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A wrap-up of all that remains to be spoken of the trip, so I can conclude these promised updates, and allow my blogsistence to move on.

Puno, Peru: Our last stop in Peru – one borne out of necessity than purpose. The bus from Puno would not reach us to the Peru-Bolivia border while the immigration offices on either side were open, which meant that we had to stay over and take a bus the next morning. Puno is a lively small town, visible in its peopled streets, shops and public squares, and their accompanying chatter and banter. Notable culinary mentions include empanadas at the local bakery, and delicious Chinese food at a Chifa (local reference for Chinese food/stall). Many of these chifas seem hole-in-the-wall good cheap eats, in character quite like the (indo)-chinese street food stalls one finds in Bombay.

Copacabana, Bolivia: After a bus-ride tracing the outline of Lake Titicaca that included an interlude of getting off at the Peruvian border, going through immigration, walking the 500+ feet to the Bolivian side, going through the Bolivian immigration, and boarding the same bus again, we reached Copacabana – not to be mistaken with its more famous namesake in Brazil. A visit to the impressively expansive and white basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana was followed by a boat ride to the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) – an island off the town that has Incan ruins. The part of the island we visited was unimpressive. The boat ride over the calm waters of the vast water body that is Lake Titicaca, the largest lake by volume in South America, was worth the while. Culinary exploits included trying the Trucha (local trout) and tortilla espanola – spanish omelet made of potatoes and eggs that has little resemblance, except for their circular shape, with the flatbread tortillas that one finds in US supermarkets.

La Paz, Bolivia: As one walks around the witches markets in La Paz, where dried llama fetuses are displayed alongside ceramic figurines of Viracocha and the Condor, charms of good fortune and energy, and beyond into the numerous shops selling everything from yarn and clothing to pirated dvds and cds, one is left with the feeling that the whole of La Paz is one large bazaar. We stopped for a meal at the Star of India, British Indian cuisine we’re told, where if you finish up your full order of vindaloo, you get a t-shirt that says ‘I survived the most dangerous vindaloo’. I went for a half-order, and I am glad I did not take on the challenge of a full one. The first few spoonfuls seem inane, the intensity of spice rising in a gradual tolerable crescendo. It takes a few minutes for the chillies (and I don’t know what kind is used) to deliver their sudden and complete coup d’grace.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia These salt flats of Uyuni are a bumpy overnight bus ride south of La Paz, and by bumpy I mean you-better-have-an-empty-stomach-or-you’ll-puke bumpy. The site is more than worth the pain to get there. Standing on those salt flats amidst a vast white plane of white that extends into the eternity on all sides is an experience that words, or for that matter even images, can hardly capture. Watching the sun set in the distant dark and white horizon is serene, mystical.

Argentina From Bolivia, we crossed over to Argentina, spending a brief half-day in Salta before visiting Cordoba Cordoba is a university town, complete with old buildings, bookstores (great titles, unfortunately for me, all in Spanish), and mostly comprised of students. The town of Alta Gracia is a few hours commute by bus. We made a day trip there, renting and riding bicycles in the countryside which is beautiful except for unconstrained vicious barking dogs, and making it in time to see the Che’s house, now a museum. From Cordoba, we went to Buenos Aires, a capital city that, for want of a better description, quite like the cities in Europe. Most of our time in Buenos Aires was spent wandering about, sitting in cafes, watching a tango performance, in short, just taking it easy. All the backpacking and bus rides left us craving for relaxation, and we found it here. And then we flew back to LA.

That’s it folks, and thanks for your patience through this stretched 3-month long narration of a 2-week trip. Perhaps a rushed description, I apologize. Feel free to comment if you plan a trip and have any questions, and I’ll be happy to respond with what I know. On a related note, a quick bit on the logistics: we made our hostel reservations through TACA, LAN, and Aeromexico are some of the key airlines that have flights to South America. I found LAN to have lower prices on the spanish version of their website compared to the English version for the same flight itinerary – quite lame, really, because they have fares in USD displayed on both, and they don’t seem to have any geographical restrictions for either site. In almost all big cities, and most of Peru and Argentina, we found people whose English lexicon was far better than our travel Spanish, so language was not an issue there. Can’t say the same for Bolivia. Knowing the language helps you connect with people, and enhances your travel experience. I quite envied some of the travelers we met that spoke fluent Spanish, and regretted not having given myself enough time to learn the language.

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