EAA 2014 #9 – South America…From Tourist to Traveller
Finally, we get to the Epic part of the Epic American Adventures. South America – where excess and extravagance becomes understated culture and enrichment of the soul. It’s a pretty long post (it covers a whole week of travelling) so I’ll cut straight to it.
And onto the next chapter…
“I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how to put into one big post all the amazing things that we have experienced since my last update.
Truth be told, the decision to cut back to one blog post a week was largely helped by me putting a lot of thought and effort into writing a day 10 and 11 post using the blogger app while offline, and the post then vanishing thanks to the shitty internet situation.
And I don’t want to restrict my blog writing to a crammed half an hour spent in a dingy cafe with WiFi signs everywhere (WiFi that can only actually be connected to on every second occasion). I want to put thought, time and effort into writing these updates, because I feel that the experiences we have had so far deserve it. So… Prepare for an epic post.
Where did I leave off…?
Our last half day in Las Vegas was quite uneventful. We checked out, stopped by the four storey m&m store, went to a different hotel to catch our LuxBus to Los Angeles (3hrs!) and settled into our journey. The bus itself was amazing, and the Russian lady who acted as our hostess was hilarious (she kept threatening to get the Russian Mafia involved if we misbehaved). After lunch/early dinner in a questionable roadside truckstop and an unexpected change to a different bus, we arrived at the Four Points by Sheraton near LAX.
The next few days taught me a few things about Los Angeles…
– If you’re staying at a hotel at LAX and want to go anywhere remotely interesting, you’re going to have to prepare for at least a 45 minute bus ride.
– Santa Monica pier is very fun (I especially enjoyed my ride on the merry-go-round), the aquarium and promenade made for a great relaxed day in the sun, and the seals like to show off to the fishermen.
– The Hollywood area is extremely over-rated – think dirty, run down, and getting hassled by tour companies and hawkers – though at least we found a good Indian takeaway and drove past LA Ink.
– A return to Downtown Los Angeles doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.
– You can get the best burger in the world delivered to your hotel at 9 at night.
I can’t say that I had as good a time in Los Angeles as I did in San Fransisco and Las Vegas, however I’m glad I can scratch it off the map.
All this, however, seems a life time ago.
At the moment I am sitting in front of a fire in our own room in the coolest hostel I have ever stayed in. See that picture below?
Yeah, that’s a sneaky one Ryan took of me, tap tap tapping away on our tablet, blogging – believe it or not!
The best way to describe this hostel would be a two story jungle hut/treehouse.
We are in Bolivia, and today we hiked 12.84 kilometres at an elevation of between 3850m and 4050m above sea level. But I won’t get ahead of myself…
After 3 flights, changing time zones twice, and nearly 14hrs in transit, we finally arrived in Cuzco, Peru at 7.30am, last Tuesday morning. Our hostel kindly collected us (nearly an hour later) and let us hang out in their courtyard for a few hours before they checked us in.
After the heat of Los Angeles, the cold Peruvian weather (thanks to now being back in the southern hemisphere and at a much higher altitude) was not very nice. We went for a walk, found an Irish pub to have lunch in (believe it or not) and struggled to get used to the lack of oxygen in the air. The advice we were given was to lay off the vegetables and meat, and stick to the carbs (as they are easier to digest and therefore use less energy) – this seriously threatened my post-American-burger-binge-diet. Fortunately (as you may have deduced from my earlier hike reference), we have since acclimatised. Our hostel had a burger and their very own micro-brewery beer night for 15 solas (about $5) so we enjoyed this before hitting the hay for an early start on Wednesday.
Since then we have caught two buses for a total of 10 hours traveling time, stayed two nights in two separate cities, and realised that Peru and Bolivia are a lot less scary than Los Angeles.
From Cusco we traveled 7hrs by bus to the lake-side city of Puno. Unfortunately we left the following days ticket that we had purchased on the bus, and spent 30 minutes trying to communicate this to the lady in the ticket office (I’ve had to seriously brush up on my Spanish in the last week!). In the end she reprinted our tickets for 10 solas (about US$3). We then walked 1.5kms with our bags to get to our hostel because the million men calling ‘taxi taxi!’ in our faces pissed us off so much we refused to get one.
After checking in, we headed to a restaurant we’d read about in ‘South America on a Shoestring’. I ordered a trout dish (seeing as we were in a lake side city), apparently a Peruvian speciality. Now I realise that Ceviché is basically sashimi and was served cold. The corn was the equivalent of flour-filled pods (I should have gotten the hint with all the corn cobs we saw baking in the sun on rooftops during our bus journey). Needless to say, I shared half of Ryan’s dinner.
The following day we were back at the bus station for a 7am bus. This time it was to Copacabana, Bolivia. Two and a half hours later and we had to disembark, walk the three hundred metres or so across the Bolivian border, get our passports checked, and get back on the bus for the 10ks or so to Copacabana. Copa really reminds me of a tourist-oriented Greek island. English tourists everywhere, not to mention restaurant after restaurant with the same deals (3 course meals for 22Bolivianos – about US$3!).
The main thing that people come to Copacabana to see is Lake Titicaca, the world’s largest high-altitude lake, a breathtaking 8400-sq-km expanse of water at 3800m above sea level (which we have an amazing view of from our amazing hostel). The thing that they come to do is sail across Lake Titicaca, and go to the largest island on the lake, Isla del Sol.
On our first evening in Copacabana we hiked the 750m up the lookout hill in the town, Cerro Calvario, for the sunset. This mere 750m took us 25 minutes. Stats are below for anyone interested:
Name: Cerro Calvario
Activity type: walking
Total distance: 0.72 km (0.4 mi)
Total time: 29:48 Moving time: 27:41
Average speed: 1.44 km/h (0.9 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 1.55 km/h (1.0 mi/h)
Max speed: 4.50 km/h (2.8 mi/h)
Average pace: 41:33 min/km (66:53 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 38:37 min/km (62:09 min/mi)
Fastest pace: 13:20 min/km (21:27 min/mi)
Max elevation: 4041 m (13258 ft)
Min elevation: 3899 m (12792 ft)
Elevation gain: 4053 m (13298 ft)
Max grade: 45 %
Min grade: -13 %
Recorded: 08/05 16:58
It’s not until you hike at such a high altitude (the hill peaks at 4041m) that you realise how thin the air really is. Hearts pounding and breath heaving, we started to feel a little discouraged about our Inca trail hike in a week! The view made it totally worth it though.
So, that was the last week.
Today has put us in much more optimistic spirits. We got down to the shore early to catch the 8.30am 2hr boat ride to Isla del Sol. The island is only 20kms from Copacabana, however the boat drivers never go faster than 10kms/hr, much to Ryan’s disgust. We got to the northern jetty of the island at about 10.30am and had 5 and a bit hours to walk to the southern tip for the last boat at 4pm. You can get an idea of our trip and see the stats:
Name: Isle Del Sol
Activity type: walking
Total distance: 12.84 km (8.0 mi)
Total time: 4:11:06
Moving time: 3:58:35
Average speed: 3.07 km/h (1.9 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 3.23 km/h (2.0 mi/h)
Max speed: 5.40 km/h (3.4 mi/h)
Average pace: 19:34 min/km (31:29 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 18:35 min/km (29:54 min/mi)
Fastest pace: 11:07 min/km (17:53 min/mi)
Max elevation: 4082 m (13394 ft)
Min elevation: 3856 m (12651 ft)
Elevation gain: 4286 m (14063 ft)
Max grade: 19 %
Min grade: -32 %
Recorded: 09/05 10:31
Isla del Sol is believed to be the original Inca creation site, and is believed in Incan mythology to be the birthplace of the Sun. The ruins we came across during our nearly 13km hike from north to south were quite something. A little sunburnt and very sore, we made it to the end with plenty of time to spare.
Tomorrow we are off to La Paz, the capital city of Bolivia. In truth, South America reminds me of the flair of Spain entrenched in the poverty of Egypt. Questionable food and even more questionable electricity make for interesting traveling, and the things we take for granted at home are distant dreams here. It’s easy to dismiss the people hassling you in the street to take their taxi, go to their restaurant, buy their goods. However, for these people that’s the only way they can heat their homes and put food on their tables. It’s not the first time we have been confronted by how privileged we are back home, and it has made me a little homesick. I am constantly glad, however, for the opportunity to broaden my world view.
Until next time, amigos.”