Laguna, Lagunas & More Lagunas

It was another early start for us and after breakfast on the salty tables and chairs, we threw our bags in the car and squashed ourselves in for more driving. The landscape had changed dramatically since the white and blue views of the salt flats from yesterday, though it was equally as beautiful. Similar to what you would see in a western movie, with huge rocks sprouting from the dirt ground and tumbleweeds floating past. Several volcanoes sat in the background and our driver said we were super close to the border of Chile – exciting!

Our first stop was a spot in the desert where we warmed up in the morning sun and looked out at the giant volcano of Ollague that surrounded us. It looked like we were back on the worn out tourist trail again, as there were other cars pulling up all the time. Jumping back in the car, we raced off to our next stop in hopes of beating the other cars.

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From salt flats to deserts

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We reached Laguna Cañapa and were instantly in awe of the beautiful sight. The reflection! The flamingos! The mountains! I’d expected to be a little disappointed because the photos I’d seen on the Internet looked so saturated and fake but the colours in the water were on point and just as pretty in real life. I was super excited to see flamingos as I’d never seen them before and they didn’t disappoint, there were hundreds!

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Laguna Cañapa
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Team GoPro and our group

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We continued onto our next Laguna, the Laguna Hedionda, which wasn’t as pretty but had way, way more flamingos. Here we had lunch and laughed at the signs advertising Wi-Fi for 10 Bolivianos. It seemed so pointless to have Internet this deep into the desert but I guess some people really have to check their Facebook. After lunch we headed to the next stop, Laguna Chiakorta and while it was absolutely gorgeous, my tummy was starting to disagree with me. Unsure why I was starting to feel bad, I ignored it and trying to enjoy the stunning drive to our next stop – the Arbol de Piedra. This famous rock formation is known as the ‘Stone Tree’ and sat at around 7 metres high. It’s shaped from the strong winds carrying sand and eroding the soft sandstone structure. Just another funky bit of nature in Bolivia, this country was full of it! We climbed up a giant rock and looked out at the view. By this time I really was feeling awful and just wanted to crawl into a ball but I didn’t want to let it get me down.

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This was bloody hard to climb up!
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Arbol de Piedra – so not in the mood for photos

We drove onto our accommodation for the night at Laguna Colorado, which was the windiest place on the planet! We had the option to walk out to the lookout of the Laguna, but all I wanted to do was sleep. Forcing myself out the door with the others, we walked the half an hour to the lookout where I took photos and tried not to get blown away. I don’t know what brought on the wind, but it was intense! After getting back to the hostel, I hid in bed and prayed for the pain in stomach to disappear. I hadn’t been this sick since Christmas in Vietnam two year prior and I’d forgotten how much it sucked. My night was just as bad and I skipped dinner and spent quite some time wrapped around the toilet bowl. Not exactly how I planned my last night on the trip! Luckily a couple of girls from the trip had some pills to knock the sickness out of me, hopefully!

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Laguna Colorado
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So many flamingoes!

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The next morning I woke up feeling better but not 100%. We had woken up at the ridiculous hour of 5am to reach the geysers and hot springs by sunrise. The geysers were pretty spectacular in the early morning light – the smell however wasn’t. It was absolutely freezing so I spent most of the time watching the geysers from the warmth of the car. Team GoPro was definitely losing its enthusiasm; four days of desert living had worn us out! We drove onto the hot springs and quickly changed into our swimmers. As hard as it was to strip down, once we were in the hot springs I felt instantly better. Definitely worth getting naked for! We got to stay in the hot springs for about half an hour before having to haul ourselves out and back into the car. Time was against us a little as we had to catch a bus from the border at 9:30am. A quick stop at Laguna Verde, which was the most hyped up Laguna but definitely the least impressive and we were back in the car for the final time.

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Early morning geysers

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Cold, sick and still smiling .. Just
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Last efforts of Team GoPro
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Morning swims in the hot springs
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Laguna Verde, not so impressive.. And no flamingoes 😦

Racing to the border we got our passports stamped and were loaded into the bus to San Pedro de Atacama. There was only the four of us from the trip heading to Chile, the rest of the group were heading back to La Paz so we said our goodbyes and headed for Atacama. On our bus we met up with our friends from Copacabana and made plans to stay together in Atacama.

The bus ride took about half an hour to reach the town of San Pedro de Atacama, where we were officially stamped into Chile – I had now ticked off 29 countries! Woohoo! We found a hostel just outside of the main part of town where we were the only guests and promptly took over the entire place. The view from the hostel was awesome and looked out at the mountains in the desert. We wandered through the town of Atacama and bought supplies for dinner. It was a very touristy town and way, way more expensive than Bolivia, which was a shock to our wallets! We spent the rest of the washing clothes, catching up on the real world and relaxing. After four solid days of touristing, it was time to chill out – I could already see that we wouldn’t be doing too much in this place!

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Afternoon views from our hostel

J. x

Day 2 – Volcanic Hikes & Cactus Islands

One of the main reasons we booked the four-day tour through the salt flats was because we wanted to spend a night on the salt flats. The usual three-day tour whizzes you through flats and you don’t get to enjoy the unusual landscape at the different times of the day. It took a lot of effort to rise from our cosy beds, in our four-bed room that we were squashed into, but the enticement of a beautiful sunrise was too much to resist.

We bundled up in layers of clothes and took blankets out to the flats where the silencing was deafening. It was truly wonderful to be the only ones out here, yesterdays tourist trail was long behind us now. The horizon was just starting to lighten up as we set up a line of GoPro’s to capture the sunrise on time lapse and then settled into the salty ground wrapped in blankets, waiting for the bright sun to emerge. As the sky started to lighten and the different colours started to peek past the line of the horizon into the sky, we were too busy being awestruck by the incredible view to take photos.

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Morning light

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Salt flakes and sunrises

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Dancing in the new light

As the sun rose, so did the temperature and suddenly all the layers weren’t so necessary. We ran around like idiots in the new days light and did a couple of impromptu dance videos before heading back to the hostel for breakfast. Filling up on bread and jam and coffee, we chucked on our hiking boots and set off to hike up the volcanic mountain before our car arrived to pick us up.

Tunupa Volcano is the remainder of the geological activity that created the Andes Mountains many millions years ago. It’s layered look was reminiscent of Peru’s Rainbow Mountain, but I have to admit, wasn’t quite as spectacular! Nonetheless, it was still a remarkable piece of landscape and I was eager to hike closer to it. It took us about three hours and after a couple of detours, we reached a spot with the best view of the volcano. We climbed to almost 4,600m above sea level, which is no mean feat for a morning’s effort! Feeling the effect of the high altitude, I sat down and looked out at the volcano trying to catch my breath. I’d been at high altitude for a couple of weeks now, but it didn’t mean I was well adjusted. Having spent the last twenty-three years just 500m sea level, it still was a shock to the old body being up this high!

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Looks like clouds, only they’re salt flats!

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Alpacas everywhere – I just love them
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Tunupa Volcano

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Alex and I at Tunupa

Time was against us unfortunately, so we took one last look at Tunupa volcano and headed back down to pack up and be ready for our car. The hike down was much quicker but tough on the knees. I swear sometimes I’d rather continue on uphill than going downhill, it hurts way less! We reached the hostel in record time and packed up our bags ready for a noon departure. Of course, Bolivians run on a time similar to Peruvians and it was close to an hour before our car actually arrived. By then we were starving and practically leapt on the driver once he parked and set up our lunch. Breakfast had seemed so long ago!

We met the new members of our group and exchanged the usual traveller stories as we hooked into pasta, chicken and salad. A French-Canadian girl, a man from Mexico and another man from Hong Kong made up the rest of our newly formed group and we piled into the new Land Drover, ready to bond over 80’s disco music. We sped back across the salt flats for an hour or so until we reached Isla Incahuasi, otherwise known as Cactus Island.

It was easy to see why it was called Cactus Island, I’d never seen so many cacti in my life! It cost 30 Bolivianos to go onto the island but being the cheapskates that we were (we prefer the term economical!) we decided to walk around the island instead. This ended up being a fantastic idea as the other side of the island was completely free of people, making us feel like yet again we were the only ones on the salt flats. Of course, the solidarity brought out the silly side in us and before you know it Team GoPro was in action again. We ran around taking videos and getting severely sunburnt and also running into two friends of ours from La Paz! Small world on these salt flats! Making plans to meet up again, we continued around the island until we reached the start. This was the place for the infamous perspective photos that Uyuni was so famous for but after some failed attempts from yours truly, I chose to just watch others look ridiculous as they posed in weird positions.

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Isla Incahuasi – the Cactus Island

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Crazy formations on the salt flats

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Team GoPro!

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We jumped back in the Drover for the two hour drive to the salt hostel. To break up the drive, we stopped somewhere along the salt flats for some final pictures and videos. Once again, the unusual landscape got the better of us and we ran around on the flats like losers for the final time. It had been a fantastic two days, in this place I’d been wanting to see for the longest time. I still couldn’t comprehend that I was actually here – it felt like a dream! But the salt on my hiking boots and the sunburn on my shoulders definitely confirmed my attendance on the flats. It really was a dream come true.

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Team GoPro and the trusty Land Drover, who took us many miles and put up with our awful singing
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Alex and I with Ricardo and Valerie – enjoying the last moments of the salt flats

After the final photo shoot, we piled back into the Land Drover (still unnamed!) and drove off the salt flats and into the desert, where we reached our place for the night – the infamous salt hostels. Now I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting, but after staying in a cave hotel in Cappadocia, I had kind of thought it would be somewhat similar. However the very normal looking little cabin wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It didn’t look very salty and unusual, it looked like every other house I’d seen recently, just lighter in colour. Though on closer inspection, I realised than the entire interior was indeed made of salt. The tables, beds, walls and chairs were all salty – and yeah I licked it just to test! Dinner was served on the salty tables and we sat on the salty chairs. Of course, many salty jokes were shared over dinner and the novelty didn’t wear off even at breakfast the next day.

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Sunset at our accommodation for the night
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Salt beds, salt walls and salt floors!
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Salt everywhere!

Tired and hot from the sun and salt, I caved and paid 10 Bolivianos for the best shower I’d had in days. Actually the only shower I’d had in days! Clean and ready for bed, we shared a couple more salty jokes before retiring for the night. Tomorrow we change up the landscape and head for the desert – excited!

 

J. x

Uyuni Salt Flats – Day 1

With Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain and La Paz crossed off the official bucket list, I was ready to tick another big item off my agenda. The Uyuni Salt Flats was one of those places I’ve dreamed of being at for a long time and finally my time had come! With my travel buddies Alex, Tommy and Sean, I caught the bus from Potosi to Uyuni.

The bus ride in itself was gorgeous, huge valleys and massive mountains surrounded the road and as we got closer to Uyuni the landscape changed dramatically to desert and the excitement started to build up inside of me. We arrived into Uyuni right before sunset and were ambushed by people selling salt flat tours. One lady sold us with her offer of free accommodation for tonight so we followed her into her office and bargained for the best price. Deciding to do a four-day tour we whittled her down to 900 Bolivianos, which covered everything – that’s about $165 for four days, not too shabby!

We were led to the hostel, which ended up being the same hostel we intended on staying at anyway and dropped our gear off to go find dinner. Tired from the bus ride we opted for the easy option and found a restaurant and ordered some (expensive) burgers. As the tour didn’t leave until 11am the next morning, we decided to just head back to the hostel to chill and organise everything in the morning.

The following morning we packed up, grabbed breakfast and supplies for the trip (cookies and chocolate!) and met our tour guide and car. We had scored and gotten a Lexus four-wheel drive however were told we would only have her for the day because we were joining another group tomorrow. Naming her Sexy Lexie we chucked our bags on the roof, hooked up the speaker and began our journey! The first stop was the train cemetery, which seemed to be the first stop for every trip as there were about forty other cars there! The four of us had nicknamed ourselves Team GoPro because we were all proud owners of GoPro’s and selfie sticks so as soon as we got out of the car, Team GoPro was rearing to go!

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Playing at the train cemetery

If you could imagine four adults running around like dickheads with cameras attached to a stick than you’ll get an idea of how we looked. Not ones to be ashamed we climbed all over the decrepit trains and took more selfies than Kim Kardashian. It was a little hard to capture the train cemetery without a bunch of tourists milling around but we tried our hardest. Afterwards we jumped back in Sexy Lexie and drove onto the next stop.

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Train cemetery
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On the road to nowhere
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Day One = too much energy to tourist properly

This next stop was a repeat of the train cemetery as we parked up next to another row of four-wheel drives. My dreams of a desolate salt flat were slowly fading as I walked through about six peoples photos. This stop was a quickie, just to look at the salt mounds. Luckily our car was a little slower than other groups so after we waited 10 minutes of so we only had to share the place with a few other people. Despite the hordes of tourists, it was magical being on the salt flats. This weird and wonderful landscape blew my mind and burnt my retinas – going without sunglasses is a big rookie error!

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Salt mounds left out to dry for collection
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Yoga pose on point

Jumping back in the car, we drove for another 15 minutes or so until we reached our destination for lunch. Another place overrun by tourists, we managed to park out the back and enjoy our lunch looking out at a quiet salt flats. After lunch Team GoPro assembled and proceeded to take about another thousand photos and videos. The excitement of finally being at the salt flats was too much for the four of us and we couldn’t contain ourselves. However I think after a day or two of this intense GoPro-ing we won’t be so enthusiastic.

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Sahh happy to be here!
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Spreading the Nicholas Cage love around the world

After lunch we jumped back in Sexy Lexie and drove for an hour and a half across the salt flats to our hostel for the night. It was a crazy feeling speeding across the flats, with only one another car passing us in the that time. This was starting to feel more like an adventure, not like being herded around like sheep. We arrived at the hostel are the place was desolate. The small village was squashed between the salt flats and the large volcano that sat behind it. We waited in the hot sun until the owners of the hostel came to greet us. I have to say; Bolivians aren’t the most welcoming of people. I guess they aren’t as used to tourism as the other countries are. After experiencing the warmth and friendliness of the Peruvians, it was hard to adjust to the somewhat frosty reception we had been receiving from the Bolivians. Nonetheless, the hostel owners took us in, showed us our rooms and left us to it. We had all afternoon to ourselves, with the only thing on the agenda being to see the sunset. With all this free time and space we did what any self-respecting tourist would do – run around like losers on the empty salt flats. We took our GoPro’s and music speaker out to the desolate flats and danced and ran around like small children. We were the only four people on this part of the salt flat and the unusual landscape brought out a wacky side in all of us. As silly as we must have looked to the locals, it was one of the most fun afternoons I’ve had.

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Alpaca love
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So cute!

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Team GoPro – dropping an album within months
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My first flamingo sighting!

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We headed back inside for tea and bikkies and to layer up for the upcoming sunset. While it was scorching hot during the day, the chilly weather comes to play at night. We rugged up and got the camera ready for an epic sunset. Racing out just as the sun dropped, we watched as the sky turned into a kaleidoscope of colours. The blues, the pinks, and the purples – it was gorgeous! The salt flats glowed under the last embers of the sun and it truly was one of the most surreal sunsets I’ve seen. We headed back in for dinner once it got dark and then headed back out later that night to witness the unreal sky, full of so many stars that even Coldplay would be impressed. It was funny to hear the others gush over the star-filled sky, as it was a rare occurrence for them to see some many because they are from the city. I forget how lucky I am having grown up in the country where a starry sky is the norm. Not saying I wasn’t impressed though, the clear sky had brought on a seriously cool lightshow. We headed back inside frozen from the chilly air and headed to bed. Tomorrow we were planning to hike up the volcanic mountain and see some more of the salt flats, so we needed some serious shut-eye!

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Salt flat sunsets

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Stay tuned for tomorrows events!

J. x

Sucre & The Man-Eating Mines of Potosi

After a hectic four days of partying and tourist-ing in La Paz it was time to escape and give the liver some time to recover. Five of us caught the night bus to Sucre, which is Bolivia’s second largest city but much more quieter than the country’s capital. The night bus was uneventful but long. I had the joy of sitting next to the toilet for 12 hours, which was a delight on the nose!

Reaching Sucre at around 10am, we stumbled out of the bus tired and starving. With no idea where to go for a hostel we were approached by a guy offering an apartment for 45 Bolivianos each a night (about $8AUD) Bargain! We snatched up his offer and caught a taxi into the city centre where the hostel was. The apartment was perfect for the five of us; we had a kitchen, two bathrooms and our own little balcony. It was going to be tough to go outside! However we were ravenous so we dumped our bags and heading into the main plaza in search of breakfast. Taking the easy option we went to a café and ordered a massive breakfast to celebrate our good luck with finding the apartment.

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Downtown Sucre

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I’m not going to lie here, after breakfast we promptly headed back to the apartment and did nothing for the rest of the day. All of us were exhausted from the crazy time in La Paz and the grey, dreary day in Sucre wasn’t motivating us to go and play tourist. We only ventured out to the supermarket to cook up a feast for dinner that night and proceeded to buy the entire shop!

The following day was pretty much the same as the day before. It was Easter Sunday but it sure didn’t feel like it. I had managed to find some Easter eggs in the supermarket so continued my tradition of chocolate for breakfast! We lazed about for the morning before taking a little stroll through the city. It was a gorgeous little city, very European and clean. Much less hectic than La Paz but the overcast weather made it feel kind of depressing. While it was nice to just hang out in our apartment, Tommy, Alex and I were getting itchy feet again and decided to catch the bus to Potosi the next day, planning to meet the Austrian sisters in Uyuni.

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Sucre
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Playing tourist is hard work

The bus ride to Potosi was about four and a half hours through beautiful scenery and windy roads. We made friends with some Israelis on the bus and ended up booking the same hostel as them. Potosi is one of the highest cities in the world (4090m above sea level) and is famous for its silver mine, Cerro Rico. The main reason for travellers to come to Potosi is to go into this infamous mine which is exactly what we planned to do the following morning. I met up with Sean, my friend from Cusco and the four of us had pizza for dinner and planned our next few day’s activities.

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En route to Potosi

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I was a little hesitant about the mine tour, I hadn’t even heard of Potosi before meeting my friends and was only going there because I couldn’t say no to a weird experience like this! The following morning we met with our tour group and got kitted up into safety gear and driven to the miners market. The first part of the tour is to buy the miners some gifts. There are several different things you can buy such as beer, coca leaves or soft drink, but there are also some other things you can buy – such as dynamite and hard liquor! Stocking up on gift – yes we got dynamite; we were loaded back into the van and taken up to the entrance of the mine.

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Ready for the mine!
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Just casually playing with dynamite
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Miners ready!
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Cerro Rico – The Man Eating Mine

There are about 10,000 people that work in the mine and most of them will work there for their entire life. It’s common for miners to spend up to six to eight hours inside the mine, often smoking and drinking whilst working. Entering the mine was a little scary as you step into the damp, dark tunnel and am only relying on your head torch to guide you.

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Looking way more confident than I was feeling!
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Going in :0

Our first stop was at ‘El Tio’, the statue that the miners make offerings to. It’s common practice to pour beer or alcohol firstly on ‘El Tio’ and then on the ground before taking a drink. This is to give thanks to the God’s and is an important ritual for the spiritual Bolivians. We gave our thanks and continued on the tour. Walking through the dark tunnel, feet sloshing in the mud was depressing, yet eye opening. I couldn’t believe that the miners could spend such long hours deep in the mine; I’d barely been in for 20 minutes and was ready to get out.

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El Tio and all the offerings
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Thank god for gumboots – walking deeper into the mine

We continued on, crawling through narrow parts and climbing down precariously hung ladders. At one point I was terrified because we has to shimmy through a small hole and climb down a rickety ladder next to huge, dark holes. I hadn’t given a thought about safety regulations for the mine – I’d just assumed it would be safe-ish because it’s a tourist attraction. However I swiftly reminded myself that I was in Bolivia and there is no such thing as safety regulations and no efforts made in keeping the tourists alive.

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About 1km deep into the mine

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This part was way more terrifying than it looks!

This was definitely made apparent when we stopped and our guide asked if anyone bought dynamite. Tommy said that he had and our guide asked if we wanted a demonstration on how it worked. While I wasn’t particularly fond of being close to an explosion, I didn’t want to miss out on this chance. The others in the group were in the same boat and we agreed meekly to watch the dynamite explode. Our guide set up the dynamite and lit the fuse, he said there was about 3-4 minutes before it would go off and handed it around to us for a ‘photo opportunity’. Starting to panic slightly I wanted him to throw this thing far, far away. After we had passed it around he made us wait while we went deeper into the mine to stash the dynamite somewhere. He returned and told us to wait patiently for the bang. I was super nervous by this point and cowered behind Tommy and Sean with my fingers in my ears. We waited and waited and part of me hoped that he’d just diffused it and tricked us but as soon as I removed my fingers from my ears there was a massive BANG! And the walls around us shook. Pretty sure I squealed like a girl as my life flashed before my eyes, but we were safe. I was shaking like anything as we laughed, it had scared the crap out of all of us but it was funny that in a way we had dodged potential death.

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Setting up the dynamite
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I may be smiling but on the inside I was freaking out!

The group was quick to move from this spot and we continued on the tour through the narrow tunnels. We met some of the miners along the way and exchanged the gifts we had bought. They were sad looking men of all ages, aged by the years of working underground. It was hard to comprehend that they spent most of their lives in this deep, dark mine – definitely not my idea of a good job. However they are paid well and some have no choice but to work here so they can support their family.

After about three hours of climbing through the mine I was ready to leave, I don’t usually get claustrophobic but after the scariness of the blowing up the dynamite and negotiating the tricky ladders and wooden bridges, I had enough. We watched the miners fill a cart with rocks and then we were led to the exit. Let me tell you, I have never been more excited to see the sun! Jumping for joy (literally!) we celebrated survived the man-eating mine of Cerro Rico. It had been an interesting experience and I wasn’t sure I liked it, but I was glad I had witnessed it.

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Our group
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Having a go at pushing the silver carts

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Stalagmites for days..
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WE SURVIVED!!

After the mines we had to rush back to the hostel and get changed out of our dirty mining clothes and head to the bus station. We had a 2pm bus to Uyuni and it was nearly 1:30pm. Starving, we picked up some stale empanadas and chocolate from a shop across from the bus station and jumped on board. We were bound for Uyuni and the salt flats, something I was so excited for – this is why I wanted to go to Bolivia in the first place!

J. x

Livin’ Loco in La Paz

One of the fun parts of travelling is negotiating prices of things. In Bolivia it seems you can haggle on just about anything so the following morning we (Alex, Lottie, Matthias and I) haggled our way onto a cheap bus to La Paz for the bargain price of 18 Bolivianos (about $4AUD). The bus ride itself was long and bumpy but certainly entertaining in parts. One particular part was when we had to cross a river and learnt that instead of a bridge, they simply drive the bus onto a wooden barge that doesn’t look it would carry people, let alone a huge bus!

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In a bus on a boat- help!

Inside the bus we watched in amazement (and terror) as we slowly chugged along the brown water to the other side. This was only the beginning of our understanding of Bolivia’s attitude to safety, or their lack of. We reached La Paz after zig-zagging down the mountain to the city centre. It was an awesome way to be introduced to a city, the views from the top of the mountain were amazing and I was so excited to finally be here! The bus dropped us off close to the centre of the city so we decided to walk to our hostel, which turned out to be a massive hike! We planned to stay at the notorious Wild Rover hostel because after a couple of chilled out days in Copacabana, it was time to party again!

We reached Wild Rover hot and sweaty and thankful they had some beds left for us. Dumping our gear in the rooms, we settled in and then went for exploring around the city. La Paz is crazy, messy and chaotic. Crossing the road is a potential life risk and playing dodge the Bolivian is the norm. It was quite more developed than I imagined but the poverty-stricken way of life was definitely apparent. Finding a café on top of a six-story building, we had coffee and watched the city go by down below. It was a constant flurry of activity and car alarms. After the caffeine hit, we went out in search of alcohol and finally came across a supermarket, which not only had ridiculously cheap alcohol but real food! I’d been shopping in mini-markets for the past week or so and finding a proper supermarket was a dream come true! I stocked up on the necessities (peanut butter and bananas) and we headed back to the hostel to start the night. I won’t bore you with details of the nighttime shenanigans but it was a massive night.

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Looking out at La Paz

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City buses

Waking late the next day we decided to do the afternoon free walking tour of the city, which highlights some of the main parts of the city. Starting in the park right by San Pedro jail we learnt all about Bolivia’s most scandalous and corrupted jail. San Pedro is infamous for having an entire society inside the prison where prisoners pay rent, have jobs and ample amounts of freedom, largely due to the mass of cocaine sales in the city. There are about 1,500 inmates in the prison, as well as many of their families and additional guests. San Pedro is similar in how it runs to Kerobokan prison in Bali where the rich run the prison, can afford to pimp out their cells and roam freely and the poor are squashed into tiny cells with several others. It’s a well-known fact that cocaine is produced within the jail and sold to both the inside and the outside of the prison. It used to be possible to visit the jail and see what life is like on the inside, but these tours are forbidden now after several tourists were attacked there.

We continued onto the produce markets, which was a mess of colourful fruits and vegetables and bantering vendors. All sorts of things were available at the market and I made a mental note to return. We walked on to El Mercado de las Brujas, the famous witches market, that weren’t as scary as the ones in Lima. These markets were aimed more towards tourists and had the dried llama fetuses and everything, but mainly focused on selling souvenirs such as those popular alpaca sweaters every single tourist has (including yours truly!) We finished the tour at the food market where I found my new favourite food – papa rellena! These stuffed potatoes are produce from the heavens I tell you! Potato stuffed with meat, spices, eggs and olives and then deep fried and smothered in aji sauce. Paired with a fresh peach, banana and mango juice and its basically the best lunch ever!

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Produce markets
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Oh to be an electrician in Bolivia!
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Starting point of the walking tour
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Streets of La Paz
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Witches market
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Dried baby llama foetuses, supposedly to bring good luck and fortune
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Ronnie, our walking tour guide
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So. Many. Souvenirs!

After the tour we headed back to the hostel to chill out for the afternoon and gear up for the night ahead. Firstly however, dinner was needed so with Alex and her pal Tommy, I headed up the street to a local pollería. Essentially a chicken shop, we had a feast of pollo, noodles and salad – all for 15 Bolivianos! Bargain! Heading back to the hostel ready for another big night, let me tell you that we definitely succeeded in doing just that. I did visit the infamous Route 36, otherwise known as the ‘cocaine bar’ whose specialty was cocktails sided with cocaine. I didn’t indulge in the cocaine (you’re welcome Mum!) but I did have an interesting mojito garnished with coca leaves instead of mint!

The next day was half over by the time everyone surfaced so we spent the afternoon wandering through the streets and trying not to spend money at the markets. I was unsuccessful but is now a proud owner of a gorgeous navy alpaca cardigan! Alex and I headed back to the food market for another papa rellena before heading back to the Wild Rover for a nap. Walking around was hard work! Another big night was had by all of us and another visit to Route 36 occurred, it was just the thing to do in La Paz!

Our final day in La Paz and we finally found the time and stamina to go up the cable car to view the city from above. I’d been so caught up in eating papa rellena and drinking that I had forgotten all about what I had wanted to do so badly in the first place! However first we discovered the best coffee in La Paz and possibly South America. The Writers Café was on the same street as the Wild Rover and looked like it should have been on the streets of London. After dying internally from happiness from the delicious coffee we walked across the city to the cable car and paid our 6 Bolivianos for the return trip. As per usual when it comes to awesome views, I got a tad overly excited and nerded out at the glorious view – but it was incredible!

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Up,up, up!
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Best view 😀
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Another day, another GoPro selfie

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Tommy & Alex posing it up

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Spot the tourists

We reached the top and had a look around at the flea markets that were held every Thursday and Sunday. These markets seemed more for the locals and it sold everything from socks to engine parts. We couldn’t find anything we needed so we headed back down the cable car to find something for lunch. Stopping for a chorizo sandwich on the street (delicious!) and followed up by a pizza, we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around watching the new Star Wars movie – which much to my disdain, I actually enjoyed.

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Views from above

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Unfortunately we had to leave for the night bus that night so after saying our goodbyes to all our new friends, Alex, Tommy and two Austrian twin sisters Marina and Isa and I headed to the bus station for our 12 hour bus ride to Sucre. I was sad to leave La Paz; I’d had so much fun in the past four days that I didn’t want to leave but was keen to see more of Bolivia!

J. x

At the Copa..Copacabanaaaa!

After a lazy start by yours truly, I checked out of the Cozy Hostel and headed into the main square of Puno in search of coffee. I had a few hours to kill before my bus to Copacabana left so I wandered the streets of Puno and found a café to spend some time in.

Around 1:30pm I headed to the bus station with some others from the hostel and found my bus to Copacabana. It was only a 3 hour journey through the Peruvian countryside and I actually managed to stay awake for the entire journey for once. We reached the border of Peru and Bolivia and were all herded out of the bus and put through customs. It was an uneventful affair, but hilarious as they make you walk up the hill to the Bolivian border while the bus to drives straight on through. As i stepped into Bolivia and I was super excited to add another stamp to my passport but as I was travelling alone, I had no-one to share the moment with. Sadface 😦

The drive into Copacabana took another 15 minutes and before I could stash my belongings back in my bag I was being ushered off the bus and onto the street. It was nearly sunset and I still had to find my hostel. ‘Safety-first Jess’ had pre-booked a hostel online because she didn’t want to roam the streets at dark in search of a bed and because her parents 10,000km away would worry. It seemed like a good idea in theory however after passing a couple of other hostels on the way to mine,  I was paying way, way too much for it! Patting ‘Safety-first Jess’ on the back, I forked over the credit card and called it a luxury treat. Then I converted it back to Aussie dollars and realised I was only paying about $30 for a private room, so I didn’t feel so bad.

Settling into my own room (I had two beds!) I promptly flung open the curtains, took off my bra, emptied my bag on the floor and watched the sun set over the water. This private room business wasn’t so bad after all! Hunger kicked in within 10 minutes so I changed clothes and headed out to explore the little town of Copacabana.

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Beautiful way to end my first day in Copacabana

I’m gonna be the first to admit it, I did initially think that this Copacabana was the one infamous for parties and glorious beaches and had that irritatingly catchy song written after it. Though I was quickly mistaken as learnt that the famous Copacabana was the beach in Rio, not Bolivia. Ahh well.. The Bolivian Copacabana was a little seaside hippy town that’s main purpose was the starting point for those travelling to Isla Del Sol. It’s laid-back vibe is alluring and before you know you’re running on Bolivian time, not really worrying about a thing. I found dinner at a little cafe and then headed back to my private room ready for a solid night of sleeping.

The following morning I slept late again (see Copacabana does relax you!) and reluctantly packed my gear up and changed to a cheaper hostel. This hostel wasn’t quite as fancy as the other one but I had a twin room sharing with another girl for a mere $5AUD per night – can’t complain with that!

I spent the day wandering around Copacabana and just generally chilling out. It had been ages since I’d had a lazy day so it was lovely to just hang out and do my own thing. Late in the afternoon I met a trio of travellers (Alex, Lottie and Matthias) also staying at the hostel so we went out to dinner and organized a trip to Isla Del Sol for the following day. I had the most delicious garlic trout that topped the trout I had on Isla Taquile easily. Bolivian cooking was turning out to be better than I expected!

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Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana
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Streets of Copacabana
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View from the wharf
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Bienvienados to Copacabana!

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The following morning we woke early and grabbed breakfast before jumping on the boat to Isla Del Sol. This island – which translates to Island of the Sun in English – is the largest island on Lake Titicaca and has no motorized traffic. It took about an hour and a half to get there but it felt way longer. The boat was going so slow I reckon I could have swum faster than it! But the views were spectacular. The sapphire coloured water shimmered in the sunlight and in the distance we could see snowy peaks. I may have lost it a little bit, snowy mountains are still a huge novelty for me – I can’t get enough of them!

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Boating to Isla Del Sol
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Snowy mountains! What! How?!
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Arrived – still can’t deal with the snowy peaks

We reached the south of the island and paid our 5 Bolivanos to enter the island and off we set on our hike. We planned to hike across the island to the north side, which was about 8km, and then stay the night. The north side was supposed to be the better place but after seeing the south it had some stiff competition! The start of the hike was an absolute killer – stairs after stairs after stairs, however once we reached the top we were rewarded with a killer view! The lake was absolutely glorious and there was hardly a cloud in the sky, it was a perfect day for a stroll.

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Reached the top of the island and scored some amazing views

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South side of Isla Del Sol
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Isla Del Sol
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Traffic on Isla Del Sol

It took us about three hours to get to the north side. We passed small villages, lots of sheep and lots of beautiful views. I think my favourite was the last part of the hike as we hiked down towards to the north side. The white rocks glowed under the hot sun and made the water seem even bluer. As we got down towards the small town of Cha’llapampa it seemed a little quiet and desolate. After the stories we’d been hearing about how the north side was amazing, we were a little disheartened to find not much happening there. Plonking ourselves down by the beach – which was pretty gorgeous – we took off our shoes and rested our weary feet. Matthias jumped in to test the water whereas the three of us girls settled for sunbaking by the shore. While it wasn’t quite what we expected, it was still lovely to just chill out by the water.

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Across the island
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Making friends (aka trying to steal piglets!)
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Almost at the north side!
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The beach on the north side – super chilled!

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Deciding to head back to Copacabana we just made the last boat leaving the north side. It took an hour to reach the south side where we had to stop for an hour before making the journey back to the mainland. Taking the opportunity for lunch on the south side we had quinoa soup and chicken before jumping back on the boat. Another slow (very slow) boat ride back and we were in Copacabana in time for the sunset. Grabbing a couple of cervezas, we perched up in the sunroom of our hostel and watched the sky turn from light to dark.

Tomorrow we’ve off to La Paz! I’ve wanted to go to this city for so long so I’m super excited!

J. x