10. July 2008 05:26
by Rene Pallesen

New Job

10. July 2008 05:26 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

new job

After 4 years I decided it was time to change to a new job in a different company. There was several reasons why it was time for a change and it was hard to let go as I have loved working with the company and there are a lot of aspects of the job that I will really miss.

The new job I have accepted is with a large consulting firm here in Sydney. They are about 800 people in the branch itself and they are part of one of the large telecommunications and mobile phone networks here in Australia and Asia which has got tens of thousands of employees. So hopefully in the long term some better career opportunities as well as more money in the short term.

I have now been in the job for about three weeks and is still trying to decide whether I like it or not there. I am more used to a consultative selling process where you talk to clients and really try and understand their business and then become their trusted advisor in making decisions and guiding them how to improve their business.

I was expecting this new consulting company to follow similar approaches as this in my opinion is the best way to secure business. It seems however that this company is following a more opportunistic approach where they respond to tenders and requests from customers. This means that it is in a very competitive area where other business also are responding to the same type of requests from the same customer. It also means that a large part of my function so has has been in preparation for customer demonstrations and writing proposals. I would rather engage with the clients more and understand their business before we jump to demos and proposals.

Another thing is that there was no induction process a such. They have an overwhelming amount of processes in place and there is no one who can really explain what applied and when it applies.

Anyway so far I am not very impressed...but it is really still too early days to tell.

7. May 2008 04:28
by Rene Pallesen

Engaged - Getting Married

7. May 2008 04:28 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments


As you can read further down this blog I popped the big question to Kim when we were in Rio de Janeiro at the end of our holiday. Luckily she said yes because otherwise it would have been a couple of really miserable last couple of days there.

Click here to see more photos

It took us almost a week to find the right moment to break the news to Kims family but as soon as we opened our mouthes and said "We've got some news for..." everyone shouted "YOU ARE GETTING MARRIED!!!". Yeah well, they must have seen it coming miles away. Even my friends Andy, Glen and Luke weren't surprised. Anyway, everyone is very happy (including me) and we are really looking forward to us moving into our own place together.

Click here for more photos

So now the wedding planning has started. We have set a date (16th November this year) and we have booked the reception venue. Everything else is still up in the air but at least I've got less things to stress about than Kim who is running around looking for dresses thinking up colour schemes, table decorations etc. We still have to find a nice venue for the ceremony itself...there are plenty of really nice places in Sydney to have it but the problem is that we also have to take wind and rain into account and most public places such as parks and beaches you have to book and pay for in advance.
It should be a nice wedding although we want to keep the major expenses down as we need the money to buy something to live in.

According to Vietnamese traditions there is given money in red envelopes instead of wedding presents (so do not start looking for presents) so hopefully this will eventually cover some of the cost.

Click here to see more photos

All my friends and family in Denmark is invited to the wedding (This is your official invitation). If you happen to be in Sydney on this day then let me know well in advance.

I am hoping that my Mum and Dad will make it to the wedding. Otherwise it looks like it may be a wedding without any of my family there which would be a major disappointment :-(

Click here for more Photos

Anyway, it looks like 2008 is turning out to be the year of change. Kim has got a new job, we are getting married and we are looking to buy a place to live in. We have 4 big changes that we want to make this year...3 more changes to go and only 7 months to make them in.

Click here to see more photos

Some of Kims friends are starting a Photography business so they agreed to take some engagement photos of us in Centennial Park one morning and then based on that we could decide whether we want to use them for all or some of the wedding photos.

The photos you see here were taken by them and I have provided a link to their websites below where you can see more photos:

Sonova Photography
Sonova Flikr Photo Album Engagement Photos

My slide show

6. May 2008 01:34
by Rene Pallesen

The Stables - Nothing to do with horses

6. May 2008 01:34 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

the stables nothing to do with horses

This Sunday Andy, May and myself went climbing at the Stables up near Pennant Hills in Sydney. The area is close to another nice little area called Otherland, but the stables requires a fair bit a bush bashing to get to.

The climbs are of a higher grade (18-25) but are mostly well bolted, but because of the pretty shitty rock a lot of holds have come of and sometimes this affects the grading of the climb.

May is new to lead climbing but the area had got a really easy grade 14 so we decided that she should have the honour or leading the first climb of the day...she was pretty nervous and back clipped a few draws but otherwise didn't do anything too disastrous.

On the 2rd climb of the day I lead this grade 19 (I think it is 16 or 17) and I did pretty well until I got to the last anchor right at the top. There wasn't a lot of hand holds and I grabbed a small ledge with a rock lip on in. While I was getting my feet into position and getting my balance right to be able to clip the anchor I felt the handhold crumble between my fingers. Everything started happening in slow motion..."oh shit, the hold is breaking away, I'm loosing balance, I'm falling how long am I going to fall". After falling about 5 metres Andy caught me on the belay (Andy, you're my hero) and I was ok...nice to see that the theory also works in practice.
Andy lost a bit of skin on his finger and ankles but was otherwise ok. After resting a few minutes I went back up and completed the climb and Andy and May wisely decided to top rope the climb.

Afterwards we did another couple of really nice climbs all in the grade 19 range and I led all of them and Andy and May top roped.

There is not that many climbs in the area. There are two more climbs that I would go back there for but otherwise I think we've had enough of the Stables...the rock is too crumbly which makes the climbing less enjoyable as you think more about what might break off next instead of focusing on the climb itself.

2. April 2008 02:38
by Rene Pallesen

Barrenjoey - Another couple of ticks

2. April 2008 02:38 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

barrenjoey another couple of ticks

Sunday I went to Barrenjoey climbing with Andy and May. It was one of those rare days where the temperature was perfect and where we had most of the area to ourselves.

Although the climbing is fairly easy at Barrenjoey I enjoy going back here time after time as it is located within the national park at one of the most beautiful spots in Sydney.

I led most of the climbs on the day (trying to veen myself of TR) and Andy and May was happy following. The most memorable is a climb called Mescalito (19) with some interesting section as well as Enterprise (18) which is very enjoyable.

There is generally a lot of ticks (small insects that suck your blood) there and today was no different. I got 4 tick bites.

Also took a couple of videos:

Video of Andy climbing Enterprise
Video of May climbing Enterprise

23. March 2008 12:06
by Rene Pallesen

South America Summary

23. March 2008 12:06 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

south america summary

We are now back in Sydney and I thought I'd write a summary of the various places and experiences.

It has been a big rollercoaster ride through South America...the differences between the countries are huge. During the last six weeks I have taken off in aircrafts 20 times:

Sydney to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Mexico City, Mexico City to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Sydney, Sydney to Auckland, Auchland to Santiago, Santiago to Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires to Santiago, Santiago to Lima, Lima to Cusco, Sucre to La Paz, La Paz to Iguazu, Iguazu to Santiago, Santiago to Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo to Rio, Rio to Sau Paulo, Rio to Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo to Santiago, Santiago to Auckland, Auckland to Sydney.

In other words...I have an enormous carbon footprint this year which cannot be apologised enough for.

The people in South America were extremely friendly and helpful (Except the girl at the hostel in Potosi). Most people didn't speak anything other than Spanish...but Spanish is almost my second language now (I know at least 70 words)

Argentina was an interesting place. I loved the culture and the dancing. The food was bland with too much meat and Buenos Aires itself didn't have much else to offer and was a bit run down.

Chile is amazing. It is really organised in Santiago and you could be in Northern Europe in terms of cleanliness. They have a really effective public transport system which is a magnitude better than sydneys (close to being as good as Tokyo). People are very friendly...but unfortynately this is also the only location in all of south america where they managed to scam Chris and I on the price of a taxi fare as we didn't know the local exchange rate...in the rest of South America they did try, but generally we paid same price as the locals (and a few times less). Again I can understand why my cousin chose to live in Santiago rather than somewhere else...it is by far the safest and most developed city in this part of the world. The food here is amazing, and you can get everything...this is the only place in South america that we saw a Thai restaurant.

Macchu Picchu in Peru is incredible...it is a fantastic ride into the site and the area around Cusco has got a lot of potential.

Bolivia is a country with so much potential and with people with so little ability and knowledge to tap into it. People in the North are fantastic, but the further south you get the less culture. It has been a privilege to go there and I think they will get there one day.

Brasil...Beautiful by day and dangerous by night. It was fantastic to go here and I'd like to one day come back to Brasil to see other parts of the country. The economy has really taken off here...but in the process left a lot of people behind and that can be seen by all the crime and social problems.

I have now set foot in 52 countries on 6 continents. As I have travelled I've noticed that the world is becoming a smaller place where no major differences in culture and language.

Countries I've set my foot in

in 10-20 years from now everyone will wear the same clothes, listens to the same music and eat the same food (Pizza). The fun and the purpose of travelling will disappear. I can see from the new generation of travelers that they are more interested in thrill seeking and dead buildings rather than people, cultures and observing and learning from differences. Pity as there is so much to learn and it will build appreciation of how lucky we are to have what we have.

Where to next? I don't know...there is one continent down south that I still haven't been to and former Russian republics have got potential....otherwise closer areas like Tonga, Fiji, Indonesia etc.

22. March 2008 06:08
by Rene Pallesen

Rio De Janeiro - Brasil

22. March 2008 06:08 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

rio de janeiro brasil

We are now in Brasil after an overnight stopover in Santiago (The flights here in South America are fairly irregular so it can be difficult to get connecting flights without having stopovers).

We hadn't booked a place to stay but at the airport the tourist information suggested renting an apartment at Ipanema. When we got there it turned out to be really basic, fairly prices and probably a friend of the guy at the tourist information. Instead we went to Copacabana beach to one of the other options we had which also was very basic and a bit far from the beach...but at least non commiting for more than one night. Later in the evening we walked around and eventually found a hotel close to the beach and cheap. It also had big mirrors on the wall and in the ceiling over the bed...and Kim and I was wondering if it was one of those hotels that could be hired by the hour.
It did however turn out to be really nice apart from one evening when some of the other guests tried to get into our room because they got the number on the door wrong.

The day after we went to Ipanema beach to go for a walk. It is very beautiful in Rio and especially this beach is really cool.

Click here for more photos

After lunch we took the local bus to the Sugarloaf mountain. Traffic is really bad in Rio and Taxis are outrageously expensive and just as slow as the busses so it took us about two hours to get there. It turned out to be perfect. We ended up taking the lift of there just before sunset and had a fantastic view from the top.

Click here for more photos

Click here for more photos

Click here for more photos

Click here for more photos

In the evening we had a fantastic meal called a Ridozio (or something like that). It was a 15 course meal (A lot more than we could eat) and only cost around 10 australian.

Next day we decided to go to see the Jesus statue first thing in the morning. Again we took the local bus there to save some money (Rio is really expensive). We then took the train up to the Statue which has got a fantastic view of Rio and all the beaches.

Click here for more photos Click here to see more photos

Click here for more photos

On this trip with Kim I had planning to ask her if she'd marry me. I had three possibly locations in mind..29th Feb in Santiago, Machu Picchu or at the statue in Rio. Kim was very happy when I popped the question and showed her the ring I'd gotten for her (but more about that later), so we are officially no longer boyfriend and girlfriend.

Click here for more photos

Click here for more photos

In the evening we went to a restaurant called Porcao Rios which had been recommended to be by our partner in Mexico to celebrate and later we had a drink down at the beach.

Click here for more photos

We didn't get back to the hotel until very late and I promised that I would never again walk back to the hotel that late at night. There were people from the slums everywhere and I didn't feel safe walking back...so next time we definitely take a taxi. In the daytime you see quite a few police cars and police officers around...but at night they are very hard to spot. It is almost like the movie 'I am Legend'...you are safe during the day, but as soon as night falls and most people have gone off the streets then the kids from the slums rule the city. It is truly a dangerous place at night...not that we were carrying any valuable on us whatsoever except for whatever cash we needed on the night, but the question is....would these kids believe that that was all we were carrying?
All houses an properties in the more wealthy areas are all surrounded by big fences and cages to keep the kids out...but really...not a very comforting way to live if you cant leave your house.

Another thing I noticed is that there also still is a class difference between the white/light and the black. The blacks have all the lowest paid jobs and the ones requiring manual labour. It is also the black people you see living on the street and going through the garbage every night (and there are a lot of these). So even through slavery was abolished several hundred years ago doesn't mean that everyone is equal.

In the morning I had caught some sort of a stomach bug...probably from the one drink I had at the beach and was feeling really weak so we spend the day doing a bit of shopping locally and then went to Ipanema.

Click here for more photos

Click here to see more photos

In the evening I started to feel really weak and felt like vomiting so dinner consisted of some light vegetables followed by coca cola (The ultimate remedy for any stomach problems).

Last day we slept in (ignored the hotel checkout time) and packed out stuff. I still felt a bit weak but otherwise ok (My bug lasted for two days after which I felt really weak but a dose of Imodium eventually took care of it).

Next back to Santiago overnight and then back to Sydney

Click here to see more photos from Brasil

14. March 2008 10:23
by Rene Pallesen

Sucre - Bolivia

14. March 2008 10:23 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

sucre bolivia

Wow, wow, wow...Sucre is everything that La Paz isn´t...it is fantastic.

Click here to see more photos

We took the bus from Potosi yesterday afternoon and drive through a fantastic landscape of deep canyons and high mountains and through passes of 4800 meters altitude. As soon as we arrived into Sucre we fell in love with it. Right from the start at the bus terminal they had fixed prices on taxis. We drove into town with an old gentleman that had a 1970´s Datsun.
He held the door for us at the hoteland made sure we had accomodation.

Oh..yeah...did I mention accomodation. Kim had booked the Hotel Real Audencia the night before and received confiemation. When we got to the Hotel they didn´t have our booking but fortunately the hotel is empty (I think we are the only ones here). They told us that it was $60 per night...Kim said that the booking we had was $45 and they agreed to this price. It later turned out that she by mistake had booked the Real Audencia in Quito Equador 2000km from here...LOL.
Anyway the hotel is fantastic and Kim loves the luxery...not even Hilton compares and it is 1/20th of the price of a similar hotel.

Click here for more photos

Click here for more photos

We then went to this French restaurant La Taverne...fantastic. I spoiled Kim with a 5 star meal that we would have a hard time finding in sydney...price for the two of us...less than $10.

Sucre is a nice and quiet city...it is beautiful with all the old colonial white washed buildings and it is clean and not polluted. There are far less beggers and street kids and far less social problems. Everything is getting very well maintained and it is a really romantic place to walk around at night through the plazas...with people everywhere at night.

Click here for more photos

We were initially planning to go back to Santiago one day early...but because this is such a nice place we stay here another night and then spend as little time as possible in La Paz. We also treat ourselves to a flight to La Paz which takes 45 minutes rather than a terrible 14 hour bus ride.

Sucre is at 2800 meters altitude but probably 20 degrees warmer than Potosi (4000-4500 meters). It is so nice being able to walk around in a T-Shirt during the day and just a thin Alpaca (I´ve bought two for less than $15 each)jumper during the night.

We went out to the dinosaur park. In some limestone they have found some 5000 tracks from more than 400 different species of dinosaurs. The park has only been open for less than two years and will be a major attraction once they get the place conserved and once the word spreads.

Click here for more photos

We also had lunch at this fantasic Cafe Mirador overlooking the whole city...very nice.

Next day we hired a guide to take us through one of the local Inca trails as well as to a small village called Potola. It was raining so in the beginning it was pretty cold and miserable but eventually it stopped and we had a really nice day on the Inka trail (by the way there are thousands of Inka Trails around the Andes...most of them still in use by the locals as the main mode of transport still is on foot).

Click here for more photos

Potola is a small village west of Sucre. It is supposed to have a lot of local still dressed in their local costumes and lost of local handicraft...but really is has none of that. There was far more dressed in local costumes in Copacabana.

Click here for more photos

As such for Bolivia it has got a huge potential for developing tourism...but the people there don't understand how to do it.

Tomorrow...onto Santiago and then continue to Rio De Janeiro

Click here to see more photos from Bolivia

12. March 2008 11:54
by Rene Pallesen

Potosi, The Mines - Bolivia

12. March 2008 11:54 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

potosi the mines bolivia

Today was a really positive day compared to yesterday after I'd written my last post. We found an excellent restaurant (much better than most restaurants in Sydney) called El Meson...and the food was cheap as. For around USD 13 we got a three course dinner that was absolutely fantastic including drinks. It was so good that we decided to go back there tonight.

This morning we had to move hotel. We did try to extend one night at Hotel Eldorado...but everything in this town is fully booked. Late last night we had managed to put through a couple of bookings at other places, but the only one that came through was a local hostel...so this morning we moved there. It is a nice enough place...but the personnel is totally disinterested in providing a service (and no smiling please)...there is no heat in the room so it could be a cold night...but everything else is ok once you chase them for towels, blankets etc.
The told us that we couldn't have the room until 11.30am...so in the mean time we decided to go to the mint museum.

The Mint museum was really good. They had a lot of interesting items there and they provided an english speaking guide for free to explain how the silver was mined in Potosi, the historical significance as well as went through the whole process of producing silver coins which were produced in the same building (All the original equipment is still there). They also have a fantastic art collection there.
We joined the guided tour a bit late, but the guide was kind enough to repeat the first part of the collection so that we didn't miss out.

The highlight for Kim was when I made her a copper coin using an original minting stamp using a large hammer...she got to keep the coin as a souvernir.

After a lunch at La Plata (With the thickest hit chocolate we've ever seen...the spoon could stand upright) we went down to join a tour of the mines in Potosi. It turned out that Kim and I were the only ones on the tour and the guide spoke perfect English.

First we were fitted with overalls and helmets and afterwards the tour went to the miners market. I bought a stick of dynamite for around 5 Bolivianos (75 cents) and our guide gave Kim a fright when he threw the stick at her.

Click here for more photos Click here for more photos

Click here for more photos

After this we went to the processing plant where they do the first extraction of the metals from the rock. We saw how they crush the rock into a fine powder and then using various chemicals extract the metals from the rock as well as using gravity. All the chemicals and side products are then flushed into the Rio Negra where it then is washed into Paraguay and Argentina. Both BHP and Rio Tinto buy minerals from here processed in this way (It it great to see my shares at work). There are 42 such processing plans here in Potosi...because everything is working as coorporatives there is no investing in processing plants and machinery and the various plants refuse to work together although this would benefit everyone...but more about that later.

Click here for more photos

Afterwards we drove up to the mine itself. We expected to be visiting a part of the mine that was no longer being used but this is not the case...the mine was fully functioning so once in a while we had to run for our lives to a location where the tunnel was wide enough for us to jump to the side when one of the small trains came zooming past.

Click here for more photos

As we went further and further into the tunnels the gasses became thicker and thicker. I have never seen so many visible minerals in one location before...you could actually see the zinc, lead, copper, iron and bronce in the walls all over the place. The yellow sulphur was sitting in 2cm thick layers on the wall (but they don't mine this) and there was Albestos hanging in long threads off the ceiling all over the place and the air was think of asbestos dust.

Click here for more photos Click here for more photos

We were covering our mouthes with bandannas but running through the tunnels, the cramped places, the dust and the gasses in the air made it really hard to breathe through the bandanna (Remember that this is all happening at 4500 meters altitude where there is only 25% of the oxygen as at sea level...so there is not much air in the first place!). The miners themselves were chewing coca leaves to tolerate the gasses.

Click here for more photos Click here for more photos

Normally I would be fine, but at one point I thought I'd die and decided to not use the bandanna (I'd rather die young than die instantly)...and at this point we were still only on the first level (3 additional levels and appx 80 meters below us).

Click here for more photos

We got to a 20 meter almost vertical tunnel and halfway down we took a break where we got the chance to ask a lot of questions about the mine. We also asked if the gasses became worse than here and the reply was yes. We were also told that the tunnels were very similar so Kim and I decided that we'd had enough and would like to breathe clean air...also because the mines are still working and a lot of the supporting structures are from the colonial spanish times 350 years ago the mines are really dangerous places.

Click here for more photos

On the way out we say how the used an old electric motor to pull up the rocks from 80 meters below to our level and then dump it onto the trains. They actually have a champer above the level and then use a big hole in the floor to fill the trains...unsuspecting I walked across the pile 2 minutes prior to them opening up the while whereafter a 1 meter whole appeared in the floor.

Click here for more photos

The whole mountain has got more than 700 mines most existing several hundred years where more than 400 of them are in use today. There is no backfilling taking place and there are no geologists or engineers working on stabilising the mines so the whole place is like a swiss cheese that can collapse any time.

Each individual mine is working as a small collective of maybe 50 miners. There is no coordination between the different mines and most regard eachother as enemies. Because of this they still use old inefficient and very dangerous mining methods and equipment. If they instead coordinated their efforts they would be able to mine the whole mountain in a very modern way which would benefit the whole town and actually earn the individual miners 50-100 more money than they do today. The same goes for the processing plants as they currently don't extract the minerals efficiently and have too high production costs. They haven't even bothered exploring the area for other mining sites, but instead mine the same mountain they have done for several hundred years.

The average age in the mine is 25 years old. The youngest is 10 years old and the estimated lifespan is about 10 years before dying from lung cancer from inhaling gasses and asbestos. The miners are chewing coca leaves and their eyes are blood red. On the weekend they drink 96% pure alcohol (50 cents a bottle).

Click here for more photos

For both Kim and I it was real eye openers...we now love our 9-5 jobs. I think everyone should at least once in their life try and enter such a mine...but for me...never again.

Was it a positive experience? Yes absolutely...I have always wanted to see these mines with my own eyes how dangerous they are. Are they dangerous...yes undescribable...I cannot describe with words what a horrible feeling it was just being on the first level of these mines. I have been in other mines and enjoyed it immensely...but this was truly scary and awful. It took several hours before I could breathe normally again from inhaling all the dust and sulpher gasses.

One more night in Potosi and then we continue to Sucre. Click here to see more photos from Bolivia

11. March 2008 10:00
by Rene Pallesen

Potosi - Bolivia

11. March 2008 10:00 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

potosi bolivia

The drive from La Paz was pretty uneventful. The bus was a double decker as promised and our seat was in the front of the bus...but so was the toilet. Fortunately they kept the toilet locked pretty much the whole trip so no-one could use it (except Kim because we figured out how to fiddle the lock to get her access). Kim had bought herself a cheap headtorch so the toilet wa now lit.

The drive turned out to only be 9.5 hours as opposed to the promised 14 hours so that was a nice surprise. We arrived at Potosi at 6am in the morning it being freezing cold and pouring down with rain. We got a taxi to drive us to our preferred hotel and it turned out to be fully booked. Our second preference has only got room for one night and is then fully booked (and so is every other hotel in town)...we have a booking confirmation from a hostel tomorrow as a backup but we are not sure if it has got hot water and heating.

Potosi is a lot different from what I had expected. I had expected that the deeper we entered into Bolivia the more traditional it would get...but to the contrary. Potosi is another polluted city with little infrastructure...although a great number of travellers pass through the city there is no restaurants or cafes or even proper accomodation to cater for them. Someone with flair forwhat travellers desirecould make a killing here as well as in La Paz.
It wouldn´t take much...proper accomodation with heating and hot water, A heated restaurant serving a good selection of western style and local dishes (NOOO...Pizza and pasta does not count) an some evening or afternoon entertainment in the form of Bolivian music and dancing.

Click here for more photos

Also Potosi is totally void of any souvernirs (but also beggers etc.)...and again they could make a killing by start selling some of those lovely locally made handicrafts that we could but up near lake Titacaca.

Because of the cold, the rain and the fact that all museeums are closed today because it is Monday makes it pretty depressing to here. We have however booked a tour into the mines tomorrow afternoon which should be exciting and I´d like to see the Mint museum.

Click here for more photos

We are also considering what to do next before going to Brazil on the 17th...so far looks like we will go to Sucre (3 hours from here) day after tomorrow and then fly to La Paz from there (maybe even re-shedule flight to go to Rio a day or two earlier). Click here to see more photos from Bolivia

10. March 2008 08:29
by Rene Pallesen

La Paz - Bolivia

10. March 2008 08:29 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

la paz bolivia

The bus ride to La Paz was interesting. It was a local bus so full of locals heading into La Paz 4 hours away. After about one hours drive through the high plains (4300 meters altitude) we suddenly arrived to a strait. I hadn´t studies the map properly and hadn´t realised that Copacabana was on a peninsular with no Bolivian direct access to mainland Bolivia (you would have to pass back into Peru to drive directly)...so at the strait we got offloaded from the bus and then had to get onto a smaller boat for the passengers while the bus was ferried across on a big wooden pram.

Click here to see more photos

Also at this strait is the only division of Bolivias Navy (I think they still hope to eventually get access to the ocean through Chile (They lost 350 kilometers of coastline in a war with Chile back in time).
On the other side Kim missed using the toilet so when we stopped at a petrol station a couple of hours later we took the oppertunity...when the bus took off she wasn´t back yet...and she would have been standing there alone if I hadn´t told the bus driver that we were missing a passenger.
Unfortunately it was cloudy so we could only see the bottom bits of the Huyana Potosi and Illimani (6500 meters).

The drive into La Paz is stunning...they outer suburbs is totally disorganised with mud houses and mud roads...but suddenly you drive over the escarpment and see all of La Paz in a big crater below.

Once we got out of the bus we were however less impressed. La Paz is a town like any other...it is full of traffic, pollution and there has been no city planning whatso ever. Once you get over the escarpment wow factor it is really an ugly city full of social problems, beggers, street kids, pollution, crime etc.
Even the backpacker area is totally uninteresting and has been totally spoiled by young kids going for white water rafting, mountain biking without any interest whatsoever in the local culture.

Our plan was to spend a day here and then continue down to Potosi and we decided we would spend the next day before heading south looking around and see if the city would reveal its more beautiful side. In the morning I went to the bus station to organise bus tickets and I hope I´ve got the promised ticket (sleeper bus, with toilet onboard and sitting in the front of the bus away from the toilets...but Bolivia is full of surprises...but that is part of the adventure).
Afterwards wewent for a walk around the city and found a couple of nice spots but not enough to convince us that this is a city worthwhile spending a lot of time in.

Click here for more photos Click here for more photos

The witches market if full of souvernirs that are no-where near as good quality as what we saw in Copacabana, The museums were all closed on Sundays (except the music instrument museum which was interesting), and we are unable to find any decent local food in La Paz (only pizza, pasta etc.).

Click here for more photos Click here for more photos

We did however have a good laugh sitting observing people at Plaza Avaroa close to our hotel. People were out walking their dogs and they were all dressed in cute little costumes like small humans...and I thought the Honkies were crazy.

Click here for more photos

I am hoping that the south is nice. I have kept Kim from buying too many things so far promising her that there would be plenty of chances...I hope that this is correct as some of the things we saw up north were really nice.

Bolivia is pretty cheap to travel in (same prices as Thailand) and my dad would love it here (as well as in Peru). I could however travel a lot cheaper if I got to choose the mode of transport and the hotels...Kim gets to choose the hotels we stay in which from a local aspect is the upper range hotels (but still cheap by australian standards) and the criteria is hot water, blankets, heating, cleanetc. We have however been lucky with a couple of hostels we have found (one that we will stay in once we return to La Paz and we stayed in one in Copacabana). I think over time I will get her hardened up enough to check out the hostels first and then afterwards increase the comfort levels if we dont find anything of a decent standard...but so far it is ok that she gets a bit of comfort...it is her first backpacking/roughing trip and she is doing really well so far (getting into the spirit of finding cheap restaurants etc.). Click here to see more photos from Bolivia