Travel Story «La Paz (Bol) - Copacabana (Bol) »
18 October 2005
Last Update 24 October 2005
Well, the last time you heard from us we were heading North to La Paz from Cochabamba. It´s an 8 hour bus ride but you don´t feel it because of the UNBELIEVABLE scenery along the way (some photos up). As alot of you probably already know La Paz is the highest city in the world at about 3.8KM above sea level so the altitude sickness was bound to kick in for us. We had been at 5KM above sea level during our salt flats trip in Uyuni but that still didn´t matter cos we had been back down and had to go up again. So....we spent most of the 8 hours on the bus chewing a bag of coca leaves (the plant they get Cocaine from) hoping that this would help...it helped some but there was no escaping the headaches and breathlessness and at times dizziness... Anyway, it was dark by the time we arrived into La Paz and it was an incredible sight! La Paz is basically this huge city in the middle of nowhere. It sits at the bottom of a bowl like shape, surrounded and completly enclosed by huge mountains that are grossly overcroweded with make shift housing from the bottom of the city/mountain right up to the very extreme peaks! It was dark now and all we could see from the bus were THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of lights that brilliantly outlined the huge bowl like shape of the city. I suppose you could describe it like sitting in the center of a huge bowl of tiny marbles, just looking up all around you at a 360deg wall of lights..it´s crazy!
From the bus terminal we made our way to "The Torino Hotel" which the Lonely Planet described as "THE" central backpackers hangout, backpackers central. We were all hyped up with the description cos we wanted to meet some new people to go out with but unfortunately we found that it was far from backpackers central and it was quite hard to bump into any travellers. This was only Strike 1 for the lonely planet for the whole time we had been in South America so we didn´t mind too much...
The next morning we woke up completely nailed with the alltitude! Headaches, nausea, dizzy, tired, breathless...the whole package! We basically couldn´t do much at all the first 2 days except mooch around and wait until we aclimatized. When we did start to come around we took a trip up to whats called the witches market...I thought it was just some random name they put on the place like "Beggers Bush" or something but when we got in this was actually a market for WITCHES! Crazy! They sold everything from llama fetices and various potions to frogs eyes and a host of other freaky looking stuff (some photos of this too!). The main aim of heading up to the markets was to get some early christmas presents for the family back home (hope they get there!!) and to buy a guitar for me!! Grrrrreat! I bought an excellent, handcrafted, beautifully finished, beautifully sounding, acoustic guitar and a quality case for it for the oh so expensive price of 49euro! This guitar back home would probably cost 200+ so I was a happy camper. I´ll pick it up when we return to La Paz after the inca trail...
The next day was the Ireland Vs Switzerland match and it was due to kick-off at 2:45pm Bolivian time so we spent from 9am until then looking for anywhere that might be showing the match...NO CHANCE...Disaster with a capital D! What made things worse obviously was when I check the net 2 hours later to discover that Ireland are once again not going to make it to the world cup....roll on 2010.....
That night we found a Quality restaurant and the first "proper" chinese since we left Ireland. The "Emmy" chifa restaurant on Av 20 de Octobure...great stuff! Definately 1 that should be added to the Lonely Planet! Anyway, after this we headed up to an English bar called Olivers Travels (amazingly there are NO irish pubs in La Paz!). An English guy we met in Iguazzu Falls, we met again in La Paz earlier that day and he had said that tons of travellers hang out there so we went... It´s a nice enough bar with the football on most of the time. We couldn´t believe it when we walked in that we ran straight into an Israeli guy called Eran that we had met loads of times before...first time in Iguazzu falls, then again in Villa Tunari working with the animals and now a 3rd time in La Paz. He´s an extremely sound guy and Myself+Corona have become good mates with him since Villa Tunari. So that made for a good night anyway and Eran was with a load of other people he had met from the hostel he was staying in across the street. We left Olivers Travels and went to a great dutch run pub called Cafe Sol y Luna. After a few there we all headed to one of the biggest clubs in La Paz Ram Jams...and ram jammed it was.....a tiny club with as many people as possible packed into all giving it loads! Really good night with the gang there and ended up getting home around 4am and I went to bed feeling a little achy for some reason....
Aches weren´t the half of it the next moring I woke up with full blown flu!! Disaster!! I had felt a bit strange the past day or 2 before but put it down to the alltitude...,now I literally couldn´t move from the bed,the worst flu I´ve ever had in my life! We were supposed to leave La Paz that day on a 2pm bus for Copacabana and had already bought our tickets but there was no chance of us going now and of course no refund for our ticket! Corona was great though and went out straight away to look on the net for a top hotel in La Paz to book into so I could recover in style....So when we finally managed to hobble to a taxi and head for the new hotel all I did all day was lie in bed watching the movie channels and sipping whats like lemsip here only I think it´s about 4 times stronger..worked a treat anyway!! Poor Corona was COMPLETELY BORED OUT OF HER SKULL!!
We were already too long in la paz by this stage and wanted to get moving to lake titicaca so the next day we caught the bus to Copacabana were I was to spend another 2 days bed ridden and Corona at this stage was pulling her hair out.... :o)
Copacabana is a very nice lake shore town on the banks of Lake Titicaca. You have to go there to get to Isla del Sol (Sun Island) on the Bolivian side of the lake. Once I was felling better we could start exploring the town...Copacabana has a realy nice HUGE church at the centre of the town were in the 16th century the Virgin of Candelaria (now Bolivia´s patron saint) appeared and what followed was a ton of different sightings and miracles and so Copacabana became a holy pilgrimage site....Now, let me tell ya something freaky that happened while myself and Corona were in the Grotto of the Virgin of Candelaria on our own in the dark, lighting some candels. First I took a photo of the main alter/wall of the grotto and it turned out fine..then...for some reason I decided to take a 2nd photo from the exact same position before I stood up....check out these 2 photos in our photo section because in the 2nd photo you can clearly see a very strange (embyonic egg like) sphere of light over the alter. I can´t figure it out and the alter was wood anyway so I don´t think it could be the reflection from the flash of the camera. I there are any camera experts out there I´d love an explanation!! Check it out anyway!!
Anyway, the next day we booked a (very rocky) boat with Titicaca Tours at 8am to go to Isla del Sol. I mean this was the craziest boat ride ever, it was seriously rocking over and back the whole way for 2hrs and 45mins and every few minutes you would see people dashing to puke....everybody sat in silence for the entire trip!! It´s the biggest of the islands on the lake and theres somne great biews of the lake nd other surrounding islands from the top of it. We arrived at the north tip of the island at 11:45am and spent the ENTIRE day trekking up and down (mostly up!) across the rough+rocky terrain until we got to the south tip of the island for our boat back to the main land (COpacabana) at 4pm.
We had met a ve3ry nice English girl that day called Brooke who was also staying at our hostal (Emperador) so she asked us did we want to go for dinner that night with a South African couple (Chris+Emily) she had met that day...So we said yes and ended up having a great time at dinner getting to know each other over a nice few bottles of wine. After dinner the 5 of us went to a pub here that is the local hippies hangout (Buhoos). After a while there the crazy owners got us all to come outside the pub into the street were they put on a show for us of traditional Hippy music using guitars, sticks, etc and one of the girls starting swinging around huge fireballs on chains, dancing to the music...good show!! We met an English couple Michael+Lucy in the bar after and after Emily,Chris+Brooke had headed home we stayed on with these having the craic. Ended up getting a lock-in with the hippies til 4am and I ended up playing the guitar with them for a few tunes while the bar people (also hippies) kept us topped up with the local drink (have no idea what it´s called but it´s good!!). Anyway, it turns out Emily+Chris and Michael+Lucy are all gona be in BA around Xmas too so we shall see each other again for round 2! Actually that night I got a crazy photo of one of the local wild dogs with a live Guinea Pig in it´s mouth...don´t ask me were it got the Guinea Pig but it made for a good photo (in my sick head!). It´s up in the photos section too..
We have actually also added another story for Peru for the other side of Lake Titikaka (Puno), worth checking out.
Dave and corona
03 November 2005
Last Update 03 December 2010