From Tuesday 20th October to Friday 23rd October
I spent 4 days staying and blogging at the Cactus Hostel from morning to late afternoon and socialising in the evening mostly.
Here was the street in which the Cactus hostel was located, near San Francisco`s church.
This man was a musician playing constantly from his shop selling music instruments, I could hear him while blogging.
The street to the right.
Next to the hostel was a street with lots of cool graffitis like this one.
Or that one.
Here was the entrance to the Cactus hostel.
The first floor
I had a cool single room, room number 9 for the three nights I stayed there. I liked it because it felt like home rather than like a hostel. I had Huayna Potosi poster right next to my head. 🙂
Most important, my office!! It turned out to be a desk used by the landlord lady when she was coming from times to times in the week, which otherwise wasn`t being used and which was located right next to the WiFi box (very important!).
My routine was as following:
I would wake up and go sit at my office and start sorting out photos or preparing articles. A Chilean guy called Roberto asked me the first day: “Hey do you want a cup of coffee?”, I said “Sure!” and every single of those four mornings he offered me one in this tin cup. That was so kind!!!
At lunch time the first day, I went to knock on his room`s door and told him I was going for lunch and if he wanted to join. And for the 4 days, we went for lunch each time to the central market nearby.
First we would get out of our street and then walk down on Santa Cruz street.
We would pass to our right the street of the witches, shops selling llamas`foetus and other shamanic stuff.
We would arrive at the main plaza.
We would enter the central market`s building and see the kids always there playing table football.
We would walk up the ramp.
And we would have plenty of eatery choices to choose from.
This concept of small boxes in which a few women are cooking on one side and serving food to 10-15 people sitting at a table on the other side is something unique I have not seen structured like this anywhere else before.
The food there was really good. This is for example the soup at one lunch.
And the main at that lunch.
Then the soup at another lunch.
The main at that other lunch.
During the first lunch, I learned that Roberto was a freelance movie-maker and was currently working with Phil Buck, an American guy who wants to build a raft from reeds for the third time and has chosen to do that in La Paz because that`s where the best boat builders of this type of boat are located. With this reed raft, Phil is planning to go with a crew from Iquique in Chile to Sydney in Australia, next year!! Phil and his Chilean girlfriend were staying at the hostel too, in the big room right next to my office and I got to meet them later on. Roberto told me about that project which sounded super interesting and later on Phil told me more. Here is the website: http://www.buckexpeditions.org
They plan to start sailing early May 2016 and arrive in Australia around September to November 2016! Watch that space!
After lunch, we would go back and on our way, we would have a pineapple or orange juice from this woman.
Then I would buy some Sublime chocolates and other chocolate snacks to get me going for the afternoon from small booths and some fruits from this stall at the street`s corner.
From other stalls, I refilled with toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper as I had started running out. Then we would go back from our lunch break and I would spend the afternoon progressing the blog articles.
On the Tuesday 20th October evening, I went for dinner to a veggie restaurant called Terra Sana with Lluis and the Dutch couple Jasper and Karleen he had met during the Salkantay trek. The Dutch guy Jasper had been really sick and had spent the past week in hospital in La Paz with lots of fever and totally flat out. Lluis is a doctor and as he speaks fluent Spanish being from Catalonia, he had visited them at the hospital and helped them out communicate but also helped diagnose what Jasper had. It turned out that Jasper had had a pneumonia, which he himself couldn`t figure out how he had got it. Luckily he got better and was there that evening at the restaurant. There was another Dutch couple there, Jo and Sophia. We had actually seen Jo at Huayna Potosi two nights before, he had climbed it to the top that night where we went. Now, the story that evening goes that they all had gone earlier to the restaurant and Lluis explained me how to come meet them here from the hostel. I tried but got lost, went back to the hostel where I had WiFi, told him that I didn`t manage to get there and to not worry about me, that by now they would probably have finished dinner and I would be fine going to the central market instead, but he said it wasn`t far and they had not ordered yet and came to pick me up. Give me your credit card number and I will know it by heart within 5 minutes for as long as I want…I just have a memory for numbers (beware ahah!). But give me some directions to get to a place, and I am as dumb as you can potentially get. There is no way I could get there…So frustrating sometimes! I was so glad Lluis came to pick me up, and the dinner the 6 of us had was really enjoyable, talking mostly about travelling of course! 🙂
On the Wednesday 21st October evening, I caught up with my friend Samantha who is currently living in La Paz and doing research on adolescence pregnancy at the world`s level and then in Bolivia and was first living in Venezuela the first half of the year. Now, let me tell you a bit about Sam as she is the most incredible traveller I have ever met. We met on a day jungle trip in Kho Kong in Cambodia almost four years ago now. I remember after we had just met, Sam decided to go cross the jungle with a guide and walk from Kho Kong to Battambang. Yep, just like that, why not hey? So off she went the next day with hammocks and rice and the guide who had a machete, creating a new path in the Cambodian jungle to head where they wanted instead of following any existing one, proper jungle`s style hey. They got a bit lost and instead of spending a week, it took them two weeks to get there. They ran out of food, and ate snakes and red ants soups. But wait, before that she had also spent 2 weeks working in a bar in Sihanoukville, on the Cambodian coast, getting free accommodation and food and being paid 25 dollars…the week! And just before she had spent 2 months and half in a tiny village of China where no foreigner ever goes, teaching English. A few months after we met, she went wandering in the North of Thailand and landed in a small village where again no tourists would ever venture and spent a week hanging out with a family while teaching English to the young kid. Aren`t these crazy stories hey? She is a traveller in the true sense of the word “travelling”! The other cool thing is that after travelling Asia, she went to spend some time in Sydney, and that was when I decided shortly after to live in Brisbane. So we had met in Australia again, when I visited her in Sydney and then she visited me in Brisbane. Then she moved for a year to London to study social development so when I went back to Europe and spent a week in London to catch-up with friends living there, I saw her there too. And now she was in La Paz!! So this time we met in La Paz, on a fourth continent!!
We went again to Terra Sana that she could find with Google Maps on her phone. I noticed that evening the photographs hanged on the wall of this restaurant. I was asking the waiter about the photographer`s name but he didn`t know and there was no name behind the frame or at the bottom of the photograph when we looked up one of the photography hanging on the wall. This will remain to me the anonymous photographer of La Paz!
I had bought some berries at lunch time that I had eaten all afternoon and these got me sick for the next couple of days! In the restaurant, I asked the woman that evening what they were doing as a local remedy for stomach ache. She told me they would drink something called panaderia. She went next door to buy for me maizena and prepared me some mixture made of maizena diluted in hot water, with sugar and cinnamon on top and brought that to me. It wasn`t too bad to drink and I could see how it would make a plaster on the stomach. It helped on the moment. It was really cool to catch-up with Sam after 10 months as the last time we had met was in London in January. Then she went back to her place and I went back to the hostel. She could host me but she didn`t have any spare bed. I was in that moment where I needed a
break from travelling and my own room rather than a dorm or mattress on the floor so we decided to meet on the Friday night again and go to Titicaca together.
On the Thursday 22nd October evening, I hanged out with Roberto and Buck. The room of Buck and his girlfriend located right next to my office was huge and they had transformed it in a mini flat. They had been there for a month already. His girlfriend was working in the English Pub. I brought my netbook in and with Buck and Roberto the three of us sat at the same table on our computers, working. I was eager to finally be up-to-date with the blog and they both had stuff to do, Buck
browsing and reading about inventions, Roberto editing some filming he had made of some people in the hostel. It is quite awesome that the moment I decided to spend 4 full days resting and blogging and having a routine was the moment where in the hostel where I was were people “living” there and mostly working too! Apart from Roberto, Buck and his girlfriend, there were a couple of travellers from South America who were making bracelets to sell them on the street and otherwise hanged out with their guitar, or jungling. There were actually very few backpackers who would have been just passing by in that hostel that Annabel had chosen in the first place by looking into her Dutch guide about hiking. That was great! After a bit of work on our computers, we went to the English Pub where we had some beers.
On the Friday 23rd October morning, I got an email sent the night before from Katie and Rachel, the 2 Canadian girls from Vancouver with who I had been in the jungle in Iquitos, telling me that they were arriving in La Paz the next day. So cool to be able to meet travellers again another time! We planned by email to try to meet in the evening for dinner. In the afternoon, I booked a plane ticket La Paz to Santa Cruz for the Monday morning. I got it from the Travel Agency located right next to the Cactus Hostel where the 2 women were very helpful and booked it for me.
After 45 minutes waiting, I realised there was probably something wrong. Meanwhile, a woman had seen me wait and came chatting with me and gave me a packet of biscuits and said that if my friend didn`t come, I could come stay with her and her son, it was the blue building, level 3, flat 5! How kind of her!!! Still, best would be for me to figure out what was going on. I asked the closest shops around if they could what`s app her but most didn`t have a smartphone. A bit further away, I finally found a guy in a gaming shop who had a smartphone and could what`s app her. She came to meet me, we dropped the bag at her place and went with a microbus to meet Rachel and Katie at their hostel. Then we walked around San Francisco area. There was a huge celebration going on.
We were in the central market trying to get food but all the mini-shops were already closed. We saw a firework from really close exploding just above our heads.
And some dancing going on.
Then we went to some Mexican restaurant where we had dinner and a jug of margaritas. It was really nice to catch-up with Katie and Rachel and hear about their crazy stories about Iquitos where Rachel got her smartphone stolen when a guy jumped to push her off the motorbike taxi she was on. They had also gone to the Galapagos since I had met them in Iquitos and we shared stories of iguanas, sea lions, penguins, cormorans and more.
Next day, off to Isla del Sol on Titicaca Lake!