After two days barely moving and still feeling dreadful, I decided we’d better try to get to the capital. I decided to fly – it was three times the cost of the bus, but still only 80 USD each, gave us a great view of the salt flats and the Andes, and got us there in a hour rather than a bone rattling night bus that got in at dawn. Sometimes its OK to just whip out that credit card.
I also treated us to a nice hotel in La Paz, and an airport pick up. This latter turned out to be a mixed blessing as while I was in no fit state to negotiate Bolivian public transport, the driver spent the entire 45-minute drive telling me about corruption in Bolivia and the president, of whom so many had high hopes but who recently ignored a referendum on whether he should change the constitution and stay for a third term. The usual story of someone getting into power, doing lots of good and then not wanting to leave and slowly getting corrupted. I’m sure its more complex than that, but I spent most of the ride trying not to throw up, while following his rapid Spanish and trying to get him to turn around and look at the road rather than me.
I did get some antibiotics from a pharmacy in La Paz, no prescription needed, and they did at least seem to stop the diarrhoea in its tracks, although I was still constantly nauseous and shaky.
I wanted to show Lauren the witches market, a bit of a tourist trap but also genuinely stocked with things local witches use for their magic (icons, herbs, llama fetuses etc), so after a brief rest, I staggered a few blocks to get her some lunch and show her the market. After that, it was back to bed for the rest of the day.
Next day we got the bus to Cusco, which was a mammoth day-and-a-half with a stopover of a few hours in Copacabana, on the edges of Lake Titicaca. At one point, we had to get off the bus and catch a small boat, so that the bus could cross the lake on a wooden ferry.
The Incas believed the sun (which they worshipped) came from here, and that the first Incas also came from here. For lack of anything else to do in Copacabana – where I have vague memories of stumbling about 19 years ago, completely out of it with altitude sickness – we joined a boat to the Island of the Sun – immensely holy to the Incas, now a bit of a tourist trap. Lauren nattered away to an Irish couple we met on the boat, and ran around on the island, climbing up an ancient Inca staircase and admiring the Incan ‘fountain of youth’ as well as the local donkeys, while I sat shivering at the bottom.
After an uneventful if exhausting trip across the border to Cusco in Peru, we arrived at 5am and thankfully the guest house we had booked let us check in. I went straight back to bed for a few hours, then we ventured out, to find ourselves slap bang in the middle of some major procession of traditional costume and communities. No one we asked gave us a clear indication of what it was – someone said it had to do with a convent, another it was a rehearsal for something, but it was rather fun.
We basically spent the next 3 days in the room, making brief forays out to get food (which Lauren ate, and I either couldn’t face or ate and threw up). I was trying to get my strength up for what should be a highlight – the Inca city of Machu Picchu. We had tickets and train reservations, and spent a couple of hours at the museum learning about the Incas in preparation, but I really needed to get my strength up. There is only so much gatorade a girl can drink.