A Travellerspoint blog

Copacabana - Lake Titikaka - Bolivia

...and also Floating Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru

sunny 20 °C
View Year Off 2007 on Lejla's travel map.

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Copacabana (no, nothing in common with Rio´s famous sandy beach) is a nice little fishing village on the beautiful Lake Titicaca, not far away from the peruvian border. We are still heading north and thought to rest here for a couple of days. Celebrating our kind of 10th anniversary, we found the right spot to chill out in the hostel "La Cupula" run by german Martin (from Bochum) who left Germany some 13 years ago. What a lovely guy, so helpfull and he has done an amazing job building La Cupula ("Die Kuppel"). The hostal is a little bit higher up on the hill, hence you get amazing views on the lake and town. I need to find an update the blog with some photos of the work he has done building the honeymoon suites we stayed in. Not that we got married in a hideaway and just spend our honeymoon here (far too cold). We just thought, hey why not. Lake Titicaca is apparently the highest navigable lake, it is huge and once trekking from north to south on Isla des Sol, which is a day trip from Copacabana (very important for the locals as it is assumed that the Sun was born here..or did i get this one wrong), this place reminds me more than any other place of Croatia. The lake looks like the Adriatic Sea and the shore and islands just look like the many islands on the dalmatian coast. Once, we managed our 3 to 4 hours trek across the island, i was happy that we didn´t manage to book the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu in Peru which was something i really wanted to do, before arriving in South America. Originally a must do, i am much more realistic now and realised that it is hard to even walk for half a day, hence not being able to book the Inca Trail until August as the per day numbers were reduced to 500 per day by the government, was appreciated.

Another funny thing in Copacabana was the car and bus blessing (in front of a huge stunning basilica) mainly on saturdays where the locals spend a fortune, pampering their cars (cleaning it, flowers...the full monty) to avoid car crashes. Not all the steets are as scary as the "Death Road", but i do see their point.

On our bus journey to Peru we bumped into old (ha, ha) israeli friends who recommend to see the floating islands on our way to Cuzco (stop over in Puno as we had 5 hours to kill). Hey, and how glad were we that we had this stop over (see the photo of the little boy). Floating islands (there are about 45 islands in Puno) are inhabited by locals, who basically can´t afford to live onshore, hence they build themselves islands on the lake, which are magic. They just look so cool, cute and amazing. So, for instance, if one family on one island has an argument, they have a couple of solutions. 1. cut the island and split it. 2. take their "straw or kind of bamboo" (sorry probably didn´t listen enough to the guide) house, put it on one of the boats and move to another island. How cool is that ? Reality is of course that the whole story about the Uros tribe is pretty sad. The living conditions are completely basic, they are poor, live partly from tourism and fishing and again, once the sun is in, it is soooo cold here.

Posted by Lejla 16:46 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Rurrenabaque - Bolivia - Jungle Tour

Pampas what are these animals...fell in love with sloths though

sunny 22 °C
View Year Off 2007 on Lejla's travel map.

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Next adventure here we come, off to the jungle. Who would have that you would find pampas, amazing salt lakes, amazon, altiplano all in one country...
Ok, off we went on a TAM plane (small military seater) and wow, a little bit scary to fly from an airport which is on 4000m. 45min later we were in a completely different world. The world of not being cold and being surrounded by palm trees. Nice one. Felt like being back in Asia or something like it. Greeted by our Israeli friends Hadas and Erez, we went straight to our agency to get booked on our 50 USD, 3 days, 2 nights Pampas tour. A couple of hours in a jeep (horrible, far too many bumps), but with nice new company (a danish couple - Mahdis and Filip), we got to our boat which was our new home for the next days, guided by Bismarck. This involved to start with swimming with pink dolphins. Obviously, i didn´t go swimming. The water was just too wet or something else...Nearly all our boat mates jumped in to enjoy the great creatures, but i just thought, forget this, there will soon be some aligators joining this lot, so i stayed safely on board. 3 hours later we made it to the Sunset bar. A bar in the jungle to recover mainly from sore bums and to enjoy an ice cold beer, mesmerizing about the events...beautiful jungle, great birds, turtles, awefull moscitoes. It took us another hour to get to the camp and thank god it was dark, as this camp was back to basics. Yes, there was a shower, but could it be used? The open air kitchen was right next to the river. I didn´t really bother looking in more detail once i saw the beds as there was some kind of a matress and a "used" (meaning bloody) moscito net. Well, Simon bought one on ebay, which is huge and takes most of his backpack (meaning he hasn´t got any space for clothes, meaning he always wears the same clothes...sorry, but i was supposed to turn mean at some point, or ???? ..what was my point, of course we haven´t used the mossie net once.

Ok, back to the pampas. Food was absolutely superb and once we recovered from the basic facilities we enjoyed the adventure, hunting for anacondas (i was nearly left without wellis walking through knee high jungle stuff), listening to howler and cappuchino monkies....AND making friends with alligators next to our kitchen. OH, Fun ! Some mates didn´t dare to go to the toilet in the night...it wasn´t me !

All in all, glad we survived it. Thanks to Cazza i now know that my new nickname "Sloth" is Faultier in German ! Thanks Si for your creativity !

Posted by Lejla 15:00 Archived in Bolivia Tagged animal Comments (0)

La Paz

Death Road Conquerors - here we come

sunny 25 °C
View Year Off 2007 on Lejla's travel map.

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After the remoteness of the salt flats, a rather dull day and a half in freezing in Uyuni, we made it to Ouro via train with our Aussie friends who where nastily robbed via a taxi con (fake tourist boarding the cab, trying to share costs and fake bobbies searching through backpacks and passports...only to wait for the occasion to nick the valuables and cash...very NASTY !!). Our journey wasn´t that exciting. We were just not dropped in La Paz - our bus driver just decided to drop us just outside the city, hence it took us another short taxi drive to make it to this most amazing city i have ever seen in my whole life. Not necessarily, because of the beauty, but rather the location of this 1.2m inhabitants city. La Paz, the hightest (non official, i think) capital city in the world 3.700m above sea level, the airport a staggering 4.000m above which is just 400m below the Altiplano. So, no need to think about any sporty activities here as pure walking makes you feel much older...much much older. Actually, in between i thought i was an old 95 year old granny walking with a stick. No kidding..walking up the steps felt like a major achievement to conquer. Anyway, more interesting stuff about La Paz. Great, cheap, colourfull markets with Alpaca jumpers, leg warmers, hats and gloves..anything you want. As you can imagine, all the tourists look the same, like walking lamas, but it is great stuff for nearly no money. We are still hanging out with our Aussie friends and are more or less staying in the same Hotel Majestic (freezing rooms) with our Israeli friends and booked ourself on another downhill moutain biking tour called the "Death Road" or the "Most Dangerous Road of the World". Why ? Well, cleary the approximately 50 deaths per month added to the creation of this notorious road. These days it is used to 90% by mad foreigners racing down the jungle as the Bolivian Government has finally built a new road, hence these days only mad tourist die there as they are too stupid and play around not paying attention to the steep fall of more than 300m in places. Unfortunately Simon and I couldn´t do the trip on the same day as i was ill (yes, poor Lejla). It was supposed to come one way or the other - as everybody panics about food in Bolivia, big times. We just had really good, tasty food, but anyway - somehow it got me....(Mum, no trust me, i am really fine now, nothing to worry). Anyway, lay flat for 48hrs and when i was fit again, it got Simon somehow. Hence, we spent over a week in La Paz, even partying one night, sightseeing, shopping, eating, eating, eating (one of our new favourite food are Dutch Bitterballen..can´t wait to go Holland). Best invention, just funny that i had to travel to Bolivia to try this dutch speciality again. ...not offence to any Dutch readers here. Last adventure was the Valle de Luna. These are conical shaped rock formations, close to one another, giving the impression of a lunar landscape. I wouldn't know. I have never been to the Moon ! Instead of just walking around these, you can actually hire a quad bike (or ATV) and race around the whole are with stunning views on Mount Illimani, the Altiplano, some small remote villages (with heaps of rubbish everywhere) trying to be the next Schumi !

Posted by Lejla 16:51 Archived in Bolivia Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Bolivia

Uyuni Salt Lakes - wow just amazing

sunny 15 °C
View Year Off 2007 on Lejla's travel map.

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Where should i start, it had to come, one way or the other, the time to say good bye to organised travel, brilliant food, 1st class buses and the time to see different people concerning their looks, go back to basic food and a little bit of chaos where you queue in front of the only ATM in town at 2.30 pm and you are told every hour to come back and you start a party at 5pm when you manage to get money as nobody is interested in libras or as we call them english pounds.

BUT, i am jumping again. We made it to Bolivia, got to the border crossing at 6am and head to Tupiza, one of the gateways to the immense, amazing, stunning Uyuni Salt Lakes. The flats are the biggest in the world with 12,000 m2 and attract hordes of backpackers, mainly Israeli - not that we mind.

Tupzia is the place to make friends either 2 or 4 to be able to go on the 4 day Jeep Tour through the amazing Bolivian altoplano basically highlands. This incorporates being stuck for most of the 4 days in the Jeep, but being rewarded by ¨some of SA most stunning landscape¨. And it is true. Once we hooked up with our 2 aussie mates from Sydney, Claire and Mariana, we get to see deserted villages as there is no more silver, colored lagoons, llamas, flamingoes, volcanoes, desert and a lot of salt, once we make it to the salar on day 4. Other highlights include the ´Hotel de Sal´ we stayed in, the other nights we stay in very basic refugios which have electricity for 3 hours a day, no hot showers - well we booked an adventure trip and thats what we got.

In places, we make it up to 5000m above sea level and some of us need to pop one or two pills not to go mad and avoid more altitude sickness. Apparently 1 in 2 or 50% get sick, this time it is not me. Thank God !

After day 4 we get to Uyuni, the other gateway to do the salar. After freezing for several days, despite the blue sky you can see on the picis, next stop is La Paz, still on 4000m, but we might try to get flights up north....heading for hot beaches or so, or not !!!

Posted by Lejla 13:01 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (5)

Argentina - heading north to Mendoza and Salta

Time for adventure and good wines

sunny 26 °C
View Year Off 2007 on Lejla's travel map.

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Mendoza and Salta likewise as Patagonia is a must for most Argentina visitors and the climate is great and there is much to do.
Already the journey from Chile (8hrs on the bus during the days) takes us through amazing landscapes and country side.

Mendoza is the wine factory of Argentina. 80% of the countries production is here. Most of it is not for export as the locals just finish it and hence, next to horse riding, paragliding we decide for the half day winetour. Some funny people on the tour, but managed to buy a bottle for $15 (15 pesos = 2.5 pounds) which can´t be bought other than in the United States due to a binding 5 year contract the bodega has signed...there is is sold @ 70 dollars the bottle. Probably the poshest bottle we had our entire life. Being shattered after a 18 hrs bus journey to Salta we just had it in our hostel and i needed a nap afterwards. Not used to alcohol anymore or...

Well, the local drink in Chile was the Pisco sour. Kind of a grappa, served in a prosecco glas with lime juice and some nice sugar topping around the glas. Nice one ! BUT defininitely lethal as so yumm !

Activities and Mendoza: just arriving we had the same spiel as in many other places that the first day the weather is dissapointing and hence we don´t get a feeling for the place after day one. Day by day the weather improves, we extend the stay in the hostels and end up being nearly 5 days in Mendoza and even 7 days in Salta where it is finally boiling hot. What a difference as we got so jealous that you lot were doing BBQs in April in the UK, Switzerland and Germany.

Day1: To enjoy our time we rent bikes and go to the local Zoo which was really nice as it is located in the huge San Martin Park

Day2: Horse Riding. How lazy are these boys. Still a nice and easy trip as we ride up and down some nice mountains. I must admit i was looking for a little bit of action on these nice animals, but it wasn´t meant to be. Saw some really ugly dog though, apparently a mexican creature, not sure whether the locals were just taking the micky telling us chistes..ANYWAY, it the story made perfectly sense to us and we were entertained.

Day3: Winetasting (1 industrial bodega, organic olive oil factory - bought some nice stuff for my skin here, organic bodega). This is only a half trip and really interesting as well. Originally, we intended to do the bike & wine tour, but somehow nobody we met was raving about it, hence we gave it a miss

Day4: Paragliding. Now this was a hightlight as it was the first high adrenaline activity for me. Flew from approximately 1600m, luckily my instructor was a professional who is parapeting for more than 24 years and also flies a lot of competitions. We did some acrobatic stunts and some attempts of freefalls. Wasn´t scared which helped and really loved these 20min in the air, but must admit, i am done on it for a while as i got a little bit sick and wasn´t sure whether i would make it...(not pucking). It is the same as sea sickness and if you have ever spent any time on a boat with me, you know what i am talking about.

All in all, we leave Mendoza on a high, even with some little disasters on hostels....not worth boring you on those though....

Next stop SALTA
Didn´t really think to much about Salta the day we arrived. Yes, exactly, it was too cold again. We intended to stay for a couple of days, but once we changed hostels, met some nice people, waited for good weather, we did change our mind. There is loads to do here and no wonder this is one of the MUST places for people to visit. The original plan was to hire a car and do our first tour, driving ourselves to Cachi and Cafayate, but we headed for some adventure first.

Canopy, gosh this is so much fun. It is also called something similar to tyroling or so. Basically it involves you being connect to a zip and a carabiner and off you go from one moutain to the other crossing rivers, lakes or hills. We did this tour with an Argentinan super woman and her daughter and managed to converse in castelano for 2 whole days as they were on our other trip as well. Well, we got invited to an asado, BBQ, when we return to Buenos Aires, so it was worth the pain.

Downhill moutain biking. Again what a trip, we just loved it. We drove to the national park, stopped at the top and headed downhill for the next 5 hours, occassionally stopping to gain breath, have some food, have a chat and finished 45km later on a complete high !!!

The other days we just spent lazying around, Simon checking about every bar whether they would show the ManU Champions League game, which they lost so badly after all the hoo haa b4hand,...going for runs pretending to get fit and eating far too much in particular red meat, but in hinsight that was a wise thing b4 heading to our next adventure, BOLIVIA

Posted by Lejla 13:25 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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