After a hair-raising few days we decided a bit of R&R was in order, so we booked some tickets from La Paz to Copacabana, which is on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and the biggest in South America. Nestled in the Andes on the border between Bolivia and Peru, it is 3800m above sea level, so the views are, quite literally, breathtaking.
We were due to travel with our new mates Mike and Lynsey, but unfortunately both of them were too sick to travel (gringos are dropping like flies here, what with the food and dodgy parasite-ridden water supply), so we ended up going it alone.
After a few hours on the bus we were transferred to a little boat to continue the journey, then back on the bus again.The bus containing everyones belongings was balanced precariously on a makeshift raft and a few Bolivians used long poles to transport the bus to the other side.We watched with bated breath as it was listing and tilting at various angles but luckily made it without any dramas.
It was the next boat that was to prove a problem - having made it to Copacabana safely we had to catch another boat to the Isla Del Sol, a little island on Lake Titicaca which has interesting hikes and ruins to visit.
The boat wasn´t looking too hopeful from the start - the owner climbed on board clutching screwdrivers and various other old and oily-looking tools and lo and behold, within 10 minutes the engine packed up. Thus, what should´ve been an hour and a half became nearly 3 hours, as he kept yanking the chord trying to get it fired up, followed by much head-scratching, taking the cover off the engine and generally faffing about.
We eventually arrived at the island and climbed the 240 steep steps (as a little local boy informed me as he carried my 20kg rucksack for a 25 boliviano fee) to our hostel. Lots of the buildings here are mad from mud bricks and the cement is a kind of clay mixed with cactus juice which gives it extra strength. We ate a traditional dinner of quinoa, vegetables and some local wine and went to bed exhausted and feeling the altitude.
The next day we set off early for a 4hr hike from one end of the island to the other. When we left it was freezing but it soon got absolutely boiling - duh, there was a clue in the name of the island - but we gringos took no notice and fried ourselves alive as we trekked up and down the mountains.
By the time we boarded the boat back to Copacabana there were more than a few lobster-faced Brits frantically applying sunscreen in a vain attempt to ward off the potential skin cancer, which was probably already forming invisible melanomas on our pasty complexions.
Back in Copacabana, we realised we hadn´t done much relaxing after all, but there was no time to waste as we had to be on a bus to Arequipa in Peru, via Puno.
At the border crossing the customs officals barely glanced at our passports and all our luggage was left on the bus and not even checked, which was the complete opposite to when we left Peru for Bolivia, where our bags were completely taken apart and we were given a lengthy grilling. We found this strange, seeing as most drugs etc come from Bolivia, but were grateful not to have to go through that again.
After a painful 8hr bus journey in tiny seats with zero legroom (I told you, these locals are miniscule) and a load of chickens angrily protesting at being cooped up (geddit?)in a confined space, we finally arrived at Arequipa.
Our hostel here is lovely, more like a hotel, and the sun is shining brightly. We visited a museum in honour of Juanita,The Ice Maiden, a 12 year old Inca child who had been sacrificed to the Gods on a mountain top 500yrs ago and her perfectly preserved body can be viewed here. Unfortunately, Liam has been a bit poorly, and just as the guide did the crucial unveilling of the body he had to run off to the toilet, clutching his stomach. I think the other memebrs of our tour thought he was overcome by the sight of the rotting corpse, but I knew it was more to do with last night´s dinner, so carried on gawping at the body and left him to it.
Now we are about to leave Peru for Chile, just for a day trip, then we head to New Zealand. We are a third of our way through our trip already, bring on the next chapter of our great adventure.