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Published: January 15th 2013
These men were repairing shoes and belts using sewing machines.
Bolivia may be the poorest country in South America, but its natural beauty is unsurpassed. We flew to Bolivia from Asuncion, Paraguay and landed in Santa Cruz. Even though this city is not one of Bolivia's 2 capitals, it is the richest city. Most of the country's fruits and vegetables are grown in this region.
After a couple of days, we took a hot 10 hour bus ride to Cochabamba. Between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, we noticed a big change in the ethnic heritage of the people from Spanish to indigenous people. In the countryside, the people have virtually nothing --small sun dried brick homes with few windows. The poverty caught our attention! Outside of the big cities, there are few motorbikes or automobiles. The people travel by bus. We have not seen horses and carts like we have in other poor countries. On the bus ride from Cochabamba, the vegetation changed from fields of green to thick jungle like growth. The land changed again and became mountaineous. It was beautiful with brightly colored flowers mixed in the foliage. It rained in the afternoon and brought cool, refreshing air. We took another 8 hour bus trip from
Santa Cruz Sculpture
This unusual sculpture of a bull appeared to be made of aluminum pans and spray painted silver. It was on the Plaza 24 de September.
Cochabamba to La Paz. As we approached La Paz, we started seeing dummies hanging in effigy from light poles. I later asked a young man if this was a protest against political leaders and he said, "No. It is a warning to scare thieves so they will not steal in that area."
La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia and was established in 1548. It is located 12,000 feet above sea level. The first glimpse of the city literally takes your breath away. The city's buildings cling to the side of the walls and spill downwards. The wealthy people of La Paz live at the lowest altitude down in the valley. The poor live on the steepest sections We stayed downtown on a cobblestoned street lined with shops. At one end was the Witches Market where you could purchase llama fetuses, potions for any ailment or need, statues to bring good fortune, spirit money, and much more. Walt took a day trip to the Road of Death (also known as the Most Dangerous Road in the World.) He went in a small van with 6 bike riders. This 64 km road has an average of 100 motor fatalities
Santa Cruz Cathedral
I climbed up into the bell tower and looked out over the Plaza of 24 September.
a year. It's a narrow winding road with big drop offs on the side. Since a new road has been built, few vehicles other than bikes use the road. The danger has diminished. While Walt was gone, I visited the San Francisco Cathedral and Museum.
After a few days in La Paz, we took a side trip to the small town of Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Other travelers highly recommended that we stay at the La Cupula Hotel. We took their advice and were not disappointed. It was a beautiful hotel overlooking the lake. When we first arrived, we noticed several cars decorated with flowers, top hats, bows and decided they were part of a wedding party. Wrong! They were headed to the Cathedral for the Blessing of the Automobiles (Cha'lla) that takes place every week. The people apparently believe this helps prevent car accidents - sort of like a spiritual insurance policy. We had to be especially careful in this town because the water is not safe. Our hotel even had a sign to not use the tap water when brushing teeth. We met several people who were sick with food poisoning. We have been
Church in Cochabamba
We found a little restaurant on the square near this church. The owner stayed open to serve us.
lucky to not get sick.
I took a side trip to the Island of the Sun (the birthplace of the Inca Sun God according to Inca legends) while we were in Copacabana. It consisted of a two hour boat ride in the rain. Then, I hiked for 5 hours from one end of the island to the other. The trail was rocky, muddy, and steep. It went up and down mountains. I passed Inca ruins, terraced farming plots of vegetables and flowers, donkeys, herds of sheep, a few Indian homes, and eucalyptus trees. The views from the top were rewarding. You could turn in any direction and see Lake Titicaca. Because of the 12,000 feet altitude, I was doing a lot of huffing and puffing. (Walter wisely opted out of this trip.) I wondered if I would be able to finish the hike in the time limit I was given. I arrived at the dock five minutes before the last boat left.
After two nights in Copacabana, we returned to La Paz. We did a good bit of sightseeing on our own. Even with altitude pills, it is hard to walk up and down the hills especially carrying
City of La Paz
This city seems to go on forever. This is just a fraction of the city. In the distance, you can see snow covered mountains.
a heavy load or pulling a suitcase. You can almost pick out the tourists who are not taking altitude pills. They look sluggish. When we visited Machu Picchu years ago, we used coca tea as a remedy and it does help. About every young person that we have met on this trip has either been on the way to Machu Picchu or has just been. These are people from Australia, New Zealand, France, Switzerland, Spain, England, Germany, and more. We have met many other interesting people this month but only 3 or 4 from the U.S. Walt says that he is the oldest tourist in South America. 😊 Locals tell us that Americans tend to visit Bolivia in June and July. The temperature has ranged from cold in the mornings to low 60's in the afternoons. Most days are full of sunshine with an occasional shower. The real rainy season starts in February.
My favorite thing in Bolivia has been watching the Inca women early in the mornings. They have long black braids and wear traditional native dresses. Their shin length skirts cover many slips of net. Long woolen socks cover their knees and are held up by string.
Most of them wear flats of different colors but mostly black or tan. They wear a cardigan and shawl wrapped tightly around their upper half for warmth and for holding a small child on their backs. Some of them carry heavy loads wrapped in colorful ponchos on their backs. A large number of the women had gold backing on their teeth. You rarely see one of these women without a hat. Many choose the high top bowler hats that were introduced to South America by British railway workers back in the 1920's. They don't like to get their picture made but occasionally will let you take it if you pay them.
This has been an amazing trip! We can't wait to see what Ecuador has to offer.
Everette & Walt
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