Thursday, August 13, 2015

and it continues....

Day two in Bolivia: acclimating to the altitude- the hard way (with hills)
Quotes of the Day:
"Which way are the gunshots coming from??"
"I thought Bolivia was supposed to be cheap"
"Coca is not a drug- or the cause of poverty"

8:00am- breakfast of champions= oatmeal, bananas, bread and peanut butter (note- their bread is not near as good as Chile's, it's sweeter and less filling)
9:30am- After trying to catch a micro (bus- like a 12 passenger van really) for a good ten minutes we just end up walking to the first stop on our touristy overview of La Paz. We visit the church de San Francisco (where THE Pope was about 3 days previously), 
the Museo de Coca (describes the local tradition of chewing on Coca leaves, how it is not the same thing as cocaine, the differences and the legality issues), all the handicraft stores and vendors I ever want to see, and eventually we stop in for lunch. The entire time we avoid the street area around the main square because there is a protest going on, gunshots fired in the air (by the police- no violence, I guess it was just getting a little to chaotic for their taste)
1:00pm- Chicken and Quinoa Soup, Llama burger and delicious garlic bread
2:00pm- check out the Witches market, look at some preserved llama fetuses, ignore the storefront owners who attempt to sell us love potions, constipation remedies and herbal supplements
3:00pm- Follow the locals who stream by with ice cream cones in a search for the source (please note- we only had one dry spell without ice cream, when we went to Cusco- all other days included at least one ice cream cone ;)
4:00pm- Look for a bus that will take us to the Mirador, realize the bus is probably not coming to this street and walk two blocks higher (as per the traffic officer's suggestion), and as per usual we ask one more person after we figure that the bus ain't coming to this location either. 

Finally after walking two blocks more we finally see a bus with the name of the street we are pretty sure that the Mirador is near. We reach the hill, jump out of the bus (paying a fair of 30 cents per person) and hike up the mirador. Hike is a strong word but at this point the altitude is killing our lungs just for walking down the street- let alone walking up inclines. 

The view is INCREDIBLE. I know I have said this before but I could totally spend another 5 days in Bolivia. Don't worry immigration man- I'm coming back(;
4:30pm- when we decide it's probably time to head back we encounter a slight problem in our attempts to catch a bus back (they are all full). Eventually we hail a cab, but due to the protests he is only able to take us like 10 blocks down closer to the city so we suck it up, pay our fare of one dollar and 13 cents and walk back to our hotel. Our cab driver tells us that the protests have been going on for about 2 weeks now, and that the citizens are from a small town about nine hours south. Every night they sleep in the streets and the next morning they rally all day for the government to keep their hands out of their work, health and social affairs. 
7:30pm- After a minor meltdown (via yours truly) due to my lack of planning, we find out that our idea of visiting Lake Titicaca are not going to happen and thus I drown my sorrows in food as we head out for dinner. We hit up a nice Italian place, I treat myself to a glass of a Tannat/Merlot red wine blend, and then get oreo cheesecake for dessert. It turned out okay I guess(;

Day Three in Bolivia: Riding shotgun in our favorite form of public transportation

"Can we walk there from here?"
"Give the front seats to the gringas" - smirks all around
"It kinda looks like those drip sand castles we used to make"

10am- After asking approximately four people (I think we have hit an all time record here folks) we find a bus that is heading to Mallasa and thus to the beautiful Valle de La Luna// aka the Valley of the Moon. Although at the time the bus that was waiting around appeared to be incredibly full (not seats except for the passenger seat), the operators of this fine establishment suggested that if we wanted to get to Mallasa that we needed to get in this bus right here, right up in the front seat- both of us. Nothing really surprises me after 5 months in South America, so while Danielle was skeeved out I was just like whatever. We'll be okay. Who needs seatbelts when you can hold hands eh? 

Our bus back was relatively uneventful other than the continual stream of people who jumped on (some when the bus was still moving- reallyyyyy slow- but still!). It wasn't bad until we started going up hill, then the nervousness from Danielle started to rub off on me. 
3:00-4:00pm- take the teleferico (kind of like a ski lift without the snow) up to El Alto, the city that you first land in when you fly into La Paz. It's about 1,000ft higher in elevation and it has a lovely view of the entire valley and all the houses that fill it. 
5:00pm-7:00pm- walk to the Central Parque, catch the bus to the main plaza and find dinnah
new friends
7:30pm- walk home exhausted- we walked 10 miles on this day! and watch some Harry Potter in english on our hostal TV

Travel Day to Cusco DAY FOUR (15 July)
Quotes of the Day:
"Did you check the reviews for this airline??"
"80% tourist, 15% local, 5% women carrying lambs around trying to get you to pay them to take a photo with the adorable little creature"
"I don't think this is actually ice cream"

This day started off with early breakfast, a cab ride x2, checking into our hostal, trying to pay for our Machu Picchu tour but failing when we realized that we did not have enough cash on us. What's more, the ATM would only let us take out $125 dollah at a time and thus we paid a million ATM fees just to pay for the tour and dinner. Then we bought and ate (most of) our crappy ice cream cones (that ice cream flavor could not have truly been passionfruit), ran from the rain, discovered the lack of trashcans present in Cusco and find backroads that demonstrate that there certainly are locals in this town. Besides this area, the entire town seems to be filled with tourists from every country. While Danielle and I both really enjoyed Cusco and it's pretty colonial (Spanish) architecture and quirky layout (lots of one way cobblestone streets)  we both agreed that we could do without the millions of tourists and that Bolivia was better because it actually felt like we were experiencing the culture and tradition of the country, rather than experiencing a disney world of sorts where everyone is essentially staying the night on their way to see Machu Picchu. 

On this day we hit up another artesian market (if I see another artesanal market in the next year I may puke). I resisted to order some local food (Danielle insisted that I would actually be puking) and we managed to spend much more money than we should have. 

I met a chilean tourist which was exciting because it felt like I belonged and wasn't so much of a foreigner(; Although we avoided the sweaters, llama keychains and colorful blankets, we did leave with some dark chocolate, and a duffel bag to lug all of our purchases back to Santiago. 
We realized we were actually in Peru during their independence week celebration!- cue fireworks, parades and dancers
Then we secured our Machu Picchu tour (finally!), ate a great dinner and things started looking up (this was a rough day because at first the tour group couldn't find our entrance reservation for the actual Machu Picchu park and on top of that we realized we had to pay for the tour in cash- even though the ATMs seemed to hate us, we did end up managing to scourge up enough money to fulfill our dreams and go to Machu Picchu- adventure style ;)

DAY FIVE (16 July)
Quotes of the Day:
"Mis Amigos..." - this was the start of every other paragraph spoken by our run of the mill tour guide
"Let's just take a mental pic- k?"
"We cannot connect to your bank right now" -FAIL via ATM
This day was jammed packed of bus rides, spanish guide speeches, ancient ruins, a delicious lunch buffet and learning about how locales make silver jewelry and dye sheep yarn with natural herbs and such 
Check the next post for the re-cap on the last and most important part of this trip which includes that lovely 4 day excursion!

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