The next few days a bit of a blur as neither of us well, taking it in turns to relapse. We crossed the border into Bolivia, probably one of the easier crossing of the trip all of us and Icatha in about 1.5 hours, we were staying two nights in Copacabana but barely stepped out of the room. We did see enough to realise that whilst it may share a name with the famous beach in Rio it has none of the glitz or glamour. Its all about the lake.
Karen did manage to lose a pair of my trousers which fell off the window ledge after being washed. I hope some Bolivian is happy with his find, as clearly it’s a country that needs all the help it can get, the grinding poverty for large numbers of the population pretty obvious to all. Feeling very sorry for myself holed up in the room watching the exceedingly limited English TV channels I did catch Chelsea’s victory over Benfica whilst Karen went out with Vanessa, Heather, Robin and Geoff. On the 17th May we moved on to La Paz and as we were only marginally improving I bought a course of antibiotics for both of us and this eventually seemed to do the trick although Karen was not really well for a good week.
Going into La Paz we did have to abandon the truck under a bridge on the ring road due to protests over pay & pensions and associated road closures which, we were to learn, are a standard form of protest in Bolivia. Kirsten and Rogan had to go back after 6pm when the protests ended to move the truck to a safer parking area. The Milton Hotel was truly funky in that the decoration could best be described as bizarre, clashing colours and sticky backed plastic wallpaper. Apparently is been like it for years, however lovely comfy bed but no heating in rooms meant for frosty mornings as La Paz is at 4,000 meters plus.
Having not eaten well, or at all, for a couple of days we went to Cafe del Mundo for a late lunch of eggs and bacon on toast for me and porridge for Karen. We then headed back to the hotel and bed for Karen as still not feeling too good. Saturday we took a guided walking tour of La Paz including the famous witches market where such delicacies as whole llama foetuses re for sale. tempting as this might sound we preferred to stick to modern medicine………..
Karen had a nice chicken broth lunch which we had with Colin & Jane at the beautiful Cafe Luna and then Karen went back to bed for the afternoon to watch a film as her temperature had returned, feeling much better I went out for dinner with Colin, Jane, Terry and Lesley to a steak restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed my first proper meal in 5 days.
On Sunday finally feeling better Karen joined the gang for breakfast, our first choice Cafe del Mundo not open but found a perfectly acceptable alternative a few doors down. We split up for a mooch around but first booked to go and see the Cholita Wrestling in the evening, Chola are the women who wear the traditional dress and the addition of “lita” means girl, frankly a somewhat optimistic description of some competitors.
This was the day about 10 of the group had signed up to do the Death Road cycle trip, 70Km downhill on some of the most twisty and dangerous gravel road in the world. Most motorized traffic now uses the new road and the Death Road is very much a tourist attraction but still needs to be treated with the utmost respect as accidents do occasionally occur and if you do go over the, unfenced, edge that’s it – you are toast.
The group all seemed to enjoy it – particularly the party bus back complete with copious quantities of alcohol and a stripper pole. Sadly the only topless “stripping” was done by the men, so I didn’t feel too bad about not going :-).You will need to Go look at the blogs of Odyssey, Tony Hays or Lisa Shinwick for the details and photographic evidence.
Karen and I had a light lunch in the most amazing cafe, Angelo Colonial, inside a courtyard on the first floor and stuffed with interesting objects and furniture, collections of old locks, keys, cameras and irons being just a small selection. Bolivia are celebrating the year of Quinoa but it was proving very difficult to find a restaurant that had any – success this time as Karen had Quinoa con Leche, ideal for a recovering tummy.
We had a wander in the main shopping area but everything seemed shut on Sunday so we headed over to the electronics area which we were told was a 7 day a week operation. Primarily to replace Karen’s camera which we believe was left in the back of a taxi during one the transfers and when neither of us was fully compis mentis.
We never made it, as we encountered marching bands and dancers en-route. Turned out it was the “La Festividad de Nuestro Senor Jesus del Gran Poder” and groups from all over the city were taking part. Drinking is a big part of Bolivian festivals and beer stalls were everywhere. There were thousands taking part and it turned out this was only a rehearsal as the actual
event takes place the following week.
We spent a very pleasant, if slightly chilly, couple of hours watching the parade and taking photos – definitely a few camera club contenders amongst the photos.
Then back to the hotel to be picked up for the wrestling, met by a beautifully dressed Chola girl who turned out to be one of the competitors. The wrestling was so staged and badly performed it was hilarious. It really took me back to those afternoons as a child when dad was an avid watcher of the Saturday afternoon wrestling. Men versus women bouts were peculiar to watch but once it became clear nobody was in any real danger of being hurt it was alright. The women invariably won, having been apparently wracked in pain mere seconds earlier. The ref was a villain and there were dubious decisions, illegal moves and the inevitable crowd favourites.
There were a few idiot tourists in the crowd – German students I think – who threw eggs to the complete displeasure of the locals but otherwise it all went OK. Our “VIP” tickets included a snack and a drink; we passed on the extremely dubious looking hot dogs – mindful of our still delicate tums – and opted for tea and popcorn instead. All good fun but the semi open arena was paralysing cold so Karen and I skipped the last bout and retired to the relative warmth of the bus. A bonus on the way back to La Paz was an
interesting commentary in excellent English from the guide.
We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and headed straight for The Steak House which was deserted when we arrived but heaving half an hour later which helped to warm us up. Great timing on our part as service and availability of food and wine seems extremely variable in Bolivian restaurants. Menus apparently being more of an expression of ambition than actually what is available thus the later arrivals being limited to burgers and bin ends rather than the glorious steaks and drinks we had. More Photos Here.
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