When traveling, everything is like in life: the most important thing is that with each new country, as well as with the past years, do not lose the ability to be surprised and admired. And also pay attention to detail, not look back, and not compare with what has already happened. Carpe diem, as they say.
Although, this does not apply to Bolivia. The country surprises and delights in full. We spent exactly one month here and, I must admit, our expectations were very high. So many people admire this country and so many rave reviews were read before the trip. And Bolivia justified them entirely.
I picked the five places that I remember the most. And things to do, without which our trip through this mountainous country would not be so memorable 🙂
1. Explore the Altiplano by Jeep.
Probably, everyone has heard about the Uyuni salt marsh, and saw these crazy pictures on the Internet, when the snow-white space simply envelops you from all sides, and it is not clear where the sky ends and the earth begins. And he, of course, is worth all the enthusiasm, but more on that later. Because besides the salt marsh here, on the Bolivian Altiplano, there are still so many beauties – lagoons, volcanoes, thermal springs, canyons, green fields with grazing llamas.
To ride the Bolivian Altiplano, we decided not to take a standard three-day tour from the town of Uyuni, but to go for 4 days and along an alternative route, from the other end, from the glorious town of Tupitsa, practically on the border with Argentina.
there are much fewer tourists, and in many places you find yourself in splendid isolation.
There are four people in the jeep, with us was a lovely couple of Frenchmen on their honeymoon stage. And our driver, and also a guide and a cook. Everything was organized perfectly. Well, the people with whom you spend so much time on the road (which is about 10 hours a day), and then still sleep in the same room (yes, four-bed accommodation) is a very important component of this trip. Not very easy, I confess, but very impressive and memorable for a lifetime.
Llamas are like monkeys, I think. When you see them for the first time, peacefully going about their business in the temples of the same Kathmandu, you come into wild delight, you cannot leave without taking at least a hundred frames. Over time, it does, of course. Now I look at monkeys with indifferent calmness.
But I have the same obsession with lamas – for me they are the most photogenic animals on earth. I don’t know how many portraits of them were made during this trip, and how many times I was ready to literally jump out of the car when I saw another batch of llamas, and then chased them through the meadows.
In the Valley of Geysers there was a feeling that you were somewhere on the moon. Well, the truth is, it does not look like our planet – such space landscapes. And the weather also changes like that – just swam in thermal springs, and then you go out – the wind just knocks you down, it’s terribly cold. Although now, in the off-season, the temperatures are very mild: at night it hardly drops to 0, but in our summer, when it is winter in Bolivia, and minus 25 may well be.
Mystical Laguna Colorada. Even from afar, the overflow of colors from blue to red attracts the eye and you are afraid to blink so as not to miss a single second, because with each turn of the jeep, the lagoon changes color and appears in a new look. During the ten minutes that we are driving, the sky turns black and lightning flashes over the lagoon – I have never seen anything like it. Red stripes when zooming in are hundreds of pink flamingos.
Well, the culmination of the four-day trip is dawn over the Uyuni salt marsh. Uyuni is a huge dry salt lake, located at an altitude of about 3650 meters. In March, when the salt marsh is covered with a thin layer of water, this place generally acquires some kind of magical power. It seems that heaven and earth merge here into a single whole, boundaries and consciousness expand. This is how it all starts in the early morning.
Well, then it continues like this for another half day. It seems to me that the craziest and most unusual photographs that I have ever seen in my life are from here. People even travel with props – some with bikes, some with chairs :))))
Wind in the face, height, desert landscapes and this is a miracle before your eyes. It always seems that you are somewhere so far away, on the end of the earth, on another planet. In general, Uyuni and Altiplano are a simple must see, and perhaps the most memorable event of our entire trip.
2. Admire La Paz from above
La Paz is a very unusual city, the atmosphere and color are simply off scale. But only having risen to the height, you can assess its scale. There are just a million viewing platforms here. We checked into almost everyon
By the way, the coolest way to see the city and fall in love with it is the Teleferico cable car. La Paz is probably the only city I know where the cable car is not a tourist attraction, but public transport (and costs half a dollar). There are three lines in the city – and since it is all on the hills, and the elevation changes are more than 400 meters, it is very convenient – in 15 minutes you can climb such a mountain. Here, at the highest altitude, there are poor areas, below – richer.
The central square of La Paz near the 400-year-old San Francisco Cathedral is always crowded. At small tables sit uncles in bright knitted hats – fortune tellers.
Aunties in hats and fluffy skirts make fresh juice from tangerines. Plastic cups with juice – in the hands of every second. Near the entrance to the cathedral museum, there is a cozy coffee shop with medieval interiors.
The Witch Market is a very touristy place, of course, but they say the locals also come here. Here you are building a house, for example, and you need to buy a dried embryo of a llama (brrrr) in order to bury it under the foundation, for good luck. Where will you go looking for this delicate product? To the witches market, of course. In general, it is so interesting to look at all these incomprehensible things
3. Learn Spanish in Sucre
Oh, Sucre. A snow-white colonial city of red roofs, a breath of oxygen (in the literal sense ???? in highland Bolivia. Only some 2790 meters above sea level, and you can breathe deeply, especially after Uyuni, where we climbed to 4800.
To be honest, there are not many attractions in Sucre, but it is so cute and comfortable that after active travel, when you already start dreaming about home comfort, this is the most suitable place in
We arrived here completely exhausted after our very active month in Argentina and traveling in the Altiplano. We arrived – and immediately became imbued with this city, deciding to make our first stop on a long six-month journey.
We spent two weeks here, renting a small attic with a private terrace in a pretty mansion. By the way, they would never have found it in their life if it had not been for the blog of an American couple of travelers who enthusiastically spoke about this place.
Sucre is perhaps the most popular place for travelers to improve their Spanish. We had nothing to pull up, personally my vocabulary ended with the knowledge of all the terms in the restaurant menu (please note, perfect knowledge !!!). Anton went a little further and could already ask passers-by how to get to the station and how much a hotel room costs. Therefore, it was decided to devote a week to intensive training. And we enrolled in a Spanish school.
From Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 12 pm, we diligently went to school with our backpacks, and then did our homework, sitting on the terrace. It was a very interesting experience – especially when the last lessons and lectures were far behind
And it was in Sucre that we evaluated the South American markets. What is there just not. But the most important thing is that practically in each of them there are such counters, heaped with fruits. And funny aunties in aprons make divine fruit salads and crazy juice mixes
4. See the Potosi mines with your own eyes
The glorious city of Potosi (4070 meters) is one of the highest mountainous cities in the world, once the richest and largest city in America. And the majestic Cerro Rico mountain, towering over the city, the silver mountain, from which it all began once, in the 16th century. The conquistadors never found the golden city of El Dorado, but they seized all the silver in Potosi. Unrealistic volumes of this metal were mined in the mines of Cerro Rico, a huge number of Indians and slaves from Africa died there, working in inhuman conditions. But 400 years later, everything was over – silver, and the prosperity, and prosperity of the city.
We came to Potosi to see everything with our own eyes and, most importantly, to visit the mines that started it all.
Prior to this trip, I believed that the most terrible job of the sulfur miners in the crater of the Ijen volcano on the island of Java. Having been there a couple of years ago and seeing in what conditions people work and for what pennies, I was shocked and even wrote a blog post on this topic. (here)
But I still cannot recover from the state of the Potosi mines and the conditions in which people work.
For four centuries Potosi was one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the world. Indians and slaves brought from Africa worked in the mines. According to historians, about 10 million people died underground.
And now, four centuries later, people work in practically the same conditions – only manual labor, everything rests on some kind of support beams, there is nothing to breathe inside, some tunnels have to climb almost on their haunches, water is ankle-deep … They work 6-12 hours a day, they keep, in my opinion, only on coca leaves – they constantly chew them. But despite all this horror, the job is considered decent: a simple miner can earn $ 340 a month. Decent money for Bolivia: the usual salary is $ 200.
We spent two hours in these tunnels – and, you know, I’m actually not a very impressionable girl, but when we made our way through these tunnels somewhere in the depths of the mountain – I thought I would have hysteria, it’s still hard to breathe since then and hurts the eyes … How, how can people work there for decades?
Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano wrote a very informative book about how Europeans have plundered the continent for centuries: “The Opened Veins of Latin America.
5. Walk the ancient Inca trail on the island of the sun and watch the sunset over Lake Titicaca
The funny name Titicaca has been haunting since childhood. And who would have thought that it would become reality. In general, Titicaca is a lake, the world’s highest navigable lake. It is divided in half between Peru and Bolivia.
Why come here? Here is the most delicious trout that I have ever tasted in my life, the Island of the Sun with an ancient Inca trail and the town of Copacabana, located between two hills on the shores of the lake at an altitude of 3800 meters.
Climbing one of them, Cerro Calvario, takes about half an hour. The view from the top is really one of the best that I have ever seen. The bay looks very mesmerizing from above, and on the other hand – the endless expanses of Titicaca. Local couples come here to receive a blessing from shamans, and at the beginning of the ascent – an uncle predicts fate on coca leaves. The path itself is almost steep, which at such a height becomes a test for the lungs
Bolivia is a country that gave us so many emotions, a country where we spent almost all our time at an altitude of four thousand meters – and somehow learned to live with it. A country that somehow reminds me of Nepal , but at the same time is completely different.
Is it sad to leave here? Yes and no. First of all, there are still so many interesting things waiting for us in the next 4 months in South Africa. And secondly, we are sure that we will definitely come back here to hold Girls in travel bachelorette party in May 2016 and show our girls all this beauty.