What does adventure mean to me?

What does adventure mean to me? It means discovering something new, challenging myself out of my comfort zone, taking calculated risks, trying new foods, and learning about a new place and its culture.

What does adventure mean to me?

In Bolivia, I rode a mountain bike down the world’s most dangerous road, known as Death Road, connecting La Paz to Coroico. Take a look at us jumping with joy to still be alive during the 64km downhill ride. The sheer drop from the single lane pot-holed gravel road was hundreds of metres, straight down, with no barrier protection. One unlucky skid and it could have been all over. Frightening? Absolutely terrifying. Exhilarating? You bet. To ride through the scenery that started at 4700 metres above sea level surrounded by glaciers and ice-whipping wind and finished 1200 metres above sea level amid humid lush tropical rain forests was simply spectacular.

Adventure also means getting away from it all, as the red-earthed dirt road in the Gascoyne, central Western Australia, depicts. Or taking a boat trip in Vietnam to visit a remote outdoor coconut candy factory to sample their wares.

Food is also an adventure – wherever and whenever possible, I eat like the locals. I have found myself buying tomatoes, cheese and bread to make myself a panini from a market in Palermo, enjoying a bowl of steaming Pho Bo from a street food stall in Hanoi, and sitting in a cosy pub in Edinburgh tucking into a hearty meal.

What does adventure mean to you?

FACT FILE:

Southern Cross Travel Insurance is running a competition for bloggers to win $2000 towards their next adventure and other great prizes. Competition closes 30 November.  More details can be found here

The Challenge

As the entry conditions clearly state, I challenge two other bloggers to share with us what adventure means to them:

The Skinny Perth & Eat Meets West. I know these two bloggers have plenty of adventure stories they could share – and they both have great blogs if you want to check them out ;)

 

Sorata, nestled in the Bolivian mountains

Catching one of those mini van from Corioco back to La Paz was set to be two hours of extreme uncomfortable-ness, an experience I could do without.  I had a look at the van, the size of the seats, and how many people they expected to get in there.  The ticket seller said that if I wanted more space, I could buy more seats.   Hmm, I thought about this. This trip was going to cost me US$4.    I looked up and there was the biggest mamma I’ve seen in ages – I mean, her ass went half way up her back and was almost as wide as the mini van bench seat that was set to seat three people!   No frigging way was I going to get squashed next to that!!  So I promptly bought two seats and thought for US$8, it was a good investment!

The bus ride to La Paz offered beautiful mountain scenery.  It was a pity that there was so much burning off going on in the jungle that a veil of smoke meant the views weren’t so clear.

Once in La Paz, I caught a taxi across town to where the mini buses for Sorata were parked. They wait until they are full, which at the most takes an hour.  Again, I checked out the various mini buses and like the van from Corioco, I thought the seats were way too small for the number of people they wanted to get in.   Next to the driver, they expected two people to sit.  At 15 Bolivianos or US$2 per seat, I promptly bought the two front seats and felt very happy I’d made the right decision.  Until of course until we set off, then I had the best view in the house of the crazy-ass driving on crappy Bolivian roads. Oh dear.  The motion made me nod off, and an hour or so later, I woke and saw how heavy the drivers eye lids had become.  Oh no!! I made a point of looking straight at him – he sensed what I was doing and opened his window fully, and was really concentrating hard on staying awake.  Good! That’s his job.

We made it to Sorata alive. The main square was ok – nothing really worth writing about.  I did find the only internet place in town and checked emails, then bought a bottle of water and caught a taxi to my Sorata home, www.altaioasis.com

What a great home I was set to have for the next three days.  Altai Oasis was joy.  It was away from town and set amongst three hectares of beautiful lush natural gardens.   All around it were mountain, some snow capped, and a river ran along the back of the property. They had a huge vege garden, a couple of toucans, geese, ducks, a llama, a cow, rabbits, dogs and a cute as a button little puppy.  There was a bbq area, an outdoor kitchen for the campers, a restaurant, a cool bar, a pool, hammocks everywhere, outdoor tables scattered throughout the grounds, and loads of paths to go walking.   I had a double ensuite cabin and whilst it was simple, I could not have been happier.

ah, the pool

The owners were a gorgeous family.  Roxanne was the gardener, her husband Johnny was the builder, and their 25 year old son Simon was a trained chef, about to move to Germany to study a masters in hotel management and tourism.  Roxanne was not only a green thumb but a whizz in the kitchen.  I ate every meal there during my three day stay – including having the tomato soup three times!  It was homemade and amazingly delicious.

Roxanne and Johnny built Altai Oasis over 30 years and you can see and feel the love that’s gone into the place.  Loads of natural wood, mud bricks – very organic.  Johnny built everything himself.   They use the produce from their vege garden in the kitchen, although this is not enough so they also buy what they need.  Roxanne makes the peach marmalade that is served at breakfast and it was delicious!  10kg of peaches peeled and sliced, sprinkled with 4kg of sugar and left overnight.  The next day it all goes into a huge pot and cooks on low heat for about 5 hours.  She freezes her marmalade to eliminate the risk of it going mouldy or rancid.

Johnny, Simon, and Roxanne - the nicest Bolivian hosts ever!

I was the only guest on my first night there. I was tired from travelling and hungry too, so I had an early dinner and turned in for an early night.  The next day I walked up the biggest mother-f… hill you have ever seen into town.  It was so steep!  I bought a few supplies and walked back to my lovely Sorata home.   When I got back, my friend Viv had just arrived.   I met South African Viv in Copacobana and we decided to keep in touch as Viv was expectantly suddenly travelling on her own.  Her travel buddy had to rush home for family reasons.

Viv and I had lunch and hung out by the pool chilling out.  It was a very lazy and relaxing afternoon.  After a late siesta, we had dinner at the Altai Oasis restaurant along with a couple of beers, and then went across to the Bar where Simon was working. He made us a couple of cocktails and we spent a lovely few hours chatting away.

The next day was hiking day.  Viv and I planned to hike to San Pedro, a big cave about 2 hours away.  We were advised that we could get dropped off by the look out and hike for two hours to the cave, and then from the cave, two hours home.  That all sounded do-able, so that was our plan.  Our stupid idiotic plan! We ordered a taxi that took us to the lookout.  We arrived there, high up on a peak, and took in the splendid view.  Mountains, valleys, roads and rivers surrounded us. With me I had a big bottle of water, a hat, insect spray, lip balm, and one very crap map that was drawn on an A4 piece of paper showing some lines that were the tracks we should follow.

Off we set.  The first hour of the walk was lovely.  We saw a couple of Condors flying around and that was awesome to see.  The scenery was just beautiful.  There was not another soul around as Viv and I followed a little dirt track in the direction of our destination.  Then we came across another dirt track, and another.  Which one do we take?  There were dirt tracks everywhere and we had no idea which track we should be following.  Viv and I both recalled Roxanne saying that we will be able to see the winding road below us when walking along the peak.


We could see the twisty windy road and decided that our best tactic is to head down towards that road.  We walked and walked.  Over three hours of walking and that road was not getting much closer.  I was tired and starting to feel a bit panicked.   The mountain was really steep on both sides of the peak we were walking along.  There was nothing around us.  Nothing. Just land, the occasional llama, and that’s it.  We didn’t see a living soul.  Eventually, we decided to try to head down the steep slope and make it to the road.

I was wearing my Merrell runners and Viv had a pair of runners on too.  We needed hiking boots, safety harnesses, ropes, and an experienced mountain climbing guide to make it down safely and alive.  Sadly, we didn’t have any of those things that we needed and just had to make do on our own.   The climb down was ridiculously dangerously steep and the ground was covered in gravel like loose stones – making it extremely slippery.    I tried to place each step by a tuft of mountain grass, to at least have something to help stop me from slipping.  It didnt’ really help all that much.  Viv was so brave, leading the way. She was determined to get to the road.  Finally, after about 30 minutes of truly crapping myself, we made it to the road.  I almost got down on all fours to kiss it – just like the Pope does when he gets off the plane.

Happy happy happy hiker I was. Finally on a road that had a sensible gradient.  We walked for about another hour and made it to the cave.  The cave was more impressive than Viv and I were anticipating.  It was massive inside and had a big lake in it – the lake was so big that they had paddle boats for tourists available for rent.

After our visit to San Pedro’s cave, we thanked God that a taxi was out the front and available.  Once back at Altai Oasis, I had a long hot shower and slept for about two hours!  Later in the afternoon, I lay in hammock reading My Sister’s Keeper, every now and then raising my head to take in the beautiful gardens around me.

Viv and I had dinner again at Altai Oasis and headed into the bar where Johnny and his wife Roxanne entertained us over a couple of cocktails.  The following day it was Viv’s birthday, so it was my shout for drinks.  Feeling rather merry, I tottered off to bed and slept like a log, dragging myself out of bed at 8am so I could have breakfast with Viv on her birthday before she left for a day of mountain biking.  I had to head back to Lima so I could catch a plane to Arequipa in Peru the following day.

It was so hard saying good bye to the lovely folk of Altai Oasis – Johnny, Roxanne and their son Simon had been wonderful hosts – they really made my stay there memorable.  I hope they have a chance to visit Australia sometime.

The bus to Lima was – urgh – just another dirty coach that took longer than I wanted it to to arrive.  I checked into a new hotel, hotel Rosario, that the lovely Swiss guys I met in Corioco recommended.   They gave Hotel Rosario such a good wrap that I was a bit disaapointed when I got there – it was just average.  At least my shower was hot and more than a trickle.  For that, I was grateful.

After going for a short walk whilst there was some daylight, I repacked my backpack and had an absolutely cracker of a meal in the hotel restaurant.  Delicious fish on a bed of mashed beans, presented in a fine dining first class way.  I was more than impressed.  And for about A$12 that included a glass of white wine, it was sensational.  I was so happy!

Next stop, Arequipa in Peru.

Corioco, Bolivia

I arrived safely at Sol y Luna www.solyluna-bolivia.com, a 20-minute walk from Corioco town.  Big jolly Maria arrived to check me in 15 minutes later, and I killed time waiting for her by chatting to an Italian couple who were now living in Sucre in Bolivia.  Originally, he was from Avellino, where my mum is from, and knows of mum’s town Leone! He also knows the surname DiConza!  Small, small world.

My room was a massive room right at the back of the steep jungle property.  It was a work out just to get to my room!  But once I got there, I thought it was worth it and I was happy to have shelled out an extra $3 per night to get a bigger place with a private bathroom.  Attached next door to the meditation room, I had a two story rustic place with two single beds, a fridge and shelves downstairs, and upstairs was a double bed with a mosquito net.    Outside I had two hammocks to myself, an old and rough looking outdoor kitchen, a shower and separate toilet, and a little area where I could build a fire. Surrounding me was jungle-like forest, heaps of birds and some squirrel looking tree rat things.  The gardens were natural, not manicured, yet gorgeous.  It was so lush, peaceful, and relaxing. Yeah, this place would do nicely for a couple of days.

After settling into mi casa, I took my camera and went for wander. I found both pools, the children’s play area, the look out, the group campfire area, and loads of gorgeous plants and flowers.  It was so so so peaceful and the property was big. While I was walking around I bumped into two older Swiss chaps who had also done the world’s most dangerous bike ride today, but with a different company.  They asked if I was on my own, which I replied yet, and they very kindly invited me to join them for dinner at Sol y Luna’s restaurant.  Great!  It was a date.

Before dinner I lay in a hammock and  was reading my great book, The Lovely Bones.  The food at Sol y Luna was nothing really special. I ordered safely and went for chicken milanese – crumbed chicken.  However, the company was great.  The guys, whose names went in one ear and out the other, have been friends since school and were in Bolivia to climb a mountain, something they love to do. This was their 50th birthday present to themselves.  Their wives and children were at home – and both families were great friends.  It sounds like they have a nice life in Switzerland.

They guys kindly walked me back to my remote uphill temporary Corioco home. I tucked myself into bed, started to read and then just dozed off, sleeping like an absolute log.

I woke up feeling rested and headed down to the restaurant for breakfast. I found my Swiss dinner companions and had breakfast with them.  They were leaving Corioco today and were planning on a short hike after breakfast before heading back to La Paz. They did give me a good hotel recommendation in La Paz, The Rosario Hotel, commenting on the hotel’s comfortable rooms, great showers and really good restaurant.  A step up from my previous La Paz hotel –which had a central location, but a CRAP shower and it was quite noisy at night.

After breakfast I walked into town and decided to make the rest of my solo travel plans.  I needed to change my reservation at Altai Oasis in Sorata, change my flight to take me to Arequipa, book Hotel Rosario in La Paz, and find then book a hotel in Arequipa.  With a list of things to do, I headed to an internet / call centre place and got to work, after checking it was ok to ring the USA.  The phone calls to Expedia in the USA, the website I used to book my flight, were expensive – half way through my call when I was about to change my flight – the line goes dead.  It just cuts off.  GRRRR.  The silly girl behind the counter said that the line ran out of credit.  In my best broken Spanish I curtly told her that i checked with her first that it was ok to call the USA and she said yes. Now I have to call again and start the whole process again.

The second time I called Expedia, the operator had such a thick Mexican accent that it was difficult to understand her, and then she couldn’t change my flight because the previous operator had my details open which meant she could not access it.  I asked her to message her colleague to tell her I was on the line again – no, she couldn’t do that. I asked her to put me through to her colleague, no she couldn’t do that either.  I asked her for a solution, and there appeared that there weren’t any. So I was paying for this call for nothing. So I asked for the manager, dammit. I was put on hold for ages, and when the cost of the call reached US$10, I hung up, totally frustrated.

I then asked the girl working there, who by now had finished filing her nails and was starting to polish them, if these phones could accept calls coming in and what the number was. Her vague response, pointing to a scratched number side the cubicle did not instil me with confidence, so I asked her again, reading the number out.  Yes yes she said.

Third time lucky. I again called Expedia, I went through the ‘please hold your call is important to us’, and the operator’s security questions.  The operator did ask me for a number in which she could call me back on in case this call was cut off.  Cool, I gave her the number in my booth.  Easy.   Just as she was about to change my flights, again, the line went dead and I was cut off.  GRR GRR GRR!  Oh well, at least she had my number, so I thought.

The silly girl behind the counter then added credit to the line, and dialled the scratched number in my booth from her mobile.  It didn’t work. I could hear the operator’s Spanish voice say that the number didn’t exist, and the girl’s body language shrink like a dog with it’s tail tucked in between its legs.  I almost lost it at that point and told the girl that I HAD ASKED her for the number!  TWICE! I also added that i was not going to pay the 170 Bolivianos cost (US$23) for the three phone calls – that it was totally unfair and I was not paying it.  Bear in mind that this was more expensive than one night in my two story Corioco home at Sol y Luna – so in Bolivian terms, it was really expensive.  She said she would call the police, to which I replied, please, please call the police I want to explain to them why I am not paying.

She rang her boss instead and started crying down the phone.  Ohhh pul-lease!  I was not falling for those crocodile tears for one second.   Just before her boss arrive, my booth rang.  It was the travel agent in the USA. She said that tried to call me on the number I gave her and failed and then started trying different end digits – 1, 2, 3, etc until she got the right one.  So we finished changing my flight and I thanked her profusely for going the extra mile to try to get in touch with me.

By the time I was off the phone, the boss had arrived.  In Spanish, I said it was not fair for me that because their lines ran out of credit that I should pay for all those calls. I never would have had to make all those calls had their lines been functioning. He seemed to nod, understanding my point, and again asked for the full amount to be paid.  Meanwhile, he turned to a lady customer and started serving her.  Fed up, I slammed 100 Bolivianos on the counter and said I was not paying a cent more and stormed out, past the silly girl who was now crying hard and sitting on the steps outside the shop.  Whatever kid, do your job properly and you won’t have upset customers – sympathy level zero.

Crapping myself a little bit, thinking the Bolivian mafia might come after me, I headed to the bus station, just out of the main area of town, to arrange a bus back to La Paz the next day.  I then went to a different calling centre / internet place and finished all my other tasks.  I had a delicious lunch of soup with fresh pasta, and found a gourmet shop run by a quietly spoken British woman, called The Pine Farm.  She had a nice selection of cheeses, crackers, chocolate, and wine among other things.  I bought supplies and planned a night by my very own fire at Sol y Luna.   Too tired to walk up the hill back to my hotel, I caught a cab and arranged for him to pick me up the next morning and take me to the terminal.  Easy!  The Bolivian mafia never caught up with me :).

I got home, and started collecting fire wood and building my fire for later on.  I must admit, I did a stirling job.  At 4.30pm, I settled into one of my two hammocks and started getting lost in my great book, The Lovely Bones.  An hour later, getting peckish and a bit cold,  went inside, grabbed a blanket, my wine, and some crackers with vegemite and settled back into my hammock reading.   The Italian from Avellino came past and invited me to join him and his girlfriend for dinner.  My response was positive but non committal – if I was starving, I could find myself back at the restaurant, but I had my heart set on a night in front of my very own fire.

The red wine, a syrah from Mendoza in Argentina (cost US$5) was delicious and smooth. A gorgeous red wine in fact. Mmm-mmm!  At 6.30pm I had 30 minutes before it was pitch black and dark, so I built my fire.  It was roaring and I was so pleased!  Grabbing the cheese and more crackers, I lay back in the hammock and had 100 per cent thoroughly enjoyed my night in.  I was in heaven!  Great wine, yummy cheese, crunchy crackers, a warm roaring fire, a great book I could hardly put down, and I was all cosy under a blanket with no one around to disturb me. There was no way I was making it to the restaurant to join the Italians.  I was having too much fun on my own!  Every so often I had to pry myself out of the hammock to add wood to the fire, but other than that, I stayed there for three hours or so, finishing the wine, finishing the cheese, and feeling totally content.

The next day I was up early, ready to get to La Paz, catch a taxi across town to the other bus station (a term I use loosely – more like buses parked on the side of the road), and head to Sorata.

The world’s most dangerous bike ride!

Bolivia had the world’s most dangerous road and someone thought it would be good idea to run a mountain biking trip along it!  It starts from outside La Paz and heads down down down for 62km of tight twisty road to Corioco.  Needless to say, there are no safety barriers and the drop, should you go off the road, is about 60 metres!   Hubs kept reassuring me that this would fun.  Staying alive – now that would be fun!

After a boring and non descript cafe breakfast, our group were all allocated our riding gear – helmets, gloves, trousers to go over our own trousers, and a safety vest.  We were then driven about 45 minutes to the start of our downhill journey.  There was a safety briefing and we were allocated our bikes, with a few technicians on hand to help adjust seats, etc.  We practiced riding our bikes and importantly using the brakes on a large flat gravel area high in the mountains. We were currently 4800m above sea level.  REALLY high!  Around us were mountain peaks covered in glaciers.  It was cold, but not as freezing as I had anticipated.

Hubs and I before the world's most dangerous bike ride

Then it was time to set off!!  The first 22km were easy, downhill on a tarmac road. There was some traffic, but besides one idiot car driver and one bus, no one came too close to us.  That part of the downhill was fun!  The road was being worked on, so there were pot holes and gravel patches which we had to watch out for and negotiate around.  At the start of the ride, we stopped frequently to check that everyone was ok.  That was good and I think gave everyone peace of mind.

Then it was time to hit the gravel, all 40km of it.  Uh-o.  It was downhill and gravel.  I kept having visions of me or someone else skidding off the edge of the road and falling into oblivion!  This road, whilst it is now supposed to be closed off to traffic, it isn’t.  There are still cars and mini buses that (illegally) use it.   The first half hour was scary, no doubt about it.  My brakes were always engaged and I took it pretty easy. I had nothing to prove and there was no way I was going to take any unnecessary risks.  TI noticed that the scenery was absolutely stunning, when I didn’t have imminent hair pin bends to negotiate and I could look up!

After the first half an hour, I began to relax a bit and realised that if I took it easy, I’d be fine.  There were times when the brakes weren’t on and I felt as if I was flying down that mountain – yew!!  What a rush!   We stopped several times – once for photos, once for empanadas and a drink, and once for a toilet break.  Two Swiss girls on the ride, Christina and Emmanuela were great fun!  They also did the Galapagos Islands on the same boat as us, Yolita II, and had Washington as their guide!  The difference being, they like Washington much more than Hubs and I did.

Towards of the end of the ride we actually had to use our pedals and ride for a while.  I enjoyed that too because I felt as if I was getting a work out!  The ride ended through a watersplash, wetting our shoes and the bottom of our trousers.  What fun!!

Lunch was organised in a hotel in Yulosa where we had showers, and if we wanted, a swim.  A shower was enough and did the trick for me.  I enjoyed lunch and chatting with some of the people from our group.  Then it was time to go. I was being dropped off and from that point would get a taxi to Corioco, and Hubs was heading back to La Paz.

See ya Hubs! Travel safe, see you in 10 days at our posh hotel in Paracas!

La Paz

The bus to La Paz was a normal enough coach.  When we were about an hour into the trip, we had to get off the bus, catch a small boat across the lake, and wait for the bus to be transported across the lake by barge.  Pretty cool

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Getting to La Paz was a culture shock – a big bustling noisy chaotic city – the polar opposite of laid back sleepy Copacobana! 

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Our hotel, the Oiris, was in one of the main plaza – Plaza San Pedro – the same plaza where the jail is – San Pedro, made famous from Rusty Young’s book, Marching Powder.  I had a view of the jail from the window in my room.  Hubs and I could afford separate rooms so we got our own again.  I am starting to love having my own room! 

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Being a Sunday night, La Paz was dead. We found a crappy restaurant for dinner.  Dirty table cloths that had the odd cigarette burn in them, bright fluorescent lighting, greasy oil and vinegar containers.  I was grossing out and so unhappy to be eating there.  I was initially lured in by the photo of ribs at the entrance.  Hubs suggested I not think about it.   When my dinner came it, it was not ribs, despite me checking with the waitress twice that I was ordering ribs. Perhaps it was rib meat with out the bones?  Who friggin knows.  The meat was over cooked for my liking, so I asked for some tomato sauce to try and help things.   Hubs was very happy with her steak, and to be fair, hers did look juicy and pink inside.

When the sauce was brought out, I tried not to grimace at the stickiness of the outside of the plastic bottle.  Then the sauce would not come out.  So I have  it a little shove – no sauce.  A harder shove, and the cap came clean off and my dinner became a tomato sauce soup with steam and chips… urgh!!!!  GRRRRR.  Not happy! Hubs was cracking up laughing – and yeah, if it happened to anyone else it would have been funny.  But not to me and not at that moment.  So I called the sleepy waitress over and asked her if they could salvage my dinner and put what they could on a clean plate.  Even the waitress started to snigger but suddenly stopped when she saw my expression.  How annoying!! 

We walked up to a sweets place and both got a slice of cake each for dessert and headed back to our rooms.  I was happy to be safe and sound in my room and away from the outside world of La Paz. 

The next morning we went for walk and the city of La Paz looked a lot less sinister during the day.  We checked out the witches market that sells all sorts of strange things – the strangest of all were llama foetus’s all dried up. They are used to make offerings to the Gods.  It looked just plain wrong to me.  The markets didn’t take much time and I was hardly interested in what they were selling, mainly because it’s the same old stuff you see everywhere. 

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Earlier on, Hubs and I decided that after the doing the World’s Most Dangerous Bike Ride the next day, we would go our separate ways for 10 days and meet up in Paracas in Peru – we wanted to do different things.

We spent the rest of the day organising ourselves in internet cafes and travel agents.  I booked to stay in a recommended place in the Lonely Planet called Sol y Luna in Corioco, where the bike ride ends, then a place in Sorata called Altai Oasis, again a Lonely Planet recommendation, and a flight to Peru.  The rest I would figure out in the coming days.  Just that took me hours and hours.  I had so many options in front of me of where I could go and what I could do that making a decision was really hard!  I looked at going back to Quito to meet up with mum and dad who just landed there and had a free day the day after the bike ride. I looked at going to Rurrenabaque in the jungle again, and looked at going to Arequipa where Hubs recommended I should go.  Anyway, I had the first few days sorted and felt good about that.

Hubs planned to go to Columbia – a country she didn’t get to last time.  We were both looking forward to having our own adventures and some space.  Plus we’d have stories to tell each other when we reunited. 

Tomorrow:  the world’s most dangerous bike ride!!

At the Copa, Copacobana… not in Havana but in Bolivia!

Copacobana was easy to get to from Puno – just a direct three hour bus ride.  We didn’t have any accommodation booked – the place I wanted to stay in Hotel Las Olas www.hotellasolas.com – a feature in the trusty Lonely Planet, wrote back to me saying they were full, but to come anyway and there might be a cancellation.

Hubs wanted her own room – a good thing for both of us and why not? we were in a cheap part of the world and could afford it.  We walked up the hill with all our stuff (in high altitude too) to Las Olas where I put my name down in the hope of getting a cancelled room. It was right next door to La Cupola, where Hubs stayed four years ago.  I also put my name down at La Cupola, hedging our bets.   It was a very nervous 1.5 hour wait for me – until 2pm when La Cupola would give away rooms reserved if guests had not yet arrived.  If you were a guest arriving late, it’s a pretty stiff policy – but for us, waiting for the rooms to get released, it worked well in our favour!!  Hubs got two nights in a nice big double room with a kitchen at La Cupola, and I had one night in big suite at Las Olas.  One night was not enough, but I was confident I’d either get a second night there or a night at La Cupola.

After organising ourselves with tickets to Isla del Sol and a bus ticket to La Paz in a couple of days’ time, we went to our own rooms at our own hotels and spent the afternoon chilling.

La Olas was magnificent! Designer built, quirky, and a bit out there, but magnificent!  At US$32 per night, I had not one complaint.  I stayed in ‘Tartuga’, a two-story domed shaped suite that had huge floor to ceiling windows offering unbroken views to Lake Titikaka, and doubling as a warm greenhouse as the sun hit the glass in the afternoon.

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The bed downstairs was round and massive.  Upstairs, the single bed was in the shape of a boat, and there were two hammocks hanging inside. There were plants growing inside directly out of the ground, and the floor was tiled with big slices tree trunk.  The kitchen sinks were made of wood, the bench was a length ways sliced tree trunk, the shower was snail-shell circular and had no need for a door or a curtain, and I had three hot water bottles in my room, along with a small selection of different teas, and a kettle.  It was stoked!

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I spent the afternoon basking in the high altitude sun, firstly in a sun chair, then in a hammock.  Aaaahhhh, sheer peaceful bliss.

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Hubs and I met for dinner at the restaurant at La Cupola and both had nice meals.   We didn’t linger too long after dinner – I was keen to get tucked up into that big round bed with hot water bottles for company and read my book.  Yep, moments like this I feel I’ve turned old, but I don’t care, it was just so lovely!

The next morning, Hubs and I went to the Isla del Sol.  She got grumpy on the way to the Island so we spent the day doing our own thing.  No stress,  I was not going to let anything spoil my day at the beautiful Isla del Sol!

Isla del Sol is where the Incas believe their Sun God was born, and where the notion of the Sun God first came to be.   The Island dates back to pre-Inca times and the ruins on the island near the north end were over 3200 years old.  The Island is hilly and has magnificent views of Lake Titikaka – which always looks more like an ocean than a lake it is so big.  It is the highest altitude lake in the world.   Near the ruins is the “puma rock” a famous rock in the Inca belief system – it is said to have a lot of energy.  The Incas used to offer the Gods sacrifices in that place, including human sacrifices.  I’m told that it was an honur for a girl to be picked to become a sacrifice for the Gods along with the promise of a wonderful afterlife.

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The walk from the north port of Isla del Sol to the ruins was about 50 minutes, up and down hills.   Hubs didn’t join the group that followed a guide there.  I immediately met five really lovely Irish girls in their mid-twenties. They were good fun.  We walked together to the ruins, I was their official photographer, and they would take turns in being mine. It was fun.  Then I looked at my watch.  FARK!  I’ve got less than 3 hours to do the three-hour walk to the southern port to catch my boat back to Copacobana!!  I announced this to the Irish girls and one of them, Claire, walked with me.

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We kept a cracking pace for 2.5 hours and chatted about everything along the way.  She was lovely company and is a great girl. I hope we’ll get to meet up when we travel into Mendoza, the Argentinean wine region.  We hardly stopped, despite the high altitude and steepness of the hills.  Occasionally Claire would stop mid way through a story and say, “I’ll tell you the rest after we get to the top of that hill!”.  It was a challenging walk, and doubly challenging because I had a deadline to meet!  Which we did with 15 minutes to spare!  Yay!

Hubs was no where to be seen, and again I explained to the boat boy that my friend had my ticket. He asked for the name and Hubs had given him the ticket for me and she went back early.  When I got back, I was glad that I was allocated a small unremarkable room at La Cupola – but that didn’t worry me, I was just grateful I had a room!

There was no time for lunch on the island, so by the time I got back at 5.30pm, I was starving!  I went to the restaurant at 6.15pm, got a table for one and had an early dinner – fillet mignon, yum!   The restaurant was packed – they had to keep turning people away or asking them to come back an hour or so later.  I was thankful I was starving and got there early!  After dinner I didn’t feel like sitting in my little poky room so early, so I hung out in the TV room.  I was thrilled when I found ‘Ashes to Ashes’ on TV – one of the episodes I’d missed during the series – yay!  After that was finished, while channel surfing looking for something else to watch, a South African lady called  Viv walked in.  We spent the next hour and half chatting and discovered that there’s a few things in common we’d like to do – a hike in Sorata, stay in Corioco, etc.  So we swapped email addresses and said we’d keep in touch.

I spent the next morning having breakfast in Copacobana town and looking around. The blessing of the cars was happening at the church.  Cars are decorated with streamers and fresh flowers, and they queue outside the church where the priests bless them by sprinkling holy water over the cars and their owners.  I had a chance to chill out in the sun before meeting Hubs and catching a bus to La Paz.

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