I left Madrid for my 10pm flight to La Paz, Bolivia. I will tell you this now…never fly with Bolivian Airlines. 16.5 HOUR FLIGHT WITH NO IN FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT. I kid you not. Fortunately my lucky stars were shining down on me and I got 3 seats to myself. An Argentinian woman asked me in Spanish if I wanted to swap seats. I’m not sure on what planet this would ever happen and I just said soz I don’t speak Spanish and went to sleep. When we arrived at the airport she proceeded to tell everyone around us in the passport queue that I must have slept really well and gave me evils when I was yawning. And so I arrived, at 8am in La Paz.
My first thoughts of La Paz were that it’s very crowded, very high up and very polluted. I was exhausted and slept for a few hours when I arrived then woke up with a nose bleed. Car horns incessantly beeping, people everywhere…it’s very intense when you’re jet lagged. My heart was pounding from the altitude and I was not in a good way. Later that day I met Hannah and we went to the cable car to admire the views. We tried to just ride backwards and forwards on it but the woman waa not having it. Hannah and I shared our life stories within half an hour of knowing one another, discovered a shared sense of humour and that was that. Bffs.
The next day we left La Paz to travel to Peru. Here’s a photo of us at the Peruvian border.
We stopped off at Copacabana on the way to get food. This place is like a weird Peruvian Blackpool where reggae music blares out of the shops and there’s these ancient looking abandoned swan boats on the lake front. Eventually after a really long time we arrived in Puno.
The next day, at an even higher altitude, we took a boat to explore the floating islands of Uros. There are 150 floating islands on the lake and they are manmade. They’re really bizarre. On the one that we visited 3 families lived on this tiny island that you could walk across in ten steps. They had one room for all the family to live in, and that was about it. The island smelt strange and I felt claustrophobic after only a few minutes. I spent my time on the island watching a little boy who lived there and wondering about his life. He had nothing to entertain him and was just running back and forth across the tiny length of the island. It’s pretty crazy that people live on these teeny tiny islands made of reeds. They do not know about personal space!
That afternoon we arrived at Luquina, an island where you can stay with a local family if you take them some gifts from the mainland. I took oil, rice, apples, tuna, sugar and pasta. When we arrived we got to dress up in local costumes and dance around which was hilarious and fun. We looked fetching I think. It was pretty surreal dancing around wearing 4 skirts and shaking knitted pom poms.
After this fun and frolics I went to my new family home with Marie and Natalie. Marie is from Austria and Natalie is from the US. We were led there by 5 year old Andre, who quickly became the highlight of the experience. Having spent a couple of months away from children I found myself so happy to hang out with him and his little sister Nicole.
They were about my level in Spanish and sense of humour and we had a great time together. Marie, Natalie and I ate dinner with the family, muddled through in Spanish (Natalie is a lot better than me) and then at 7.30pm…it was bed time. After a quick photoshoot and a spider cull in the room we actually all went to sleep and slept for nearly 12 hours…the best night sleep I’ve had in a very long time!
The following morning we woke up to help with the daily tasks around the place. The morning view was very relaxing.
We led the animals down to graze on the fields. Natalie had a battle of wills with the donkey, I tried to control the sheep, Marie tried to get numerous dogs to leave her alone. We milked the cows, we shelled beans, we peeled potatoes and we made cheese. My observation…women do all the heavy lifting in this community. It’s exhausting but you feel a sense of achievement about things, I mean look how happy I am about these beans!
During the morning we somehow managed to lock the key inside our room and poor Andre was given a boost up through the window to retrieve it… I also managed to smash a clay pot and Marie broke the toilet so all in all it was time we left before we destroyed the entire house. It was such a rewarding experience and made me think about the things I worry about day to day in comparison to these guys. It’s so quiet and peaceful on the island but again I’d go stir crazy!
After a 7 hour bus journey, with Hannah spewing up next to me the whole way, we arrived in Cusco. Cusco is very touristy and lots of people use it as a gateway to Machu Picchu. I decided to use the opportunity to visit the Rainbow Mountains, a place I’ve been lusting after for a while. I went on a girl’s day out hiking in the mountains with Elicia, Lucy and Rachael. We had the best day and what a spectacular landscape. If you ever go to Peru you have to go here.
4850m above sea level and I felt so peaceful! Two nose bleeds and an amazing picnic later we set off to return to Cusco. It was an extremely bumpy ride which was really unpleasant. And so the first week in South America is over already. It’s been amazing and I’ve met some truly lovely people. A very girl oriented travel group which has been refreshing (rife with boy issues grrrr), lots of amazing landscapes, lots of bumpy buses and a variety of illnesses. Oh just as an aside when you get on a Peruvian bus they take your photo so they can identify everyone on the bus in case of an accident. Apparently there’s a lot…morbid. Tomorrow I set off to begin preparing for the Lares Trek which will take me all the way to Machu Picchu for Saturday’s sunrise. I’m excited because I love hiking but who knows what will happen with the altitude…day 2 is meant to be a killer!