unBOLIVIAble

Yes you guessed it…I’m in Bolivia now. Last time I wrote was right before heading off to Puno which was a while ago now. Puno is a cool town right on Lake Titicaca on the Peru side. I took a particularly slow bus with my friend Valentine. We got to Puno late in the evening and we were starving. After finding a nice hostel we got some amazing wood oven pizza. mmm.

From Puno one day we took a boat ride to the islas flotantes (floating islands) on the lake. Yes these islands are made from buoyant reads and people actually live on the islands. There is nothing quite like this anywhere else in the world. The people use the reads for the islands, the houses, and even can eat it.. Although I am really glad I went because the lake and the islands were beautiful it was kind of upsetting how touristy it was. The people sing at the tourists and offer themselves up for photos to get money. I was glad to get on the boat back to Puno.

From Puno Valentin and I took a micro local bus to the town right on the Peru side of the Peru Bolia border. The border was comical, just a tiny building with a man on a cellphone who stamped our passports without looking at us. Then we walked down the road a little farther and there we were in Bolivia. The Bolivia office was even more funny, four men hanging out together eating lunch in a little building. They stamped Valentin’s passport right away. I handed one guy mine and he took one look at my US passport and chuckled, “visa visa chica” he said. This is one of those times when being American is no fun. While my French friend Valentin has no problem coming to Bolivia I on the other hand am a not so loved American, and I had to purchase a 140 dollar visa. fun fun.

A taxi took us from the border to the lovely Copacabana which is on the Bolivia side of the lake. Copacabana is picture perfect. The town is small and has a lot of good food and a nice harbor. We climbed up a hill to have a lookout down over the lake and town. One night in Copacabana there was some live music in a quiet bar which was really nice. It took me a little while to wrap my brain around new money and a new exchange rate but once I got the hang of it we bought bus tickets and set out for the capitol, La Paz.

On the bus to La Paz I met two traveler Yusef and Natalia. They convinced me to come with them to a hostel called The Wild Rover which is a big mega hostel. It had a big bar, restaurant, several patios, and no shortage of backpackers to befriend.. We arrived in the evening to the enormous and dirty, yet somehow lovely La Paz. I had a lot of fun in La Paz with all the people I met there. I had a lot of good veggie food and did a lot of walking. La Paz has a cool street market with a witches market section. You can see a picture of some dried llama fetus on my facebook.

On day in La Paz I signed up to go bike the worlds most dangerous road. Yep death road as it is lovingly reffered to is just outside La Paz. I had a great little group and two cute guides who geared us up and brought us down the 40k road on the edge of a cliff.. It was beautiful in the mountains and I felt great after the ride. There are some cool pictures of this online too if you are interested!

From La Paz I took a bus to Cochabamba by myself. I found a nice quiet little hostel and spent the next day walking all over the city. Cochabamba was a nice place and had super awesome street art on every corner. I met one street artist working and we talked for a bit. I also took a cable car up a hill to see the giant white Jesus statue and a view of the city. On the cable car I met a really nice family vacationing from La Paz that I chatted with for a while. They had a little baby who was hilarious and adorable, probably around 2.

The next night I took an overnight bus to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is where I am now and it is HOT. For all of you back in Maine where it is freezing I am sorry to complain…but it is sticky hot here. Santa Cruz seems like a cool city so far and I am excited to explore it! Hope all is well back in the US πŸ™‚ Until next time, besos. Sienna

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The Adventura to Machu Picchu

Last time I wrote was right before getting my bus to Arequipa which wasn’t that long ago but a lot has happened since then. I arrived in Arequipa early in the morning and found my way to a hostel called home sweet home. It was really more of a guest house. The building was funky with paintings all over the walls and a cute rooftop for breakfast and views of the volcano El Misti. Arequipa was fun to explore because the city is beautiful, it is famouse for it’s white stone buildings made from hardened lava from the volcano. It is a warm and relaxing city. I met up with some friends from Huacachina and we found a cool cafe with amazing falafel! We also went to a suburb of the city with a mirador lookout (super cool view of the city and volcanoes). I also met up with someone from couchsurfing in Arequipa. Erick was a super nice architect student who walked me around the city and answered all of my questions. Then brought me to his favorite bar.

From Arequipa I took another night bus to Cusco. Cusco is supposedly the oldest continuously inhabited city, pretty cool. Cusco is absolutely beautiful and as famous as it is for a reason. I’m a bit in love with the city. Im staying at a place that I found on couchsurfing but is also sort of a hostel because there are a lot of backpackers here. I met Valentin a guy from France and Katja a girl from Russia and we decide to embark on a several day trip to Machu Picchu together. Katja spoke only English and Valentin only Spanish so I got to translate a bit which was fun and good practice. We had to buy our tickets for Machu Picchu in advance in Cusco and then since we still had the rest of the day we took a beautiful drive out to the salt terraces of Moray and Maras. I have some really cool pictures of this on facebook at the beginning of the album called Cusco.

The next day we got up at 430 in the morning to take a bus to Santa Maria. At the bus station we met some other backpackers named Marius, Jooseph, and another Katja! The bus was late leaving to begin with and then about 3 hours in the bus broke down. Awesome. We watched as they took pieces of the motor out of the bus and started banging them on rocks…not encouraging. We decided we should try to hitchhike. After about an hour of trying and no cars stopping it began to rain. Discouraged I went back on the bus to sleep. Suddenly Valentin was waking me up and whispering to grab my stuff and get off the bus now. They had found a ride! The driver wanted 10 soles per person which is about 5 dollars and kind of pricey considering we were more than half way but we were not about to let our ONE DAY ONLY (75 dollar) tickets to the ruins go to waste. As soon as we hopped in the truck people from the bus started running over and everyone wanted a ride. The truck driver said 8 people maximum. I felt really lucky to get a ride.

The road we were on was actual terrifying. It is on a cliff and you can see evidence of landslides. At least it was gorgeous (misty green mountains and waterfalls everywhere). In some places waterfalls ran across the road. Signs said to drive 35 kph and im not great with kilometers but im pretty sure we were clocking in around 80…Then it started to rain which at first added to the excitement but then it started to pour. The road just kept on climbing upwards. The altitude was over 4000 meters which is a lot. One of the guys got altitude sickness and started throwing up over the edge of the truck. I felt bad for him but I was mostly just counting my lucky stars that it wasn’t me because my head was starting to hurt too. We chewed a lot of coca leaves…

We arrived in Santa Maria soaked, freezing, a little ill, and very relieved. In Santa Maria we got a combi (collectivo taxi) to Hydroelectrica. I thought the crazy road was over but I was wrong. The next road was even crazier. There was one part where the car drives over a river on two pieces of wood! LOCO is the only way I can describe this whole adventure and the pictures don’t do it justice. We stopped in Santa Theresa to gas the car. The gas station was just a home and a woman poured gasolina in the car through a funnel. We arrived in Hyroelectrica after the last train to Aguas Calientes. The only way to get to Aguas is by train or foot…at least it wasn’t raining anymore! The walk is 2 plus hours and by the time we arrived it was dark and we were stumbling.

Aguas Calientes was not what I was expecting! Because of Machu Picchu it is full of five star resorts and fancy restaurants! We finally managed to find a cheap enough hostel and some cheapish food. Then we passed out. The next morning we had to wake up at 430 again. Once again it was pouring rain. The hike up to the ruins was an hour of vertical climb. We huffed and puffed our way up and by the top we were drenched and tired. Even after all of this it was worth it! The first glimpse of Machu Picchu is incredible! It is just as spectacular as everyone says it is. When the clouds cleared and the rain stopped it was incredible. We found a good guide and very sneakily tagged along behind there group for a while heehee. We spent quite a while at the ruins before taking the treacherous hike down.

Back in Auguas we were so tired we decided to splurge on the tourist train for 30 soles. Unfortunately they were sold out for the rest of the day. We had been all set to go on the train so we were a little discouraged starting on the walk back. Fortunately it was a pleasant walk the second time around and we were really happy we saw the ruins. In hyroelectrica we got a combi and the driver drove us to the thermal pools in Santa Theresa. We stayed in the baths for several hours resting our aching legs. It was a great end to the day. Then the driver took us to Santa Theresa where we had food and found a cheap hospedaje.

In the morning we took a combi to santa Maria and then caught a bus bound for Cusco. The bus is long and brutal so we got off in Ollantaytambo to eat lunch and see a view of the inka ruins there. Then we took a taxi to Pisac another sacred valley village which had an incredible Sunday market. From Pisac it was just a one hour combi ride to the city. I was happy to be back in Cusco!

Today I took the Cusco free walking tour which is for travelers and the guides are students just working for tips. It is not a typical tourist tour. We saw cool parts the city and the people were great. I loved it! I think tomorrow I will leave for Puno but im not positive yet because I am a bit in love with Cusco!

Well thats it for now! Love and miss you all, until next time πŸ™‚ besos.

in the desert

Hello to my fantastic family and friends who read this from the desert of Peru! I am now in Ica province in Southern Peru! Last time I wrote was right before Christmas and I was in Huanchaco. Huanchaco turned out to be a lot of fun. I was in a really quiet hostel with only two other people…luckily they turned out to be awesome and I spent Xmass and the next few days with Sam and Matt from Australia. Christmas eve there were fireworks and loads of people in the plaza and horses and stuff. On Christmas day we ventured into the city (Trujillo) and went to probably the only restaurant open for a nice dinner. It was also nice to call home and talk to all my family.

One day we went to the Chan Chan ruins which is the old city of the Chimu people. It is right between Huanchaco and Trujillo. We went with a few other people we met a a burger shop on the beach in Huanchaco…they were awesome as well. The guides were really expensive so instead we bought the spanish pamphlet and I translated it as we went through. (yep I was pretty proud of myself). The ruins were surprisingly cool. As we were walking out in true backpacker style because we were too cheap for a taxi we saw another wall in a different part of the ruined city that had crumbled enough that we could climb in.. so of course we did. This part of the ruined city was clearly not restored and open to the public but was super awesome and we had a fun time climbing around (yep we climbed on ancient ruins!)

After saying my goodbyes I got on a bus back up North to Mancora. The bus ride was really long but I had one of the super cool front row seats on the second floor of the bus so I felt like I was driving but up above the road…does that make sense? We stopped in Chiclayo and Piura again, both city I sorta wish I had more time to explore but oh well. I arrived in Mancora early in the morning and when I got to my hostel my friends from Colombia that I made the reservation with were already there all asleep πŸ™‚

The next 6 days in Mancora were crazy but a lot of fun. Peruvians from the big cities like Lima and Trujillo flcok to Mancora for New Years just like we were doing. Every bed in every hostel was full and people were paying full price to sleep on pool chairs. I’m not kidding. The beach was beautiful and the town is dusty and crowded but nice also. On the actual night of New Years Eve I am not sure I have ever seen somewhere so crowded in my life. The beach and every club, hostel, and bar were shoulder to shoulder people and half the beach was covered in tents as well. I had a lot of fun and met a lot of really nice people. Right after New Years I said goodbye to my friends and the lovely but loco time in Mancora and got on a reallllly long bus to Lima.

The bus to Lima was supposed to be 17 hours but whatever they tell you, you add about 2 hours to, so I was expecting 19. The reality was that it was 21 hours. No big deal, I was on the bus almost a whole day…I was super happy to get to Lima! The last hour or so of the pan americana highway before getting into the city is maybe one of the craziest roads in the world but its gorgeous. The road is on the edge of huge sand dune cliffs. The water below is clear blue and sparkling. There are a few boats and they look like ants. The buses cruise…it’s actually a little scary but so pretty it’s worth it.

In the city I stayed in the barrio of Lima called Barranco. My guide book describes it as the bohemian neighborhood. It was beautiful and right on the water. I was able to walk into Miraflores which is typically the neighborhood backpackers stay in. Miraflores is more upscale and also nice but I preferred Barranco. I took a bus into central Lima one day and walked around the old historical center. There are a lot of pretty churches and plazas and such. I really loved the city of Lima, it is absolutely enormous but really cool. One night I met up with Lesnie who is the daughter of a family friend back home in Portland. She was so sweet and took me to a restaurant where her cousin was working and then went to a salsateca with her boyfriend and cousin. They had a live salsa band that was awesome. We stayed all night.

The next day I took a short bus to Ica. Well it was supposed to be short but ended up taking a good 6 hours because of traffic in the desert due to the Dakur which is a huge rally. It was pretty cool to drive past and see all the four wheelers and dune buggies and stuff. I was super hungry though! I think the bus company felt bad about the serious delay because they served everyone food even though we weren’t in the first class seats. I opened the box of food and saw a pile of rice and a piece of chicken that no lie was the size of a ping pong ball. It looked really unappetizing but my vegetarianism went out the window and I ate it. When I got to Ica I took a taxi right to Hacachina just outside the city and got food with some people at the hostel.

Huacachina is a tiny tiny desert oasis with an adorable lagoon squeezed in between enormous sand dunes. The desert here is crazy! The largest sand dune in the world is here. I met some cool people in my hostel and rented a boat together to go cruise in the lagoon. It was hot but a lot of fun and afterwards we went swimming.

In the evening I went with a group in a dune buggy out into the desert to try sand boarding. The dune buggy alone was a serious adventure. It is like a roller coaster but better. Our buggy was small (8 people and a driver) and we crashed over sand dunes at crazy speeds. Sand boarding was way harder than I expected it to be but so great. After a few tries I got the hang of it a bit and could make it down standing. Then our guide took us to some dunes that he wouldn’t let us try standing because they were so big so we went down on our bellies laying on the boards face first…amazing. We watched the sun set over the desert before flying back into Huacachina.

I ran into someone I met in Mancora in my hostel and we went and found some veggie food for dinner and then climbed a sand dune to see the stars which was really nice. I love the desert it doesn’t feel like Peru though, I feel like I’m in Egypt or something…

Today I had the largest pancake I have ever seen in my life for breakfast and then after that things started to go wrong. I went to the one atm here and it was broken. I had to take a moto into the city and use the atm and then return to buy my bus ticket. Then I realized as I was packing up that I had left my atm card at the atm. I totally panicked and jumped in another moto to go back to the city. The whole way there all I could think was how much it was going to cost me to get another one from home overnighted to my next hostel. I was really mad at myself. At the bank they made me sit and wait for a long time. I was so anxious. The woman at the bank kept telling me; “wow you have a lot of piercings. I love them.” I was like, uhhh ya, I need my card! Finally the manager came with me out to the atm asked to see photo ID and then opened up the machine and there was my card! The machine conveniently eats it if you forget to take it. I actually gave her a hug I was so happy. I wasted money on many motos in and out of the city but at least I wouldnt have to buy a new card. Since I was in a much better mood I decided to walk around and see a bit of Ica which seemed like a nice little city.

Tonight I am off on an overnight bus to Arequipa! Time is flying by…this year is going to fast.. I hope you all had an amazing New Years! Miss and Love you all. Stay posted and also check my facebook for pictures if you want! (there are some cool ones of sand dune surfing and the desert) Besos.