La Paz – our last few days. Martin is working in the hotel so the kids and I have a couple of days to wander, revisit the Megacentre and practice ice skating and to research and plan our next steps.
Martin tears himself away from work to meet up for a great Sushi supper, seated on the floor in the traditional Japanese way! We are all really looking forward to visiting Japan! I must have taken the photos there on my iPhone – no longer in my possession – more on that when we reach the Mendoza blog 😦
Lara and I wander the city one day to try to find a large map of south America to help with route planning in Argentina and Chile. 25 book shops and stationers later, we find a girl selling them on a stand in the street! I’m so happy I pay over the odds without haggling for what seems to be one of the only maps in Bolivia that isn’t just of Bolivia!
I’d like to say we take the opportunity to catch up on school work, well we manage just a little! We’ve downloaded a cool maths book on Kindle and I spend a little time with Ben and Zoe doing different chapters and we all do some phonics and word building with Lara but its minimal and they are MUCH more motivated to play on the computers available to guests in the hotel reception, with added bonus of a huge tray of free biscuits on the side! Their mouse and typing skills are advancing more quickly than their writing skills this week!!
Then Oma arrives from Coroico to join us… We have to take her to the Megacentre so she can see Ben and Zoe’s ice skating progress, and visit the favourite sushi restaurant nearby but then she has a lousy night struggling terribly with breathing and sleeping after being 10 days at 1800m above sea level then coming back up to almost 4000m…. so in the morning we get the hotel to provide some oxygen to help and start to look at our next steps Plan B.
I knew there was a good reason we like to leave our planning till the last minute! Seriously, we actually do have our Plan A, to head into south west Bolivia by bus and train to visit the infamous salt flats, supposed to be one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world – and take a 3 day four wheel drive right across the flats, over the border into Chile and the Atacama desert. But much of it is at 4000m and above.
It’s our last day in La Paz, although we’d hoped to do a bit more sightseeing, we pore over the new map and talk through plans B, C and D with Erika!
An added worry with the Salt Flats is there has been a lot of rain and there are reports that the longer trips may be unsafe, as well as reports of protestors and closed national park areas. I’ve been checking travel forums, talking to agents in La Paz, emailed tour agencies in Uyuni, the starting poor for trips into the Salt flats but with no replies!
So we settle on Erika taking a bus to Arica on the north west coast of Chile, 10 hours on a bus descending the Andes. Meanwhile we’ll take the bus to Oruru and train to Uyuni as planned but then arrange a shorter visit to the salt flats, planning a quick catch up with the Bremners, a night in a salt hotel then heading across to Chile and up to Arica to meet Erica for a couple of days!
I run around the city with Erika and Lara buying train and bus tickets for everyone, book trips and hotels, I even pop into American Express travel office and get some useful advice though the budget-do-it-yourself nature of our plans seems a bit alien to the sweet lady who helps us! She can’t quite gauge that we don’t want a guide to escort us from La Paz to the south:) A taxi driver takes us past the San Pedro prison, infamous for being controlled by the prisoners. You can do a tour, led by prisoners though we are not at all inclined after hearing of recent reports of Aussie girls being attacked! Today they are up on the rooftop yelling – another lost photo on my iPhone!
Later there’s some explosions outside our hotel – we realise its nothing more sinister than a party, young people pulled up earlier in limos and now they are letting off fireworks in the middle of La Paz, the cars have to stop and swerve, it’s a miracle they don’t blow any up but the fireworks are nice!
Finally, Martin finishes a long day on the computer. Erika and the kids eat a strange mezze of leftovers from the fridge and rather than pack and get an early night, Martin and I scurry out for a late night dinner for two – a real treat! We are starting to count down the chances of instant babysitting before Erika’s trip is over!