2nd Leg Retirement Trip

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Nov 18th, 2014, 04:41 AM
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2nd Leg Retirement Trip

2nd Leg - Retirement Trip

We last left you stranded at the border of Peru and Bolivia by Titicaca Bus (boo, hiss). After sorting out our visa and paying our $130 each Visa Fee in U.S. Dollars kept pristine by pressing under books at night after being scrunched against our sweaty bodies in our money belts during the day, we caught a taxi to Copacabana and another calm respite of a hotel.
La Cupola has had praise in this forum before and I won't burden you with too much repetition. La Cupola and her sister hotel, Las Olas, sit above the beach and town center with killer views of Lake Titicaca. We were in Room 3 the first night with 2 twins and a loft with a queen, table and chairs and a small bit of a view. We moved the 2nd night to Room 11 with an enclosed porch of glass, comfortable chairs and hammock and views that made it difficult to leave. In fact, we ended up extending our stay for one night for a total of 5.
The owner, Martin, was there overseeing some new buildings (which look as if they will be stunning). He was also introducing his new alpacas to La Cupola. They tethered under our windows for awhile and made the tiniest of squeaky sounds. We enjoyed watching them and they were certainly kid magnets. We walked through Las Olas and were blown away by the creativity of the architecture but were thankful for La Cupola which requires less vertical climbing.
The beach is a backpackers playground except for Sundays when there were more families enjoying a stroll and use of the bicycle boats. It would be nice to see some green space and park seating there some day. The most pedestrian friendly part of the beach is a No Entry area. The Bolivian Navy trains on Titicaca in anticipation of Bolivia getting back it's seacoast. The dispute with Chile is now in the World Court and Bolivians we talked to seemed hopeful. If it happens, the Navy will be ready!
I have to admit we used this part of the trip as down time, enjoying walking the streets, laying in the hammock, and staring at Titicaca. We attempted to go to the Poncho Museum but found it closed. We did visit the Cathedral and were pleasantly surprised by the Moorish influence with its domes and azuelos and enjoyed a quick tour through. There were many Spanish families visiting the church that day.
We had planned to spend time on Isla del Sol but at the last minute read about the hike to Sampaya and made the hard decision to forgo the Isla.
I cannot imagine that we made a poor decision as I think the Sampaya hike will stay with us forever. In fact, I told my husband that I want part of my ashes strewn from the Mirador if he isn't too decrepid to make the climb up!
We took a taxi to Sampaya (30 Bs) and asked the driver to meet us at the Grotto de Lourdes, a shrine to the Virgin Mary set in a shady eucalyptus forest and more than a little creepy when you are there alone.
Sampaya is a village of stone houses, walls and roads inhabited by a small population of Amyra. It was noon when we arrived and the village was quiet except for distant voices. We could see several villagers sharing lunch on a hill above the village. A small cemetary stands outside the village near a trail map of the area amd a huge black lives next door to the cemetary. Across from the trail map before you enter town is a trail leading up along a stone wall to the Mirador with 360 degree views of Lake Titicaca including Isla del Sol, Isla del Luna, the Andes, etc. We could hardly bear to leave and sat there for 2 hours or more, eating lunch and taking it all in. No one joined us. Total silence except for the sound of the wind, muy tranquilo. BTW, we took our altimeter and it said 13,500 feet so,if you are bothered by the altitude, take care.
We needed to get a move on to meet our driver so reluctantly made our way down to the road again and started our walk down to Titicaca weaving along with the water below us and almost always in view. We passed shaded eucalyptus forests, farmland with indigenous farmers planting potatoes, fields of fava beans, and alpacas, llamas and goats. We met several villagers along the way, all pleasant in greeting us. Being a physical therapist, I was intrigued by the gait pattern of the women, purposeful, short, fast stride, slightly externally rotated in the hips which exagerated the sway of the multilayered petticoats. They all left us in the dust.
About 1/2 way down, we passed 3 folks hurling eucalyptus logs from up on the hill to the road where they were then thrown into a truck. We said hello and they jokingly invited my husband to help. Sport that he is, he climbed up the hill and threw logs for 20 minutes or so. We ended up laughing and smiling and shaking hands several times as we said goodbye. All 3 were eager to have their photos taken with him which we understand is not always the case.
This delayed our return to the grotto somewhat so I had to restrain myself from taking photos every few feet and keep up the pace. This was difficult as the area is absolutely gorgeous. In some ways it reminded us of the Walk of the Gods on the Amalfi Coast, high above sparkling blue water.
Almost to our destintion we came upon an elderly woman struggling with a huge bundle of firewood on the side of the road. Again, my lovely husband volunteered to help and carried the bundle while we walked behind conversing in Quechuan and English, nodding, smiling, neither really understanding the other but not letting that stop us. After 20 minutes he was exhausted and because we had to make tracks to meet our ride we had to return the bundle to her. My husband who is an experienced backpacker estimated the weight as 60# or more and remarked on the difficulty of balancing the load on his back with the rope and blanket apparatus. Soon after, our driver pulled up and we backtracked to see if we could offer her a ride to her house but she smilingly refused and continued with her fast, stooped over clip down the road. We have seen example after example of the toughness of these indigenous people. The hardest day on our little hobby farm seems like a day at the spa!

Some tidbits: We ate 2 dinners at La Cupola and thought it was good value, a lovely setting and good food. We are vegetarians and there were several selections in that category. We also recommend The Eagle and Condor Cafe right down the hill from La Cupola in town. Friendly owners, comfortable restaurant open until only 1:30pm. We had breakfast there twice as well as a to-go lunch for our bus trip to La Paz. Great french press coffee and Irish Soda bread. Highly recommended.
We also had pasta one night at l' Italia a tiny, sweet restaurant just below Las Olas on the road to the beach. A personality plus owner, good food, Frank Sinatra soundtrack. If we hadn't been too tired to walk back up the hill after our Sampaya hike, we would have gratefully eaten there again.
We left Copacabana reluctantly, saying adieu to our wonderful view and boarded a bus to La Paz.

The ride to La Paz was again beautiful, weaving in and out of mountains with now and again views of Titicaca and few vehicles on the road. As we got nearer to La Paz the traffic increased considerably until we spent a good deal of time in standstills. We passed through El Alto and were surprised at the huge statue of Che Guevara at a busy traffic circle. Our driver dropped us at Rendevous Hotel, in a quiet dead end street in Sopocachi. This was to be our home for the next 4 nights.
Hotel Rendevous only gets Excellent ratings on TA as well as recommends on this forum. We can't quibble with that rating. Loved the Rendevous and the owner, Zack, an Energizer Bunny if ever there was one.
The hotel is in a safe and quiet area, easy to walk to the Yellow Teleferico, Monticola, the Prada. There is a Supermercado, Cinema, banks, restaurants all close by. 2 Alexander's (Starbucks equivilent) are nearby. As is our habit, we walked everwhere, only using a cab for the trip to our the bus station.

We went through the Museum of Contemporary Art in a lovely old Spanish home that has seen better days. We did enjoy the walkthrough (more giant Che's) but were puzzled at why paintings were hung 12 feet up with no lighting. Of course, it is lack of funding. It is too bad for the artists though.

We walked up to Monticola (the residential area and park above Sopocachi) and thenon to the teleferico. This is an amazing feat. It travels from south of Sopocachi to El Alto with panoramic views of La Paz and surrounding mountains. We did this on Sunday and on our second time (yes, we rode it 2 times in a row) hundreds were in there Sunday best riding as a Sunday excursion. El Alto was filled with vendors selling food including cotten candy, with different rides for the children. Very festive. Later in the week we rode the red teleferico and riders in our car pointed out the taxi that went off the road and was basically squished between rock faces. Gave us the chills...

We took a tour of the city with Sergio from Banjour Tours. This was a great tour by a lovely young man who was interested in showing us his city and was also interested in our life in the U.S. This was a 4 hour tour that included El Alto and the Witches Market. I opted to have my fortune told by a witchdoctor with coca leaves. Not too illuminating: Watch out for headaches and my husband and I love each other but sometimes disagree. Duh. Nevertheless, it was a fun experience. The market is huge and had we been alone, I think we would have wandered lost for hours.
We were disappointed to miss the Music Museum. We did not plan well for it. We were especially disappointed to miss their weekly concert which I think is on Saturday evening.

We tried to eat at Pronto near the Rendevous but had to creep out with tail between our legs - nothing a vegetarian could eat. We did eat at Japanese restaurant Yoshiko's twice. We also ate at Namas te and Tierra Sana both simple but good vegie restaurants. We loved the vegetarian saltenas at Pacena La Saltena. It was our lucky day as you can only get them on the weekend. Bolivians only eat them in mid-morning for snack and I think the shop closes at 12:30. We could have eaten 10. We also enjoyed the Tomba juice but found the plain fruit to be
too sour for our palate.

We caught a taxi to the airport and then a quick air flight to Sucre with Amazonas. We used Raul who acts as a travel agent at the Rendevous to purchase air tickets. We purchased on Saturday for a Monday flight. $84 a piece. Raul sent us an email with the flight information but no paper trail. We paid him directly in Bolivianos. We were anxious about no paper but he assured us our flight was in order. It was. No complaints about check in, the flight, or purchase.

We did have one snafu. We used an ATM in the Cinema complex a few blocks from the Rendevous for U.S. Dollars for our next country Argentina. This went smoothly. However, on our way out of town, Zack suggested another ATM. This was not connected to a bank but freestanding. Of course, the machine rattled around for awhile and then we got the message that it could not dispense. Later in checking my account, the $500 was debited from our account. I did call my bank card and they lodged a dispute. I haven't been able to check the account as the internet in Tupiza is painfully slow. Hopefully it won't be a problem. Reinforced taking money from an in house bank ATM.

We liked La Paz enough to spend an extra day. It gets a bad rap but I think staying in Sopocachi having a host who was concerned about our comfort (who makes blueberry pancakes with maple syrup for his guests?) and taking a tour to get the lay of the land first, all contributed to a favorable impression.

Onward to Sucre.
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Nov 18th, 2014, 04:52 AM
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Sorry for typos and misspellings. I had to send this pronto while the internet was working in Tupiza. No time for proofreading! Should read large black pig, not a large person of color!
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Nov 18th, 2014, 05:04 AM
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Very interesting, CIndyjo, Looking forward to more.
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Nov 18th, 2014, 06:11 AM
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Thank you, Kathie. I will be finishing Bolivia once we get to Salta with better internet.

One extra bit of information re using ATMs in Tupiza. Choose Spanish when offered the choice of English or Spanish. English severely limits amount you can request. Spanish has a higher limit. They are similar in layout.
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Nov 18th, 2014, 07:48 AM
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Great reporting Cindyjo. Wish I had known about La Cupola. We stayed in Las Olas and even though acclimatised for several months those steps were a killer!
Sounds like you are having a great time in Bolivia. Makes me want to return..
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Nov 18th, 2014, 08:19 AM
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Nice to see you back. I LOL'd at the "black" typo.

Interesting to hear about the new Teleferico.

At Isla del Sol you don't have to hike from one end to the other, we went up the steps at Yumani and down the same way. But your hike sounds wonderful and maybe even better.
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Nov 18th, 2014, 11:20 AM
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Just a quick note on the teleferico. Our guide, Sergio, said they have made work commute much easier for the citizens of La Paz and the telefericos are very busy during the work week. The 3rd one which will go to Zona Sur should be finished this year. We found getting to Zona Sur from La Paz proper was pretty much a nightmare so I am sure the city will benefit.
If you are in La Paz make a point of taking one (the yellow is the longest and the highest). It is a cheap thrill!
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Dec 2nd, 2014, 07:44 AM
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Our last installment found us leaving La Paz for Sucre with a short uneventful flight on Amazonas. I requested a taxi pick up from the airport with our hotel and the driver was there to meet us. Driving from the airport to town we noted a prosperous town compared to our Bolivian experience so far. The historic area is compact, easy to walk, and pleasant visually with many churches, restaurants and whitewashed buildings. The streets were filled with young people, many of them from other parts of the world, in Sucre to study Spanish. We settled into our hotel, Hotel Villa Antigua. This was a great hotel for us. We had a large suite at the back of the hotel with a private deck looking onto a lovely garden and views of the mountains that surround Sucre. The hotel is built around a beautiful fountained courtyard in shades of rose and pale pink. The minute we entered, we left the noise and bustle of Sucre behind. I wrote a review in TA if anyone wants more info. We loved everything about this place and would highly recommend it.
In fact, we loved Sucre and ended up staying there 6 nights. The first night we roamed the center looking for a dinner spot and being vegetarians, chose Condor Cafe. I never bad mouth a restaurant but have to say I was violently sick after our meal there and never went back to give it a second chance.
We had pizza several times at Tentaciones Trattoria which was a nice place for pizza and a beer. The best meals were at Monterosso, an Italian Cafe not far from our hotel. The Italian food we had in Bolivia was "Same, Same, But Different" (one of the most useful phrases we picked up in SE Asia). Monterosso was as close as it gets and we had two good meals there. You may get puzzled looking for it as we did. There is a small tiled sign to the left of the door, almost invisible from the street and windows are curtained against any visual of the restaurant. The door is locked and you have to knock to get in. Altogether strange but friendly and good food.

We spent our time walking the streets, visiting churches and museums. We enjoyed the MUSEF which is libre and has visiting expositions as well as a fantastic and somewhat spooky room devoted to the masks and costumes of the indigenous people of Bolivia. We were later to see these same costumes and masks on real people in a parade and festival in Tupiza. The other must see is the ASUR museum of indigenous arts. This is a well organized in depth museum focusing on textiles, history, dance and music of the Bolivian people. Again this was a good preparation for what we were to experience later in Bolivia. I had read good things about the Origines dance program and also had a recommend from our hosts at the Eagle and Condor Cafe in Copacabana. We loved this show, especially after visiting the two aforementioned museums. The music, costumes, enthusiasm of the dancers and yes, their talent made for a memorable evening and again added to our upcoming experiences of Bolivia. I am an ex-dancer and can say with a bit of authority that these kids were good! Don't miss it if you are in Sucre. Dinner is offered but not required.

I have to say the highlight of our time in Sucre was a day trip to the Jal'qa villages, Maragua Crater, and dinosaur tracks with Pablo located at Oficina Universitaria de Turismo (Estudiantes 49). It also encompassed walking part of the Bolivian Inca Trail. We could imagine people walking this trail to the Inca entry portal we saw outside of Cusco. Oh the gestalt of it all! It was a pretty tough hike for me and a long day but highly recommended. More later.
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Dec 2nd, 2014, 10:18 AM
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I'm still following your trip, Cindy.
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Dec 2nd, 2014, 06:24 PM
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Thank you, Kathie. And I am following yours!
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Dec 2nd, 2014, 11:56 PM
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And I'm following both!
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Dec 3rd, 2014, 03:09 PM
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The Inca trail hike wound down through switchbacks, mostly rock of everchanging colors to a lush valley where we had lunch - more about that later. We then hiked up, up, up to the villages in and above the crater and through more everchanging striations of color. . The colors are formed by the chemicals left from the active volcano. Blue/sulpher, red/copper, purple/iron, green/ i forget. (Chemists, please help).

At the end of the trail - incredible dinosaur tracks on an oblique wall, Ninu Mayu. Dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period. No one there but the Jal'qa woman and her daughter who sell tickets. 25 cents. The villagers, 25 families, care for the site and earn $ from tickets.
Our guide, Pablo, knows the villagers and speaks Quechua. The woman was wearing all black, her mother had just died. She was embarrassed to weep in front of us. We expressed our condolences and not for the first time felt we were understood despite the language gulf. We all sat under a tree gazing at the tracks, imagining the dinos in a lush jungle setting that is now a rocky, dry mountaintop. We headed back at dusk and passed more than one villager sitting on a rock outcropping just watching the change from day to night. "Muy tranquilo" as Pablo said.

For lunch we stopped in the village of Chaunaca at the home of a 97 year old friend of Pablo's who served us quinoa soup and a beer. She lives alone, still tends her gardens, goats, chickens, etc. As one who just got through a Bolivian Belly, I was hesitant to eat there but felt it would be rude to turn it down. The soup was delicious and no problems in the tummy department. There were various dead and dried animals and birds hanging from the ceiling which I assume were good luck talismans. I would have loved to take her photo but the Jal'qa do not like their photos taken.

After lunch as we climbed higher to the trailhead and the landscape turned to mostly rock and enough scrub to support sheep and goats, we stopped to pick up 2 little girls walking home from school. I think they were about 5. I had brought some small gifts for children and gave Lidia and Flora the colored pencils and toothbrushes with cartoon characters. What fun. The village kids go to school until noon and then return to help their families. These kids walk alone for miles although walk isn't the right word, like all kids they run and jump but here straight up rocky terrain.

On our way home we stopped briefly at Pablo's friends in the village of Maragua. The family was out planting potatoes. The husband was ploughing with a wooden plow and 2 cows while the family walked behind lined up: 1st the plow, 2nd the seed potato person, 3rd person with handful of manure, 4th person covers with soil. The family took a break and we sat and conversed as much as possible, Quechua and English, so lots of smiles and head nodding. The Jal'qua women have a long weaving tradition and use only red and black. There are beautiful examples of this weaving in the ASUR Museum of Indigenous Arts as well as a great Fair Trade shop in Sucre, Inca Palley. I bought a small purse from the wife which I will cherish. I have been struck by when meeting the women, they wipe their faces and tidy their clothes as women do everywhere. The men, not so much!

Our driver, Enrique, was an excellent driver and we all rode in the ubiquitous 4x4. Typical Bolivian vehicle. Seatbelts but no buckles to insert them in. No matter, imagine the worst photos of Bolivian death roads you have seen. Seat belts would not have saved us! This tour was worth every little niggling fear we had about no seat belts, death roads and eating soup under dried talismans. As we hiked down from the high villages, dark clouds rolled in and thunder could be heard rumbling in the distance. A perfect way to end a perfect trek....

After longer than expected, we left beautiful Sucre for a one night stand in Potosi. An overnight is necessary if you do not want to take a night bus from Sucre to Tupiza. Unfortunately our impression of Potosi was marred considerably by an attempted Taxi/False Police/Robbery/Scam which I discussed in another thread. We left early the next morning in a Radio Cab called by our hotel. We found the Potosi bus station, despite it being new, one of the most confusing and ill organized we have used. It didn't help that our scheduled bus broke down and it was 3 hours before we finally hit the rode for Tupiza. Despite this negative experience, we leave Potosi still in love with Bolivia and will eventually fall head over heels after our final stop in Tupiza.
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Dec 3rd, 2014, 04:13 PM
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What a wonderful experience on your hike!
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Dec 4th, 2014, 01:26 AM
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Very interesting, CIndyjo, Looking forward to more.
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Dec 10th, 2014, 02:38 PM
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Waiting for your next update! (Shall I need to keep bugging you the way I did crellston?)

How did you find that tour from Sucre, it sounds fantastic!
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Dec 10th, 2014, 03:39 PM
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Mlgb, we are in Buenos Aires for another 3 days and I have promised myself I will finish up my Bolivia report, so expect it soon.
Pablo was mentioned in the Rough Guide to Bolivia. When we went by the office, he was there and we immediately liked him. So glad we found him!
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Dec 10th, 2014, 03:48 PM
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"La Paz for Sucre with a short uneventful flight on Amazonas" lucky you! We flew in only to see the wreckage of the previous flight which had crashed off the edge of the runway!

Great to read of your Maragua trip Cindyjo. glad you had a great time, ours was marred somewhat by torrential rain and a lunatic for a driver - a scary combination on those
As for the colours, I think yellow is sulphur, red iron, green copper, pass on the rest.

Best to keep the report coming now mlgb is on your case - set will not relent ��
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Dec 10th, 2014, 04:44 PM
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LOL crellston. Any uneventful flight on Amaszonas is a winner~

I am planning my next trip..flying into Ecuador on miles next May.

I have an urge to take your crazy bus ride to Chachapoyas but will see how the winter rainy season goes.

I have a few miles left so a return to Bolivia is also a possibility, hence I am bugging cindyjo!!!
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Dec 10th, 2014, 04:47 PM
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BTW a woman from one of the villages almost threw a water bottle at me after I took her photo in Tarabuco...then she laughed. But the hat was too good to pass up.

https://picasaweb.google.com/kiwifan...95296306239986
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Dec 11th, 2014, 06:05 AM
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Interesting re water bottle. We met a woman from Vancouver waiting for the same bus in Potosi. She told us she had been warned that the folks at Tarabuco weren't all that pleased with the number of tourists at their market but she was still surprised that as she was walking through the market, a man came up to her and punched her in the chest and then walked away. She was shocked.

I suspect that he may have been drinking a bit but still......
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