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Travel to Bolivia. What to see in Bolivia?


Behind the window is night and our snow-white Boeing has just landed at one of the highest-altitude airports in the world. “Bolivia, Bolivia”, – in a whisper I repeat to myself the same word like some kind of magic spell, trying to believe that this is all happening in reality. Bolivia has always been such an unattainable mountainous country, lost in the vast expanses of the South American continent. Being here was on my wishlist somewhere between “conquering Mount Everest” and “flying to Mars”.

Everyone has their own cherished dream. Mine has been associated with travel for many years. Some unknown threads are stretched across the world between countries. And, barely understanding one of them, you begin to unwind one ball after another, collecting them into your collection – and you can no longer stop.

I collect my travel dreams in an old album with yellowed pages, which I found once at the Bombay Chor Bazaar. It has everything – photos, route maps, magazine clippings with notes about a family bakery in Peru and the oldest cafe in Kathmandu – you never know where life will take you.

In the chapter “Bolivia”, funny aunts in black bowler hats and rainbow fluffy skirts looked at me from photographs, who trotted with plump legs along the cobbled streets of medieval cities. Alpaca knit stalls in unimaginable shades. Magic witch markets with all sorts of weird things like llama fetuses in La Paz. Colonial white cities. And also – the endless salt desert – the Uyuni salt marsh. A snow-white space, the existence of which is hard to believe, while you look at the photographs under the covers. Hundreds of times I thoughtfully looked at the pictures, trying to imagine how these absolutely incompatible things can be united in one small country. And now I have to find out, because I am going to spend three weeks here. Live, feel, experience everything that I have read so much about.

I draw more air into my lungs – and at this altitude it will come in handy for me – and take a step into the darkness and the unknown. Well hello La Paz, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.

Туры в пустыни Боливии

Market for witches and coca leaves

Боливия. Вид на город Ла-Паса

Just a couple of days – and I’m already briskly walking up and down the winding cobbled streets of La Paz. Sometimes I run into another cafe for a cup of coca tea. They say it helps with headaches and altitude sickness, the shirt that all tourists who arrive here invariably face.

The difference in altitude from 3600 to 4000 thousand above sea level is a common thing. Moreover, the height, as you know, is not held in high esteem here, and the poorer the quarter, the higher it is. Below are ministries, beautiful mansions and trendy housing estates, good restaurants and Spanish everywhere. The upper quarters are inhabited by Indians and mestizo Cholos. And the Quechua and Aymara languages ​​are not uncommon among the local population. And yet – only by climbing to a height can you look at the city with different eyes and fall in love with it. And the easiest way, given the specifics of the city, 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).

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. Aunts in hats and fluffy skirts make fresh juice from tangerines. Plastic cups with juice are in the hands of every second person.

Боливия. Базар Ла-Паса

And practically around the bend, on the next street, there is a mysterious witch market. At first glance, all the same aunts sell dried herbs, but if you look closely at the contents, it turns out that the product is not easy. Dried llama embryos hang from the ceiling, and parts of frogs and other insects are in baskets. And all the counters are littered with boxes with incomprehensible powders and strange sets with toy houses, money, cars. It is customary to go to shamans with such sets of dreams. You choose what you would like to receive next year – and go ahead.
And dried llamas are buried during the construction of a house, for good luck.

Another planet

Тур в Боливию

Outside the window, there is absolute darkness, and the room is so cold that I try to remember where I am and whether my dreams brought me to Antarctica this time. No, this is Bolivia, baby. Altiplano high plateau, more than 3600 meters above sea level. According to the calendar, it is the end of March, which means autumn is outside the window. We are in another hemisphere, everything is upside down here. For example, the hotel where we spent tonight is completely made of salt. Salt walls, salt beds, salt tables and even tables in a restaurant.
The alarm clock prevents you from thinking about an unhappy fate and dreams of a hot bath. You have to pull yourself out of the sleeping bag into the salt kingdom. But today is worth it. I will finally see it with my own eyes – the largest dry salt lake in the world – Salar de Uyuni. More than 10,000 sq. Km of snow-white space simply envelops you from all sides, and it is not clear where the sky ends and the earth begins.
The jeep slowly glides in the dark on the mirror surface. And now the first rays of the sun … I freeze with delight and, holding my breath, look around.
In March, when the salt marsh is covered with a thin layer of water, this place acquires some kind of magical power. It seems that heaven and earth merge here into a single whole, boundaries and consciousness expand.
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, at the end of the earth, on another planet.

Поехать в Боливию, Ла-Пас

Our trip to the Bolivian altiplano has been going on for three days. And in fact, besides the salt marsh, there are still so many beauties – lagoons, volcanoes, thermal springs, canyons, green fields with grazing llamas.
4 days and on an alternative route, from the other end, from the glorious city of Tupitsa, practically on the border with Argentina. Much fewer tourists travel from here, and in many places you find yourself in splendid isolation.
The main discovery of these days: “llamas 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. Looking at these cosmic landscapes, you can never say that this is our planet. The weather changes every half hour – you just bask in the thermal springs, and the next moment – 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, it may well be minus 25.
Mystical Laguna Colorada … Still from afar, the overflow of colors from blue to red and attracts the eye. You are afraid to blink so as not to miss a single second, because with every 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.

White City and Spanish

Боливия, Ла-Пас

Oh, Sucre. A snow-white colonial city of red roofs, a breath of oxygen (literally ???? in highland Bolivia. Only some 2790 meters above sea level, and you can breathe deeply, especially after the Altiplano, when the altitude of 4800 is becoming commonplace.
Frankly, there are not many attractions in Sucre, but it is so cute and comfortable that as soon as arriving here, tired travelers immediately begin to dream of home comfort. And the desire to stay in this city for at least a week does not leave you. So it was decided – I will.
Not a day goes by when I have at my disposal a small attic with a terrace, carefully laid out with tiles with an intricate pattern. And the mansion in which I shoot this miracle, three minutes from the central square – Plaza de armas, of course, as in any self-respecting South American city.
Not far from the square, as always, is the central market. My favorite place in any city. It seems to me that it is here that you can see real life and feel the pulse of the city. But most importantly, almost all of them have counters piled high with fruit. And funny aunties in aprons make divine fruit salads and crazy juice mixes.

Боливия, рынок Ла-Паса

But the most important reason why I’m here is my Spanish. Or rather, its absence.

Sucre is perhaps the most popular place for travelers to improve their language skills. Because without Spanish, traveling to South America becomes almost impossible. I have nothing special to pull up, because personally my vocabulary is limited to the knowledge of all the terms in the restaurant menu. Therefore, it was decided to devote a week to intensive training. And I go to school. Again.

Every morning I rush to class, throwing my backpack over my shoulders, and after lunch I sit in my favorite Condor café with a cup of cappuccino and hot empanadas with cheese taken out of the oven a couple of minutes ago, and diligently do my homework.

Along the Inca Trail

I am sitting in a small restaurant with three tables, nestled on a plastic chair, and peering into the distance. Before your eyes – Lake Titicaca. This funny name has haunted me since childhood. Only as a child I could not even think that it would ever become a reality.

In Bolivia, there are two main words in describing almost any place – “the most” and “alpine”. Titikaku, this fate was also not spared. It is the world’s highest navigable lake. It is divided in half between Peru and Bolivia.

Why am I here? Well, except for a funny name and a childhood dream.

Firstly, here is the most delicious trout that I have ever tasted in my life. It is because of her that I have been going to a restaurant with three tables near the water for the second day as if I were going to work. A caring hostess and a chef in combination, prepares me this divine dish with vanilla sauce.

Secondly, the mysterious island of the Sun, Isla del Sol, the cradle of the Indian civilizations of South America haunts me. The legends of the Aymara Indians mention a mysterious city located at the bottom of the lake. It is also here that the first Inca was born.

You can get to Isla del Sol in a couple of hours by a small motor boat. The island can be traversed from north to south along the ancient Inca trail, enjoying stunning views. And even stay there overnight in one of the many unpretentious hotels.

I arrived in Copacabana a couple of days ago. Nestled comfortably on the shores of a lake at an altitude of 3800 meters, the town is the gateway to exploring Titicaca and the surrounding area. To immediately feel the magic of this place – climb one of the nearby hills, Serro Calvario.

The view from the top is really one of the best I’ve seen in my life. The bay and endless expanses of Titicaca look mesmerizing from above. Local couples come here to receive blessings from shamans, and at the beginning of the ascent, the uncle predicts fate on coca leaves. The path itself is almost steep, which at such a height becomes a test for the lungs.

Travel time flies by. And here I am again sitting in a snow-white Boeing with smiling stewardesses, thoughtfully leaning against the window. Bolivia. A country of llamas, geysers and volcanoes, the endless expanses of the Altiplano and alien landscapes, cities at a height at which it is hard for an ordinary person to breathe, let alone live and function normally. I promise to return in my thoughts. Very soon.

The original article can be read in the ELLE UKRAINE magazine October 2015.



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