Day 41 – Miami

Welcome to Miami!!

After an uncomfortable night flight I arrived bright and early this morning in Miami. Wearing three layers, jeans and thermal socks, I was immediately hit by the rise in temperature, around 32 degrees at 8am, I was melting to say the least!

I am staying with friends whilst in Miami so they picked me up from the airport and we headed into the city centre to their Downtown apartment.

The apartment was pretty cool, great views of the city and a roof top pool which we checked out before heading out to explore a little.

After a bite to eat, we headed to Lincoln Road for a stroll and to check out some of the stores. Even though its scoarching hot, it’s still pretty busy and full of tourists. We stopped off for a much needed ice cream then walked to Miami Beach.

The beach was really crowded and the sand was very coarse in comparison to the white sands of Copacabana. I wasn’t up for a swim just yet but did dip my toe in the ocean. 🙂

We went back to the apartment to cool off a little – I’ve never appreciated air conditioning quite so much! Then we went to Biscayne bay where there are a number of stores and restaurants. I did a little tacky souvinier shopping and took in the views of the bay.

After a lovely dinner, I was just about ready to pass out.

Long, very hot day!

D x

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Day 40 – La Paz

My transfer to the airport was not until 6.30pm this evening so today was about nothing other than shop shop shopping!!

I’d been told that the shopping in La Paz was very cheap so was excited to buy lots of souviners for the family… And I did! I spent a few hours in all the souviners shops bargaining for deals and even visited the witches market for some tokens! So 7 or 8 bags of shopping later I went back to the hotel to sort it all out only, the one thing I forgot was, where am I going to put it all!

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Half an hour of packing and repackage followed with some minor panics in between but eventually it all made it in!

After saying good bye to a couple of the group members who were still around I hopped into my cab to the airport for my flight to Miami.

La Paz airport is quite small but the staff were all really helpful. One thing I didn’t realise though was I have to pay $25 just to leave! Depature tax sucks.

I bored the flight around 10.30 to Miami so all being well I will wake up there tomorrow!

D x

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Day 39 – La Paz

We arrived in La Paz early this morning, very weary eyed after an uncomfortable journey on the night bus. We weren’t able to check in straight away so left our bags and headed out for some breakfast. Very little is open that time of the morning in La Pax but we managed to find a hotel that could knock us up some eggs and bacon which did nicely.

Today was a struggle. After a very interrupted sleep last night my body was refusing to cooperate with enthusiasm at the steep hills La Paz had to offer. Nevertheless we went for a walk around the centre of the city and explored the main square and there was also a festival going on with dancing and Bolivian music.

After 3 or 4 hours I headed back to the hotel praying that are room was ready and my prayers were answered! A much needed, lengthy siesta followed!

As today is the last official day of our tour, we went out for our farewell dinner this evening. A nice Asian restaurant with a really homely feel to it and… They had 2for1 happy hour Caipirinhas so I was a happy girl 🙂

The food was really good and we had lots of chat and giggles. After saying farewell and hugs with the group, we went back to the hotel.

Bye group!

D x

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Day 38 – Sucre

Of course after yesterday’s delight we headed back to Florin for breakfast before we had to check out of our hotel at 11.

Today has been a bit of an admin day, trying to sort out a dodgy cash machine transaction in a bank where no one speaks English and my Spanish consists of being able to order off a menu. Pretty dull so won’t bore you with the details.

After the bank fiasco, I met the rest of the group at a lovely restaurant in town for a spot of lunch before hitting the shops again for some souviner shopping.

We are getting a night bus to La Paz tonight so I decided to grab an early dinner before boarding the bus and of course opted for the steak at Florin 🙂

Delice!

D x

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Day 37 – Sucre

This morning we decided to give the hotel breakfast a miss and try Florin, the restaurant from the night before. and you’ll never guess what, they only had a bloomin full English on the menu!!
I’ve never been so happy in my life I don’t think!

Feeling very satisfied, we headed out into the city to explore the sights. We passed by lots of churches and university buildings and headed to the large park in the north of the city. We grabbed some ice cream and watched the world go by in the sun, a good chance to chill out a little.

After a while we decided to check out the central market, a huge market which sells pretty much everything including huge displays of fruit and veg and every part of an animal you could want (or not want) – that part was actually pretty gross!

Another siesta this afternoon then out for dinner before an early night.

Pretty exhausted today

D x

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Day 36 – Sucre

This morning we were up early for our transfer from Potosi to Sucre, the capital city of Bolivia. This journey was only 3 hours so was a nice change from the long bus journeys we were used to. And the landscape definitely began to change to. From the tiny villages set in the mountains to much large urbanised areas.

After checking in at the hotel, which was lovely, we headed out for a bite to eat. Our tour leader Joy, had been raving about this chocolate she gets in Bolivia so the next stop was the Para Ti chocolate shop round the corner.

I’m quite fussy about my chocolate and normally I don’t like chocolate from abroad (even Swiss!) but this was actually pretty good, and if you are on my lucky list, some of you may be trying some very soon! The ladies in the shop were really helpful and even asked if we’d like to go tour their factory. We of course said yes!

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So a taxi ride later we were at the Para Ti factory and headquarters. Anna, the lady who showed us round was very passionate about the processes they use and the ethos of the company. 90% of the employees are women and as far as Bolivian standards go, the job benefits were fantastic. (Could be on to something there – change of career maybe?)

Back in the town centre there was time for a quick window shop before a much needed siesta 🙂

Tonight we dined at Florin, a Dutch owned restaurant/bar. It was a nice relaxed atmosphere, very much aimed at travellers which normally I’m not keen on but the food here was great. I ordered a steak with basil sauce and it is quite possibly the best steak I’ve had all trip (sorry Argentina!).

After dinner and a few caipirinhas we decided to carry on the party at a bar round the corner. After much dancing and some limbo my little legs were ready for bed. High altitude partying really does take it out of you!!

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Fun times

D x

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Day 35 – Potosi

I woke up feeling refreshed today after a good nights sleep, ready to explore the city!

First stop was a local convent where you are able to climb (via some very dodgy stairs) up to the roof for some great views of the city. There was also a crypt where families used to store deceased members bones in boxes which reached from floor to ceiling in all the rooms.

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After the convent we headed across town to a small restaurant which is very popular with locals serving traditional Bolivian food. There are only 2 dishes on the menu, a pork dish or their special volcanic soup. We all had the soup which came out with a hot rock in the centre which caused the soup to bubble and spit like a volcano. It was really tasty.

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After a browse round the shops, I then went for a tour of the local beer factory which produces Potosina beer. It was really interesting to see how they produce everything and mostly very manually. Even though the tour was in Spanish I just about followed what Jose, our guide was saying.

We then met up with the rest of the group for dinner at the 4060 restaurant (4060 being how far above sea level we were)

D x

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Day 34 – Eduardo Avaroa national park/Uyuni/Potosi

Today, after we had defrosted from the night before, we set of early in the 4x4s for our last day of the tour.

The first stop today was a mountainous are full of llamas 🙂 we saw many of them along the way.

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We then stopped in a small village called Villa mar for refreshments. The village was very picturesque and in the distance you could still see part of a plane that crashed into the mountains in the 90’s!

We then visited the black lagoon, a lagoon high up in the mountains. The drive to get there was pretty crazy. Steep, windy dirt track through the mountains barely wide enough to fit the car. In fact we did hit a couple of rocks along the way.

Once we got to the clearing, it was about a 20 min hike/climb to the black lagoon. It was such a beautiful view and the journey to get there was pretty amazing too!

Back in the car, we stopped for lunch by a river just under a bridge, again the food was really good, and then went on to the train cemetry.

The train cemetry was very strange. A bunch of steam trains abandoned in the middle of nowhere. I’m not really sure of the story behind it but I will definitely google it when I get home!

We then went back to our hotel in Uyuni to grab our luggage before boarding our 5 hour bus to Potosi.

After a quick check in at the hotel, we headed out for some dinner and after a pretty long day of travelling, went straight to bed.

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Day 33 – Eduardo Avaroa National Park

Today we set off early to continue our 4×4 adventure. First stop was the Ollague volcano. We could see a little smoke coming from the top in the distance but as far as we knew it wasn’t due to erupt any time soon! I did a little climbing and explored the rocks a little before jumping back into the car for our next stop at the first Lagoon.

And this is where we saw our first flamingos! I always think of flamingos living in tropical climates but given that half of the water was frozen it felt kind of strange seeing them there. Especially as a few of them were putting on their own flamingos on ice show 🙂

A bit further in the car, we stopped at another much larger lagoon, which had hundreds of flamingos. This one is known as the stinky lagoon due to the smell of the chemicals in the water – toxic to humans.

We stopped here for lunch, again prepared by our chef this time breaded chicken and loads of salad. The food had been really good so far which has been surprising!

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After lunch we traveled further south to another large lagoon with amazing views and also hit our highest altitude point 4900m above sea level.

One last stop at some rock formations, one of which was called tree rock because well, it looks like a tree then we headed to the administrative office to get out flamingo stamps in our passport 🙂

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Tonight we stayed in a shelter, a very basic shelter. No heating, no curtains, cracked windows,very thin walls, corrugated roof with gaps – you get the picture? But it actually wasn’t that bad, despite the temperature dropping to -15C!

Chilly in Bolivia

D x

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Day 32 – Uyuni

Today was the start of our 3 day 4×4 tour. We left most of our luggage at the hotel and just took a small pack to get us through the 3 days. Plenty of wipes and deodorant as no showers!

We all piled into the 4x4s and set off for the salt flats. On the way we stopped off at a small village with a small market selling souvenirs made out of the salt and minerals from the surrounding area as well as all the normal llama wool goods. We also got the chance to meet one of the locals who gave us a tour around his small workshop where he produces salt for sale throughout Bolivia.

After a bit of shopping we set off again and it wasn’t long before the horizon began to turn bright white. It really was a bizarre sight and looked almost like a mirage.

Soon enough we made it to the start of the salt flats. Here, there were many piles of salt dotted around and some trucks working to collect the raw salt for refining.

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Back in the cars, we drove deeper into the salt flats and were soon surrounded by beautifully white flat landscape, as far as the eye could see. It really was like being at the end of the earth!

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After playing around with some perspective pictures we sat down to lunch, prepared by the chef who is travelling with us for the next few days. Quinoa, vegetables and….llama steak!

After making friends with the llamas in Salta this was playing havoc with my conscience but I was so hungry and just pretended it was beef. And it actually didn’t taste that different.

Lunch trauma over, we took some more pics before continuing our journey across the flats. Next stop was a small mountain island called Isla Incahuasi or as I liked to call it, Cactus Island. It was quite a sight, a small mountain smothered in cacti.

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We hiked around the island for around half hour then by the time we were back the sun was setting. The sky was the most amazing colours and possible one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen.

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Once the sun goes down the temperature here drops quite quickly so it was time to head to our accommodation for the night, the Salt Hotel, yes that’s a hotel made of salt.

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There was no heating in the hotel so we all layered up ready for dinner then played some cards and the odd drinking game before turning in for the night ahead of an early start tomorrow.

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