Bolivia – what can I say!? After just arriving into the 53 country of my travels, this time Chile I have to sit down for a while to reflex what I had gone through in Bolivia over the last week.
When Chile had left me with the certainty that I want to return, and still do, Bolivia had left me with something more. A longing for more and emotions divided into happy and sad and the difficult of grasping what I was seeing and feeling as I was experiencing the local culture surrounded by multi-colors in nature and people.
Bolivia is a country where 60% of the people live under the poverty line even if they in percentage of the countries GNP uses a higher amount on education that Finland does. Bolivia is per some stats the second poorest country of South America (after Paraguay) and that was quite visible in some ways but in many ways not. The prizes of service and food is almost nothing, where you pay 3 euros for a full Menu of food, 1,50 for a taxi ride from one place to another regardless the length, less than a euro for 2 liters of Coca Cola, and the list goes on. It is cheap and people are poor BUT you cannot see this anywhere around you. It is rare to see beggars and people don’t bother you with selling their cards, poems, lighters and so on. What you find yourself surrounded by is smiling people, playing kids, colorful outfits on all of them and quite heavy people, so apparently even the locals have found the 3 euro menu’s. So in a nutshell but one filled with love and laughter you could say we encountered happy, smiling, colorful slight fat people making sure we had the time of our lives and I don’t only talk for myself when I assure we had.
We left Uyuni and the “Festival of Water” for Sucre – a place that had been described as the most tranquil place in Bolivia, if not in the whole country. We passed by Potosi on the way that in altitude is the highest city in the world with its 4090 meters above the sea level. People in Potosi mostly live their lives engaged to mining as they have done for the last hundred of years. We did not have much time stoping over in Potosi and I had no chance to see too much because the altitude did not give me a chance to run around – well anywhere. We arrived in Sucre and checked in at a small hostel that was popular for the owners excitement in art. Together with the other guests in the hostel we often sat in the garden and enjoyed the evening before heading out for dinner. Sucre was also celebrating the “Water Festival” and it was seen literally. We were attacked all the time at the street with water balloons thrown at us by both young and old. It you were lucky you were already soaking wet by a gallon of water that was thrown from all the roof tops on you followed by big laughter by the locals. Sucre was as promised a tranquil place but we did not get to experience it to it maximum because of the festival.
We headed on to La Paz where we had decided to live BIG. We had reserved the most luxury suite in a 5 star hotel in down town La Paz with a view over the beautiful city and the surrounding hills out of our huge balcony that was a part of our 87m2 suite. We had been traveling for more than a month not staying put anywhere for a longer time so we though we needed the treat, and when the prize was 35 euros! per person per night we thought it was worth it.
La Paz is the highest capital of the world with an elevation between 3200 and 4100 meters. It also is the gate way to the feared Yungas Road aka the Death Road that leads down to Coroico on a 69 km long road of which most part is gravel. The Death Road has been closed for public transportation since 7 years when a tarmac slightly longer road took over the traffic because of the danger the old road holds. It is still not forbidden to drive any kind of vehicle on the old road but with the cold facts of 200-300 dead people / year of which 14 / year on a bike it is understood that people want to avoid it…and the reason that we wanted to rent a bike. We went to a recommended down hill company in La Paz to sign up for a day tour down the death road on a mountain bike. All set we headed for 4617 meters the very next day to try our luck and to get a kick of adrenaline as a contrast to our 5 star hotel stay. We arrived at the top hit by rain and freezing cold weather. After breakfast we hit the road that for the first 20 km was to be tarmac. Our bikes had double suspension and hydraulic brakes that were to come in handy for the next 3-4 hours. The view was amazing and we saw both great things and more sad things in broken cars, hundreds of crosses and thumb stones along the way. The road was partly alright but at other parts really narrow with big bends and bad gravel under our bikes. Our guide did a good job and we all survived the death road that unfortunately had not been the case for a young girl that had died just four days earlier on a similar tour on a mountain bike. My condolences goes to this girls family and friends.
La Paz was a nice city but we did not have too much time nor strength to walk around too much due to the elevation and our done mountain bike tour and the fact that we had quite a nice hotel suite to enjoy as well. After a few days we set our destination for lake Titicaca and our last stop in Bolivia in the small village of Copacabana as a gate way to Peru. Titicaca is the highest lake in the world at an altitude of 3808 meters a size of 8500 km2. Copacabana was a cozy and nice small, cold village with its main tourist attraction the nearby lying island “Isla de Sol” that was the birthplace of the Incas of the Andes more than 15.000 years BC. We visited this island and it had not more than nature beauty and local inhabitants that were living their every day life by taking care of their llamas, pigs and sheep and using these animals as a source of all from food and clothes and I have to say the llama actually does not taste too bad.
Bolivia in a nutshell this is and once again my words are not enough to describe what this country holds and therefore the pictures below will contribute try to make it righteous.
DEATH ROAD aka Yungas Road