Bolivia page 1
Copacabana (20/4/07 - 22/4/07)
Bolivia is a place I have only previously known through reading about its dire hyperinflation in the chapter "Bolivia's high altitude hyperinflation" in Jeffrey Sach's book "The End of Poverty". It is a completely landlocked country but maintains an active navy which does exercises on Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake at about 3800m above sea level. Copacabana is on the banks of this lake and is the launching point of tours to Isla del Sol, (according to one story) the birthplace of the Incas
I'm not sure why, but I found this quite funny.
Ok, be down at the dock at 8:30am, got it. Get on the boat that says "titicaca".... riiiight.
The boat trip out was quite pleasant for its 90 minutes. Part of the Isla del Sol can be seen in the background.
There are various archaeological niceties on the island including a rather underwhelming museum. Outside though, there were many things including this "sacrifical" table. Any volunteers?
This is the sacred rock. If you look closely, you can see a puma in it (those Incas loved their pumas). I have highlighted the details in red so that you may more easily see the features of the puma.
We arrived at the north side of the Island at about 10:15 and immediately began seeing sights. After that, we began the 3-hour walk to the south side of the Island, where I would catch my ferry back to Copacabana. This didn't afford very much time to grab any lunch so I got kinda hungry along the way. Either because of hunger pangs or the altitude (or perhaps the corruptive influence of the people I was walking with, which included two Irish girls) we decided to "eat" one of the surrounding Islands. Here I am, just having a little taste.
Do these guys look familiar? Yes, they were some of the people who trekked to Machu Picchu with me. They were trekking from the south side to the north, I was going from the north side to the south... there is only one road linking the north and south... guess what happened.
The view of Copacabana from my hostel. If it weren't for the high altitude, one could be forgiven for thinking that this was some kind of tropical paradise.
A shot down Avenue 6th of August, one of the main streets in Copacabana... from the window of my bus to La Paz.
If you look at a map of the area I was in, you will see that the quickest way to La Paz is to drive to the other side of the small peninsula where Copacabana is located then take a boat across Lake Titicaca. But what about the buses? You say... well, they can take a boat too.
La Paz (22/4/07 - 25/4/07)
The world's highest capital... and not just because of all the cocoa leaves. La Paz is surrounded by stunning snow-capped which seem to look at you and say "altitude? you ain't seen nothin' yet".
Closer to the centre of La Paz, the city is hectic and very smoggy. Combined with the altitude, I'm surprised anyone even bothers to smoke cigarettes here - you need all the oxygen you can get.
Salar de Uyuni (26/4/07 - 28/4/07)
Next stop: Salar de Uyuni - Salt Flats. The bus that would take me there would take 10 hours... luckily they seem to have all bases covered.
The town of Uyuni, launching pad for all tours of the salt flats, has some strange artwork which punctuates its hexagonally-tiled streets. Reminded me a bit of Melbourne actually (the art, not the tiles).
What do you do when you have lots and lots and lots of salt? Bricks sounds like a mighty fine idea...
This friendly chap is a close relative of the Llama and the Alpaca - the Vicuña. Vicuña wool is horrendously expensive and very fine and warm.
The Salar de Uyuni is what remains of what was once a very very large lake. As you can see here, it hasn't *completely* dried up. The terrain is difficult and one generally doesn't venture out this way without a well-equipped off-road vehicle.
In many sections of the flats, the salt is piled up in these curious conical piles to dry out for later use.
This is what one sees most of the time - a vast seemingly endless expanse of blindly white salt. It is said that one can make out the curvature of the earth here... although I wasn't able to.
Somewhere in the middle of it all, there is a hotel made entirely of salt. Well... mostly. Really redefines the meaning of "table salt" ha... ha.... ha....
They even had a small wading pool. I wonder if it was a salt pool or a chlorine one...