built in 2006 there are a huge variety of stores selling all sorts but lots of food worth trying too.

One thing that is really good value in the market is fruit juice. This is something Bolivians have for breakfast and you can chooses the fruits, decide if you want leche or azúcar added or el natural. The one I was given has a little of all the fruits and some vitamins. I asked for a little sugar, just because you need something to spice it up. I particularly enjoyed the sugar puff esq croutons on the top.

Next up was another little restaurant in the market where I had Api, which is a drink made from purple maize, cinnamon, water and sugar, served hot. It’s apparently a breakfast drink but there were lots of people enjoying it this evening. For me this was accompanied by a pastel de api, which you can see in the photo below. It’s a very light pastry which you can add a dusting of icing sugar and delicious.

With the starter out of the way we headed to the next restaurant for the main course. We shared a bottle of Huari and tried a pork based dish (I can’t find the name so maybe someone can help me out?) which includes rice, corn, two types of potatoes and a delicious sauce.

We went to another restaurant close by, this time it was Dutch owned but they serve authentic food apparently. I got to try my first Singani, which is very similar to the Pisco that is made in Peru and Chile. This was similar to a Pisco sour but you can drink it with Sprit or ginger ale and lemon I am told.

I also had a soup that it appears I have both forgotten to photograph or remember anything about. It’s probably because I love soup and ate it quickly and one of the best things about Bolivian quinine is the soups. Hearty and delicious and normally served as a starter as part of an almuerzo menu it’s the perfect thing to keep you warm in the cold altitude of La Paz.

Next up on the same restaurant was a Pique a lo Macho, which is famous from Cochabamba, a town I am about to visit. I was told this was invented by drunks, all the best things are, who were looking for food late at night, well early in the morning, and the food sellers that were open at this time threw all this together. It’s delicious with chicken, sausage, egg, tomato and other greens with what feels like a soy based sauce. It’s a must try.

Last up was dessert and we went to a cafe that is obviously aimed at tourists. We had a glass of red and between the famous regions on Argentina and Chile, Bolivia actually makes some really good wine that is very worthy of your attention, especially as it’s cheaper. The dessert was brownie which again was delicious and after I said goodbye to my guide, who was happy to leave and went home.

Other things I’ve eaten

So before I arrived in Bolivia I was told by other travellers that all the food was fried and boring. I’ve not been all over Bolivia but this is certainly not my experience. Then again I did nearly move here on the basis that at the Mega Center, the mall and cinema, all the food stalls were burgers, ice cream and fried chicken. I had died and gone to heaven.

There is plenty of local food all over La Paz but if you are visiting Vally de la Luna there is a lot of local food to be had in Mallasa, especially at the weekend. If you walk south then you can also visit the zoo and outside are lots of street restaurants serving local food. I tried a few dishes here:

Santa de Pollo

I also had a BBQ dish of chicken and chorizo, there is a lot of BBQ chicken in Mallasa which I’ll come in to later.

And lastly I went for almuerzo offer of soup and Milinesa de Pollo. I’ve also included an example menu so you can look up what types of food are on offer, but you can find these anywhere.

Staying with Mallasa there is a restaurant that has an Asian flavour but seems to mostly cook all kinds of chicken. I am never one to pass up the opportunity of noodles so that ms what I had. If you want to try then from the south end of the town walk north and it’s the first restaurant on your left, of course I’ve forgotten the name, but it’s white and has a picture menu outside. I particularly liked the added touch of fries and you get these with a lot of dishes it seems.

I’ve mentioned before that Mallasa comes alive at the weekend so if you can try and visit on a Saturday or Sunday and you will find much more variety. One afternoon when I was walking through I discovered there was a lot of BBQ chicken. So this got added to my list. There are a lot of places you can try this and it’s called Pollo a la Leña. We took the lunch menu for 18bs and had the peanut soup.

Another fun place in zona sur is the MegaCentre. It’s a mall that has a women driving around on a train, she kinda doesn’t really care where it goes so watch yourself. I actually am on her side. As much as I’d love to drive a train around a mall for a living once the fun wore off I’d use it to scare the customers and I’d probably be a worse driver as I can imagine being hungover for most of the mornings.

There is also a really modern cinema and a tonne of bars and restaurants. And of course a mall wouldn’t be complete without a food court, which to my delight is 90% fried chicken. When I die I want my ashes to be scattered here assuming it doesn’t get into peoples food. I wouldn’t want to be a health and safer risk.

I had a few meals in the different places here. First up is this chicken with ham and cheese, yes I’ve forgotten the name but the main reason this has taken so long to write is I’ve forgotten the name of all the dishes. Hopefully someone will tell me. We also tried another Bolivian dish which is sausage chips and sauce. It’s huge and good.This was at a popular bar called The Dubliner, which is sort of an Irish Bar as much as any of the bars around the world can be considered a Irish outside of Ireland. Anayas the food is good, there are a lot of drinks on offer and on a Thursday it’s open until 4am and there is a band. Go there and enjoy.

Next up from the Mega centre is Factory. They have a restaurant and also a kiosk in the food court which is a little cheaper. I tried both having a great burger and chicken burger-obviously this was at different times.

We went to the Beer Garden to watch the England game. Try server a huge variety of food but obviously I went for the burger.

There are also a whole load of other dishes including Asian and an amazing pork sandwich at various places but I’m sure you want to see the pictures of the Guinea Pigs.

When I saw in the book of things to do that one of the local dishes was guinea pig I wanted to try it. I’ve had a slightly weird obsession as when I was younger my father used to say that in South America they ate them and the pigs used to run around restaurants, where you could pick one and they would serve it up. Well this isn’t true and also most the restaurants don’t have doors or walls so that would be impractical.

For David’s leaving so we decided to try it. I’ll let the pictures speak form themselves, it wasn’t horrible but was also not my favourite dish either. There is a lot of skin!

Also in San Miguel there are tonnes of restaurants worth trying and lots of coffee shops serving amazing things. Especially the chocolate bar I got to melt in hot milk. I’m still not sure how I’m losing weight here.

Any trip to La Paz is not complete without visiting Copacabana. Looking like a cheap chicken shop it’s Bolivia’s answer to KFC and quite frankly the cornel should hang his head in shame because it kicks it’s ass! Especially the special sauce. Give it a go, there are several at teleférico stations.

Lastly we did have one night out a Tapas bar in Sopocachi called Hallwrights. Here I had the best cheese and jam I’ve had in South America so if you are looking for a cheese fix I’d recommend.

Extended Red Cap Tour and Cholita Wrestling

I had been interested in taking the extended La Paz Red Cap tour since I took the “free tour” on my first day. It shows you more of La Paz and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays can be combined with Cholita wrestling. For me the verdict was out on this but I felt that my time in La Paz would be incomplete without it.

I asked for my last Thursday off which coincided as being the day after England lost the semi finals. Luckily for myself and Pippa we had Darik and Michelle from the US console us with pizza and mucho cerveza back at the house. It was after Michelle mistakenly celebrated Croatia’s first goal but it was by far the best moment of the match, the celebration not the goal, especially the look on her face as she realised no one else in our table was celebrating that one has to forgive.

The next morning was a little tough to say the least and Pippa went on the morning tour and I met up with her for the second tour afterwards. I spent the morning doing admin and feeling sorry for myself and trying to remember how many songs I killed singing at full volume the night before.

Anyways we arrived at 2pm and the first task was to get to the cemetery. The guide was excited that we were going to take one of the local minibuses, Pippa and I were now old pros at these, #escuna (it actually makes me really sad that the joke will never be funny again), so we offered to go with half the group and the guide with the other.

After a lot of being stuck in traffic we arrived at the cemetery, and sat through a sky trying to rain, as the guide told us interesting stories. I won’t ruin it for you, only with photos, so do the tour! Actually as an aside it’s dry season in Bolivia and not supposed to rain. Like everywhere else I’ve visited this is an unprecedented year. Global warming anyone? So here are some shots of the cemetery in La Paz.

One new interesting feature is the graffiti. Every large urban area I’ve visited in South America seems to have grafitis and La Paz is no exception. Again there is beautiful art work. All of this is commissioned and fairly new and each piece represents various aspects of death.

We walked through the cemetery and afterward hit the red line of the teleférico. I’m not so experienced at this but I’ve been up to El Alto several times. Although this time Pippa pointed out the car that had fallen down the mountain and became stuck in a crevice. No one one what happened and the bodies are still inside…so I am told by Pippa.

We visited a viewpoint and then marched through the El Alto market, which claims to be the biggest flea market in the world and looking at the size of it I can’t disagree. Earlier in the month I managed to find a wire there that I couldn’t in Santiago and you are supposed to be able to find anything. As a group we were marched through. I’m not sure if this was because there was so much traffic on the way to the cemetery as the websites says the guides will help you buy hinge or if this is the normal pace.

After passing through the main market we arrived at the witches market. There is a witches market down in the centre of La Paz but this is only for tourists. We had arrived at the real one that locals use. Again we were marched through a small section. I would have taken photos of llama foetuses but I didn’t realise we would get so little time here.

The next stop was visiting the witch doctors to tell our fortunes. We walked down a fairly desolate street and sadly the usual person was busy. The guide asked if anyone wanted to know their fortune and I kept shouting yes while the rest of the group kept quiet. It was fricking freezing but I wasn’t letting this put me off. Besides I got to sit in be warm whilst my fortune was told. There was several languages involved but I’ve been told that I’ll be fine on my journey (so now no need to worry about dark ally’s and health and safely) I’ll find a job when I get back to London (so I’m not going to both applying for anything) and I already know the person I’m going to marry. If anyone is still single I suggest you get hitched ASAP!

After me another lady went in so Pippa and I, armed with my new knowledge, decided to test it out. Pippa wanted a pic with one of the guys so we decided to ask a guy across the road. He invited us out back and I followed Pippa into his room to take the picture. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen true poverty upclose, assuming that he lived here, as there was nothing in that room other than a bed really. It did have some amazing views of the city and Pippa got her picture at the cost of 20bs but not really in the fashion that she wanted. We were interrupted by the guide who looked really concerned. I mean what could really go wrong by entering a strangers house, in a strange city where we don’t speak the language…

On the way back though the market we noticed these highly prized Lonkin Park hoodies. Regretting not buying one!

Again we jumped on the teleférico and headed over the market to the Cholita wrestling. From this point on I really wish I could explain what happened but I just can’t…

Okay I can. So cholita wrestling is a thing. It’s even officially recognised by the WWE or whoever controls wresting. This is one thing that I really can’t be arsed to Google. It’s not worth the effort. But this is the real deal. And if you don’t know what cholitas are then read this BBC article (I’ll link when I can).

Anyways it involves ladies wrestling, mostly each other but the red gets involved. I’ve never seen wrestling, so this is another first for me, but it looked like carefully choreographed dance moves. Think Strictly but after s life the partner is purposely slammed Intl the flour snd you have it. We arrived during the first match and below is essentially what happened.

The second match:

And the third which was two ladies vs s dude. He was great at acting as the bad guy and they rightly kicked his ass!

And all smiles at the end when everyone came out to meet the fans. Pippa even got a lift from a very oily man.

Afterwards we were all put on a bus back to Plaza San Francisco. It’s probably if you do this as El Alto is not supposed to be very safe at night. Anyways enjoy La Paz. It’s brilliant!

Tren Turístico from El Alto to Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku) and Guaqui (Lake Titicaca)

A friend who lives in La Paz said that there was a train, which ran once a month, I could take to visit the Tiwanaku ruins which are around 70km outside La Paz. I was keen to visit as the site predates the Incas and the civilisation came into prominence around 600BC. If you can’t take the train then the ruins are easily done in a day trip with busses leaving the El Alto bus station, I know people who did this and it’s a good budget option, or alternatively you can take a tour. Getting the bus is much cheaper, the entrance fee to the ruins is 100bs and you can hire a guide for 130bs. I paid 80bs for the train but I was happy to do so as I’ve not been on a train yet in South America and those of you who know me will know that my favourite foe, of transport is travelling by train. I also liked the idea of the extra stop at Lake Titicaca which is a place where western tourists don’t tend to go. If you are interested in this trip you can find out more here.

The train was due to leave El Alto at 8am, there is no station as there is no regular train service to La Paz, more the train just pulls up in the middle of the street. I awoke at 6am to get in my taxi for 6:30 and arrived at 7:30. I was a little hesitant to get out of the taxi but there were people milling around and food stalls. The taxi driver asked if this was the place and some of the people waiting comforted it was so I paid and waited for the train.As I said there is no station so just look for the people. You will find it hard to miss the train when it arrives. It wasn’t there when I arrived.

So I waited on the street and 8am arrived and went, more people were arriving and things can sometimes run a little late in Bolivia. Then 8:30 came, and 9am. I started to become a little anxious and found some Germans who had the same tickets as me. I couldn’t see anyone official around to ask, there were people but they were fairly discreet and I did find this throughout the day. It was difficult to find people to ask where to go and what time to be back for the train. The Germans told me that there was a reported problem with the train but it was on its way. I was also told that this wasn’t usual and it’s normally ontime-hopefully if you do take the train this won’t happen to you.i can’t really complain as I’ve had good luck with my transport so far.

The train finally arrived around 9:30am and it was huge. We boarded and it took around half an hour to get everybody on, so the train left around 10am. I was annoyed that I had had to awaken so early and to pay for an expensive taxi only to wait around in the cold for two hours but we were now moving and I wanted to make the most of the experience.

Above are shots from the train window as we left El Alto. I really love the mountains in the background especially how they look when you see them next to industry. I’ve said it before but everything is better with mountains.

One thing that I didn’t capture is all of the people who stopped what they were doing to watch, photograph, film the train passing. Boys who were playing football, bus passengers, car drivers, passers by all got out and waved and smiled. Train is the best form of transport and rare to find in Bolivia. This only runs once a month so it was fun to wave at everyone out the window and see their smiles.

We left the city behind and passed through another town where we stopped to pick up more passengers before heading into the open countryside.

So I expect the question you are all asking is what is the model of the train and what did it look like. Well the first question I can’t help with but the second question look no further!

It took around three hours to get to Tiwanaku, which is much longer than the bus, as the train is not the high speed kind we are used to in Europe. The only problem is that we arrived around 1pm which was much later than scheduled. If everything runs on time you only have around 90mins to view the site which is tight but doable but our time was cut short.

The first thing I had to do was to buy a ticket, at the cost of 100bs, it’s 15bs for locals and there is a theme in South America where they charge tourists much more which is starting to annoy me. I wish they were just discrete about it and local people also have said, unprompted, that it’s not fair. But let’s not get into an argument about prices as this is an observation more than a complaint. The ticket took about 20mins to buy and there were four sites I could visit. Two of these were museums so I ignore this and went to the biggest ruins. I didn’t have a guide so I didn’t have to opportunity to learn much but the site is fascinating. I’m going to read up so I’ll add in more once I learn what each thing is. I may even caption some of the photos one day.

One of the striking things about the site is the statues. There is a wall of faces in one of the temples and big statues in the biggest ruins of the temple.

I tried to take my time as much as possible as I wanted to reach the second site but as I reached the exit and brought a bottle of water the train started looking like it was ready to leave and not wanting to be left behind I climbed aboard.

The train continued its journey through the spectacular landscape for another hour until we reached Lake Titicaca. We went to a part that is popular with Bolivians but is not offers visited by tourists. In all honestly there is no tonnes to do here. There were some restaurant buildings and a museum that were closed but there were plenty of stalls selling food that if you’ve been anywhere in Bolivia then you will be used to them.

The highlight is a boat ride on the lake and lots of people were jumping on boats. I was quoted 40bs for a ride and hesitated taking another look around. I returned to the boats and this time was ushered on without paying. Afterwards I took out 40bs I order to pay and I was told by a fellow passenger that is should be 5bs. I gave the woman 20bs and got 10bs back. I considered that a win. But below are the photos I took fro,he boat and it’s worth doing as the scenery is stunning.

Back at the port I had a little time to kill and took advantage of the scene art to shoot some more photos.

The train departed around 5pm and took four hours to return to El Alto. The train dropped us in the same place that we started and El Alto is not the kind of place where you want to be after dark. There were no taxis or minibuses there to meet us so I headed quickly to the biggest road and within seconds flagged a taxi heading to the yellow line. I arrived at 9:15 and annoyingly the line closes at 9pm on a Sunday. There wasn’t really anything for it but to take another expensive taxi back to Jupapina. All in all it was a very long but fun day, although I’d think twice about getting the train if you are not really into train journeys.

Cholita Paceña Mallasa 2018

I was heading into zona Sur to get some life admin done when the minibus I was on took a weird route. I looked up and noticed that a huge stage was being erected in the middle of the street in Mallasa. After messaging around I was told that today was the Cholita Paceña Mallasa 2018. Cholitas are famous in Bolivia for their big dresses and hats and are prominent throughout the city. If you want to know more the BBC can tell you much better than I could ever. But this seems more than just a beauty contest and representatives from all over the region, including Jupapina, where taking part.

Pippa my flat mate from the Greenhouse, the Belgium couple and Sharon and her 10 year old son John form the US jumped on one of the last busses of the evening and headed up to Mallasa. I thought it was going to be heaving and although the whole street was blocked off there was plenty of space.

Kids were running up and down the street, playing football, riding bikes, scooters, tag etc. This was one of my favourite things as whatever you go in the world children are more interested in playing than watching the main event.

There was a crowd around the stage who all had balloons and a guy onstage who was singing to a backing track in Spanish. This ended up going on for about 40 minutes and we decided to get some beers from a local shop before we realised that we were the only people drinking. We also realised that when we were whooping everyone else was politely clapping and waving their balloons. A nice man gave us some balloons to blow up but maybe that was to stop is whooping.

We spotted some young men and women in official dress and they headed to the stage. After the man finally stopped singing some minor Bolivian celebrities, a locals words not mine, we were treated to some traditional Bolivian dancing.

After the dancing finished the contest began and each contestant was introduced and partook in some traditional dancing.

This year we were told there were a lot of contestants.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect but more and more contestants came onto the stage.

It was at this point that I realised how the “take multiple pictures” function worked on my camera. I accidentally ended up takin around 300 photos so you can feel lucky that I deleted the majority of them.

After all the Cholitas had made it on stage and given their initial dance they were interviewed and asked challenging questions. Obviously this was all in Spanish and my knowledge was limited as to what was going on.

Our attention turned away from the Cholitas and more towards the food which was being cooked with a lot of fire. After being told the food was safe we decided to give cow heart a try. It’s a delicacy in these parts and although al little tough was really tasty. The spicy sauce that accompanied the dish was especially delicious.

As the temperature dropped and the lack of understanding continued we decided to call it a night but I was very happy to have Ben able to experience this local event. It was at this point I started to realise that staying in one place enables you to get to know it much better and you have a very different experience.


And street sign

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