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Bolivia & Journey Home
Written by Tina Sibley in September 2019

The last part of my journey takes me very briefly into Bolivia.

This is a country that I would definitely like to come back and visit more fully!

Sunday 1st September

Day 28 – La Paz

We actually had a bit of a lie in for our last day of my adventures! Marisol arranged to give us a walking tour of La Paz and we met after breakfast but not until around 10am! Bliss!

We were actually in La Paz earlier than planned because the 1st September was a national holiday and also a ‘no traffic’ day, which would have made it difficult for us to arrive today. So – instead of staying the night in Puno as originally planned, we got to La Paz half a day or so early.

It turned out to be a great day to visit La Paz. The whole city was car-free so we could roam around without the risk of getting run over! Also, there were all kinds of parties going on in the streets and market stalls everywhere.

We went around the main squares and streets, saw the president’s building, the town halls, the main churches and learned about the Bolivian revolution in becoming free from the Spanish in the 1800s. It was a very similar story of conquest and then freedom from the Spanish that we had heard in Ecuador and Peru.

Then we visited the ‘witches’ market. This was really interesting. We were taken into one store in the market and there were herbs and potions for literally anything! We also learned that if a Llama had an unsuccessful birth, the dead foetus was preserved and then placed in the foundations of new buildings as a ‘gift’ to Pachamama (mother earth) to protect the new building. We were assured that no Llama was ever sacrificed, but they only ever used the carcases of natural deaths.

After our tour we went to a fabulous coffee shop for lunch – it was a coffee shop that specifically catered for world travellers and the food and drinks were wonderful. I couldn’t resist their pancakes with bananas, chocolate sauce and ice-cream!!

Then we had some shopping and chill-out time before our afternoon activities.
We met again at 3pm for a ride on the La Paz cable cars that would take us right to the top and across the city. The views from these cars was incredible!
There are NINE cable car lines altogether that serve the commuters of La Paz. 
One cable car in particular joins La Paz with El Alto and has cut down the commuting time for workers from over an hour to just 12 minutes! The cable cars are very new – the oldest one only 4 years old and the newest only 4 months old. It’s a great way to get around.

While on one of the cable cars, we went over the immense La Paz cemetery. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life! As in many Latin American countries, bodies are first buried in the Western way or are placed in a crypt. Then, within 10 years, they are disinterred and cremated. Then the families purchase or rent glass-fronted spaced in the cemetery walls for the ashes and they affix plaques and place flowers there. Each wall has hundreds of these doors and some of the walls have been extended upwards so they resemble three or four storey apartment blocks. And there are hundreds of walls. The cemetery literally goes on and on and on…. So many walls with little doors and it’s almost a village in itself. From above it looked totally spectacular.

After our jaunt around the cable cars, it was time to go back and pack – I had to be ready for a 3am pick up for the airport. Then we all went for a final farewell dinner.

By now – I had been hit by a heavy cold that was getting worse and that, together with the altitude and lack of sleep was finally taking its toll. Sadly, I was too wiped out to really enjoy our last dinner together as a group and pretty much sat there quietly, barely able to keep my eyes open.

I always hate goodbyes and was very sad to be leaving such a lovely group of awesome and like-minded people.

Monday 2nd September

Day 29 – Santa Cruz and the Journey Home

I was picked up for my ride to the airport at 3am!! I got to the airport at 3.20am which was un-necessary as the check-in/bag drop didn’t open until 4.20 so it was sit and wait with no facilities.

When I finally got through check-in, I headed straight for the nearest café for a coffee and something to eat. The area was strangely empty of people! It felt most odd not seeing heaps of people.

The flight, which departed at around 6am was only just over an hour and I landed in Santa Cruz somewhere just after 7am.

I had arranged a free pick up from the airport to the hotel, but when I got through the arrivals gate, there was no notice with my name on it! I waited a while and then tried to contact the hotel, but to no avail. In the end, I had no choice but to take a taxi, which cost me 60 Bolivianos! I was most put out!! Then I realised that this was only around $7.50 USD so not the end of the world.
I got to the hotel, checked into my room, which was totally gorgeous and then crashed out for a nap!!

I had originally planned on going into Santa Cruz to visit and look around, but I was too wiped out with everything that we’d been doing plus my cold, so opted to make use of the lovely hotel facilities to rest and relax. I think it was a good plan.
The room itself was so comfortable and walked out onto the pool area so I could enjoy some sunshine. I had a totally lazy day and evening, caught up with some friends, ate room service and slept lots.

Tuesday 3rd September

It was another early pick-up the next morning for my flights back to London. My ride was booked for 04.30 and this time, the hotel delivered on the promise of a free shuttle service.

I was a little concerned that my flights would actually happen as Hurricane Dorian was lurking off the Florida coast, but all information pointed to the flight to Miami going ahead.

The flight to Miami went ahead without any delays and only one rather alarming spot of turbulence. It was all calm and then suddenly it felt as though the plane had been side-swiped by a giant kitten. It lurched, one guy who was standing up fell over and people gasped! But that was it – we returned to smooth flying after that and landed safely.

There was a 5 hour layover in Miami airport and I went in search of a restaurant where I could settle down, have something light to eat and get the laptop out. That was easier said than done. All I could find were either full-on meal restaurants or take-away cafes. I found what I thought was a café with a seating area, ordered a coffee and muffin and when I went to sit down was told that it was for the table service clients only. I was not happy!

Eventually, I found a nice café in the corner of a bookshop after asking an airport employee.

We eventually boarded our next flight for London at 7pm and I settled down for the evening – but not for long! We all had to get back off the plane due to a technical fault!!

Eventually, we got back on and were told that the air-conditioning had a fault but was now working again – at least it wasn’t something with one of the engines!!
By now I was exhausted but even my earbuds and music were no match for the screaming infants on board. Needless to say, it’s not the best overnight flight I’ve even been on!!

Wednesday 4th September

I finally landed at Heathrow at 10.30am – an hour and a half late and then made the difficult journey across the London Underground (lots of stairs – not easy with a heavy suitcase – and escalators) for the final train journey to my sister’s.
I spent a lovely afternoon and evening with my sister and had the best sleep in a really comfy bed – the best sleep for about 4 weeks!

Thursday 5th September

The following morning, it was back on the train – 3 trains – to Gatwick airport and the flight back to Gibraltar. That all went without a hitch and after a taxi ride from the border to Alcaidesa, I was finally home!

Home Sweet Home!

An epic 4 day journey home and I’ve never been so happy to see my own place and sleep in my own bed!

Exhausted but extremely happy, having had the trip and experiences of my life!

Friday 6th September

My first day back home - and a chance to reflect on everything that happened during my time in South America.

The thought most in my head is 'I DID IT!' 

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