Monday, August 29, 2011

Eating our way around Cochabamba, Bolivias culinary city

cheers arriving in Cochabamba
saw a musical also, but didn't stay for it all because it was mostly talking

South from the high city of La Paz to Cochabamba, was a paved road, it took about 6 hours to arrive in the city. Its well laid out in grids so it was pretty easy to found our hostel that had parking cable tv, that had a Korean channel. Jieun was glued to the television for the duration of our stay only getting up to get something to eat. Cochabamba was clean compared to La Paz and we also notice its was much warmer than La Paz. The cities weather is spring like all year round which is nice change from La Paz's freezing night. 

pique macho, mountain of beef, hotdog, potatoes and veggies
large chain restaurants great food and good prices
Now If there was a title for culinary town in Bolivia I am sure most Bolivians and visitors alike would have to say Cochabamba is the place to eat. The city doesn't have alot to offer in museums or entertainment so whats left if loads of restaurants and cafes. We often past these busy large franchise looking restaurants but didn't really want to try them but when we did it the best food in Bolivia hands down. There not in the guide books and there are no tourist in them only locals, prices is not cheap for Bolivian standards but at only $5 bucks for lunch of soup and great main dishes you can't go wrong. Desert selection was also amazing and but the price for desert cost just as much as the meal so its a real treat to have and we did enjoy them.

Cochabamba also claims to have the largest open air market in South America but its also very dangerous place to visit. On our first day we parked near the market I heard a young gringa scream "that guy just grabbed her ass" to a friend and moments later she broke down and started to cry. After seeing that I wasn't going to let Jieun of my site while in the market area. On the 3rd day we did visit the market its large almost a city block of tinny shops selling everything from hand crafts, clothes, music instruments to fruits, vegetables and meats.

Next on the list is the capital city of colonial Sucre.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

La Paz, dirty, stinky, noisy and we still liked it!

Arriving in La Paz, didn't surprise us we expected it to be crazy and it was from the high surrounding town of El Alto, to steep down centre of La Paz. Unorganized traffic with people and on the streets narrow streets made it even harder to drive but after 2 hours of hunting around the city we found place to stay for our five day stay in the high city. At nearly 4000 meters its the highest governing city with the highest commercial airport but thats not the lore of this city, its the culture, people and sites. Yes La Paz is dirty with garbage everywhere, smell of urine at all corners, polluted and loud from the unserviced vehicles if you can look past that the city has alot to offer. Great restaurants, shops, buildings and tours around the area.

on the local ferry one car only please

picking up local auto insurance for only $12usd for half a year

nice they named a street after me

local shops selling mummified animal heads

all this money in Bolivia equels about $50 kidding, its about $500

lively night market scene

After a long day of searching for a place to sleep we just rested and discovered a treat that we would love for the remaining time in Bolivia. Saltenas, a great hand held snake of crispy baked shell with gravy beef or chicken, potatoes and eggs so great that we had it almost everyday while in La Paz. Another great treat we enjoyed was Api a sweet hot drink of purple corn that really warms you up on those cold La Paz nights.

our day treat of saltenas just loved these little pastries
authentic Korean food in Bolivia on Calle Santa Cruz

On the second day Jieun, had to check out a Korean restaurant that we had passed the first day, I guess I was craving some kimchi also a good change from the foods we've been eating for the past 6 months. Not expecting too much from a Korean restaurant in Bolivia, after what he had tried in Cuzco, Peru but this place was the real deal great K- food and loads of side dishes.

On 3rd day in the city I decided to take on the famous death road while Jieun, decided to skip this and stay in the town. This road has more people dying on this stretch of gravel than another in the world and to make things more dangerous, I got the cheapest bike to ride on hoping my skills on the bike would keep me alive. Early morning we left the city on a 1.5hr drive to the spot and had breakfast. The first stretch of road was paved and we got up to speeds of over 60kph on the bike which feels a hell alot faster than in the van. After about 1 hr ride to we reached a tourist check point where we had to pay another $5 bucks to enter the unpaved, unmaintained dirt road but first we would all get back in the tour van for about 30mins because it was all up hill while in the van the guide handed out waiver to sign our lives away, from faulty bikes and plus we would be liable if any of the equipment was lost or damaged. (if they could find or bodies that is) Finally we arrive and the guide stresses another time how dangerous the road is and away we go. It was 3 hours of mostly down hill excitement at the bottom we had a shower, swim and lunch at a local hotel restaurant. Cost of this tour $50 and well recommended for any level bike rider just take it at your own time its no race because many tourist have died trying it.

final minutes before descending
keeping our hands warm

We survived death road yeah!
On the final day in La Paz we got treated to a Tinkus festival, Tinkus is a traditional combat dance of the Indigenous people of Potosi. Nowadays its only a colorful dance and party but still very fun and interesting to see. At night we did get to see some fighting in the form of cholitas,(girl wrestling) cheap local entertainment which the tourist eat up. It cost about $12 usd to see and you can buy at any tour office in town it takes place in El Alto above the city. Next on Bolivia will be Cochabamba.

this young boy entertained people to MJ music an dance, Jieun even tipped him
traditional colorful war dance of tinkus

popular local past time of female wresting (cholitas)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Leaving Peru for Bolivia around the shores of lake Titicaca

After a crazy 2 days to Machu Picchu, it was time to take a break, get some laundry done and Urubamba, was that perfect place. A small quite town that had all the amenities we needed, plus a few cheap and good restaurants. Urubamba, has one main street, 2 small squares but what attracts the small number of tourist is the surrounding Inca ruins. We didn't check out any of the ruins because we're too busy catching up on rest and pretty much doing nothing else. After 3 days of rest we got ready to head south to the city of Puno, situated on the Lake Titicaca the highest lake in the world. It was another long and stressful drive because we had to drive at night again to reach Puno. Just before in the city of Juliaca we pulled over to ask the police on the street for directions he was very unhelpful telling us we can't take the road ahead because its closed and didn't offer any more directions. Down the street we asked a local and he explained how to get out on the road for Puno. Now in Peru the traffic police are always at intersections directing traffic but their signals never match the lights and it confuses the hell out of me. (thats the point i guess) because I passed through a intersection with a green light and didn't see the police directing traffic to stop, so another cop pulled me over. Here we go again, I guess its my fault I didn't see the police officer in black, at night on the unlit street corner. The police flashes a hand book and said I would have to pay $700 sols thats like $300 usd. he asked for my license and told me I would have to pay on Monday because it was Saturday, plus Sundays are closed. I told him "give the ticket and I would pay when I return" he wouldn't give my license back, so I told him thats property of my government and only I have the right to hold it and he handed it back and told me again I had to pay the fine. 15 minutes of back and forth, he told me people usually just pay directly to him but this time he was going to let us off with a warning.

We finally arrive in Puno, at about 10pm and Saturday night traffic was crazy with the night market full and and dumb cops making traffic more problems. After driving around the city 2 or 3 times we finally got pulled over by a police, for what I still don't know to this day but I started speaking english and mention to us he knows how we felt and told us to leave but I am still asking the guy for directions and he walks away. So much for police help in this town. After some hard searching we found a hotel and parked at a secure lot 2 blocks away, there was no hotel in town with parking.

the view from Peru side

that way to Bolivia row on

locals sending us off with a song

largest island had a school and hostel
Now our main reason to come to Puno, was to visit the floating Islands on lake Titicaca, but after that night it was to leave Peru and the police harassment behind us. We still visited the the Uros floatingIslands which has about 3 to 4 families living on each island. They greeted us with a tour and explained how they keep their homes afloat. After they set on a hand made straw boat that fits about 20 people to the main island to do some handcraft shopping and back on the boat to Puno, overall the hole thing took about 4 hours at about $15 per person.

Next day it was good riddance to Peru and welcome Bolivia, strange thing was even at the boarder, the Peru police was trying to shake us down. He was a police is normal clothes asking us to show him all our documents and out of the blue asked for our yellow fever card (we are leaving Peru why would you ask for that now?) lucky we had it and he lowered the chain for us to start the real process of exiting Peru. After that it was quick and entering Bolivia was fast, easy and straight forward. Our first town in Bolivia will be Copacabana also the shores of lake Titicaca. The lake was noticeably cleaner on this side and the town was much smaller than Puno and felt more welcoming to us. We spent 2 days exploring the town and hiking while  getting stunning views of the lake Next is La Paz the highest governing city in the world.

view from Bolivia side much cleaner

hard climb straight up
worth the views