“Everyone gets ill in Bolivia”.
That’s what we heard before we came here and, over the last few days, the truth of that statement has been revealed to us.
It all started pretty harmlessly. Arriving at our superb hotel, we went for some unremarkable lunch with our new travelling buddies and then Annika and I sought out the immigration office so that we could get Annika a new visa. We don’t know who lost the old one so a potential disaster of an argument was averted (it was Annika). Handing in her passport and walking off with a receipt and a date on Monday morning to sort matters out, we requested an extra day or two from our hotel and sat down in the sun, drinking various newly purchased beverages with the others. It was lovely to have a bit of sun for a change and we may well have enjoyed it a bit too much – a fairly rubbish meal was consumed and a hazy bedtime was achieved once more. These people really are a bad influence.
Next day, Annika was first up and not feeling too great – and it wasn’t the booze! We’ve no idea what it was but obviously something she ate, so she stayed in bed all day, I ran errands for the patient (ham sandwiches and crackers) and we just lazed around watching TV. An extremely poor night’s sleep was my reward for watching the prequel to Silence Of The Lambs just before bed.
We had planned to do some hiking in preparation for our upcoming Inca trek to Machu Picchu but the prices charged were extortionate (£35 per person in a country where you can buy a bottle of beer for less than a pound!) so Sunday turned out to be another lazy one. Annika and I went to the cinema and saw Iron Man 2 which was so utterly crap its only redeeming features were that it only cost £1.50 each and it killed some time!
By this time Annika felt better but Oli was having toothache problems so our (reasonably revolting) Chinese dinner that night was shared between the remaining healthy three. The South Americans don’t do Chinese that well at the best of times and this, coupled with Bolivian culinary abilities made for an unusual experience.
Monday was time for our date with the immigration office, them having had the entire weekend to make the necessary enquiries and get permission to issue a new visa. On arrival, the officer took Annika’s passport out of his drawer (!), made a phone call and told us to come back later. We killed some time with a walk up the hill and lunch at a cafe thronging with gringos which had a superb view over the former capital city and returned at the allotted time to wait whilst our man simply took out a stamp from his drawer and stamped the relevant form for us. Bolivian bureaucracy. Love it.
The weather had picked up from the cloudy day previously so we spent the afternoon reading on the balconies of the hotel. We met some older English travellers who were doing an organised tour – they regaled us with astounding tales of buses that took up to 6 hours and which sometimes left up to 15 minutes late! We didn’t have the heart to tell them about some of our journeys!
For once, we were all feeling relatively fit and well so we went for yet another odd (Spanish tapas) meal which featured some very strange looking salad in the salad bar and some rules regarding access to said salad bar which made little or no sense.
We’d both booked separate buses out of Sucre the next day – we were off to La Paz and the others were headed east to Santa Cruz, not far from where Che Guavara was killed – so we all checked out and simply sat on the roof terrace chatting til bus time.
We really enjoyed spending some time with some like-minded traveller types, putting the world to rights and we will definitely be meeting up again when we all get home. But their 15 hour bus and our 12 hour overnight one were setting off in opposite directions so we exchanged details and said goodbye.
The bus was what they call ‘full cama’ (you’re supposed to be able to lay completely flat if you want) but as usual there was not enough room for me and that, combined with an erratic driver and the baffling fact that no-one, apart from Annika, closed their curtains all night, causing street lights to flash by at regular intervals, meant that I barely slept.
We checked into our hostel and had a quick power nap which, once it was over, revealed the joyous news that I am now ill too! I staggered around La Paz’ steep streets – the altitude not really helping – and got progressively worse as the day went on, culminating in only eating chicken soup and still feeling rotten as we packed up for tomorrow’s short trip to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca. Luckily I have a marvellous girlfriend who is looking after me and hopefully I will be back to fighting fitness before we get to Cusco on Friday.
Bolivia is really nice but we shan’t miss their food.