Tag Archives: Overlanders

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.

La Paz y mas 07La Paz y mas 08 La Paz y mas 09 La Paz y mas 10 La Paz y mas 11 La Paz y mas 14La Paz y mas 15La Paz y mas 16La Paz y mas 17

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.

La Paz y mas 18La Paz y mas 19La Paz y mas 20

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.

La Paz y mas 27

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?

Bogota

Bogota has travellers divided. The people we’ve talked to seem to either love it or hate it. After spending a few days there, I think my opinion falls somewhere in the middle. This isn’t Bogota’s fault though. I think if i’d been in the right frame of mind, I probably would have loved it. Walking around the city, it reminded me of London (England). The weather, fashion, street art and architecture were all very London-esque. They even have red buses and hordes of pigeons. The city’s location however, completely sets it apart. Bogota is surrounded by spectacular mountain peaks, that rise up into the clouds.IMG_1188 IMG_1213 IMG_1103 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have been continually impressed by the museums in Colombia. They are either free, or a steal. The most we’ve paid is 3,000 colombian pesos each, for the Gold Museum in Bogota, roughly $1.55 USD. IMG_1243 IMG_1237

We also visited the Botero Museum, totally free of charge. Botero himself (probably the most well known living artist from Latin America) donated the collection to the city, which includes his own works and those of other famous artists such as Picasso, Dali and Monet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_1132  IMG_1141 IMG_1139 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We tend to miss our friends the most when we are in big cities, so we were happy to catch up with some of the new friends that we’d made on the San Blas trip. Faye and JJ had one last night in Bogota, so we caught up with them for some pizza and jazz.IMG_1097

Next, we ran into Olivier and Balthasar at The Bogota Brewing Company. We had a great night with them and a group of Bogota locals, who took it upon themselves to show us a good time. Gracias chicos!IMG_1257 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_1270

The next day we woke up in our stale smoky hostel room and decided it was time to get out of the city. We have been craving open spaces and van camping, the city is just not where we want to be right now.

We didn’t have to go far before we rolled into the carpark/campground at Laguna Tabacal, near La Vega. We spent the afternoon reading and chatting with some more friendly people from Bogota, who were also looking to escape the big city.

Ahhhh Blisss

Ahhhh Blisss

Posted from: Manizales, Colombia.

Coasting through Costa Rica

The friendly car park attendant at Playa Avellanas helped us find a place to camp.

Chatting to our potential host, she pointed to the bathroom and said “el baño, por ppfffffffftttttt (fart noises)”.

I burst out laughing and replied “En la mañana, en la mañana”.

I looked at Mark “this lady is hilarious, we are definitely staying here”.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Me and the poochMe and the pooch

SunriseSunrise

We spent four nights in Costa Rica, surfing our way down the coast. Finally, we are in sync with the van. We drove for a few hours at both dawn and dusk, before the van started to play up. In the heat of the day, we spent time at Playa Avellanas, Playa Esterillos, Playa Dominical and Pavones. At this time of year they all had mellow waves that were great for learning. We had heard on the backpacker trail that Costa Rica is expensive and overrun by North American tourists. The van is great at helping us avoid these places more easily. In Costa Rica we were able to find cheap camping every night. At someone’s house, then at a campground, behind a restaurant and at a palm tree plantation.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Playa EsterillosPlaya Esterillos

Pulling out of Playa Dominical a group of pretty ladies walk past the van.

“That’s a sweet ride”

“That’s the only ride”

Mark doesn’t miss a beat, grinning at me “do you think they’re talking about me”.

“Haha yeah right”.Wax on, Playa Dominical.Wax on, Playa Dominical.

My favourite I think was Pavones, a fairly isolated spot down in the south. It was a beautiful drive to get there and is exactly how I’d pictured Costa Rica. Lush green jungle surrounds the bright blue water of the coastline. IMG_0545

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was short Costa Rica, but oh so sweet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA