A return to civilisation after a few days in the middle of nowhere always comes as a bit of a shock. A ride from Uyuni to Potosi was about 4 hours which felt like no time at all! Had a bit of a wonder around and visited the mint where the Bolivian coins used to be produced for about 300 years from the 16th century – it remained in operation only until 50 years ago. The actual building is 17th century and colonial, but still stands on the original site of the first mint. It also housed a lot of colonial religious paintings, focusing on the work of Cochabamba-born Melchor Pérez de Holguín and his depictions of ‘Pachamama’ or ‘Mother Earth’ – the Virgin Mary is painted within the mountain where the mine is. ‘Pachamama’ is worshipped by the native people as She supplies the people with fruit from the earth and the weather. Potosi has a reputation for silver production – the mine is the main source of income for the people who live in the city.A trip into the mine was certainly an experience I won’t forget. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the safety of the mine. But I wasn’t phased! The miners work very hard and seem to live off an endless supply of coca leaves – they chew so many in one go – it looks like they have a growth in their cheek! The mine supplies silver and zinc mainly and the miners work for themselves and then sell their takings to external companies who extract the metals from the rock before exporting them. The miners also pay their respects to a male statue inside the mine who is thought to represent masculinity (as only men work in the mine), fertility and a partnership with “Pachamama” to provide the earth with the minerals they can find. Then onto the city of Sucre which is actually named in the constitution as the capital, even though La Paz is where the President resides. It’s such a nice city! I preferred it to La Paz. Went on a walking tour and a hike where we went down some Inca steps and found some Dino tracks! I was also grateful to get some laundry done too at this point. Walking down some Inca steps for a couple of hours was nice – the steps were different to those of the Inca Trail and no way near as bad or steep! Luckily the weather was sunny, but there was a slight wind near the top. It was a bit of a walk cross fields and off the beaten track to reach the dino footprints which were preserved amazingly in prehistoric lava which had dried and formed part of a volcano which had collapsed in on itself to form a crater. It was great to spend more than one night in the same place too. A flight from Sucre back to La Paz caused a bit of fun – the airline put luggage on the wrong plane. It ended up in La Paz but had gone via a different town. So after faffing around, the luggage got delivered to where I was staying the same day. Phew! In La Paz, I did a walking tour and visited the Moon Valley which is a cluster of rocks which has been eroded over time by weather. It went on for ever! The walking tour helped me to understand the development of the city – lots of fights for independence from Spain as well as adhering to traditions e.g. the rituals of the people and what you can find in the witches market to use in the rituals to bless house construction etc. Not sure that I was a fan of the dead llama foetuses….
Over 30 hours in coaches over 3 days and I survived to tell the tale! Apart from a mozzie attack which makes me look like I have some medieval disease – they had some fun with my face. After having a bit of a stomach issue and a weird headache, I was unenthusiastic about the first coach journey – it was a 16 hour overnight job and I was praying for some much needed sleep. Luckily, I got some even with a few small children behind me who eventually collapsed in a heap. Had a day in Lima to sort myself out a bit and then got an Uber to the bus terminal. It was dead cheap! Used Cruz Del Sur again. The seats recline a bit and there’s a good foot rest, so it makes sleeping a bit easier. I arrived in Arequipa the next morning and got a taxi to my budget accommodation fairly close to the main square. I was able to get into the room (thankfully!) and then took myself off to the little laundry place I used before. I went to a few places including the cathedral and an archeological museum about the sacrifice of young Inca children as some had been found at the top of one of the mountains. I enjoyed exploring the town again. The sunset was a good one to see from a rooftop. After a quiet evening, the next day was a 6hr coach back to Puno. The scenery was great again. Arrived in the evening and tried to get an early night before the early start the next day. Cue the mozzie attack!Final day of coach fun. This would be the most interesting as it was a Bolivian bus company instead of Peruvian (didn’t rate them as good) and it was time to cross the boarder. An early start and I was at the bus terminal at 7. I had to exchange a voucher for an actual ticket, and fill out a few immigration forms. It took ages to get through the exit office – a good hour! After getting the passport sorted on the Bolivian side, it was back on the coach. However, there was a bit of trouble when not everyone got back on – there were a couple who had been sitting in front of me who did not show up after the boarder – I think they had some trouble. But the bus driver was quite prepared to drive on without them, despite the outbursts of other travellers. Some people got off the coach to help look for them and got left behind too! It was surreal. The bus driver continued to Copacabana which wasn’t too far away. Then everyone seemed to get off – I had been in my own little world. So I got off too and asked someone which bus I had to get on to go to La Paz. I was directed to another bus by a lady with a clipboard. There were another couple of people looking equally confused. I confirmed the destination with the driver and a few of us got on the bus which was definitely nicer than the last. The bus set off going further round Lake Titicaca. The bus pulled up in another town where we were asked to get off again, but left out large luggage on the bus. It appeared that we had to cross the lake by boat, but couldn’t be on the bus. So a few of us had to pay for a little speedboat to take us to the other side while the bus went across separately. It was definitely an adventure! I had no idea what I was doing but just went along with it using a few choice phrases and charades to help. Back on the coach and onwards to La Paz eventually arriving late afternoon. Walked from the bus terminal to where I was staying (thank you Google Maps) and found something to eat – was starving! Rewarded myself with a glass of wine and met some friendly Canadians. What a mad few days!