Our First Train in South America

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…So up we got at 1am ready to get our train at 1.30am. We had a total of 3 hours restless sleep as we knew we would be up again soon. I even slept in my clothes as I couldn’t bear the thought of revealing any skin at that time in the morning in a constantly bitterly cold Uyuni. So I just slipped on even more layers, packed the remainder of our bags and headed for the door. The kind hostel owner must have been used to these late night exits as he wasn’t surprised at all to see us on our way at this un-godly hour!

Being up at this time when its cold and miserable makes you feel a bit sorry for yourself and makes you think of all the people cosily wrapped up in their beds and this makes you feel even more self pity (if this is possible!) But then you get to the usally sleepy train station and it is literally buzzing with life and people. People mainly wrapped up in warm blankets, but also lots of soliders waiting to depart, all looking far to young to be wearing a military uniform and carrying a weapon. The majority of these kids still had acne and bum-fluff. Scary. And sad.

We bought the most expensive ticket, saying this, the ticket cost 175B’s which equates to about £17 there or about, for an 8hour train. After our experience of buying the cheapest ticket for Bolivian transport, we had learnt from that and figured we didn’t want a freezing 8 hour journey. I think we made the right decision as we had comfy enough seats, there was heating, yes, actual heat coming out from vents (this does exist!!) and we were offered blankets (just incase, we had bought our own on board, so we had double the warmth!) and offered pillows. We were in overnight transport heaven. The kind guard even turned off the lights, including that in the hallway, which again is a rarity.

All in all, we slept pretty well. The repetitive noises and motion of the train were relaxing and comforting, a real aid to sleeping and a welcome change from our last bumpy (to say the least) journey into Uyuni. We awoke with the sun at about 6am-ish and another kind guard came around with breakfast coupons. Adam went on a search and discover mission and returned very excitedly, “there’s an actual buffet carriage, lets go!”. He wasn’t wrong. We stepped back in time and were greeted by fancy-ish buffet carriage fully equipped with nailed down lamps and furniture and a steward carrying around scoulding drinks over rickety tracks and not spilling a drip on anyone. We happily drank our milky coffee and ate our dry biscuits before heading back to our seats ready for our arrival in Tupiza.

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As we kind of knew the lay of the land in Tupiza, after retrieving our bags we walked to the taxi/mini bus terminal to get some form of transport to the border. As it was so early, there were plenty of cars fighting, literally for our business. So much that one (very small) women had Adam by the arm and was effectively steering him towards her car. Now, I hate this sort of stuff; overly pushy people making too much unwanted bodily contact with you. Really bugs me. Either way, we got in a car and it left straight away and 2 hours later we were as close to the border as the car would take us. We walked the rest of the way, about 1km with our bags to the border. We were stamped out of Bolivia (bye bye Bolivia, for good this time!) and were stamped back into Argentina. We went through the slackest bag check ever, where their thinking goes, “your white, go on through” but never fail to check every inch of any Bolivians bag. Not the nicest procedure to see, where peoples belongings are literally hauled out for all and Sundry to see. Slightly humiliating.

We then walked the other 2km to the bus terminal on the Argentinean side in La Quicha. We bought 2 ridiculously expensive bus tickets (boy, are we guna miss Bolivian prices) and waited for the bus to leave. We were about to make the long journey to Salta. And 8 hours later, and stopping in every single little town/village/lay by possible, we arrived at our hostel in Salta.

After 3/4 days of constant travel, we can finally rest, crack open a Quilmes beer and heave a huge sigh of relief. We are here, we are in the 2nd to last country we will visit of our travels….not too sure how I feel about that…

Salar de Uyuni

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We arrived off the night bus from La Paz at around 8am. I would like to say that we are used to night buses now and that we have experienced a variety; from freezing cold buses where we wore ALL our clothes and playing Charlottes Web in Spanish on repeat very loudly through broken buzzy speakers on a bus with no toilet, to luxury full-cama bed seats serving us champagne and food. But this bus was a whole other experience. The bus was new, it had a toilet, it served food, had a tv and even seat belts. It had everything going for it, it was a full on tourist bus. But no matter how good the bus is, if you travel over 60% of the way on unpaved roads, you are not sleeping (unless they very quickly invent hover-buses, which i strongly recommend)

Your best bet of getting some shut eye is making sure you fall asleep as soon as you have finished your food, whilst the roads are still smooth and then just grinning and bearing it until you arrive. I can only try and describe the roads for you and the best example would be that the roads are so bad, the bus actually stops in the morning so that you can eat the breakfast they serve you, otherwise it would look like a crackers and Oreos massacre. They also recommend you don’t use the toilet they provide during the unpaved section, just so you don’t make a mess in there! Either way, we arrived in one piece, although everyone on the bus was passing back peoples shoes, bags, coats, etc that decided to bounce their way somewhere else during transit.

We quickly found our hostel (which isn’t so hard in such a small place) and the man kindly had a room waiting so we were able to drop our bags and quickly sort ourselves before finding some actual breakfast before our tour started in an hour or so. Unfortunately this “sorting ourselves out” did not include a shower or even a change of clothes, just a quick teeth brush. So far the clothes we had on had lasted us since the morning before, we are on 24hrs and counting……tad disgusting. Any who, we got some brekkie and then went to the train station to find some tickets to Tupiza as it is safer and a more pleasant journey than the bus. We did this, and were booked in for that night/early morning train leaving Uyuni at 1.30am. This was going to be a loooong few days.

Our 1 day tour to the Salt Flats started at 10 am and we were picked up in 4×4 and firstly taken to the train graveyard which was cool although a bit eery. Unfortunately our tour guide/driver spoke only Spanish and so we only got about 25% of what he was actually saying.

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After the graveyard we drove for a good hour or so over pure salt with nothing else on the horizon, it was a great sight. So great (and so smooth) that I caught up on some much needed sleep the whole way there…..When I finally woke up we were at what looked like the biggest meeting point of 4x4s I had ever seen. This was the lunch spot, Inca Huasi, where you get great panoramic views of the salt flats and go on a little walk around a cactus farm. Firstly thought, we ate. We ate llama steaks and salad and it was lovely! We then made our own way around the mini-trek walky thing and saw some amazing views of pure gleaming whiteness as far as the eye could see. It was blindingly beautiful.

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We got back in the car and set off for a quiet patch which took about 30mins to find so that we could take the classic ‘salt flat’ pictures. This is where our guide came to life and seemed to enjoy his job, putting us in silly positions to take some funny photos. Which i think we managed to achieve.

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On the way back to Uyuni we stopped at a mountain for a little bit and the guide explained in Spanish about it. We stood and stared. Then got back in the car for the sleepy journey back. Once we got back we finally got a shower and changed into clean-ish clothes (yippeee!) and got a quick bite to eat before we bedded down early so we could try and sleep for a few hours before our alarm went off again at 1am….

Riding the World’s Most Dangerous Road (Bolivia)

When people thinking of riding the Death Road the words that come to mind are usually downhill mountain biking, Top Gear, worlds most deadliest road. What they don’t usually talk about is climbing down the cliff side which gives the death road its name and rescuing a dog!!!! It was certainly a more unique experience to say the least.

The day starts with an early set off (7am) driving through the always at rush hour La Paz, to reach the police check point, before heading off into the mountains and racing ahead of the 20 or other so buses heading in the same direction. The start point of the ride is at about 4,800metres, where the majority of the biking companies will start, with some (from what i can gather) cheaper companies starting further down. Once the bike preps and briefings have been made about how to ride the tarmac section of the ride, its down to blessing our bikes and giving thanks to the ‘pacha mama’ or mother earth. This comes in the form of not only pouring 92% proof alcohol on your bike, but also having yourself a little swig!! Remember this is 9am in the morning and were about the hurl ourselves down a road at 40-50mph!! Only in Bolivia.
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Once we had all blessed our bikes, geared up, briefed and got liquored up, it was time to hit the ‘easy’ section of our ride for the day. Which was a downhill tarmac road, giving us plenty of time to get used to our bikes, smooth out any issues there might be with the bikes and get our adrenaline flowing and wake us up. We also got to take in some awesome scenery and as the road was a nice easy ride with not too much traffic, you could actually see some of the scenery as well, unlike what we would on the Death Road where our absolutely every bit of our attention would be needed. Our guide even took some down time to show off a few wheelies and supermans, which it was tempting to try, but I did actually want to make the deathroad!
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We reached the start of the actual Deathroad around about 10:30am, as we had made really good time, took over some other groups and luckily nobody had fell off or give up. So we were given a good briefing about how this road would be different a) being completely gravel, therefore punishing on the arms and b) its the death road, ‘death’ meaning its fairly dangerous! Where we started also gave us a great view down the valley, where we could see a huge chunk of the ride we were about to do, including the lovely trucks, coaches and vans we were going to be running into! My initial thought was, they shouldn’t be a worry because obviously they will go snail pace, along the tiny one track dirt road with a massive drop on one side, how wrong I could of been, how stupid of me to forget that this is Bolivia and nobody EVER drives slow!! Instead what they do is drive as they would on a normal tarmac road but stick to the inside, away from the drop, which means when two cars meet, its all about slamming on the breaks as fast as you can or swerving and not driving off the cliff like a rally car driver!! Still can’t see where the name comes from huh!
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Luckily for us the guide had split the ride into small sections, so that we didn’t ride for any longer than 15mins at a time, which trust me on a gravel road were you either go fast and don’t break or break the whole way, either way its punishing on the legs and arms. I opted for the bat out of hell, shut off a stick, no breaks approach were any hiccup resulted in the backend sliding out and me constantly fighting with the bike to keep it in check. It was fun as f*ck though and got the heart racing to say the least. The stops we made were usually places of significance or awesome view/photo points, one of the first stops being where a Canadian girl managed to over judge the corner, ended up at the bottom of the cliff and after 3-4hours of silence came through, started screaming and was rescued by guides from different bike companies! They were all astounded that she was intact, let alone alive! Another stop was a awesome photo point, where the ledge overhangs the cliff, so you can dangle your bike over, sit on the edge or just do your favourite ‘trend’ holiday pose. Just before we were about to set off, before all of the other companies turned up, our bus driver and I thought we could hear barking, which I thought nothing off, but then when the driver said the nearest village is over 1hrs drive away, it caught our attention a bit more. It turned out that there was a big black Rottweiler at the bottom of the cliff, which as soon as we started looking down at it, stopped barking and just sat and looked at us! Before we knew it, everyone was intrigued to know what we were looking at and once our guide saw, it was action stations, after obviously getting the all clear from all of us, to stay around and try and rescue the dog from the bottom of a 100metre high cliff, which has no obvious way of getting down or getting a dog up!!!
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After our guides and and the driver pulled out the climbing ropes from the back of the van (saved for a rainy day), Scooby (as he goes by) took it upon himself to go recce the situation, as from above it looked pretty plain sailing, but if that was the case why the hell was the dog not coming to us! As this was a popular spot, he said his walkie talkie had fell down this area before and he had climbed down a small section with no ropes, by small section I mean the first 20-30 metres of flat rock face! After reaching this space, he found that indeed the next part was not flat, as seen from above (as expected) and was a sheer drop with different levels all the way down. We just so happened to have a guy from NZ, who was a climbing instructor and got stuck into the action along with the driver, to help set up a rig for the ropes, so that once Scooby had reached the bottom, we could winch the dog back up. After about an hour, he finally reached the area with the dog and thankfully it didn’t bite him, runaway or worse! Instead the dog was placid and relived to see somebody. After making acquaintances and checking he wasn’t going to be savaged, Scooby went for a look around, as for a dog to be all the way down there, so far away from any villages, the only explanation could be that a car had gone over and the dog was in the car. After searching for about 30mins around the surrounding area, we were relieved to hear that it was only the dog, which obviously made it a greater mystery as it was completely unharmed, but at least there was nobody hurt or worse.
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After spending about an 1 1/2hours getting Scooby down there and checking the area, it was now time for the monumental task off getting the dog back up the sheer cliff face. Firstly Scooby tried putting the dog in his bag, throwing it on his back and then having the kiwi, driver and other guide winch him up, however by the first ledge, the dog ripped the bag because it was so heavy! So Scooby re-rigged the dog into a homemade harness and it would be dog first, throw the rope back and he would work his way back up using knots and footholds. I was getting itchy feet by this point and had done so well to not get myself involved and try climb down the cliff, but enough was enough and i couldn’t resist, it was only a matter of time! Plus the guys were really struggling with hauling up the dog, as that motherf*cker was heavy! To put it in perspective, it took 4 fairly strong guys 45 straight minutes of pulling and winching the rope to get the dog to the top (well to where we were!). When we eventually got him up, the poor thing was absolutely terrified and wouldn’t come near us, which I wouldn’t blame him. While waiting for Scooby to winch himself back up, we slowly got the dog used to us and although he was still very jumpy, he did allow us to give him a stroke and get really close, which was definately going to come in handy for the next part of the challenge.
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The final section was the last 20-30mts that we had all scrambled down ropeless to get to the first ledge. Thanks to the awkward shape of the rock face and lack of options for anchors, we could only winch the dog about 30% up, which thankfully was the steepest part, however after that it was all going to be by hand, with brute strength and a lot of stability! We had the winching down to a T, so he was up in a matter of seconds, as we simply pulled up the rope without setting up an anchor and again went for the brute strenght approach. We then had to leapfrog up the cliff and two people would push the dog from behind while the other (precariously above) would heave him up. After about 20mins or so of this process, we finally got the dog to the top and he was very relived to have all his harnesses removed. It was a great effort by all 5 of us, but more so by Scooby our guide, who literally threw himself down the cliff, pretty epic experience and definitely not something I expected to do on the Deathroad! Scooby said he was going to take the dog in as his pet if he couldn’t find its owners and he would be called Rocky…nice.
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As we had spent 3 hours rescuing a dog and all of the other companies had now long gone, we had to make up some time. Therefore our stops were very limited, although still happened and unfortunately our time at the bottom was now shortened, as we had to leave before it got too dark and cold on the mountain pass. We had anticipated going back to La Senda verda, as it was across the river from where Barracuda finish and therefore we could bob in for a few hours, see our old friends and our old monkey friends too. Now our time was down to 30mins and would be a very flash visit. The rescue mission was worth it though and its slightly ironic that in the process of rescuing a dog, we ate into our time at the animal rescue centre! It turned out perfect in the end, as the owner Vicky had just returned from La Paz as we were knocking on the door and had we turned up earlier, we would have missed her. So maybe it was meant to be. We still got to see all of our favourite animals, including my little favourite Combo, the baby capuchin. 20131024-021332 PM.jpg

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It was certainly an eventful day and when I signed up for the Deathroad, definitely not was I was expecting. The ride itself was awesome and I would happily do it again, although I would advise anybody who decides to adopt the shit of a stick approach to get ready for a all out pounding on the forearms and legs, good workout to say the least! Please also make the effort to go and visit if not stay at La Senda Verda as well, not enough companies push it doing the Deathroad, but they all finish in the village next door and its shame that so many people pass every day and don’t know it even exists.

Its now safe to say that I have survived the Deathroad, done that and got the T-Shirt….


La Frontera y Volvemos a Bolivia

Before arriving in La Paz to do the death road, we had ourselves a very interesting journey to cross ‘la frontera’ (border)! The idea was to leave Arequipa on our pre-booked bus, which ‘would’ arrive on time to catch the connecting bus at and only at 2:30. Luckily for us, our travelling luck was in and we had the privilege of following trucks on all of the single track roads, leaving us hoping that the ‘Tortoise and the Hare’ story was going to come good……….which it didn’t! We arrived exactly at 2:40pm, which once again our travelling luck was in and ALL of the connecting 2:30pm buses left nice and sharp that day! We therefore seeked out the next pausible route to get across the border. Which was a joyful 2 and 1/2 hour ‘taxi’ ride thats takes you to a very, very non touristy border, unlike the one when coming from Copacabana. Only in SA is it possible to grab a 4 person taxi for 2 1/2 hours!! Love this place.

Again our luck was on top form and we were (for the first time I might add) pulled into the customs office to be questioned, patted down, bags searched, individually while the other squirmed outside. After a slightly (used very lightly) smoother re-entry into Bolivia, we jumped on the next mini-bus bound for La Paz, which again was a delightful 2 1/2 hours on a very over crammed 6 person mini-bus. We ‘were’ meant ti be dropped off at one of the smaller more local bus depos, however as our luck was on tip too form that day, instead the driver thought it would be better to drop us in one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in La Paz, as there was potential fares to pick up! So after being refused to be taken anywhere by a few taxis, as we were too far away from anything, we finally landed our first bit of good news that day and got one of the happiest, most helpful drivers we could of asked for and possibly had in South America this far. The guy wasn’t sure on where our hotel was, but said this was not a good neighbourhood for us to be in, so would help us find it anyway he could, which after his many questions to police officers and standers by, he managed to find it down a quiet little street in the safest and nicest neighbourhood of La Paz! Which we also had one of the nicest rooms we have had since being in SA and genuinely felt like the day hadn’t been a total right off, even though there was only 30mins of it left and it started at 7am!!

Safe to say it was one of our most interesting border crossings and was definitely not without its drama. What a difference a day makes though, as in the morning it turned out we were the only guests in the hotel and had possibly theeeee best breakfast we have had so far in SA and all to ourselves, complete with fresh bread, various fresh fruits, fresh juices, coffee, serrano ham and fresh cheese…….mmmmmmm. Strange how easily your happiness can be changed with a good lodge and good grub, making me nice and relaxed and ready to throw myself down the worlds dangerous road…..


In and Out of Copacabana, Bolivia

We left La Paz and took a bus to Copacabana thinking we would stay a couple of nights before we entered Peru. Our minds quickly changed once we entered Copacabana and became instantly depressed. The town was empty. No people, no children running around, no cars. Just lots of big empty hotels. Which made the place even more depressing. So we quickly booked a bus to Puno, Peru for the next morning.

sunset over Lake Titicaca

sunset over Lake Titicaca

We watched the sunset over then lake and then walked around in the evening trying to look for a cheap local place to eat. It turns out they do not exist here as local people are few and far between. What makes it worse that everyone at the restaurants are so friendly, even though their place is empty and they seem desperate for customers, it made me want to cry.

Like I stated before, we hastily left in the morning, hoping Puno would bring better feelings.

The One Good Thing about La Paz

We got the post-monkey-blues bad. Real bad. I even dreamt about them swinging around our dingy room a few times.

It also doesn’t help that after leaving a beautiful jungle we entered possibly the ugliest city we have come across so far. La Paz, although is impressive with its altitude (it sits 3,640m above sea level) that is about as good as it gets. The city is ridiculously over crowded, we watched people trying to enter and leave the city for work, literally fighting to get on a tiny minivan/bus, so that they wouldn’t have to queue for another 2 hours. Not a great start to the day. Traffic is horrendous 24 hours a day and crossing any road, even those with pedestrian lights, is a bit of a life gamble. Also, the food sucks. We took a free walking tour and we were shown “traditional food” from La Paz and were shown a fast food chicken restaurant. How depressing, the chicken wasn’t even that good.

La Paz is so bad, that the prisoners at the infamous San Pedro prison, prefer to stay in there than to leave, as their quality of life is better in there. To give a quick insight into San Pedro, it is the only prison sponsored by Coca-Cola and has its own cafes, restaurants, gym and the prisoners can live in there with their family (if they can afford the rent…yes, you heard correctly…they pay rent…) And only recently did they close the prison to tourists as people were going in, but not as many were coming out. Although we were kindly offered a tour by two lovely prisoners on day release… :s

The one thing that we loved and saw all over the city were the old ‘Dodge’ buses with beautiful paint jobs. We really wanted to get on one, but had no idea where we would end up, and La Paz is pretty big. Wouldn’t want to end up in the wrong end of town!


Llama fetus found at the witches market…for good luck when building a property…

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La Senda Verde

Leaving our host family was hard, very hard. We built up a lovely relationship which we hope will last, but the only thing that made leaving them easier was the knowledge that we were moving onto volunteer at La Senda Verde animal sanctuary (LSV). We had been in contact with Vicky, one of the owners for over a year and had always been looking forward to this part of our journey.

We left Sucre on a night bus and arrived in a very cold and depressing looking La Paz at 7am. We toileted, grabbed a quick coffee before getting a taxi to the local bus station, Villa Fatima where we paid 20Bs each (under 2 GBP) for a seat in a cosy mini van which would take us over and through the mountains and for part of it on the old famous ´Death Road´ before we arrived in Coroico, which is a beautiful mountainside town in the Nor Yungas Province. From there we got a taxi down to La Senda Verde and finally arrived in the middle of the afternoon after travelling for about 20 hours. We couldn´t have been happier to have arrived!

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Once we walked over the suspension bridge we wandered through trying to find our way with all our bags and were amazed by everything we saw, macaws flying over head and spider monkeys just sunbathing in the sun. I got so excited and distracted I started to walk straight towards them until I heard Adam, “ummm…Cheryl…your in a no entry area, do you wana get back on the path?” Woops! I just got a bit carried away. We finally found where we should be, were warmly greeted and a plate of hot food put in front of us! Perfect! We were introduced to the other volunteers and had the afternoon to settle ourselves and get orientated with the place before we started work the next morning. Everyone we met was so helpful, friendly and made us feel welcome and instantly part of the family.

One of the lovely vets, Adriana talked us through the rota and how it worked, there are 4 areas to work within where you spend between 3-4 days before you move onto the next: Turtles, tortoises and bears; Birds; Quarantine; Monkeys. As a female volunteer I found out I couldn’t work within the monkey area and was instantly disappointed as they are my favourite animals, but was quickly reassured I would get enough monkey time without having to feed them and clear up their poop. Fine by me! On my first day I was on Turtles, tortoises and bears with another girl and Adam was on Birds with 2 other people and we were shown the ropes. This is how it works for all the areas and you then teach the next person who comes onto roatation with you. Pretty easy process to follow and easy to pass on.

We enjoyed every day we spent in La Senda Verde and I put that down to the amazing people we worked alongside. We were lucky enough to volunteer alongside people who were motivated, hardworking, funny and just amazing to be around. We seemed to form a little family, everyone looking out for everyone else and giving a helping hand when needed. Spending all meal times together as well helped as we talked constantly about all types of rubbish ranging from how to take down the Spanish government to which monkey peed on who.

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During my time at LSV I was lucky enough to help our with the baby monkey program. This is where a female volunteer looks after one baby monkey 24/7 including sleeping, eating and spending all day with them. I just missed the chance to be part of this by 1 day, but I did get to do babysitting duties for not 1 but 2 different babies. One baby female golden howler (Maya) who we think is around 8 months and one female spider monkey (Mancha) who arrived a few days before us after having been resuced from the illegal traffiking trade and we believe she was around 4 months.

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I loved every minute with them. Watching them climb in the trees and become more confident in themselves and seeing their personalities emerge was truly amazing and something that will stay with me for a long time. Nap time was the best though. It got to the point that the baby spider, Mancha knew that when she saw me in the afternoon, she realised it was nap time and came down to greet me for a 30 minute nap. Sometimes Maya joined us as well, but as she is older she is far more independent and often took naps by herself. But when she did decide to join us, either she managed to make room for herself on me somewhere, or would annoy Mancha so much that the two would just end up play fighting instead.

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Adam found that after working in the Monkey area that he formed quite good bonds with the Capuchins. Certain ones would run up to him whenever he went up there and give him a good grooming whilst squeaking away. He also had a soft spot for a little female Lukachi monkey called Lukaluka, she was only a baby and no bigger than a large hamster. She lived in the food prep room with her human mamma whilst her new enclosure was being built and every time he went in there little Luka would come see what he was upto. This meeting normally ended up with him tickling her and her trying to play bite him. (Everyone say awwwwww….!)

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My favourites were definatly the Spider monkeys and the Howlers. I don´t know how or why but the Spiders smelt amazing! You would just walk past and be able to smell them before you saw them. It was a very calming and reasurring smell. They also made funny noises and pulled the best faces at you if there were not getting their own way. There was one Spider in particular which took my heart, a young female called Kalua, she was no more than a few years old and had the best temprament and attitude, not only towards people but towards the younger monkeys as well. It amazes me how good her attitude was to people as she had a horrible history with them. We were told that when her mother was shot from the tree some of the shotgun pellets got lodged in her spine and when she arrived at LSV she still had the shards in her. She was operated on but the bullets permantly damaged her spinal cord which affects the way she moves on the floor and in the trees. It´s safe to say I had a soft spot for her! Mancha and Maya (the 2 babies I mentioned earlier) were also a favourite of mine, purely because I was able to spend so much time with them and got to know them and their personality traits.

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Both myself and Adam were amazed by LSV, the work they do and how constantly positive all the staff members are. Working within a non profit organisation with no government funding can only be a stressful way of life, but everyone has such a great attitude and so much love for all the animals that come to them. It is inspiring.

After 2 weeks, our time was up. We were both looking for excuses to stay as we did not want to leave but it all came down to our visa, our days are running out and we have more to see. I know what I will miss though…all the little things, like the grumbles Maya used to give in your ear or Manchas post nap wee that soaked my side every time. For Adam, the monkey cuddles and grooming. His hair hasn´t looked so good before.


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LSV we loved every minute we spent with you and will return one day.

Our Sucre Homestay

For the second leg of our Sucre adventure, we managed to find a fantastic homestay, that just so happened to be just around the corner from the hostal we were staying in and much closer to Sucre´s main attractions. We stayed with a homestay mammy, who had two kids, a 13 year old daughter and a 19 year old son who was studying in cochabamba. Everybody was immediately welcoming and keen on getting us involved in the family affairs. We always spent Almuerzo (lunch) as a family and when Niko (the son) wasn´t around, I was always nominated as the clean up man, polishing off all the left overs, which went down very well with Liz our host mam. In Bolivia and most Spanish speaking nations, food should never be left over and they find it very appreciative if everything is polished off, so the arrangement was fine for me. The family lifestyle and daily routine fitted in perfectly with our lessons and we easily slipped into a permanent and comfortable routine ourselves.

971957_822220388822_768340222_nWe knew when we moved into the house that our homestay mam worked in a travel agent, what we didn´t know was that this travel agent was owned by her and her family and that the company name was named after the ´Haciendo Candelaria´ which is a 16th century country estate which originally came with 1000 hectares of land in the Tarabuco region of Bolivia and is owned by Liz´s family. The estate now has only 100 hectares and instead of being used solely for agriculture, the family use it to host tours around the local area, to visit local weavers, crop growers etc and the famous Tarabuco market. We had the priveledge of tagging along for the weekend when there was a tour group heading out to Candelaria as part of the family! We were treated as extended members of the family and had the priveledge of meeting all of the permanent residents at Haciendo Candelaria, which were very hard to converse with given our and their limited Spanish, as they all spoke Quechuan. We were invited into the 16th century family kitchen to help prepare the guests food, which was equipped with a log fire stove and 40 year old pans! When we weren´t getting fed copious amounts of food or meeting new members of the Candelaria family, we were walking around the local area and meeting various weavers, who create beautiful tapestries which are a rich history among the indigenous people of Bolivia.

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After our fantastic weekend away, we became even closer to the family and everything we did they were always invited and vice versa, truly becoming a part of their family. Luckily for us, they also shared the same attitude of ordering take away pizzas when you have a crappy day and luckily for all parties, we all had the same crappy day (which happened alot)!! It also helped with improving our Spanish and although we are not fluent or even intermediate level, our confidence is much higher from constantly forcing ourselves to speak Spanish everyday all day, although again when there were crappy days, sometimes they didn´t have the patience for our slow speach so English was sometimes too heavily relied on, but again it helped us to bond more and have more in depth conversations.

Luckily for Cheryl, her birthday fell when we were still in Sucre and still with our homestay family, unlike mine which was celebrated in Chaing Rai with a full english breakfast (very average) and monsoon rain!!! So as soon as Liz got wind of this, she wasn´t happy that we weren´t going to do anything, as we didn´t really have the money, so in Bolivian tradition, we threw a BBQ and I was ordered to not return to the house until I had some presents, on strict orders from Liz!! As the majority of the friends we had made in Sucre had now moved on to Peru or Argentina, we had a small intimate BBQ, which in the UK would be a pack of frozen burgers, some crappy cheese, 2Ls of cola and some salad. In Bolivia you get 40Bobs of prime cut steak, make enough cheesey rice to feed an army, bowls upon bowls of salad, buckets of beer and plenty of llajwa (spicy sauce) doesn´t sound a lot, but when the steak is the size of your head for each person and the spoons of cheesey rice are like troths, you get very well fed quickly. Also to add is that this is probably some of the best steak hands down, I have ever had and it cost under 10quid for about half a cow!!!!!

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P1080516Our final week with the family was a very sombre one as we knew we were parting ways and had became so close, to the point that on a daily basis we kind of relied on each other for one thing or another, as a family naturally does. It was so easy for us to become complacent there and if we didn´t have so much of South America to see, we would have definately stayed there for a very, very long time. Our homestay mam spent the whole week persuading us not to leave and that she would find us work in Sucre or that we could stop joking about leaving as she knew we were really staying. It really hit our hearts hard to have this kindness and warmth from somebody we have really bonded with over our 4 weeks stay. We also constantly talked about how we would meet up somewhere else in the world and if not we would come rushing back to Sucre to see them.

It was almost as if we were waving bye to home again for the 2nd time and we were both very glad our next stop was La Senda Verde, as the special experience we would have their would hopefully take our minds off leaving, but then when we come to leave LSV the whole process will repeat itself again, as we know it will be somewhere we won´t want to leave!


Working for a comfy bed and a great brekkie

To try and cut down costs in Sucre we were able to work at the hostel we were staying at, The Beehive. The workload fit in perfectly with our Spanish lessons and it helped us to save a few pennies too. It helped that the hostel was lovely and new, brand new beds and clean bedding (which we are always thankful for!) and an awesome healthy breakfast every morning. When we arrived there, there were a great bunch of people staying as well, which just topped it all off for us really. So we had a great 2 weeks doing light house work, Spanish lessons in the afternoon and hanging out with a great bunch of people from all over the world in between.

We made some great friends and saw some sights of Sucre, which is a beautiful city.

An indigenous couple admiring the view of Sucre

An indigenous couple admiring the view of Sucre

View over Sucre

View over Sucre

View from our room at the Beehive

View from our room at the Beehive

After 2 great weeks our group of friends started to move onto new places and we started thinking about doing a homestay, as we were having 3 hours of Spanish lessons each day but pretty much speaking Engllish the rest, a bit counter-intuitive we thought. So through the help of our Spanish teacher we eventually found a homestay which seemed perfect for us…

Travelling Highlight of the Week (w.b. 1st July 2013)

We have started our Spanish lessons! Since arriving in SA we have been in a semi-mad rush to get to Sucre so we can start lessons. We chose Bolivia and Sucre in general as Bolivia is meant to have a lovely accent and they speak quite slowly as well, so for beginners its a dream. The great thing about Sucre is that it is a student town, so it has a young population with lots of varying accommodation and lots of people to practice with at language exchanges or whoever you meet at bars.

When we arrived in Sucre we had our heart set on one particular Spanish school, but after arriving at our hostel, The Beehive, they recommended a few private tutors which were much cheaper. So thats what we went for; a private tutor between us for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week costing us 50 Bolivianos an hour (£4.80… an hour!)

I definitely think we chose the right option! Hablar Espanol here we come… We hope!