Mad Max, Mentalville and more

Another bloody early start for the bus. First bus was from Puno to Copacabana, just over the border into Bolivia. It was very gratifying to hear the Americans moaning at the border, as they had to pay a $50 entry fee, whereas it was free for everyone else. This is a common theme in most of South America. I was desperate to say something to the whining yanks along the lines of “Well, that’s what you get for just pissing on every other country with no respect for human life whatsoever” but Charlotte wouldn’t let me. Let’s just hope my smug look said it all. So it was then a quick lunch in Copacabana (the second Copacabana we’ve been to this trip) before onto the bus to take us to La Paz. And of course a new beer!!! In fact we’ve had three new beers today! Great excitement! Shortly after setting off we had to debus to catch a ferry across the tiny strait on Lake Titicaca. A grand cost of 20p. The coach went on a separate ferry, though ferry is a grand name for it. Basically it was a wooden barge barely afloat. We celebrated our crossing of the lake by buying Pringles and M&Ms. The next 2 hrs were another stunning ride along the 4000m plateau. (Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe was the chosen album for this, and fitted it perfectly with its majestical anthems). The foreign office website had warned us of regular protests disrupting the roads. Not to be disappointed, we soon found the road barred by rocks, stones, and concrete pipes, with a handful of protesters hanging around, as well as plenty of riot police doing nothing. Not to be deterred, the lorries and coaches were simply driving into the adjacent field and around the blockage! Brilliant! There’s no way that would happen in England! On the outskirts of La Paz is another town, El Alto. This was like no other place. I could only describe it as being like a post apocalyptic town struggling to rebuild, and failing, yet home to 147 trillion people, all scrabbling for survival amid the detritus of desperation. Reminded me of Mad Max. Then, through that madness we came to the edge of the plateau, and what appeared to be a crater the size of London, which housed La Paz. The first view of it from above was incredible. Every single person on the bus was speechless. It. Is. Enormous. Yet built in a ridiculously steep valley 400m below the plateau top. Three cable cars connect various parts of the town, and the traffic is even worse than elsewhere we’ve been, both for density of vehicles, and craziness of driving. Our bus driver simply hurtled through, towards, and at everything. How we didn’t crash I have no idea. La Paz. Would be more aptly named Mentalville. But what a place! It is absolutely buzzing with life! And more so now with the elections this Sunday so there are fireworks constantly going off, and a rock concert currently in the square adjacent to our hotel with about 20,000 people there. Weeks ago we had treated ourselves to a “boutique” hotel for this stop, as we thought we would deserve one by now. Even so, it’s only £50 a night, but this is big for our budget! The room is fantastic, and we like it so much that we’ve booked a third night here. We saw three crashes on the road outside in the first 5 mins! Also this gives me chance to go and ride Death Road on Friday, the World’s Most Dangerous Road! 40km of downhill dropping over 3,300m in vertical height!! So I’ve just booked that. Charlotte, being in possession of more than 3 brain cells has declined to do it….. So I’ll be the only old git among all the kids. Still, with my blonde hair I should fit in well! (Must remember to take my denture paste….) We went to a brilliant cafe for dinner, Swedish owned! We’ve found that looking at Trip Advisor really does save us time in choosing places. I used to be dead against Trip Advisor, but it’s serving us very well, and never lets us down. On the way back to the hotel we did a spot of sun glasses shopping. Those who know me will know that I always wear Oakleys (genuine ones!) but my current ones are scratched to bits so I desperately needed to buy new ones. Plenty of Okleys here but no Oakleys! Anyway, I found some decent enough Adidas ones for £2.50 and Charlotte bought some Ray bans for £5.50! (Typical that even when buying knock off gear Charlotte still goes for the most expensive!) All in all, after only 5hrs in Mentalville we bloody love it! What a town! We’ve a big guided tour tomorrow that takes in the slums and even the prison! Laying here in our luxury room, we’re already very excited! And did I mention that you can smoke inside the bar downstairs??? Heaven! Finally, the currency here is the Bolivian Bolivianos, or known as BOB. I like a currency called BOB. Reminds me of someone, somewhere, from my past….. (Despite there being 10 BOB to the pound, I just know Charlotte is going to struggle with the conversion….)

(On a sad and serious note, we read yesterday that there had been a crash in northern Peru the day before, involving three tourist coaches and a lorry. 37 dead so far. Why is nothing being done about the standard of driving in these countries?? I know I joke about it, but it really is horrendous.)

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Hello Bolivia!!

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Beautiful Lake Titicaca

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The wooden barges used to ferry the coaches over!!

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Us with old sunglasses!

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Stunning scenery

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Us with new sunglasses! And hints of a worrying touch of redness in my hair! Please God, not ginger! Anything but that!!

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My first Bolivian beer, La Paceña!

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A different Paceña, and Ch’ama – beer made with coca leaves! Rocket juice!

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