Day 246 to 269 Asuncion to Cusco via Bolivia
04.08.2011 - 25.08.2011 15 °C
Height of the second largest Christ statue in the world (Cochabamba, Bolivia) =40.4m
No. of hours on spent on Bolivian buses prior to Uyuni = 65
No. of hours in Bolivia in total prior to Uyuni = 240
Height of 'second' highest city in the world (Potosi, Bolivia - Lonely planet claimed it was the highest but apparently there's one higher in China) = 4692m
Height of highest capital city in the world (La Paz, Bolivia - finally a first!) = 3760m
So, just to tie up loose ends. The 'chop' that I was heading for in Asuncion is the local brew and a really smooth tasting lager. We had a chilled out time in Asuncion and it was well worth popping into Paraguay if only for a short time. Next stop Bolivia and the first of 5 night buses in the space of 10 days. In all likelyhood I'll need a reconstruction of my tail bone when we return! Pauline says she has more 'cushioning'! Obviously, I'm keeping quiet on the subject.
After a 24 hour journey we arrived in Santa Cruz. The next day after generally doing nothing touristy (going to the cinema and eating ice cream) we eagerly awaited another night bus to Cochabamba. After getting all excited at our luxury seats due to shelling out for Bus Cama (nearly fully reclining seats) we were left scratching our heads when turfed of the bus by the police due to protesters barricading the road out of the city. Weirdly, after plenty of gesturing from the other traveller locals, they decided a smaller bus (with cardboard walls and breeze block seats) would be allowed through the blocade. Unsurprisingly we were stopped at the blocade. Only after bribing the protesters and having to pay extra for petrol (apparently) were we taken on a route around (dirt track, potholes and no street lighting hence further bum pain!).
The highlight of Cochabamba was mainly the cheap pizza restaurant we found, oh and the statue of Christ towering above the city that's bigger than Rio's and only second to one in Poland!
We did get chatting to professional gambler, Rui, in the restaurant but no worries Pauline didn´t get dragged along into his world. The next day we took another night bus to Sucre which was no more comfortable. The city however, was a pleasant suprise. Cracking colonial architecture and great food made our stay all the more pleasant.
Moving on to Potosi was less of a mission, only a 3 hour day bus this time. The difference there though was the altitude. Just for punishment we chose a fourth floor dorm room and we were in heart attack territory by the time we got to the top. The hostel was a friendly place with a great brekkie but ruined by a group of intruding gallic blokes who arrived in the middle of the night and checked into our dorm. All eight of them seemed to have a cold and a 'tos' (cough in spanish, hence the title) and kept us up half the night. This might not have been so bad had it not reminded us of an aussie 'tosser' who kept us up in Puerto Iguazu with the worst cough i´ve ever heard.
Our arrival in Tupiza was a little startling. We are more than accustomed to the odd delay, especially on nocturnal transport, so when we were turfed off the bus at 4am (3 hours earlier than thought), we were a little dazed and confused. Luckily for us, a wisened hostel owner had his door open and lights a blaze to attract us from the deserted main (only) street and after brief negotiations and greetings we were tucked up in bed in no time. Tupiza was an inspired stop off and soon became on of our most memorable destinations. The main reason was our Wild West horse riding experience which is now firmly in our top 10. The pictures just about do the scenery justice and we felt like Butch cassidy and the Sundance kid for sure. This area is allegedly where they met their makers in the end.
Discovering train tracks and a real life train station was a delight as we couldn´t face another night bus. Change of transport secured we headed off for Uyuni on board the Expreso del Sur. Another late night arrival and this time not such a welcoming hotel, FREEZING! Enough of an excuse for Pauline to stay in bed all day under the covers while I wandered the streets in search of snacks! The next day we joined forces with a Spanish couple and two Uruguashos and toured the amazing Bolivian Salt flats. Our compadres were great company and further helped us with our growing spanish vocabulary.
More clichéd 'perspective' photos in the gallery. We had a great couple of days and the scenery was unforgettable. Shame about the plastic rubbish creeping in to such a precious area though.
Back on our preffered method of transport we railed onto La Paz via Oruro. Hassle free journey and we were glad to have spent time acclimatising first as La Paz truly is breathtaking. Unfortunatley, or fortunatley depending on your view, we misunderstood directions to the best viewpoint in town and ended up taking the local bus way past it. We like to think we found a better photo op though, what do you reckon?
We are now in Cusco having crossed the border in a bit of a rush to keep our appointment with the Incas. We loved Bolivia despite travelling a bit fast through it and it making our skin drier than a Llama's fart. We plan to pop back after Machu Picchu and explore Lake Titicaca and surrounds. We are so excited about the Inca trail which starts tomorrow. Our backpacks are full of coca leaves so we'll be fine!