Category Archives: festival

Friendly Faces : La Paz Bolivia

We spent our last night in Peru camped along the shores of Lago Titicaca and got an early start to cross the border into Bolivia. Country number 13.

La Paz y mas 01  Views over Titicaca, from the Bolivian side

La Paz y mas 02 Ferry crossing, Lago Titicaca

La Paz y mas 03 Hitchhiker

After an uneventful stay in Copacabana we braved the mad rush of traffic as we entered La Paz. We’ve met quite a few people lately who seem to get lost in large cities when they follow their GPS. Since we don’t have one we have to use our intuition and ask directions from locals, which has been working fairly reliably. We made it to our destination quite easily, unfortunately the address we had was totally wrong, but nothing a little time in an internet cafe couldn’t fix.

La Paz y mas 04 La Paz y mas 05 La Paz y mas 06 Valle de La Luna (Valley of the Moon) and our cozy campground

La Paz is set in a high altitude valley surrounded by crazy landscapes and towering glacier topped mountains. There is a strong contrast throughout the different nieghbourhoods, of old and new, rich and poor, but throughout it all there seems to be a lot of energy and character.

We spent a day or two wandering the city, checking out the markets and testing out all the street food while we made arrangements for our Huayna Potosi climb.

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We left the van in the campground for a few days while we set off on the mountaineering trip. When we returned, we found ourselves in the middle of the celebrations for the anniversary of the foundation of La Paz. This is a big deal here, the entire downtown was taken over by marching bands, parades and partying in the streets.

La Paz y mas 12 La Paz y mas 13 La Paz y mas 21 La Paz y mas 22 La Paz y mas 23Chuflay – hot frothy spiced milk with a hit of singani liquor. Sounds weird, tastes amazing. 

The geography and demographics in La Paz are a bit of an anomaly. Due to the bitterly cold winds up on the altiplano, the good views are all to be had in the poorer suburbs. People with more money can afford to live in the bottom of the valley where the weather is more agreeable.

A cool new project that has just been completed in La Paz is the teleferico between the centre of town down in the valley and the densely populated El Alto neighbourhood way up high in the altiplano. It has only been open for a few months, but already thousands of people are using it everyday to commute, instead of taking the dirty old buses which struggle up and down the steep hills. For a few cents we took a ride, which only made us more excited about the upcoming ski season as we travel further south.

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The biggest highlights of our time in La Paz have actually been the great people we have met. We never feel lonely when we are camped out in the wild, but have often found cities to be lonely places when we don’t know anyone.

This was definitely not the case in La Paz.  We met a bunch of great people at the campground, mostly Europeans who are travelling in the other direction overflowing with tales of summer in Patagonia. This was also the perfect crowd to join at the pub for the world cup finals.

To top it all off, amidst a flurry of emails from interested buyers for the van, we found that what we were looking for was right in front of us. Leontien and Arjan had dreams of finding a VW Westfalia to take home to Holland… this dream will soon become a reality when we meet them again at the end of our travels.

La Paz y mas 24 Celebratory beers with the soon to be new owners of Oscar.

La Paz y mas 25 German party

La Paz y mas 26 Gooaaaaaaal – Germany for the win. (I think I was the only one hoping for an Argentina win)

We also had the honour of meeting up with our Bolivian friend’s Mum while we were there. The timing was perfect. Since it was a public holiday we were invited over for lunch, and also met some lovely members of the extended family. As Estela met us at the door she said “Please come in. My house is small, but my heart is big.” The way it should be.

She made us a delicious lunch (I still think about the quinoa bake) and we sat around chatting for the afternoon. Hopefully we will be able to catch up with her in Australia next time she is visiting her daughter, so that we can repay the favour.

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And so ended our time in La Paz. We arrived with the plan to get in and out quickly, we were feeling a little rushed about our schedule and a little stressed about finding a buyer for our van. After spending over a week here, we left with excitement for the road ahead, no stress about the van, and a bunch of new friends.

So far, Bolivia couldn’t get better… or could it?

Feeding Frenzy : Cusco Peru

Ever since we left the hiking trail we have been concerned with two things only.

One: get to Cusco.

Two: eat as much food as possible.

We have been taking this second one pretty seriously and wasted no time getting started. We both lost a lot of weight on our 10 day trek, my pants were falling down and I had to add another hole on my belt. As soon as we left the trail we started looking for a restaurant and found a lady in the village who agreed to cook dinner and breakfast for us for a few soles. The food was simple, but oh so good.

Cusco 01Cusco 02 Breakfast soup at Simeona’s house

To make things easy on us, the four-day drive to Cusco has been packed with great roadside treats, all fresh and natural. We have been stopping at almost every fruit, milk, yogurt, honey and cheese stand that we see and have not been disappointed.  We haven’t visited a supermarket for weeks.

Cusco 04Cusco 05Cusco 03Sunday beer’s at the gas station. We weren’t allowed to fill up until we had a few birthday beers with the owner. 

We also passed through Ica, Peru’s wine region. Although we were too late in the day to visit the two major wineries, we still jumped at the chance to test out a few home made wines and piscos. We ended up buying a bottle and camping in the wine store carpark. A little further on we came upon a town and noticed red flags outside a few houses. This means “The Chicha is ready! Come in for a taste. Stay a while and chat.” Chicha is the fermented corn beer that has been brewed in Peru since Inca times. Of course we stopped for a taste and a chat before merrily hitting the road again.

The really serious eating didn’t start until we got to Cusco, which has been a culinary playground. We found ourselves having lunch twice a day, and still wishing that we could fit more in. Not only were the restaurants and street food vendors amazing, but the San Pedro market is also incredible. We stocked up with plenty of fresh goodies for a home cooked meal.

There was more to Cusco than the food though. The whole place has a vibe and character unmatched by most other cities we have visited. Every day there seemed to be a festival or parade with brass bands and ornate costumed dancers to celebrate one thing or another. It is also steeped in history, both pre- and post-Colombian. The city is built on top of the old Incan city, the incredible Inca stone foundations are still visible all over the place. And while it’s a real shame that the old Incan city was destroyed to build anew, the Spanish sure put up some nice buildings.

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Somehow we found some time between meals to visit the Machu Picchu museum, to prepare our minds for that excursion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1911 Yale Expedition. Well dressed. 

There is a great campsite way up the hill outside of town where we stayed for a few nights. We used the bikes to get around town, bumping over cobblestones and dodging parades.  After dinner and drinks each night, the ride home was gruelling, and it didn’t really help much toward achieving my weight gain goals.

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The campsite was a great spot to relax and meet up with some other road trippers.  Joost and Liliana are heading the other way in their kombi, so we had lots of stories and information to share with each other. It was really great to hang out with some like minded travellers for a few days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADinner at Pachamama (Thanks Sal & Shauno)

We really had no idea how charming Cusco would be and were really impressed, I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Posted from La Paz, Bolivia.

BLACKPOT – South Louisiana Festival and Cookoff

On our swamp walk we met a group of girls from Tofino, also road trippin’ through the states. They told us about Blackpot, a Cajun shin dig, in Lafayette. They unfortunately couldn’t fit it in, so we just traded travels tips and went our separate ways.

As soon as we got to Blackpot I knew I’d like it. Camping was $10 and RV parking was $30. Mark and I were hoping to get away with just paying the camping fee and sleeping in the van. However, when we went to purchase our tickets the lady just shrugged her shoulders and said, “sleeping in your car, is sleeping in your car”. Free! The way it should be. We could also take in our own drinks, just no glass.

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Tickets were $30, but this also included free samples from the cookoff competitors. The categories were Gumbo, Jambalaya and Cracklin’s. I was in heaven.

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The dancing was awesome. Mark and I were way too intimidated to get out there until it got dark and crowded.

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When Brounie was traveling with us, we called Mark “Chats Galloway”. Whenever we couldn’t find him, he was usually chatting away with someone about cars, Australian Flora…and who knows what else. Well “Chats Galloway” was chatting away with some guy about Cajun music and the complexities of Cajun dancing. Next thing I know, we are drinking moonshine from the trunk of his Toyota Camry. We got the Jolly Rancher flavour, because “the ladies love it”. It was pretty much lime cordial flavoured whisky. Gross!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToo much?

My love for Canada seemed to grow simultaneously with my love of Paul Simon. His music was a staple on our camping trips, road trips, ski trips and everything in between. His album Graceland is a frequent flyer in the van. After the festival we were driving along listening to it, when this song came on:

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Well Paul…. I’ve got some ideas.

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