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My Journey Round The World » Bolivia

My Journey Round The World

279 days on the road…

Bolivia: mixed feeling…

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I spent more than one month in Bolivia and it still hard to decide if I like it or not. I really have mixed feeling…

On one hand: the huge gap between extremely poor and wealthy people, which brought me down when I finally realised it - nearly 2 weeks after I arrived! I also have to say that generally, I didn’t find people really friendly… and actually I’m glad I found some travelers with the same opinion. Even sometimes really unpleasantespecially when buying a bus ticket!

On the other hand: landscapes are absolutely stunning!!! - and I’m not saying that only for the Uyuni Salar! Ok, I didn’t visit the all country, and especialy avoid the tropical region – too hot for me! - stuck mostly on the Altiplanoas it said to be most travelers do - but it was worth it! I’ve enjoy every moment of the travel… Paradoxically, I met really lovely local people:

  • Cochabamba – all the people from Bueno Samaritano
  • Victor Hugosi, si! – my bus neighbor from Cochabamba to Sucre
  • Adrian – the one from Sucre to Potosí
  • Really friendly staff hostal in: Sucre (Hostelling International Sucre), Potosí, Uyuni (Hotel Avenida)
  • Tarija – Luis and his friends – with whom I learned the local habit to look at someone in the eyes, drink a gulp and pass on your drink to him or her ; it’s really rude to refuse! Yes I did it, even with alcohol! :)as well as 1 brother and 1 sister in the hotel where I found out that the 2 daughters of the lady - leaving in Cochabamba – were dancing in the Revolution show I’ve seen! :)
  • Villa Montes – the lady at the bus terminal, Gariel and his brother at the post office as well as Eduardo, my first Paraguayencounter ;)

What I’ll regret the most is to have missed the Isla del Sol… Another good reason – first one is Uyuni Salar in case you forgot! ;)to come back… :)  


Villa Montes – Adios Bolivia

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After spending a really nice weekend in Tarija, thanks to Luis: staying at his place was a bit like beeing home! Market on Saturday morning, cooking at home, nice chat, palm reading :) ,  having a long morning sleep without worrying about the check out…  I guess I was missing a bit the routine… :) I head to Villa Montes on Sunday night, 9 hours bus, arriving there at 3:30 am, in the middle of nowhere… Luckily I slept the all way – but still…

At the bus station I had a nice chat with a lady wondering from where I was coming from and asking me how much I weighed when I left home and how much I weigh now… :) No idea! But I don’t think I lost weight regarding all the food I try… as well as the difficulty I have to fit in most of my trousers now… :)

Villa Montes… the hottest city in Bolivia! Even at 3:30am it was already hot! Ariane, I didn’t even notice the coldest moment of the day 30mn after the sun rise! Unfortunately I missed the bus to Asunción – Paraguay at 2am everyday… Or I could maybe have get it if only I asked where and when it was possible to catch it as soon as I arrived… I guess I was too tired to even think about it! So rule number 2number one is to be carefull with time and place in order to don’t miss a flight! – don’t be shy – yes I can be! - and always ask when you don’t know! You might save time!!! So I finaly found out the place where to buy the ticket – on the main road 2 blocks up the bus station… - but had to wait more than 2 hours before beeing able to get it… Eduardo, the young guy from Paragay, sales representative of the travel agency, brought me then to the casa de los viajeros – shaddy place but where I could have a sleep and later on a shower waiting for my 2am bus the next day. Difficult to understand them when they say you can travel madrugada it mean the next day for you and today for them…

After a good nap, I went to the city center, trying to find a postcard and send my new year wishes to my dear colleague in Aachen… Well, you’ll receive it pretty late… – they said to me 1 month! – and the postcard isn’t exactly the one I was looking for… Sorry! At the postoffice I met Gabriel, studying English and French in Tarija :) We had a nice chat in Spanish – si, si – before his brother drive me to the backery to prepare my travel for the next day… :)


Tarija – Coimata: Pozas

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Green day around Tarija… On the advice of LuisI met on CouchSurfing and who is hosting me in Tarija – and his friends – I joined a birthday party on the first night I arrived! :)I went to visit Coimata Pozas - water hole – on the next day, part of the Reserva Biologica Cordillera de Sama. Such a nice area just few km away from the city! I hiked a bit up to the cascade. As weather wasn’t so warm that day, I just put my feet in the water – that’s why I love those unsexy shoes! – and when I felt I’ll be hungry soon – don’t worry Gregoire, I had some food with me, just in case :)  - I went back down to catch a micro back to the city. On my way back I met some little – or bigger animals…

As Luis is also a Salsa teacher, I had a short Salsa course in the evening before diner - Daddy you would have love the meat! – and then we went to a farewell party of one of his friend, where I could practice! :)

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Death road?!?

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So after 2 days in Tupiza, I decided it was time to move on and took my ticket for Tarija. Road is said to be – according to Le Routard guidebook – really beautiful but pretty scary… Indeed… I now better understand why they only drive it by night! First it’s more secure – you can see car, bus or truck coming in front – second, I guess they don’t want people to have heart attack while seeing it!
So before this adventure, I couldn’t leave without eating – who knows it could have been the last one! - and had a nice dinner at the bus station. Kind of lunchset you could find in Japon :) well packed but with: llama dry meat, hard-boiled egg, potato, corn and spicy sauce which I didn’t even try! Pretty good diner I have to say :)
So we first start through an impressive rock tunnel! Lucky (!) me I was seatting just in front – I didn’t want to miss anything! Not sure it was a good idea finally!… - and could see a bit of the bend road… I haven’t down the death road north from La Paz, however, I think this one is a good one too! On one side the ravine, on the other side the mountain-rock… When the driver is turning you either see nothing: the ravine or a rock wall in front of you. Sometimes you can see lights far away waiting – a bit of security here! I tryed to sleep – not so easy with all the curves (!) - and it was really impressive to wake up because you fell light in front of you and when you open your eyes you see just facing you: the rock…
We finaly arrived safely – our driver was pretty used to the road it seems! - after 8 hours drive and 1 pee stop. This one was fun! Around 12:30am, the driver stopped in the middle of which looks like a small village saying to us: baños (toilet). Most of people went out – so did I – all around the bus to alleviate themselves. So for you guys, it’s easy, however for girls it’s another story… Fortunately – or not, as I nearly fall down in a ravine! :)it was dark and it’s true that most of the locals have skirt, which help here!
I guess when I will be back in Europe – or even in New Zealand – I will feel that road security is really strict!


Tupiza

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After such an adventure I did again 6 hours jeep the next day to reach Tupiza… I wanted to go there by train but it was absolutly impossible to get a ticket… After queueing for more than 2 hours – after I asked the agency to buy a ticket for me but they didn’t managed… – and meeting the women from the agency who finaly confirm that they where no train before the next Tuesday – Don’t even try to understand how does it work, absolutly crasy system! – I choose the jeep option suggested by the agency. This is the Salar jeeps doing Tupiza-Uyuni trips and leaving people in Uyuni, who drive back to Tupiza and take other passengers to make the trip back worse it! Hope you get everything… Not as fun as the Salar trip, just a taxi here, a bit more expensive but quicker than the night bus. Anyway, landscape was supposed to be beautiful… Indeed! Even with 10 people in the jeep – I don’t even know how I survived this 6 hours non-stop! But when you have no choice you do… - it was again an amasing travel! :) Difficult to take pictures when you’re stuck with so many passengers, so you’ll only have the one from around Tupiza which is surrounded by red mountains – beautiful. Not a really nice city where all travel agencies are looking for people to go to the Salar – I was happy to see the excitement again but sad not to be part of it! - they don’t really offer anything else than horse riding – which is pretty expensive here, nearly as Europe! – and with this heat I avoid it! So I just went on my own around the city. I’m leaving tonight to Tarija. Landscape is again supposed to be wonderful but by night, I’m not sure I’ll see a lot – actually it seems to be safer like that, hope I’ll survive! :)


Sud-Lípez

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Next day after stopping at a pre-Inca cimetery at San Juan de Rosario – interesting to see that at the other side of the planet, as the Egyptian, important people were buried with their belonging! - seeing llamas and vicunas ; we crossed the Salar de Chiguana and had a last look at the Tunapa volcan before arriving at the first lagoon Cañapa, Hedionda, Charcota and Honda again with vicunas all around and the amasing flamingos… We had quick lunch around one of the lagoon – cannot remember which one! - in front of flamingos :) before heading to Laguna Colorada at around 4 300 metres hight, with more flamingos on a beautiful color of water. Entrance in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa was supposed to be 30 Bolivianos but from January 1st it is now 150 Bolivianos!!! Quite a big inflation – as they had the same price since 10 years and need to be at the same level as Chile! Luckily Nicolau was great in explaning that we were not aware of it! So we managed to pay 30 instead of 150 as it was the first day of the year. On our way we crossed the Desierto Siloli – where it was really windy and started to be cold – where we could admire the beautiful mountain with 7 different colors – sorry I forgot the name! and see the Arbol de Piedra. Fantastic :)

Next morning - after sleeping at 4315 metres hight! - wake up at 4:30am to head to the geysers Sol de Mañana. Water vapour is really hot but it was freesing cold! – lucky us it’s now summer here! Impressive! If you stay too long – even if not! – you’re cover with grey sulfur - my camero still have memories... It was great to see the sun on the mountains around and still the full moon behind the smoke… Then we head to the aguas caliente for our breakfast – yes Gregoire, we didn’t eat before leaving… But we were just sitting in a Jeep. Ok I had some bread left and everybody was happy to have a piece :) Except the guide, but we always wonder how they survive! :)while guides are preparing breakfast, you can have a short bath but I have to say that at 7am with such cold temperature, I just put my hands in it!
Breakfast settle we shortly stop at the Laguna Verde – which wasn’t verde as our guide told us it’s usualy emerald green in the afternoon… We went to the Chile border to drop off Rose & Nicolau before going back to Uyuni, nearly 8 hours drive – where I started to hate Jeep – with only 2 stops to see the so called Salvador Dalí desert and some funny rocks as well as a short natural break in a middle of llamas! Landscape were just fantastic!

After such a – jeep – trip I was happy to be back in Uyuni at the hotel Avenida with a good bed and hot shower to relax, where the friendly landlord asked me when I left, when I will be back with my kids! ;) I hope to be able to do it with them one day for sure! :)

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New Year’s Eve at the end of the world

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So I spent the New Year Eve 2009 at the other end of the planet in a middle of nowhere only with strangers… Quite different than my last 5 years all around Europe (2004 – Paris, 2005 – Madrid, 2006 – Budapest, 2007 – Kracov, 2008 – Nurenberg) with my Rostock friends… It was different but great! Light was supposed to be switch off at 10pm but regarding the circumstamces, we could have it nearly up to 2am! :)
Start was a bit slow and our guide – Ramiro – told us that nothing was plan. They were more than 7 different groups with people coming from Argentina, Bolivia, Korea, England, Germany, Spain, France – only me I think! ;) - Canada and I guess I’m missing some! There was a Bolivian bout-en-train who entertain a long part of the evening with different games. We had lot of fun seeing the English singing and dancing while having a forfeit ;) Then the Argentine – who had a guitare – start singing some of the Beatles songs helps by the English group. This was so much fun! At midnight we all huged & kissed and went outside as some people brought fireworks. Just in front of the Salar with a full moon it was just wonderful!

I also learned Bolivian tradition for the New Year with Juana who kindly share everything with us!
- Ariane & Isabelle you will love that! –
So, just before midnight, you settle the table with some food and drinks: apple, grapes, biscuits, sweets, coca leaf, beer… so that nothing misses next year. Everything as a signification:

  • Fruits are for prosperity,
  • Biscuits-cakes: wishing to have enough bread during the year
  • Sweet: to have sweetness and happiness…

You also settle candles – here of different colors, I love that! – that you have to light at midnight and wait until it burn nearly up to the end where you can just blow them out and read the meaning:

  • orange = money and work
  • green = hope
  • yellow = money
  • red = love
  • white = health / peace
  • purple = protection

Here red and green expand themselve as we can spread love and hope all the time… Orange, yellow, white and purple keep pretty straight as we can be healthy or have enough money, work or protection for the time beeing but always need to pay attention to it as it goes and come back easily… Hope you follow everything! :)

You also prepare 12 pieces of grapes, 1 for each month, and at midnight you eat them 1 by 1 and make a wish for each month :) I went out under the full moon and did so… :)

After all that and while waiting for the candles to burn – you cannot go to sleep before! - you eat the food and drink but don’t forget to put 2 or 3 drops on the floor for the Pachamama – La Madre Tierra!


Salar de Uyuni

 

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This was so great… I don’t know where to start! From the beginning might be the best :) I’m now in Tarija and just feel like doing this tour again! So… after a difficult start – more than 1 hour waiting on my own at the travel agency without explanation! The thing I hate the most!  - The jeep finaly arrived and I met our guide Ramiro and my group mates: a family of 3 Bolivians – Juana, Deyanira and Marcelo and 2 Brazilians: Rose and Nicolau. We first visited the Cementerio de trenes few km away from Uyuni and then head to the stunning Salar… So amasing! This huge flat white space - salt desert of 12 500 km2 at 3 650 metres high where water is running under… – all around you… Even with jeeps around, you feel the immensity. This is fantastic! I just love it! Maybe also because this white reminded me of the snow I missed this year in Europe :) People from Uyuni and from the Salar borders are the only one allowed to operate it, however this is only exported in Bolivia and not really profitable… Again a hard work which hardly help to survive!

We stopped for lunch in the former Hotel de Sal - supposed to be closed as hotel because of hygiene problems - not really sure about that… – But I wasn’t at the end of my surprise… After lunch we arrived at the Isla Inca Huasi - often sale as Isla del Pescado! –  Again, such a stunning place… This island in the middle of this white area with… Cactus on it! Extraordinary! Absolutely sublime… Few hours drive more – this is the worse part and even more after 3 days! - we arrived at our legal Hotel de Sal in San Juan on the border of the Salar to spend the night and currently the New Year Eve! :)


Happy New Year 2010

 

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I wish you all the best for 2010! Coming back from the stunning Uyuni Salar – the most beautiful thing I’ve seen from the world so far… Maybe I need to travel a bit more! :)


Travel Potosí-Uyuni

2009-12-31-bolivia-Post Travel UyuniAfter Potosí I head toward Uyuni, such a beautiful landscape all along the way!!! Chamging from mountains to plain at more than 3 000 metres high! Seeing plenty of lamas as well as flamingos! Unfortunately I didn’t had time to take pictures… Way was far too chaotic!!!
It seems that gringo’s tarif also apply for bus… I paid 35 bolivianos – 3.5 , ok here it seems nothing but for a Bolivian budget it is! And this is just on principale – while my Bolivian neighbour paid 25 for the same service! However, what was good is that we had a Coke – ok I don’t like it but still  :)included in the price! First time I see that here :)
Also, the trick of the fake policeman doesn’t only apply to tourist! It happened to my young neighbour in a taxi while she was coming to catch the bus from the main bus station… If I get everything right when she explained to people in the bus, she & her friend where robbed of 200 Bolivianos. 3 guys intered the taxi & they couldn’t do anything! For a student – or anyway for anybody else! – it’s hard to take!
I’m leaving today for a 3 days trip in the Salar
So a bit in advance I wish you all the best for the New Year and be sure I’ll think of you overthere… :)