Two weeks’ time for Bolivia is not enough to soak into the culture, so confronting and different from others Latin-American countries. But it is enough to get brief view and a pre-taste of what longer stay could be, to get stunned on beauty of the landscape and get used to unpredictable.
Some insect in my foot turned my way to the hospital and operation room instead to Amazonian basin, so longed for since the beginning of my South-American adventure. So, next time, I hope! Dear north of Bolivia – I’ll be back!
But even without visiting Amazonia the rest of Bolivia has a lot to offer!
As soon as doctors allowed and trying to get the best of the situation I headed south to the ‘must-to-see’ Salar de Uyuni, salty desert, an unique place in the world. A 3 days trip in a jeep with random companions from all over the world (cost ca. B$ 800 if you negotiate well) took me to the magic world of shapes and colours created by the nature.
Lingering for ‘action’ my next stop was Tupiza, city where Butch Cassidy and The Sundance kid, two famous robbers from the wild wild west lost their luck and lives. Best way to go around is on the horse (well, by foot is good as well). Riding alongside the red walls of the canyon decorated by lonely cactuses will give you a feeling of taking part in western movie. Tupiza is also a good place to start the trip to Salar de Uyuni if you head up to Argentina afterwards (otherwise start in Uyuni and on the second day you will be transferred close to the boarder so that the trip to San Pedro de Atacama on Chilean side will just be a baby trip).
Heading up north you should visit Potosi. For its colonial flair, best saltenas (kind of empanadas filed with sweet spice mix of meat and raisins), best museum in Bolivia (Casa de Monedas) and beautiful churches and convents. Here in Franciscan convent is the figure of crucified Jesus with natural hair that according to the guide are growing. A visit to one of the neighbouring mines is also worth considering (see my post ‘good morning from devil’ <ahref=”http://luporter.pl/en/gdzie-diabel-mowi-dzien-dobry-good-morning-from-devil/”>good morning from devil</a>).
Three hours bus drive from Potosi there is Sucre. It is said that this is the most beautiful city in Bolivia and indeed it has it’s colonial touch. It is stuffed with museums and churches and walking alongside narrow streets is just a pleasure. Next to cathedral there is a museum with well-preserved religious arts and the chapel of Virgin de Guadalupe, an ancient painting covered with precious stones from thankful people that experienced its miraculously help so that you can only see the faces of Maria and Jesus. One can also find interesting the museum of ethnography (so called Musef) with an impressive and well exhibited collection of masks from different regions of Bolivia. In privately established museum of traditional patterns one can see the handworks of the people from the region represented by two cultures.
Though museums are astonishingly well prepared if I would have choice (read: it would not have rained) I would head rather for the trekking around Sucre and visiting the communities at their place of origin to observe how the handcrafts are born. Surroundings of Sucre are also a paradise for the lovers of paleontology due to its richness in fossils and signs of Dinosaurian inhabitants.
To close the round for the beginners one should visit Cochabamba and give a visit to the heal with the white figure of Christ, so similar to this famous one from Rio, but – as proudly say Bolivians! – a bigger one. It is also a good place to buy some gifts on the local market – prices are the cheapest in Bolivia. And the crafts are beautiful in its crazy colours. Sending them to Europe is though expensive and if you head to Peru afterwards it is better to do it there (but be prepared for long procedure including leaving your finger prints on many documents).
Bolivia has amazing landscape that will leave you breathless, from lunar volcanic regions in the south, deep canyons, colourful mountains to the paradise for mosquitoes in the north parts of the country proudly presenting the abundance of wild life in Amazonian basin. The outdoor and trekking freaks will also find their paradise there with challenging spots around La Paz. Though Bolivia has no access to the see, the Lake Titicaca and lazy Copacabana will give you a chilling time.
But for me Bolivia is about colours and mixture of cultures and believes. In La Paz you can still find people giving praise to Pachamama (mother earth) and offering baby lamas and some food during the rituals (luckily people offerings are over). On the corner, next to my hostel, there was a ‘witch market’ where all the ritual offerings (pre-prepared) were sold together with talismans. When I close my eyes I see people rushing on the streets of bigger cities trying to make small business with ‘whatever works’. Ladies with long black braids, funny hats and fatty colourful skirts (called chiolitas) breeding babies or carrying them in shawls on theirs back. First you think they are all the same, but if you look carefully you start to find details telling you about their affiliation to different groups. Groups that though share some similarities they still stay pretty independent from each other in the way they live. It is enough to explore and you will always find excuse to come back again, and again and again….
La Paz, La Paz Department, Bolivia
Uyuni, Potosí, Bolivia
Sucre, Chuquisaca Department, Bolivia
Cochabamba, Cochabamba Department, Bolivia
Montero, Santa Cruz Department, Bolivia
Tarija, Tarija Department, Bolivia