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Bolivia

Bolivia - Copacabana, Lake Titicaca & Isla Del Sol

18 °C

We made it to the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. We took a bus from La Paz and arrived in the evening just in time for sunset - wow the sunsets here seem to last for hours...The lake is massive and it felt like we´re on the edge of a very calm ocean as opposed to a lake.

Copacabana had a good feel to it, a mix of tourists in one area and locals in another next to the little bustling market. Nice chilled foreshore restaurants, and great views from the nearby cerro (hill) lookout.

After a couple of nights we took the boat out to Isla del Sol (Island of the sun), and after a few hours cruising we arrived at the northern town of Challapampa. A small village with many farms and animals roaming around....pigs, donkeys, sheep and llamas! We found a gorgeous place to stay right on the beach, literally a few steps from the water all for the mighty sum of $3.50 each.

We explored ruins further north including a fascinating labyrinth, ate with some locals and polished off a bottle of red on the beach as the sun went down... The next day we set off on a 3 hour walk to the south of the island to a small town called Yumani, passing through small towns, multiple makeshift soccer pitches and even more donkeys....cue ¨EEOOOORRRR¨ we´d never actually heard donkeys make this sound until we arrived here..they don´t stop! Here we found another room with a great view over the lake and another stunner sunset, before heading back to the mainland the following day...feeling like we´ve done just a little bit of walking at altitude in preparation for the Inca Trail...!

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Bolivia - Coroico

27 °C

Coroico a very scenic spot to stop for a few days. With a population of 2,500 people it´s set overlooking a lush valley, surrounded by green mountains as well as Coca and Coffee plantations. It´s sub-tropical climate was a great relief from the harsh cold and dry climate of La Paz.

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We stayed for a few days in a resort with a restaurant, pool, garden, our own room with a balcony and stunning view ($10 each per night!). Filled in our days taking in the view, walking into the town centre for a ´menu del dia´ (typical Bolivian offering, hearty soup, main and dessert full of health!) and watching the local soccer teams on what must be the best placed soccer pitch in the world!!

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Bolivia - La Paz

17 °C

After a cold yet comfortable overnight bus, we arrived in La Paz, the biggest city in Bolivia, set in a valley at 3,800m, spectacular.

Bustling city, lots of local dress and one of our favourite things about Bolivia, great street food! We had a great time in La Paz, exploring the narrow winding streets up to Killi Killi lookout (not an easy climb at this altitude!), the plazas, old buildings and the quirky witches market.

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We used it as a base for our Ride and River trip as well as a few days in Coroico, at the end of ´Death Road´. The Worlds Most Dangerous Road is the road where buses, cars and trucks battle to avoid the sheer drops that plung 400m without barriers.

We rode down it, so much fun. It goes for about 66kms from 4,700m to 1,200m. The first part is asphalt and makes up part of the new safer death road, so you could fly - Paul had a GPS on his phone and clocked 70km/h, passing buses and trucks (all safe though!). The dirt section is a little scarier, but amazing - slightly more control, concentration and LESS speed needed.

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We haven´t quoted any companies or hostels on this blog but if you do Death Road, make sure you do your research. There are some agencies that offer poor quality bikes. We went with Barracuda, very good.

At the end, we decided to stay in Coroico for a few days...set at 1,700m it has a perfect climate...somewhere warmer before going back up to La Paz.

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Bolivia - Sorata to Rurrenabaque "Ride and River"

25 °C

Brilliance...best experience probably possible (if you are a mountain biker)!

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A five day trip starting at bleak icy mountain tops at 4,700 metres, down to sea level at the edge of the Amazon. The trip started off with 2 days downhill on a mountain bike covering about 120kms...it was pretty tough riding for a non-biker over loose gravel, sharp turns (on cliff edges...without barriers) so Lucy quickly learned how to control a mountain bike! And it was absolute heaven for Paul especially as the route provided us with breath-taking views across valleys as we descended down into civilisation again. We stayed in some small towns along the way, where we were cooked some tasty local meals.

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These adrenaline packed days were then followed by 3 days down river on a dug out canoe boat, including jungle treks, swimming in rivers and waterfalls! Fantastic food from our cook who served us while we were putting downriver towards Rurrenabaque in the Amazon jungle.

Rurrenabaque is a small town on the bank of the Beni river. There are a few gringo hang out spots where we grabbed some food and drinks with people from the trip as we bumped into them around the little town! We also attempted the hot and sweaty climb up to the lookout with great views back across the lush scene below!

To avoid the hellish 20-35hr bus ride back to La Paz, (depeding on how often the bus breaks down or gets bogged) we decided on the flight, leaving from humid tropical weather and returning to the high altitude cold climate of La Paz in just 40 minutes as mountains literally soared past the window in our small plane!

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Bolivia - Sucre

20 °C

The capital of Bolivia is Sucre, white buildings, big plazas, vibrant atmosphere and sat spectacularly in a valley. We loved Sucre and it became our home for 2 weeks, even joining our hostel owner for a tasty home cooked lunch with her extended family.

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With good company in our hostel we kicked back, took on some more Spanish lessons and played numerous games of 500 over numerous bottles of wine... our daily routine involved heading to the local market for a massive fruit salad with 12 fruits, yoghurt, condensed milk, coconut, oats - all for about $1.

Sucre seems to be the city in which all northbound backpackers from Chile and Argentina converge as we ran into more people than at home. Good times and a great place to relax.

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Paul thought we were in Jurassic Park on our trip to the Dinosaur Park just out of town. So he followed it up with a day trip to Humaca hiking for 7 hours in the Bolivian mountains to see footprints up close, incredible.

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Bolivia - Potosi

13 °C

Potosi, one of the highest towns in the world sitting at over 4,000m. We felt the altitude on our first walk uphill, arriving at our hostel gasping for air and dizzy, with tingly fingers as we got used to the low levels of oxygen!

Potosi, winding narrow streets, old buildings and monasteries from the 16th century, was once the richest town in South America due to a big silver mine. Now the silver is mostly gone but people still mine there looking for other minerals. 12,000 men, no organisation, no regulations, no safety, no lights, no ladders, all crawling, 8 levels and it gets to 45 degrees celcius in the deeper areas.

These guys use their own gear, picks, dynamite (which you can buy on the street), and go for it. They chew cocoa leaves, drink 96% alcohol and smoke cigarettes. It´s infested with aesbestos and other chemicals and even kids work there. Most only live for 10-20 years after they start working in the mines. People die from accidents constantly. Gobsmacking.

You can do tours of the mine and see first hand the conditions these men and children work under, but we chose not to due to the dangerous conditions. The movie The Devils Miner is a must watch which is a documentary that follows a child working in the mines in Potosi.

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Bolivia - Uyuni

14 °C

People say you should only visit Uyuni if you have to...and considering it is right at the monumental salt flats, most people do!

After the high of our 3 day trip, we didn`t expect a lot. However as we explored the town, had dinner and drinks with good people from our tour, we enjoyed our night in Uyuni. The local market was great despite nearly being clocked over the head by an old local lady for almost taking a photo of her food stand.

Our first Bolivian hospitality experience was memorable...6 of us ordered some soup and pizza and started playing cards. It was warm and had a good atmosphere, the only problem was the 3 hour wait for our food! Luckily the company was good.

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Bolivia - Salt Flat Tour

12 °C

Setting off from San Pedro De Atacama in Chile we quickly reached an altitude of 4000m within half an hour and arrived at the Bolivian border crossing. It was quite the introduction to Bolivia. A small building in the middle of desert, with a burnt out bus lying next to it!

After some tasty breakie on the side of the road we entered the national park and visited Laguna Blanca (white), Laguna Verde (green) and Laguna Colorado which was a startling red colour and filled with pink flamingoes! We also stopped off at a natural hot spring where we had a dip and took in the spectacular scenery.. Then we had an introduction to the first Geysers we have ever seen...hot pools of mud and steam spitting up into the air. Hitting the highest point of the tour just under 5000m we were all back in the 4 wheel drive pretty quickly as the smell of sulphur spurting out of the Geysers was pretty overwhelming.

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After filling up on some coca tea and tasty brekkie there was an improvement to our altitude-induced headaches, we headed off on day 2 of the tour. Good company and a cautious driver set us in good stead for a day of driving in our 4 wheel drive. We saw desert, mountains, a few more lagoons and Valles de Rocas...with thousands of year old lava deposits sprawled out across the valley. Tonight we had an interesting homestay in a village, with dinner and lots of card playing!

Last day and we headed straight to the Train Cemetry outside the town of Uyuni. Great old train wrecks left to rust away! Then it was onto the finale...the Salar de Uyuni the world´s largest salt flat! Amazing crisp whiteness stretching out as far as the eye can see...not comparisable to anything we´ve seen before! After lots of fun group pics we finished up pour tour with lunch in one of the Salt Hotels, which made completely of salt, bricks and all!

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