Bolivia to Peru – Witches, Beaches, and a Shaman

Goodbye Salt Flats …

After finishing our tour of the Salt Flats in Uyuni we decided to fly to La Paz instead of sitting in a bus for eight hours, which had no appeal for anyone.

La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia and sits over 3,500m above sea level with close to one million inhabitants. The Canadian Government Travel Smart app had many safety and security warnings about La Paz. But we found it to be a very friendly city with good food and interesting sites.

Typical street in La Paz

On the plane from Uyuni to La Paz Hannah sat beside a British couple, “David and Victoria – like the Beckhams”. They let us know the taxi prices to the hotel and assured us the area was completely safe, provided you keep your head. With that in mind we took a cab from the airport for 80BOB+20BOB tip ($18.72CAD) and expected a long ride because of heavy traffic.

The Rosario Hotel

A minor gaffe on our part with the reservations meant we would have only one room for the first night of the three nights in La Paz. The staff found a solution and gave us a suite with a bedroom and a studio room including a dining area and a bathroom. The price included breakfast which was very good. (Actually, Colleen knew she only booked one room, as there was only one available for the first night, and gambled that the hotel would work something out. Beats switching hotels.)

The first morning we heard what sounded like gun fire. Thinking back to the Canadian Embassy security warnings I was convinced that we were hearing sporadic gunfire in the distance.  Colleen felt the same way.

The hotel staff at the front desk had no idea what we were talking about (Gringo Loco). And a brief internet search (because google is your friend) and an e-mail to the Canadian Embassy (why not?) confirmed that what we were hearing was likely firecrackers echoing across the mountains. It seems that in most of South America, at least in La Paz, Cusco, Lima and Quito, locals set off firecrackers as part of celebrations like weddings.

Outside the Hotel Rosario in La Paz
The girls room and dining table
The hotel had great public spaces to hang out and do work, like this Internet Cafe
Working on the blog in the Internet cafe with a beer
Looking out the balcony from the Internet cafe at the Rosario

Wandering Around Town

Lost again. Or as I like to call it … posing with a map
The streets with little shops and stores go up and down hills

The Witches’ Market

According to wikipedia, the area is known as El Mercado de las Brujas and it is run by local witch doctors known as yatiri. They sell potions, powders, dried frogs, medicinal plants, and dried llama fetuses. 

Buried under the foundations of many Bolivian houses as a sacred offering to the goddess Pachamama
Powders, potions and animal parts.
No meal in Bolivia is complete without Pique Macho – La Paz style

Nativity Scene

The Christmas Nativity scene: Baby Jesus, the Wise Men and a Moose. What? A Moose?
The Moose in the Nativity Scene. Almost like a Canadian planned it …
A Christmas celebration in January with Looney Tunes characters?

Taxi to Copacabana

We looked at options to get from Copacabana by bus and found the prices to be almost as high as taking a private car/taxi.  So we opted to book a taxi through the hotel which was exorbitant. On the street we found a number of official taxis that were willing to negotiate a price. We ended up paying 700BOB ($131CAD) for the five of us for the five hour trip. Normally we consider giving a tip for good service but we ended up paying 100BOB in advance for fuel (out of the 700BOB) and also for the ferry (40BOB ($7.49CAD) for the car and 10BOB ($1.87CAD) for the five of us as passengers.

Leaving La Paz
Goodbye La Paz

The Ferry

Two vehicles to the ferry for crossing at 40BOB per vehicle

Enjoying the view and the slow boat
The ferry is taking on water so one of the boatman starts bailing
Making sure we don’t hit another boat

Copacabana

Copacabana sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca and is very close to the border with Peru. It is a western backpacker haven and a tourist Mecca for local Peruvians and Bolivians who enjoy water sports, biking and eating along the shore line.

We stayed at the sister hotel of the one in La Paz and thoroughly enjoyed  its view of the lake and the large rooms. Dining was a treat as the local delicacy is ‘trucha’ which is trout. We ate in local food stalls that line the road adjacent to the beach. Stall number 17 and 23 were particularly good. An interesting fact is that locals believe that the trout was introduced into Lake Titicaca from Canada in the 1930s. According to the Smithsonian Magazine the United States was the actual supplier but it was nice to hear everyone thinks it was Canada.

A view of the main road along the beach

Cerro El Calvario (Calvary Hill)

Information on Calvary Hill was pretty scant so I found another blogger, Lowell Silverman, who did a fairly good research job when he visited in 2016.

The whole area of Copacabana, including Lake Titicaca and the two mountains on either side, is sacred to the Inca.  With Spanish colonization many of the sacred spots were “Christianized” and Copacabana became widely known for the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Copacabana (Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana) which was constructed in 1668.

In the tradition of the Inca high places are particularly sacred, so the Mountain is an area to be revered and worshipped.  The Spanish overlaid their religious icons and churches on those sacred areas of the Inca. The replication of Calvary Hill (where Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem) was completed in 1951 by the Bolivian government as an additional pilgrimage site.

The view of Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Copacabana from Calvary Hill
The road up to the start of the Hill is very steep and difficult to climb
One of fourteen stations of the Cross on the way to the top
A shrine to Jesus
Behind the shrine to Jesus, a shaman performs a cleansing ritual with smoke
Along the pathway with a view of Lake Titicaca
Pausing for a break
Copacabana is below us
Admiring the view
Enjoying the view and the sunshine
A station of the cross towards the top
Lake Titicaca

Shrines at the top of the Mountain
A Shaman’s Shrine
Admiring the view below
A great workout …
Walking down is easier than going up – or is it?
The path to the bottom of the Hill

Peru

We stayed in Copacabana three nights before taking the “Bolivia Hop” bus to Peru. The bus was clean and pleasant, although the organization at the front end was a little chaotic. The staff was excellent, getting us through the border, organizing dinner in Puno, and then providing a paid taxi from the bus station to the hotel in Cusco.  Overall, it was great service.

Walking across the border between Bolivia and Peru
Emma with her backpack in Peru
Carrying our backpacks across the border into Peru
The gate between Bolivia and Peru
Waiting for Peru immigration to stamp us into the country
Our bus to Cusco
First beer in Peru
First meal in Peru – Pizza! what else?

Cusco

One of the most beautiful cities we have visited, Cusco was the former capital of the Inca Empire until the conquest by the Spanish in the 15th century. The Old City retains a strong Spanish Colonial feel with the surrounding hills supporting old Inca ruins.

Our plan was to be spend a few days touring the city before heading to Machu Picchu on a jungle trek. Unfortunately, our plans were scuttled when Colleen fell deathly ill with stomach problems and vertigo. Ben, Rob and Hannah had mild forms of the illness. Our stay extended to eight nights in two different hotels before we all felt well enough to travel to Agua Calientes.

Plaza de Regocijo in front of the Municipal government building
Walking down Affieidos Maruri Cabracancha. Note the Scotiabank which is very prevalent in South America (and gives poor returns on cash withdrawals)
The Cathedral of the Plaza de Armas
Looking up towards San Cristobal and in behind the ruins of Sacsayhuaman
The Natural History Museum – facade
The University of Cusco
Churches and older buildings along the Plaza de Armas
La Merced
The Plaza de Armas with the statue of Pachacuti, 9th ruler of Cusco and Emperor of the Inca Empire. The statue is only six years old.

Lunch at Sumac

Hannah enjoys the Peruvian national drink, Pisco Sour
Rob enjoys the local beer and a Pisco Sour
Quinoa and vegetable soup
A highly rated restaurant in Cusco that offers good food at cheap prices
Arco Santa Clara, the Old City Gate to Cusco
Walking down the street to the Grocery Store near the Church of San Pedro and the Church of Santa Clara
Outside the Old City – the new city emerges
The Campania Church in the Plaza de Armas
A festival with locals celebrating harvest/feast activities in the Plaza de Armas
Locals representing different groups from around Cusco parade in succession
Different groups in a variety of costumes march in the parade
The parade started down Avenue El Sol early in the day and carried on until the late afternoon

Conclusion

The food, the people, the mountains and culture are awesome in Bolivia and in Peru. We were sorry to move on from Cusco without exploring it more. But Machu Picchu awaits ….

4 Replies to “Bolivia to Peru – Witches, Beaches, and a Shaman”

    1. We are enjoying South America although finding it more expensive than we originally planned. Argentina was way over-priced and air travel is a killer. Save up your points!

  1. What is pisco sour? Great pics. I am sorry you guys got sick. Was it the pizza? You never know. I did like the pics of you and Hannah. Hannah looks relaxed and you … well….starting to look simple! (I always got that from remark after a couple of beer ) Maybee it is just the way Fosters look when enjoying their beer! My hat is off to you for it is obvious that you have now drunken more types of beer than I have. I am envious.

    How was the Quinoa and vegetable soup?

    1. A Pisco Sour is

      4.5cl Pisco (am amber coloured brandy made in Peru/Chile)
      3cl lime juice
      2cl Simple syrup
      1 Egg white

      It wasn’t the pizza – not sure where we picked it up!

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