Breathtaking Bolivia.........In More Ways Than One!

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South America » Bolivia
September 16th 2008
Published: September 19th 2008
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Don´t we look niceDon´t we look niceDon´t we look nice

All togged up in our Alpaca
Bolivia has got to be one of the most under rated places in the world...........that we have seen anyway. It has endless, interesting places to visit and activities to do in almost every town. It is extremely cheap for westerners to visit but the country is very poor with the majority of families incomes coming from farming and mining.

You are hindered a little by the constant protesting and road blocks of the locals (but they are for very good reasons may I add), The first we experienced was on our first day in the country. We were on a bus to a town called Tupiza along a dusty, unsealed road when the bus suddenly stopped in the middle of no where and they started to unload our bags, all the locals picked up there belongings and started to walk up the road. We were a little worried by this and followed them for about 2km to the town as the locals were blocking the road to try and get more funds for their hospital. Road blocks, protests and strikes became the norm all over Bolivia but it didn't bother us too much....... we just relaxed and went with the flow, we had no choice really!!!!

One theme that does continue throughout South America as you travel through it is its breath taking scenery of mountainous backdrops they are amazing. Bolivia is no exception and is extremely mountainous and the majority of cities we went to were between 3500m - 5000m above sea level, which made the simplest of tasks such as breathing and walking hard work. The lack of oxygen and the extremely low temperatures were hard to get used too and our inbred Derby bodies were definitely not designed for it.

Tupiza was the first town we stayed at, which was like something out of a wild west movie, sandy coloured buildings,dusty roads and very traditional dressed Bolivian people. From here we did a tour of Salar De Uyuni, the largest salt flats in the world. The tour was for 4 days 3 nights so we got togged up with our Alpaca hats, gloves and sleeping bags and headed off in a jeep with 3 mates we met on our way Claire, Kev and Hitten. Throughout the 4 days we visited Geysers, Flamingo filled lagoons, Volcanoes and of course the salt flats themselves, 12000 sq km's
Warming our BonesWarming our BonesWarming our Bones

Thermal Spring at 4800 metres
of prehistoric dried up salt lake. Due to the size of the flats its very difficult to gain perspective and because of this we stayed for ages taking funny photographs, well we thought so anyway!!!!!!!! Our accommodation was very basic with no electricity or heating (and in some cases no water) and seeing as the temperature was reaching below -20 at nights, it became rather nippy as you can imagine. I did get to celebrate my 29th birthday in a salt hotel which was facinating, everything from the tables, chairs, light shades, walls and even the beds were made out of salt blocks. Still very cold but I think the one and a half litre bottle of red wine helped us through the night. Even in the middle of no where Dan managed to muster up a birthday cake for me made out of twixs, snickers and dulce con leche with a candle on top to finish off.

After a road block (for an election this time) and 2 extra days in Uyuni, we headed to the mining town of Potosi, the highest city in the world at a height of 4060m above sea level, and it sure felt like it. We took an unforgettable tour down the infamous silver mines, which are still in use today. Unfortunately on the morning of our visit the miners where having a meeting about a strike (imagine our surprise), which after the tour we were thankful of due to the extreme working conditions, confined spaces, hot temperatures and dust down there (Dan says it was like working in a Rolls Royce office, ha ha!!!!), if they had been at work it probably would of been unbearable. The conditions were terrible but we hopefully helped a little by taking them gifts of coca leaves, soft drinks, cigarettes and dynamite, which they needed for working in the mines. Our guide did a very safety conscious (not!!) demonstration on how to construct and blow the dynamite, it was very funny you must see our video of it when we get back!!!!!

Next was the unforgettable stench of the Capital city La Paz, it is a very busy, dirty city but we absolutely loved the place. It's like no where we have seen before surrounded by mountains with houses clinging to the canyon sides. The cities covered with locals setting up there market stalls and

5000 metres above sea level
selling everything you can think off. The most interesting being the witches market, with its llama fetuses (they believe it brings good luck if you put them under the front porch of your new house!), Potions, lotions and guitars made from a dead Armadillo?

Our stay here was quite lengthy as we both got struck with foot and mouth (Dan with tooth ache and Jen with an abscessed toe...........nice!!) but it gave us the opportunity to explore and appreciate its charm. Seeing as Bolivia is one of the biggest coca leaf growers in the world and all the locals chew it to help with altitude, fatigue and hunger (mainly just for tradition really) we visited the coca museum, which tells you the regions its grown, the religious beliefs of it and of course how its made into cocaine, it was very interesting.

La Paz is also famous for cycling down the 'worlds most dangerous road' and knowing us we couldn't resist the challenge. However on the day of our ride the locals on the road decided to block the road in protest (imagine our surprise again) as the mayor of the village had been keeping all the money meant for them off the tourists. So in the end we went down the 'Ghost Road' which the guide said was probably more dangerous as we would have to dodge the traffic on it. We rode for about 50km mostly downhill with a total vertical drop of 3500 meters, it was an awesome day just a little disappointing it wasn't THE road.

Having had enough of altitude and cold we took the 37 minute flight to the amazon basin to the town of Rurrenbaque on what can only be described as a transit van with wings carrying 18 passengers, what an experience. The runway was a strip of grass and the airport, a shack, it was a great place though!

The rainforest has definitely been one of the best experiences in our year. Its an amazing place we could of spent weeks exploring it, it was so tranquil and interesting and most of all its was hot, we went from wearing combats and coats to shorts and vests within an hour.

We took a 6 hour boat ride up the Beni and Tuichi rivers to the Chalalan Eco-Lodge our home for 2 nights. It was in the
My BirthdayMy BirthdayMy Birthday

What a nice cake!!!!
heart of Primary Amazon Rainforest on the edge of the Chalalan lake and run by the Chalalan community, which live within the amazon basin. The lodges were very luxurious and made of mahogany and the setting was beautiful. You could hear the wildlife everywhere but it was extremely hard to see as the forest was so dense. Our guide took us on several treks into the forest where we were lucky to see various monkeys including the Red Howler monkeys, the Black Spider monkeys, Toucan's and Macaws. He showed us plants and trees used for medicinal purposes and ancient food sources that his community used to live on and of course plenty of creepy crawlies........much to dan's delight. The guide also took us out each night to see the nocturnal animals, we saw plenty of huge spiders including a tarantula, several frogs and black caiman.

Having enjoyed the jungle so much we decided to go to the Pampas (swampland), which was a totally different environment. Having 'flash packed' in the jungle we had to rough it in the pampas staying in insect crawling huts, where Dan befriended a tick for the night!!! From the minute we got on the
Salt FlatsSalt FlatsSalt Flats

Claire, Kev, Hitten and Us
boat there was wildlife all over the banks of the river, Capybaras (the biggest rodents in the world), Turtles, Alligators, Pink Dolphins, to name a few, the 2 hour journey flew by. We also went looking for anacondas of which we found two of around 2.5 meters and piranha fishing which was wicked fun and we also got to eat them for tea afterwards. Our guide was a cross between Crocodile Dundee and Indiana Jones, he even had a alligator friend (Peter) of which he took us too and fed it with fish and patted its head, he said we could have a go but seen as he had fingers missing we kindly declined!!! On the final day we went swimming with the dolphins, our guide assured us that it was safe to swim and that the dolphins would have scared away the piranha and alligators. On returning to camp, literally 50 meters from where we had been swimming we saw a 4 meter black caiman dragging a 2 meter alligator from the bank, half eaten.........needless to say it was the last time we went into the water!!!!!

Our final town in Bolivia was Copacabana right on the shore of Lake Titicaca, which is South Americas largest lake and the highest at 3800 meters above sea level. We took a trip to one of the islands on the lake, Isla Del Sol where we did a four hour walk from north to south, the views were gorgeous but hard work due to the altitude. Copacabana is right on the Bolivia - Peruvian border which was where we were heading to next and the famous Macchu Picchu!!!!!

Additional photos below
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Chalalan LodgeChalalan Lodge
Chalalan Lodge

Our luxurious home in the Rainforest
Me and My New MateMe and My New Mate
Me and My New Mate

Isn´t he cute

20th September 2008

Alpaca or Llama: which came first
Hi guys. Looks like you're having a great time. We almost jumped on a plane and set off for South America after seeing your photos. Keep up the good work and don't hesitate to contact us if you need some homecoming counselling. Hasta la vista
12th October 2008

Happy Birthday
Hiya just wishing you happy 29th birthday Jen. Glad you both having fantastic time still. Been reading all the blog and the pics are amazing. Cant wait to see you, take care. Love ya xx

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