Unfortunately our last impression of Peru was Puno (Peru’s side of Lake Titicaca) which frankly neither of us were impressed by in any way. It was dusty, dirty and touristy. I wish there was something endearing about it so we could have had a fond farewell but all it left us with was the flu and altitude sickness.
Copacabana was our first stop in Bolivia and a welcome respite! Although we were both ill we quickly fell in love with the relaxed and generally calm pace of the town and despite it’s geographically proximity to Puno (3 hours along the coast of Lake Titicaca) it was a far cry from it’s Peruvian counterpart.
We spent one of our three nights on Isla del Sol (sun island) but because we were so sick we spent most of the time in bed and enjoyed the views the island had to offer from the sanctuary of our quaint little hostel.
Next stop after Copacabana was La Paz. We were ill for a lot of out time in La Paz – both altitude sickness coupled with the flu made it hard to breathe let alone climb a flight of stairs. La Paz being built in a valley – and our room being on the four floor- we were easily exhausted and succumbed our bodies to rest and spent our days in bed watching Spanish dubbed films.
Not feeling ourselves, we were feeling homesick and seeked home comforts so found a good ol’ British pub (Oliver’s Tavern) were we treated ourselves to fish & chips and shepherds. We also managed to catch the latest Batman flick and it seemed both worked! We felt better for our last night in La Paz. We celebrated by enjoying some Bolivian wine washed down with some amazing Bolivian music complete with a couple of renditions of Buena Vista Social Club’s Chan Chan.
La Paz ended up being a little sanctuary regardless of it’s chaotic heart and made us miss London in so many ways. Luckily for us Oliver’s Tavern was showing the Olympic opening ceremony complete with a pint of english breakfast tea (impossible to find anywhere!) so we could pretend to feel like we were in the midst of all the fanfare in London and surrounded by other fellow Brits in a home away from home.
SAMAIPATA: A LITTLE SLICE OF HEAVEN
Our plan from La Paz was to head towards the central valleys and the eastern lowlands to enjoy some of the warmer climates and green tropical lowlands. Our first stop was Cochabamba where we planned to stop for a couple of nights as we’d heard wonderful things about its vibrant and youthful atmosphere and because it was known as the ‘city of eternal spring’. However we arrived at 6am after 10 hours on a bus and with nowhere to stay. The previous night it was the Olympics opening ceremony and instead of sleeping off the shots of rum we were doing we decided it would be a much better idea to catch an overnight bus to Cochabamba the same evening. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, upon our arrival the balmy draw of Cochabamba was suddenly lost on us.
We found a cheap hostel (I’m still dubious it was a hostel) and slept for a few hours until lunchtime before walking around and deciding that it was just not what we were looking for. We needed to find a route out and we needed to get to our next destination, Samaipata, as soon as possible. That ended up being the 9pm bus.
A 12 hour overnight journey to Santa Cruz that night followed by a 3 hour trufis (shared taxi with 7 other passengers) to Samaipata, we found ourselves at midday standing with our backpacks in only what we can describe as a little slice of heaven. It was everything we had imagined South America to be and look like. It was beautifully quiet (the daily siesta means a temporary midday closure for 2 hours except for the town’s market which is always full of life).
Our hostel was perfect. A little two tiered cabin with our bed on the top and living quarters at the bottom, complete with balcony and hammocks to relax in. £14 a night for us both including breakfast.
Samaipata is nestled in a valley and is surrounded by rugged, forest covered mountains and somewhere we’re planning on staying for 4-5 days. Our balcony views are breathtaking and for the first time in our trip we’re just going to enjoying reading, writing, listening to music and immersing ourselves in the town’s daily pattern of doing very little other than watching people that pass by. It’s strange how we’ve not done more of that until now but there’s plenty of time to make up for it here.
Next stop will be 10 days in Sucre (Bolivia’s white city which has banned neon signs, much to my delight!) for Spanish classes and volunteering at a children’s nursery…