Category Archives: Bolivia

1 fantastic month traveling from Uyuni in the south to Copacabana in the north of Bolivia. We also spent a month living in Samaipata, rural Bolivia with our 2 young children who went to a local Bolivian school there. Read about our experiences and get some tips and advice for your trip to Bolivia.

Stunning family walks at Lake Titicaca, Bolivia – travel with kids in Bolivia

Copacabana, Bolivia a family friendly town on the Peruvian backpacker trail

Copacabana, yes, but not the golden sand beach with girls in string bikinis and bronzed soccer players you think of. That’sBrazil, last stop on our round the world trip.

Copacabana is the main Bolivian town on the shore of Lake Titicaca.  It is known for its famous Basilica, home of the Virgin of Copacabana, its trout, and its quaint atmosphere. This is also the place where boats leave for Isla del Sol, the sacred Inca island and a a destination for many back packers on the Machu Picchu trail from Peru.

On the shore of Lake Titicaca, too cold to swim!
On the shore of Lake Titicaca, too cold to swim!

This town at the Bolivian shores of Lake Titicaca also has a beach, the only one in Bolivia, lined with tourist bars and restaurants serving (‘trucha’ (trout),  the local speciality we loved so much.

Church at the centre of Copacabana, Bolivia
Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana, Bolivia

Its by far the most touristy town on our travels through Bolivia so far but it is still relatively quiet in tourist terms compared to most other places we have visited on our travels so far. Unfortunately, to the kids disappointment the water was much too cold to swim in.

Altitude sickness in Copacabana, Bolivia

After a long and eventful day of travel from La Paz, I spent a freezing cold night under 4 llama blankets with altitude sickness so bad I spent most of  it in the bathroom  vomiting. Woke up with a banging headache so decided to spend the morning in bed. Luckily later that morning we got moved from our 3 bed room to a 4 bed room in our Hostal Casa de Sol and that made a big difference straight away.

We had not had a hot shower for 4 days so by now I was really looking forward to having one hoping it would make me feel better…but no such luck. The freezing temperatures overnight had frozen the pipes and wiped our the electricity…no hot shower today either, in fact no shower at all. Never mind:-)

homeshooling
Map & compass reading

Paul kept the kids busy doing some mapped compass reading for school work while I tried to recover. Paracetamol, Neurophen and a nap for me then finally my headache & sickness was going and I was feeling e bit better, ready to go exploring.

Exploring Copacabana Bolivia as the sun is setting

Exploring Lake Titicaca & Copacabana with kids – Bolivia Family travel

Tourist strip in Copacabana Bolivia
Tourist strip in Copacabana Bolivia

Copacabana town is small enough to walk everywhere with the church and market located in the centre. To our surprise, for the first time in Bolivia we found a “tourist strip” with souvenir shops and touristy eateries full of backpackers heading to of from Machu Picchu. Although food on this street is cheap relative to most other places in the world we knew by now not to pay more the BS10 to eat with the locals.

We went off the tourist strip for  a typical Bolivian lunch in a little restaurant by the market. Lunch menu of the day for BS10 £1.50 was Quinoa soup followed by pork cutlet with chips and rice.

Typical Bolivian menu where the locals and we ate
Typical Bolivian menu where the locals and we ate

This is the kind of cheap and cheerful meal we always try to find when travelling and have usually found them in proximity to the local markets. It may not look very inviting to the average tourist but as long as the locals eat there, you know ifs a good place to try.

Typical tourist menu in Bolivia, the kind of place we tried to avoid
Typical tourist menu in Bolivia, the kind of place we tried to avoid

At the end of this street you get to the lake Titicaca itself, where a huge fleet of day tripping boats were mored…but to our surprise, no fishing boats in sight. I guess tourists bring more money these days than the fish does.

After a good walk around town we headed up to La Cupola for dinner after a recommendation by someone at our hostel.  Quite pricy and  a bit too formal for our liking but since we had walked up a steep hill to get there we decided to stay and try it out.

To our great surprise they had fondue on the menu!! How crazy is that to serve a Swiss cheese fondue in the mountains of rural Bolivia. Of course this is what we had to eat and we loved it too.

Kid friendly hikes with stunning views of Lake Titicaca all the way to Peru

Another freezing night under 4 blankets, but this time we had a bed each which helped us all sleep a lot better despite the freezing temperatures. After talking to people and reading up on the reviews on the internet we decided not to do the typical boat trip out to Isla Sun. I had initially wanted to go out but after my bout of altitude sickness and with Paul’s tendency to get seasick we decided against it. Instead we spent the day doing what we love the most, walking and climbing hills surrounding Copacabana. 

View of Copacabana and Lake Titicaca as you arrive by bus from La Paz
View of Copacabana and Lake Titicaca as you arrive by bus from La Paz

Just behind Copacabana, away from the lake shore is a fantastic little path up huge exposed rocks, the old Inca trail, Horca del Inca. 1 hour walking and scrambling takes you up to the top of Horca offering stunning views over the town and the lake. The Horca del Inca was built by the pre-Inca Chiripa culture in the 14th century BC as an astronomical observatory. Rituals on the winter solstice June 21 are also held here by the trilithic, three-rock structure.

View of Copacabana and Lake Titicaca from Horca del Inca
View of Ingrid, Copacabana and Lake Titicaca from Horca del Inca

We had brought a little snack, and enjoyed it at the very top overlooking the majestic landscape with views all the way to Peru.

View of Lake Titicaca and Peru to the far left. Can you see Ingrid on top of the rock?
The rocky clim up the steep path to the top of Horca del Inca
The rocky climb up the steep path to the top of Horca del Inca

The kids loved climbing up and down the rocky trail. Once at the bottom we went for a well deserved lunch in the middle of town before heading back to the hostel. Time for a rest and to pack up in preparation for leaving for La Paz 4.30 the next morning.

Packing up in our freezing cold room, wearing all my clothes
Packing up in our freezing cold room, wearing all my clothes

Around 4.30 we headed out again this time to climb Cerro Calvario to see the sunsetting over Lake Titicaca. You can walk the paved road up to the view point or scramble on a indistinct path along the sea front on craggy rocks to the same spot.

Climb up to Cerro Cavario along the small rocky path by the water front
Climb up to Cerro Cavario along the small rocky path by the water front

We chose the latter of course, as this is the kind of walking we enjoy the most. With plenty of time, a few little bribes to keep the kids going and views of the glittering sun slowly setting over the lake we made our way up the steep climb.

Climb up to Cerro Cavario along the small rocky path by the water front
Climb up to Cerro Cavario along the small rocky path by the water front

Finally on our 2nd hike of the day we reached the top with 30 min to spare for the most spectacular sunset on our travels so far…

Stunning sunset on top of Cerro Cavario at Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
Stunning sunset on top of Cerro Cavario at Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Finally a fire to keep us warm in Copacabana

The cold & sub-zero temperatures set in as soon as the sun set so we hurried down on the paved road to find somewhere to eat and hopefully get warm.

Warming up in front of a rare fire in Copacabana, Bolivia
Warming up in front of a rare fire in Copacabana, Bolivia

By pure luck we walked past a little restaurant with a warm glow coming from the inside…It’s a fire! I shouted to Paul, quickly let’s go in here, they have a fire! We scrambled inside, firmly plonked ourselves at the table right next to the big fire-place and enjoyed a lovely pizza dinner in front of the warming glow.

Back under the blankets for one last night in the freezing cold
Back under the blankets for one last night in the freezing cold

Back at the hostel in the cold rooms an hour later we climbed in under the llama blankets for a final freezing night in Copacabana. Next stop, La Paz…. and onwards to the animal sanctuary  of Senda Verde if the roads would only let us get there.

Advertisements

Landslides, roadblocks & sickness – testing travel from La Paz to Copacabana, Bolivia

We head from Samaipata to La Paz, the highest capital of the world

By the time we left Samaipata, Bolivia there were just 16 day left before our last flight on our round the world adventure from Rio to Madrid.

IMG_20170508_104247
Relaxing under the clementine tree in our house in Bolivia
IMG_20170521_160812~2
Saturday market in Samaipata Bolivia, amazing fruit and vegetables
IMG_20170527_165304
One of many hikes in the mountains around Samaipata, eastern Bolivia
IMG_20170513_122513_1
The girls celebrating after a long hike to the top of El Fuerte, Bolivia

Our time in Samaipata Bolivia had been full of new impressions and experiences but with a weekly and daily routine not too dissimilar to life back home. Ingrid and Scott had made lots of new friends, learned more Spanish and found great confidence and independence in going off to school on their own in the mornings while Paul and I got the time we needed to look for jobs and plan the last few weeks of our trip.

IMG_20170517_072922

We were sad and heavy-hearted to leave our life in Bolivia but the approaching end of our trip made a new sense of urgency come over us. There was so much more we wanted to see and do!

After many long trips on busses round South America, we had opted to fly to La Paz from Santa Cruz to minimise travel time and maximise time for exploring. With the flight it was still a full days travel from Samaipata to get there. 3 hrs minibus to Santa Cruz, then 1 hr bus to the airport 2 hrs waiting and then a 2 hrs flight to la Paz followed by a long taxi ride at the other end. It’s funny how long travel days like that used to fill me with dread, whereas now they are just part of the routine and we are all pretty relaxed about it. The kids have definitely learned to relax and take things as they come while traveling.

IMG_9643
3 hrs in a minivan on bumpy roads is not fun for anyone
IMG_20170611_122613
Spot of lunch, chicken Milanese, before taking the next bus to the airport in Santa Cruz
IMG_20170611_160000
Waiting for the plane to La Paz at the Santa Cruz airport

What a spectacular view we had as we come in to land in La Paz. It’s a huge city cladding the walls of the entire valley with snow-capped mountains and a desert like landscape all around.

IMG_0756
Amazing La Paz in the evening light s we are coming in to land

We were fully prepared for the cold nights at high altitude by now and with so much time high up before, we foolishly expected no issues with altitude sickness……

The illusive bus to Corico – a lesson in kindness and flexibility

After a glamorous meal of chicken and chips on the bed we all crashed  out with exhaustion and lack of oxygen. Early the following morning we set off in a taxi across La Paz to the bus station in the eastern part of town to Villa Fatima bus station. We were all excited about going to stay in a jungle treehouse for a few days living with wild animals in Senda Verde, south east of La Paz. La Paz in vast and taxi journeys very long on narrow, steep winding roads but by the time we finally got there we were unable to locate the little bus to Corico we had read about and planned to take this morning.

I have had lots of practice over the past year in not stressing and keeping the kids happy while working out what to do and this was the right time to put all of our experience to good use.

IMG_0787
Villa Fatima Bus Station, La Paz

As I wondered around asking all the little offices for the bus to Corico, which was advertised on many of their doors, all I got was, “No, no hay” (there is no bus) without further explanation of promises of a later bus or a bus he next day. In these situations, food and drink is always a good distraction so Paul set up camp with the kids by the little food stalls while I unsuccessfully tried to find out what was going on.

IMG_20170612_103145
Our cam while at the Villa Fatima bus station in La Paz trying to work out what to do

Being the only tourists here, the locals were eying us up as we sat on our pile of bags trying to think of what to do next. A traditionally clad lady, with a bowler hat, plaits and colourful skirts walked past and reached out to touch Scott, wanting to hold his hand. With a tiny “Hola” from Scott the lady engaged in conversation with me asking where we were from, where we were going and the age of the kids.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 13.15.35
Bolivian ladies at the bus stop

This had happened to us many times in Bolivia and when the silent barrier between two strangers from different cultures with different languages is broken there is openness, curiosity and kindness. Throughout our time in Bolivia we have found locals to be kind, interested and helpful and this was no exception. Ahh Corico she said, no busses, the road is closed due to a land slide.it will be closed for the next few days. I could not believe after asking around for over an hour that no one told me about the landslide…suddenly the lack of busses made sense… and our exciting plans to go to Senda Verde an impossible fait.

IMG_20170612_112903
Fresh fruit juice stand at the bus station in Bolivia

A fresh orange juice and some warm crusty rolls and fried egg sandwiches later we had summoned up the energy to make some decisions and new plans. All our travel and accommodation for the next 2 week was already booked and too late to cancel or change but after many phone calls in rusty Spanish to the animal sanctuary Senda Verde, and to Copacabana, the town next on our list, we managed to swap the dates of the 2 hostels around. All we had to do now was travel some more and hope that the road to Corico would be open a few days later.

Final test of patience and travel experience

The bus to Copacabana was located on the other side of La Paz at the cemetery bus station. A 1 hr taxi ride later we managed to get tickets to leave for Copacabana & Lake Titicaca at midday. Ingrid and Scott were already tired by now, but still somehow able to put all their travel experience to use, not getting upset at the sudden change of plans and long travel without actually getting anywhere Once on the bus, they gave in to the simple pleasure of a snack and a film. Finally we were on our way!…..but not for long……

IMG_0842
Finally on the bus to Copacabana

The roads in La Paz are steep, narrow and endlessly winding trough constant traffic jams. As we hit the first very steep hill in central La Paz the bus engine roared with effort. I closed my eyes as the bus slowly made some headway up the hill. A bit higher up the traffic kept increasing until 30 min later when we came to a complete stop. With traffic at standstill for over 30 min we started seeing men, woman and children making their way with heavy loads on foot. Something was going on but what??!!

IMG_20170612_125530
Stuck for hours in La Paz while the locals demonstrate with a road block

This was no ordinary traffic jam. A huge tree branch had been placed across the road and 10 men with megaphones made sure it stayed there. It turns out this was a typical Bolivian demonstration that happens every few days in La Paz.  Nothing we could do but accept that we were stuck in the bus surrounded by increasing car fumes for almost 2 hrs…

Feeling ill with altitude, car sickness and frustrated by the turn of events, I was surprised by my own lack of annoyance or stress from things not working out to plan. This is something we have all had plenty of time to practice and put to good use over the past year. Nothing to do but to sit back relax and just patiently wait, get another film on and try to keep everyone chilled.

The men on the road were asking for better facilities in their neighbourhood, the area where the road block was put up, and according to the locals this was they best way for them to get their issues heard. Police were present occasionally making sure no violence broke out, but no one asked the men to move the block or let them through. Finally everyone stuck in the growing traffic simply got out of their vehicle and walked round the road block to continue on foot and that’s what we had to do in the end too.

Freezing cold & altitude sick in Copacabana

Out of the bus, get our bags walk around the block and head up the hill where there soon will be another bus to take you to Copacabana. I was felling increasingly ill at this time but trying to keep spirits up for the sake of the kids.

IMG_0795.jpg
Leaving the bus with our bags to find another bus on the other side of the road block

The walk dragging our bags up the hill was not long, but at 4200m altitude and with an exhausting morning it was hard work simply rewarded by the stunning views.

The bumpy road took us ever higher up from 3600m in La Paz to 3900m at Copacabana.  The views on the way there were stunning but at this point I was simply feeling too ill to enjoy it.

IMG_0847
Stunning views over lake Titicaca all the way to Peru
IMG_20170615_080128
The little boat from the main land to Coapacabana over Lake Titicaca

4hr bus ride and a boat trip later, we finally arrived at lake Titicaca to find we had been put in a freezing cold (subzero) room for 3….Feeling very ill I bedded down in the single bed while Paul and the kids huddled together in the small double bed. No time to complain just get into bed and try to sleep.

IMG_20170614_081540
Keeping warm under 4 llama blankets in the freezing cold

Even under 4 llama blankets, it was by far the coldest nigh on our trip so far as the subzero temperatures outside crept into our room made of simple breeze blocks.  I closed my eyes and fell asleep thinking that tomorrow would be a new and less exhausting day with no travel and lots of exploring and hopefully a hot shower..Little did I know…..