Published: October 15th 2007September 21st 2007
After an amazing 3 weeks travelling through Peru with a brilliant bunch of people, it was time to fly solo again and explore Bolivia. ... I wasnt totally solo though as Emil a friend from Ecuador came and joined me for the adventures swapping places with mish...Bolivia started in the capital city of La Paz, sitting at around 3800m above sea level, exploring this city was taken at a very slow pace!....La Paz is a unique city.. there are many other unique traites that makes La Paz a must see if in South America. Walking through the streets of this amazing city one of the first things you notice is that everything is a street market from food, drinks to shampoo, padlocks, video tapes, CD´s, underwear and clothing.. almost all the streets are lined with stalls where you can buy almost anything... of course theres hardly ever a warranty or garuntee with the products however your choices are kind of limited in that you either buy off the street or you dont buy at all!! The extreem poverty being a 3rd world country is immediately very confronting and by far the worst in South America... Bolivia has still got a very
strong indigenouse influence however unfortunately with no education or skills to offer their country except that of manual labour... the average wage is only 500 bolivianos a month around 100 dollars...most cant afford to leave Bolivia either, as a bus to a town within 15hours away costs at least 10 to 15 dollars it makes it almost impossible for the majority of Bolivian people to move out of Bolivia.... unless of course the bus driver lets them stand or sleep in the isles for the whole 15hours!!!..... Traditional dress is not uncommon and in fact almost all indigenouse people of Bolivia still dress as such and speak in Ketchwa the language of past generations which is very different to spanish and most dont understand spanish which makes it hard to trully understand their traditions however we were lucky enough to have an indigenouse guide who spoke english and opened our eyes to how these people think and feel about a range of topics, which made a very interesting experience. For the travellor Bolivia is a gold mine of natural wonders and amazing culture and tradition which almost feels like a step back in time the moment you step into the
Ray myself and another guy from the hostel... on a rather big night on the town in La Paz.
country. Its very different to Peru or Ecuador and has alot to offer that is so different to the rest of south america, a stand alone country with a unique edge..My journey through Bolivia started in La Paz then went to Santa Cruz, Samaipata, Sucre, Potosi, Uyuni, and back to La Paz.A bit about each...Santa Cruz is a very new city that has clearly been very westernised and very rich where there are almost no indigenouse people ...so we quickly moved through here to samaipata. Samaipata was a sleepy little town and although there wasnt much to it, it was a perfect example of a little bolivian town that oozed all the wonderful traites of Bolivia and the people who live there. Here we made friends with a veteran hippie named Jenny and later.. a lovely brazilian lady unfortunately suffering from cancer who ended up insisting on us coming for breakfast, lunch and dinner at her place, she didnt really have to convince us as she was a brilliant cook and she was an amazing lady.. but company is definately what she craved and boy could she talk!!!!!!... we would leave.. ears burning each time and generally with about half
an hour to return for our next meal as the first meal took at least 3 hours each time!!Sucre was a city full of towering white buildings and some amazing parks, although westernised it still had a very strong indgenouse influence and in a nearby town some of the best knitted work in bolivia. I brought a few things and mum and dad have them so take a look..Potosi Mines is the highest city in the world placed at 4000m above sea level and was quite literally another world all together...the day that we arrived in Potosi, we booked a tour to the famous Potosi silver mines. We started the tour by suiting up in special trousers, jacket, wellies, hard hat and head torch (complete with stylish belt). We went to the miner's market where we were able to buy as much explosive material as we wanted (a miner can send his children to buy explosives!). The explosives that we bought were presents for the miners. At the market we were shown the ingredients in making an explosive, dynamite (there are three kinds, Bolivian, Peruvian and Argentinian, apparently Peruvian isn't any good), a fuse, a detonator (this is the most
dangerous part) and amonium nitrate - but don't try this at home! We then went down into the mines themselves. We had to wait at the entrance for a while to wait for the miners to come out with the trolleys full of minerals. It takes four miners to push them, which they do at great speed. We then followed the miners back into the mine with the empty trolleys. We started climbing down three levels of the mines through progressively narrower and steeper tunnels. They smelled really strongly and there was asbestos on the walls (good thing that we were wearing masks!). The miners use an electrical winch to bring minerals up from the second and third levels but below this they must be brought up manually. People do not live long in the mines however they earn more money than most dream of earning. To offer a family a life of education and basic needs a short life in the mines seems to be the only real opportunity to these people. Some of the very poor families just starting out have their children start working in the mines from the age of ten with their fathers. We visited
some miners working in the tunnels whos tools consisited of explosives, a hammer, chisel, pick and shovel. We then went into an area where they where jack hammering holes into the end of a tunnel where they placed explosives to extend it. The air was so thick with dust we could barely see anything or breath and i had to leave lasting under a minute. These men are there for up to 10 to 12 hours per day in the dark breathing in toxic dust, a combination of minerals, asbestos and fine particuls of dust !!!! Once we left the area there were about 2 or 3 explosions which sounded like a loud dull thud that sent vibrations under our feet.. to remind us that this is very much a working mine and not a tourist attraction. Although this is the most well paid job in Bolivia for anyone who has no skills or education these men pay dearly with their lives to hopefully provide the next generation a better lifestyle, by this meaning a roof over their heads, possibly education and if they are lucky a real lavatory in their home. A stark reality to a tourist who still
has more money in their pocket that day than the amount the man in the mines will earn that week.. mabey a grand total of around $10 per day, 60 bolivianos. Definately a ¨grand¨ Reality Check.Moving onto Uyuni Salt flats a one of the greatest wonders of the world. Here you have the largest salt lake in the world, along with some of he strangest volcanic rock formations, lots of desert and freezing temperatures at night ..exactly what a travellor wants to see and experience... something different and amazing! .. however definatley could have dropped the freezing temperatures.We arrived in Uyuni after a fairly unimpressive 10 hour night bus trip (the road was very very very bumpy) at one stage I went to the toilet in the bus (obviously very well timed!), went over some bumps and nearly decapitated myself, hitting the roof! My first impression of the town of Uyuni was "what a hole"... Is a town that is more or less centered around tourism, dusty and miserable and before the sun comes out it is extreemly cold... We went straight onto my tour though with a group of six other people a bunch of young english guys who
provided much entertainment on our three day adventure and definately made up for the bus trip! The first day we set of around 10am, heading straight to the town of Colchani where the salt from the Salar is processed and ready to be shipped out... From here we set of for Uyuni de salar... It was pretty amazing - All you can see for km´s and km´s is white... Was by far one of the strangest sceneries I have ever seen... We stopped off for lunch at the Incahuasi island, which had cactus on it as old as 1200 years old and 12 metres in hight - pretty impressive. From the salar we went to our first salt hotel where we all found a novel way to pas the night playing music and drinking tequila...one thing we didnt have to worry about was running out of salt! On day two, we went to a number of smaller lagunas which were of varying colours and had bright pink flamingos in them... At the end of the day we made it the Laguna Colorada, which was a bright red lake with ice bergs coated in borax floating in it - again pretty
spectacular. Also on the way passed a few other landmarks, like the active volcano Ollague which is half in Chile, half in Bolivia and the "stone tree"... On the Third day we had to get up at 4.30am for a 5am start... and at below 0 temperatures one asked themselves what on earth they were doing up at this hour, however this was soon answered! We headed to the fumaroles (gas spouts), then found ourselves watching the sun rise of the salt flats whilst soaking in a natural hot spring, general consensus being that the sights we had seen and crammed into 3 days of incrdeible views was this was defianetly up there with Machu Pichu if not over and above anything I have and ever will see in my life. From here we headed back to town. We were all so inspired by our 3 day adventure we begged our guide to take us out for a unique a very special private tour to see the sun set over the salt lakes. So around 10 that night we found ourselves standing in a dome of stars drinking tea with nothing but a dull white horizen, salt under our feet
Had to take a photo for novelty sake...
a very cold chil in the air and all of us silenced by the sight around and under us. On One end of the horizon the milky way began and was a thick sprinkling of stars accross the sky all the way accross to the other side of the sky where it met the horizen once more. A Dome of stars ... and occasionally one shooting into oblivion.... one of many things that unfortuantely couldnt be captured on camera... What more could Bolivia offer us.Sorry for all the writing but I havnt writen much on the photos as it takes a long time. However all the photos correspond with the above text.. so once again, enjoy!!
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