A Travellerspoint blog

La Paz

the highest capital in the world

sunny 70 °F

By now, we´d more than accustomed to the altitude, after stays in Cuzco (10,860 feet) and Copacabana (12,600 feet). Now, we´re fit and ready to tackle everything that La Paz can throw at us. The never-ending noise, bustle, and thick exhaust - but the biggest highlight being the street food and the street markets...bring it on, our stomachs and wallets can take it! Maybe...after a quick runthrough, be sure to stick out this post for a nice dining story at the bottom. Don´t skip down, though!

Bolivia is known for its salteñas and empanadas - little hot pockets stuffed with meat (plus bones, sometimes), potato, onion, grapes, olives, and the kitchen sink as well. Also ubiquitous in Bolivia as well as South America is the tamale, a rather bland combination of cheese and corn wrapped in a corn husk and heated. They´re good, but definitely not as good as the salteñas and empanadas.

IMG_9791.jpg
Yummy fried empanada with a semi-cold Fanta Orange

IMG_9803.jpg
Tamale

What Bolivia is also known for is its markets - handmade crafts and clothes; fresh fruits and vegetables; and...dried llama fetuses and toucan beaks. You can find practically anything there, especially in the (in)famous Witches´ Market.

IMG_9800.jpg
NOT the Witches´Market, but darn close

A Post-Meal Drink

Now let me tell you about our first night in La Paz. We had just gotten settled into our hostel in the late afternoon, and after a quick rest, we were ready to eat like kings. We headed over to the hostel-recommended restaurant, which was a real treat - and dirt cheap! After stuffing ourselves various delectables from the salad bar, we had our main course and a towering bottle of beer. Chicken for Hillary, tasty llama steak for Kyle.

Once we were finished, our friendly waiter asked us if we´d like a trago (drink) on the house. ¨Sure,¨we said, not sure if he meant ¨on the house¨or simply ¨house drink.¨ Either way, we were game. So after rummaging around behind the bar, our waiter returns hugging a big jar. Now, we´re not talking about your normal, everyday jar of Smucker´s Strawberry Preserves. No, this is a jar he needs to hold with both hands (again, as I said before, hugging). It´s also covered in a cloth. No biggie. He pours the shots for us, places the jar on the table, and glides off to tend to a couple of other tables.

Like the couple of wussy gringos that we are, we start sipping the clear liquid. It tastes a bit like vodka. ¨Must be some kind of after-meal licour,¨ I (Kyle) say. ¨I had something similar in Italy once¨. Sure... Anyway, we finish our shots in one last gulp (or two, or three). Just as we do, our waiter is back to see how much we enjoyed it. We nod politely. By now, I´m thinking ¨OK, I can feel it working. I really don´t feel that full and my stomach feels pretty darn good.¨ That would soon change, though.

¨It´s a liquor of...a eh-snake¨ the waiter says in broken english. There´s no way he meant to say snake, I thought. He must have it mixed up with another word. ¨Boa. Boa constrictor,¨ he continued. Uh oh. Just as my stomach began to take a turn for the worse, he moved in for the grande reveal and removed the cloth.

(INSERT PICTURE HERE)
OK, so not thinking it would be a picture-taking night, we didn´t bring the camera...HOWEVER, we do have a low-res pic on our trusty Blackberry. Unfortunately, there´s no way to get it from the Blackberry to the computer (I know, it´s true..I´ve tried everything). If we can find a way to post the pic, we will. Until then, you´ll have to use your imaginations on this one.

It was actually a baby boa constrictor snake, with scales flaking off and everything. Only a proper way to end the first meal in what is quite possibly the most interesting city we have visited yet.

Posted by HillKyle 15:59 Archived in Bolivia Tagged la_paz Comments (2)

Copacabana, Lago Titicaca, and Isla del Sol

welcome to Bolivia!

overcast 70 °F

After a relatively easy border crossing from Peru into Bolivia (that included a hefty $135 tourist visa ONLY for Americans), we made our way to the small but busy town of Copacabana. It rests right on the border with Peru and is the main stop on the famous Lago Titicaca. While not the most attractive of towns (lots of trash and unfinished construction), its markets are bustling and its hilltop views of Lake Titicaca more than make up for it.

IMG_9723.jpg

IMG_9728.jpg

Our stay was short and direct in objective: to see the sacred Inca site Isla del Sol and relax for a bit on the Lake. Isla del Sol appears deceivingly close to Copacabana. Unfortunately, the boat technology can only get you there in about two to two-and-a-half hours. By techology, I mean two dingy motors clamped to and steered from the back of a two-story boat that seats around 75 people. The engines rumbled and droned, propelling us to estimated speeds of up to 15 KPH (about 10 MPH). So, with PLENTY of time to watch the passing scenery, we sat back and enjoyed the ride.

The two hours were worth the wait, and our three hour hike down the length of the island brought us wonderful ruins with gorgeous backdrops.

IMG_9692.jpg

IMG_9687.jpg

Now, no transport in South America comes without some form of adventure, whether big or small, and our ride back to Copacabana added a nice little slice of excitement in what would have been an otherwise uneventful ride back. With all of the gringos waiting on the boat, crammed onto the roof and sitting on the floor of the lower level, our fearless capitan strode down the docks...in my opinion, a bit drunkenly. His walk was a bit loose and cocky, his hair was glazed in sweat and slicked off to the side, from what I could only imagine as a long, sunny afternoon of drinking. OK, OK. Maybe it was just the sun, I thought, but when he proceeded to pick a fight with another boat captain after the boat was already untied and drifting from the dock, my suspicions seemed a bit more justified. Thankfully, it takes two captains to steer the two motors, so there was another (calmer) capitan on the bow of the ship, pushing off. As the tussle died, our fearless captain hopped onto the boat with inches to spare, and we were off.

The icing on the cake came when he tied off his motor (full throttle and steering straight ahead) with a piece of rope and walked to the front of the ship to sunbathe and take a lovely two-hour nap, leaving the poor other captain to right the ship all by his lonesome. Thank you, fearless capitan, for adding to our long list of overland, air, and water travel adventures.

Posted by HillKyle 13:45 Archived in Bolivia Tagged copacabana lake_titicaca isla_del_sol Comments (1)

The Beard, Parte Cinco

Machu Picchu Edition

overcast 62 °F
View Hillary and Kyle's Latin American Adventure on kylefitz's travel map.

Imagen_083.jpg

90_Imagen_084.jpg

Enjoy the post below!

Posted by kylefitz 16:43 Archived in Peru Tagged beard Comments (1)

The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

a 5-day adventure in the Andes

overcast 62 °F

Now, I know there have been promises of other blog posts from Costa Rica, Lima, etc. The bottom line is that we just don´t quite have the time to write on every single place we go, and we´ve realized that over the last couple of weeks. Now, we present to you all faithful readers a post to bring it all back and highlight what has easily been the best part of our adventure so far: our 5-day, 4-night trek through valleys and streams...over mountains and bridges...in the pouring rain in the wee hours of the morning...to Machu Picchu. Check out the day-to-day breakdown below!

DAY ONE: The Long and Winding Road

A 3:45am wakeup and 4:25am pickup kicked off our first day, and we hopped into a full van before dawn for a three hour drive to our starting point, the sleepy town of Mollepata. After a quick carbo-loaded breakfast, we were on our way. Most of the day´s hike was uneventful and followed a winding dirt road up the Apurimac River Canyon. Still, along the way we were treated to some breathtaking views of the valley, the river, and the snow-covered mountains in front of us.

90_Imagen_009.jpg

The day consisted of a solid ten hours and 21km / 13 miles of hiking. Needless to say, we were pretty exhausted by the time it was over, but ten hours is plenty of time to get to know your fellow hiking buddies, which included five Brasileños (!) and an Australian along with our Peruvian guide, Walter.

Imagen_070.jpg
Walter´s Group, from left to right: Jair, Diani, Alejandro, Rafael (1), Vince, Rafael (2)

Once at camp in Soraypampa, we ate a filling chicken dinner followed by some tea and were sleepy and ready to rest up for what would be the most challenging day of the trek...

DAY TWO: 15,253 feet
About 9 hours; 19 km / 12 miles

¨Mate de coca amigos!¨was our wakeup call from Manzanas, our group´s cook. We were greeted in our tents to a piping hot cup of tea from the coca leaf (very common here in Peru and in Bolivia, and no it´s NOT cocaine..). After a pancake breakfast, we saddled up and marched off into the foggy morning, working our way towards the highest point of the journey: the 15,253 peak with views of Salkantay Mountain. Unfortunately, we weren´t sure if there would be any views at all since there was a thick fog draping our entire trail up. As we slowly snaked our way up the switchbacks, the weather began to clear a bit...just in time for our summit? Not quite, but just in time to take in some gorgeous views as we rested before the final climb.

270_Imagen_020.jpg
With Salktantay in the background

Unfortunately, the weather wasn´t quite so friendly for our final ascent to the peak. The fog rolled in with the wind, and the temperatures dropped. Keeping warm was all the motivation you needed to keep motoring to the top.

Imagen_024.jpg
Almost there! Hillary, with Rafael, taking the final stretch with gusto

....until finally....

Imagen_028.jpg
We made it! 15,253 feet!

90_Imagen_027.jpg
Walter, our guide, explaining the beliefs of the Incas

Our descent from the top was as breathtaking as it was eerie. The trail undulated through the thick fog, navigating through giant chunks of volcanic rock and bright green fields of grass. Soon, the fog disappeared and the rocky terrain gave way to some more forested hillsides. We were making our way into the forest, now! But first, we stopped for a much-needed sleep in Collpapampa.

DAY THREE: Over the Hump
8 hours; 15 km / 9.3 miles

It was nice to sleep in (7am) and wake up knowing that the toughest part of the hike was behind you. Now, it was just a matter of battling those pesky issues (wet socks and blisters, sore thighs and shoulders) and trucking your way, bit by bit, to the final destination. We wouldn´t be reaching our final destination today, of course, but it was progress nonetheless. Oh, and the views weren´t so bad either.

Imagen_038.jpg

This day featured a full-on descent into the rain forest, which included a lovely waterfall and some layer-reducing warmth, which was a pleasant change from the wind and cold. It rained for a good amount of the day, rendering our colorful collection of panchos pretty much worthless.

Imagen_008.jpg

Once we arrived at the bottom of the trail, our group enjoyed yet another delicious meal along with some celebratory beers!!

Imagen_039.jpg

From here, we take a van to the town of Santa Teresa, where it´s a night full of relaxation, Cusqueña beer, and squirrel monkeys.

DAY FOUR: Aguas Calientes
3 hours; 8 km / 5 miles

This was our lazy day, I suppose you could say. From Santa Teresa, we caught a van to the hidroelectrica station to walk along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes, the town that sits just below the Machu Picchu ruins. Not really a whole lot to say about this day other than the anticipation was mounting, the bugs were out in full force, and at the end of it all we enjoyed our final meal with the lovely cooking team of Manzanas and Sandra. Fried Andean Trout with potatoes and yucca - yummmmmmmm!!!

90_Imagen_054.jpg

Should be all we need to tackle the early morning hike to the final destination...

DAY FIVE: Machu Picchu

Another 3:45am wakeup. This time the rain is pouring down relentlessly! Equiped with our (ill-equiped) panchos we struck off into the madrugada to complete the final hike from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. Each morning, hundreds of tourists wake up to either hike or bus up the hills to get their ticket to hike the famous Wayna Picchu mountain, which is beside the city of Machu Picchu. We were among the bleary-eyed hiking drones trucking up the hundreds of steps for our chance.

After almost a couple hours of hiking in the dark, we clicked off our headlamps just as the sun (and by sun I mean light coming through the thick morning clouds) began to light up our path. Within a few minutes, we reached the top and got our Wayna Piccuh stamp - success! Unfortunately, our hike up the venerable mountain would have to be cancelled due to some unfortunate digestive issues.

Despite that, walking around the ruins and taking in all of the views was a truly one-of-a-kind experience that you cannot put into words or pictures. It was (with the trek included) without a doubt the most profound experience of our adventure so far. Enjoy the pictures in the gallery, and we hope it inspires you to perhaps venture out here yourselves if you haven´t already!

- Hill and Kyle

Posted by HillKyle 14:33 Archived in Peru Tagged machu_picchu Comments (2)

Me and My Fishbone

A love story.

We had just arrived on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Cahuita, to be exact. We dreamed of sunny days by the beach...perhaps taking a surf lesson or three. But, sadly, we were greeting with cloudy skies and something between a light drizzle and heavy rain. Alas, if we couldn't enjoy the Caribbean waters, we could at least enjoy the amazing food the area is known for.

After hopping off the bus and settling into our cabina, Kyle and I headed to the main strip of Cahuita for some grub. Cahuita is a sleepy town where people come to straight up relax. There is one small street with a few restaurants, sodas, and bars, with plenty of delicious food options geared toward tourists. We chose a quaint hole in the wall spot and were ready to seriously chow down. I ordered a dinner with fish, gallo pinto, and a yummy fruit drink.

We started eating and it was ah.mazing. However, I didn't quite realize at first that my yummy fish dinner came with tiny bones still in it. There I was, eating away, when all of a sudden I swallowed a bite of fish...but not all of it went down the whole way. There was a tiny bone stuck in my throat that wasn't budging. Kyle and I thought that if I just kept eating and drinking, it would eventually go down. So, I did not fret, and kept enjoying my delicious meal.

Fast forward to the next morning. That darn fishbone was still stuck in my throat...and by now, it was really beginning to irritate me. And hurt a bit. Kyle grabbed one of our trusty headlamps and took a look down my throat to try to see where it was. If we could see where it was, then maybe we could just take it out. ''I see it! I see it!'' Kyle said. I take a look in the mirror and to my surprise, I see the fishbone lodged into the side of my throat, a ways behind my tonsil. Taking it out ourselves was NOT an option. We talked to Elijah, the owner of our cabina, about my issue, and he said to visit the Clinica up the road where the town doctor was.

The Clinica looked like your run of the mill doctor's office and by 9am it was already packed with locals. We knew it was going to be a long day. After waiting for a few hours, we finally got called in to speak with the nurse, a very kind lady who chuckled when I told her my problem. She wasn't sure that the doctor had the right tool to take the fishbone out, but that he would try. At this point, I really wanted this stupid fishbone out of my throat so we could go on enjoying our time in Cahuita.

We finally got called in to see the doctor. He asked me what the problem was. I told him. Another bit of chuckling. For some reason, I don't think they see a lot of patients with this problem. I layed down on the chair and the doctor checked out the situation. First, he tried to reach down into my throat with one tool, but it ended up being too big. He searched through some drawers for a bit, looking for something smaller, and I was afraid that he wasn't going to have the right tool, and that I would have to go to the main hospital. I REALLY didn't want to have to do that.

The doctor left the room for a minute, and came back with what looked like an extra long pair of tweezers. I was hopeful! He reached down into my throat and in a manner of seconds, pulled out the fishbone! I think I was so happy, I shed a tear. The doctor held up the tweezers with a huge smile and little cheer!

The Fishbone...

The Fishbone...

Lesson learned...stay away from eating small fish...and look out for the bones!!

Hillary

Posted by HillKyle 17:01 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged costa rica cahuita fishbone Comments (2)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 23) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 »