We had decided to cut our stay in Copacobana short so that we could be sure to watch the Floating Islands, and organise onwards transport to Cuzco. En route, we learnt (via traveller gossip) that Puno was currently hosting typhoid, and really wasnt worth much more than 1 night. Fair enough, with these bleak expectations, we didnt have our hopes raised too high.

All accounts turned out to be correct, and Puno is the most frigid city so far (or maybe just the coldest hostel ever)! We got in, shopped around for a tour and transport to Cuzco, we got both in not to long, and with that, there wasnt much more to do in Puno city. The tour we got with a discount thanks to some Aussie “amigos” we stumbled upon, but we reckon she made up for it by punishing us with the bus ticket instead.

While waiting for nightfall, so that we could eat (again), we used the internet for a good couple of hours, then I had my first Llama meal. The meat was very nice! Definatly something to try again!

The next day, we headed out towards the Floating Islands. It turned out to be a long day…. We got the slowest boat, we had an 8 year old “captain”, literally, and a toilet that was full and did not flush (despite some heavy advertising re baño being on board). We got to the Floating Islands in only 20 minutes, then listened to our guides presentation, before I got tricked into an old mans cottage to buy handicarafts made by he and his wife. Sara followed suit, and in not very long at all, we had bought what seemed like a reasonable rug, or wall hanging. Then we got pestered to buy other stuff once outside again, and then the cold shoulder for declining to go on a very expensive paddle across to another floating island. We caught our own boat instead, and to our great delight, found an almost identical rug on the other island as well.

Floating Island

Reed boat

Reed phonebooth

Floating Island

Enough about that, the islands themselves are interesting, 2m deep, floating ontop of 20m of water. They are anchored (so as not to float to Bolivian waters), and continously renewed or extended. Each Island is home to about 7 families, and there are about 2000 people living out there. It was very commercialiced, and geared for the tourist. After no one seemed to care to shop anymore, we where ushered back onto the boat, to go to Isla Taquile. This turned out to be a slow ride (2.5hrs). With the 8 other tourist boats along side ours, it was not hard to tell who was going to get there last, us. It didnt help that we at most times had an 8 year old (man-child) and very distracted skipper.

Isla Taquile was very picteruesque (a self-sustaining farmimg communities), although a lot of hard work for some who could not handle the altitude and walking up the hill. Again, we enjoyed the tourist show, but not the tourist toilets. Who decided that it was a good idea to install european toilets in a place with no sewerage and no running water, instead turning it into a very expensive potty? I dont know, but it seems like a poor idea to me.

Isla Taquile

We bought some more handicraft, before getting back onto our boat. We also got an Inca Kola. It may surprise you, but Inka Kola and Julebrus, seems to be the same drink, exept for different colours (Inka Kola being fluorescent yellow). The boat ride back took another while, again beeing the last boat to port, and again with an underage captain.

Puno invited us back in with her freezing arms, we ate some more, then went to bed, again. I apologise for the negative tones throughout this, but Puno didnt show us her best side, and if she did, it wasnt much to brag about.

Next morning, we got onto our FirstClass bus. It was quite a confusing rigmaroll getting there (we werent clear on where the bus left from… wasnt from the bus station..), and this also repeated itself when we got to Cuzco. Anyways, this is the cultural express to Cuzco, it stops at a few good, and a few not so good sites (we can only presume that they were actually just tourist focused market places..) along the way. The lunch buffet put something in my stomach, that I were to carry with me the next 5 days… Gastrolyte and Immodium to the rescue. Sara on the other hand, is so far fine.

Token random stop

Old Inka temple city


What turned out to be a dragged out version of the previous day, eventually saw us to Cuzco!

“Copa- Copacobana….”

We are writing this, having arrived in frigid Puno, Peru and are attempting to whittle away some time as there’s not a whole lot to do here apart from the tours…but thats an experience yet to come and a blog for the future… On that note, we wont be in touch again until early next week, we are headed to the Amazon on Wednesday…

So, Copacobana (thats the Bolivian one), beautiful Copa. It was a fantastic sight after the smog of La Paz!
We left La Paz early in the morning. There was a bit of confusion, as it turns out that the 1st of May is a public holiday (workers day) in Bolivia. Originally, we had been told that we would be picked up from our hostel, which is on the main street. After going down early for breakfast, we noticed that the street was blocked off and there was a marathon taking place..an annual marathon.. Luckily a representative from the bus company came down to collect us and take us the the bus. Everything is uphill in La Paz, so poor old Jo had to lug his enournmous backpack the whole way there (for some reason, he packed an excessive amount of womens clothing and toiletries that havent all been needed… he’ll never learn..). Anyways, it was like a wild goose chase to get to the bus and we collected more and more equally confused backpackers on the way. Very few of us understanding the instructions.. Luckily we got there fine and started our journey fine.. only to stop about 20 minutes later after getting caught in a noisy traffic jam in El Alto just out of La Paz. The street here was also being used for a parade and only 1 lane was being used (which developed into a 5 lane jam of honking busses, trucks, mini vans, taxis and the odd car if it could fit also).. Luckily it only took 2 hours before we were able to move again and 3 hours until we got to Copacobana!

Anyway, enough about the bus trip, as exciting as it was!

Copacobana is a small rural township that sits on the edge of the immense Lake Titicaca. It has a holiday beachy feel to it (well, as long as the suns up… after dark, you realise you’ve been tricked as it cools down to 4 or 5 degrees). As well as the locals and Bolivia’s (landlocked) navy (!), its home to a quite few foreign hippies. Luckily for us, our second day there, was the start of a festival (Fiesta de la Cruz). Many people came from surrounding towns and cities and all paraded the streets dancing and dressed in costume.

Blessing of the dancers

Parade for the fiesta

Most sections of the parade had their own brass band (that somehow managed to play while marching up hills and around town at 3800m)!. It was a great atmosphere and there was lots of alcohol to keep the party going!! We were going to go on a kayak but got absorbed by the festival. We did manage to climb the mountain near the town however and also (surprise surprise) eat at quite a few restaurants!!

Capacobana was cheaper than La Paz, so we splashed out on a hotel vs hostel. The second hotel even had a shower that worked! They have dubious looking electric shower heads with wires coming out to the powerpoint. Doesnt make you feel that comfortable while wet, but Lonley Planet indicates you should only expect a small shock if you come into contact with the shower head, which was a welcome relief from the full electrocution i was expecting!!

Anyway, that was Copacobana. Laid back and sunny!

Top of the hill

7 crosses

Copacobana from the hill
Copacobana from the hill

All in all, we have had a fantastic time and really enjoyed Bolivia!

La Paz

Before we came to Bolivia, we had heard a lot of weird stuff, lots of warnings read, and lots of travelers tales. The most disturbing was in Mendoza, and Sara was very concerned how we would go! However, we have done ok so far, been reasonably street smart, and endeavored the fumes and the hills. We are only catching the tourist buses, and staying away from anything dodgey. The ATMs all have armed guards now, and we do feel safe here!

We arrived in La Paz early Monday morning of the tourist bus. We where tired, cold, and over it. We knew that our hostel wouldn’t be ready for us, but we went there anyways to dump our stuff. Then we headed out…

La Paz

The town itself is very weird, it is located in a big valley/ravine/gully, and everywhere you look you see houses in the hillsides. We walked all around, saw lots, and was rather unimpressed with how inconvenient it was to have to walk up and down so much. It was almost like you where continuously traversing a hillside, which you where. This added with the ridiculous amount of fumes from old Dodge buses, and the crazy micros, made it a bit of a test. We chilled most of the first day, and had a nice cold shower when we finally got our room!

Tuesday was our big shopping day, and fighting day, but we both endured, did our shopping, looked around a bit more, and enjoyed the beers on tap here at the Hostel. We have also found a local restaurant that has some wicked fruits! Its so nice to be able to have healthy food, just not meat, meat millanesa or pollo… We also went to the Coca museum, learning about the difference between the Coca leaves and cocaine. Bit flavored, but interesting.

This morning, we organised our trip to Copacobana (yet another tourist bus), ate some more fruit, and dealt with the Bolivian postal system (Mom/dad, another parcel on the way, did you get the first one/s from Australia?). We also walked a bit further, to enjoy the views, but there seems to be a big beautification campaign going on, so we didn’t get to enjoy it, we where stopped by construction. We had the pleasure of meeting a very nice Swedish speaking shoe shiner, Ricardo, that sweet talked me into getting my sneaker cleaned. Turned out he and his mate where working for Svalorna, a Swedish charity. Very nice encounter! All the shoe shiners wear black ski masks due to social stigma, so its a bit odd to talk Swedish to a guy who you can only see the eyes to, cleaning your shoes in Bolivia!

La Paz

Walking home, parched and tired after too many beers the night before, I suggested to Sara that we ought to cross the road to get into the shade. Sara dutifully did so, and stepped into the path of a mini van. It was a bit of a shock watching her getting thrown around, but she stood up, no scratches, just a bruised ass. The minivan was luckily driving slowly at the time, was very concerned, but she was ok, only a bruised pride…

La Paz

We are going to enjoy the homecooking here at the hostel again tonight, before going to Copacobana tomorrow, then onto Peru and Cuzco.


So, after another overnight bus trip, we arrived in La Quiaca!! This is a boarder town in Argentina and is quite a bizarre place (especially if you are Australian and have to fly off the continent to enter another country)! Everyone gets off the bus and heads to the Argentinian-Bolivian boarder by foot. One moment you are in Argentina and the next step you are in Bolivia!! We attempted to catch a cab to the bus station but they wouldn’t accept Argentinian pesos!! Everyone that doesn’t exchange money in the Bolivian boarder town must use the one ATM in a back street!! You have to get a reasonable amount of money out as there is not many options along the way to La Paz! You don’t feel too safe when you are withdrawing the equivalent of 7 average monthly wages in Bolivia.

We were lucky enough to get a ticket on the bus to Tupiza (despite some confusion, language barriers etc) and left that morning for Tupiza, where we were to start our salt flats tour. The bus ride itself was a bone rattler! Never been shaken that bad before, bitumen is yet to get to southern Bolivia.

Tupiza was a nice little town and pretty much revolved around the tour. There are a few companies running the tour from Tupiza (though we suspect its the same company under different names)!! We had our tour booked by Viache Tours, it was so nice just to have everything organised! We stayed in our first hotel of the trip and it even had a pool!! It did have shared bathrooms though, so don’t think we are too soft!! The tour company also owned this hotel and a few shops around town!! We figure they must employ the whole town almost.. 110 families they claim.

We took a small walk around Tupiza in the evening and started to feel the effects of the altitude (3000m). We probably walked 500m up a small hill and were pretty puffed! Headaches were also the norm!


The next day we set off on our tour. We had a Toyota LandCruiser 60 series, a driver, a cook and 3 other tour-ists (Allesandro, Nadia and Laura. We had met Laura at Salta). Fortunately, Allesandro was able to speak Spanish and we were able to communicate with the driver and cook!! We were really lucky with our group and have had an awesome time.

Firstly we did a lot driving up very steep mountain roads that fall off VERY steeply to one side and were physically a one way road but practically worked as a 2 lane… we learnt this as the driver would occasionally honk as he came to a blind turn and also when we scraped (which could have turned out MUCH worse) past another 4wd!!

The first night, Jo played soccer against some local kids (8 year olds), but got dumped from the team after he couldn’t handle running around at 4200moh. It was very embarrassing.

The landscape changed so much over the 4 days of the tour. We got as high as 5000m when we visited a geyser- was awesome to see!! The altitude leaves a terrible headache, a little nausea and breathlessness whenever you try to do something aside from sitting!! The breathlessness was made worse at night by the extremely thick blankets that we needed to stop freezing at the very basic accommodation on the way and the blocked nose and cold we have developed!! The nights reached minus 10 and there was no heating. Wouldn’t advise wine as a means of helping warm up at an altitude, only makes things worse!!

We have too many pictures from this trip, so a small selection is below… We are also catching up a bit, so this is sent to you from La Paz. At least we can handle the altitude now!

From Bolivia


So, we made it to Salta ok. The bus ride was fine, the 18 hours not too troubling. We had bingo and meals to keep us entertained!

We are writing this from La Paz, Bolivia, so some time has passed since the following events took place!

In town, we went to our pre arranged hostel, and got dumped. We reckon it was because we were too hip for them, but really it was probably because we were a couple. We got relocated to another one with extra perks, no dramas, but still annoying to be age/couple discriminated!

We spent the day chasing ATMs (Its a pain here, we can only withdraw tiny amounts ago, then having to do 7 repeat transactions to get enough to pay our way forward! That is if you get a ATM that works, we average about 4-5 before we hit jackpot) and chilling. Also booked a tour for the next day, so we could see the local wineries and surrounding country.

Next day, Tuesday, we got picked up in the morning, and it turned out there was only 4 of us doing this winery tour. The whole winery thing in Argentina is a bit disappointing. We where expecting wholesome samples, lots of variety, but instead only got to sample their staple wines, not their pride, and then only in tiny amounts. The gripe is that we pay the guide to take us there, then he gets paid by the wineries in wine, wine which we could have drunk, instead of just looking after us. Such a poor deal! Hunter Valley any time! Although the wine we did have was nice, it wasn’t as expected. Cafayete is the region in Salta, and again, very dry, all irrigated.

Wine tasters
The organic winery

Enjoying the view
Enjoying the view

Sara and Atilla
Sara and Atilla

El Diablo
El Diablo

Once back, we hung around for a while, before catching our bus to Bolivia at 0040 that night.


So, we made it to Mendoza. The place is very much like Canberra, its definitely got the city feel to it, just a lot more vibrant! The trip itself was terrifying! We figured we should be smart about it, and shopped around, and found a cheap minibus that seemed alright. Little did we know that the 6 hour journey should turn into 8, that the driver had emphasemia and would nod of, and that we would see Condors. They are big birds! But, we learnt some stuff, does and dont`s, so it`s all good!

Fun road


Argentina has been kind to us so far, we got in late on Sunday, stumbled around town trying to find a hostel, before being accepted at a nice one where again, they spoke no English. We were really bloody keen to find out what was going on around us by this stage, so we caught some fliers and went looking for a phone booth. There is a whole heap of “Cabinas Telefonicas” around, which are like private public pay phones. Anyways, we got onto one, not realising we had changed timezone by this stage, and talked to our professors father. He knew some English and explained that it shouldn’t be any worries, and that I was to call back a bit later, which I did. This turned out to be late Sunday, but it all worked out! When I called back I got to talk to Maro, what a relief that was. We were accepted into her Spanish School starting the very next day.

Spanish School

So, since Monday morning, we have had our brains fried for 4 hours every day. We are making progress, but we have been told that we quite literally had no base in Spanish, which was unusual. We where planning on doing a group thing, but we would have brought the group down too far, so we ended up with the individual lessons. Its well worth the investments though, as we can now communicate with more than just sign language and gestures!

Outside school (funny being back at school) we have being trawling the city. We changed hostel too, and now have the whole place to ourselves, for reasons unbeknownst to us…. Our walking shoes have got a real good workout, we have seen all the streets, checked out the English bookshops again in search for a good phrase book, but given up on that quest. Instead, we have decided that our wits will have to do, which might be a big ask. However, so far we have done allright, and we seem to get better. Touch wood!

We started off cooking in, but by now, we have discovered the vegetarian buffets, and the various promotions you can pick up, so we just stick to those, its just as cheap, and we know enough now to order and make sure they take the meat off for Sara. We just had dinner, and I had a hamburger with a beer, and that only cost 12 peso, wich is $4AUD. Morning coffee with croisant and fresh juice averages around 8 peso, which is $2.7AUD. Not too bad!

The people here in Argentina are great, and I know I’m making sweeping statements when I suggest that they are quite nice! We are definitely having a better time here than in Santiago, less harassment and more friendly. There was a crisis here in 2001 that would have caused a fair bit of unsettelment (the economy devalued to 3 peso per $1USD, from being a fixed 1 to 1, so things skyrocketed in price) and which might have changed the economy a bit. Thriftynes seems to prevail! The petrol prices are identical to Australia, but a lot less affordable, due to lower income, so some wits are required!

The cars are what makes it most evident. There is whole heap of beat up Ladas, Fiats and Peugeot’s here, some sort of time lapse happening. The nick of some of them is surprising, considering how they are driven. You literally force yourself onto the intersections, time it with who is driving in which direction, and all the time hope that right of way and brute force will get you through. There always seems to be an ambulance cruising through the streets with sirens as well, which doesnt seem to mean anything unless they are honking too. There are continous car alarms going of, but not from theft, but as bumper indicators. So, the prevailing method of parking seems to be too keep reversing until the alarm on the car behind you goes of, then you start going forward. There doesnt seem to be any undamaged bumpers, and all the alarms sound the same, so we wonder what the point of it all is?! We are sick of the alarms though!

Does anyone what kind of a car this is? There is a few around.

We are starting to prepare for our next leg, to Salta in Northern Argentina. We figured out the bus system, and now went the whole hog. Cama so we can sleep. Should be interesting, its an 18 hour busride.

Saturday when we have finished school, we are going on the local winery tour.


We left Sydney a bit late, after someone higher up decided the plane didn’t need to depart until 4 hours after the original time.


Flight itself was pretty uneventful, and we got to the hostel just fine as per the Lonely Planet directions. Only major snag was the exchange rate offered at Sydney Airport, we thought it was good, but ended up being ripped off about $80. Very unimpressed!

After landing and as we where interacting with more and more people, it was becoming more and more obvious to us that the locals knew very little English, as in next to none, and we knew no Spanish. We have been lugging around both the Lonely Planet South America on a shoe string, and the Spanish phrase book, both which we have to continuously reference to get our point across in some meaningful fashion. On our next stop, Mendoza, we are gonna have to get some Spanish lessons!

Anyways, we spent the days being jet lagged, looking at people, and soaking in the sights of Santiago. Its a noisy city, always something going on, and never asleep. Although early risers should just stay in bed we have realised, nothing happens until after 10 at the earliest!


We got a hostel not far from the Metro, something we booked online. That was our second mistake. Considering we didn’t know how deep the pool was, and that we where finding ourselves sinking on the deep end, we would have been better of sticking to the beaten track, and gone with the run of the mill hostel, where it would have been easier to socialise and pick up some Spanish, as opposed to the best deal.

Anyways, the hostel itself was ok, except for the beds, every time either of us turn, we wake ourselves up from the shrieks of the bed. It is horrid! So we are still jetlagged, tired and grumpy. Having to always reference the phrase book when communicating doesnt make things easier!

We have been around though, Cerro Saint Lucia, our neighbour hood, Cerro San Christobal, the local Virgin Mary statue, Barrio Bellavista, the local Bohemian neighbour hood, and today, Barrio Brasil.

Something we think is a local peculiarity, is the coffee bars with the miniskirts. You walk in, purchase a ticket for whatever coffee you want, then go to another bar, where a female (not necessarily young and attractive) will take your ticket and serve you. The attraction is that they are wearing very short dresses that are see through. Interesting concept…

We also went to the Chile Historical museum today. I was surprised how little info there was on the early history, and how there was no comment on Pinnochets regime.

Cerro San Christobal
From Cerro San Christobal

Barrio Bellavista
Barrio Bellavista

Cerro San Christobal
Cerro San Christobal with open air auditorium for mass.

Tomorrow we are catching a mini bus to Mendoza, Argentina, but before that, we are gonna hit the town tonight, as long as we can be in bed before 9 to hopefully sleep the night through. 🙂