Bolivia - Living the High Life / Copacabana photos
Dec 29, 2004
|Picture this ... You're on Camino del Muerte, Death Road, going from La Paz to Coroico. You can see why it's dubbed "The World's Most Dangerous Road" ... it's narrow, unpaved, winding, plunges over 3000m in 80km, and is frequented by some of the world's worst drivers. Rainfall during the wet season causes water to cascade onto the road, washing it out in places and causing landslides to occur. You could travel this road by bicycle, many people do. But the most reputable tour companies close during rainy season, and you decide that if you're going to travel on Death Road by bicycle, it's going to be on the best bike and with the best tour company money can buy! So you decide to travel by minibus instead, and are now sitting in one the most godforsaken looking vans you've ever seen. As you bump along in this exhausted-looking vehicle with a Mario Andretti wannabe behind the wheel, you wonder if you chose wisely after all. The van is crowded. You're the only foreigner. You're sitting in the back row squeezed in between bags of potatoes and other unknown items - thankfully no live or dead animals - and a nice Boliviano who insists on chatting with you in rapid Spanish for most of the trip and has now fallen asleep and is using your shoulder for a pillow. You're careening around an endless series of hairpin bends and blind corners, the driver apparently oblivious to the sheer drop-offs he comes so close to. Children hang out the windows, oblivious to the danger, laughing with glee as they get showered with water as you pass under waterfalls. You've lost count of the number of little crosses you've seen on the side of the road and of the number of head-on collisions you've narrowly avoided. You cringe as the driver slams on the brakes, stopping just short of hitting an oncoming bus, and then reverses until the back end of the vehicle is hanging precariously over the edge of the cliff in order to make room for the bus to pass. You start to smell burning rubber and pray to every God you know, Incan or otherwise, that the brakes on this poor little vehicle won't fail you. You see evidence down below where other's prayers went unanswered. Finally, 3.5 hours, 3 police checkpoints, and one flat tire later you arrive in Coroico. Whew, how cool was that!
Dec. 29 - The Peru-Bolivia border runs through Lake Titicaca (world's highest navigable lake) so I circled around the lake and crossed into Bolivia. Am now in Copacabana, fairly small place but more touristy than Puno. I like it. It has a nice waterfront with fishing boats and lots of places serving cold beer and fresh catch of the day. There's a large cathedral here of interesting Moorish design with some famous Virgin statue that people flock to see, and a beautiful side chapel illuminated by thousands of candles. That's about it for tourist attractions. I was lucky to catch the "automobile blessing" ritual that takes place daily in front of the cathedral. Definitely strange and unusual but not a bad idea considering the roads, vehicles and drivers around here.
Dec. 30 - Hopped on a boat to Isla del Sol, one of the islands in the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. It's the birthplace of the sun according to Inca legend, and where the first Incans mystically emerged from a now-sacred rock. Most tourists visit on a day trip, but there are a few villages with basic accommodation so I stayed the night. Very basic indeed! Hiking trails run the length of the island, so I walked from north to south on one path going up and over 2 "hills" of >4000m, then back north again on a different (read: easier) path. Lots of Inca terracing and ruins along the way as well as cute kids willing to take my money in exchange for photos of them and their llamas. Built my own little inukshuk while recovering from one of the hills. Every stream I passed was being used for washing; the countryside is dotted with colorful clothing drying in the sun. The vastness of the lake (9000 sq km) really hit me while I was hiking. Felt more like I was in the middle of an ocean instead of inside a lake.
Dec. 31 - The boat back to Copacabana stopped at Isla de la Luna where Virgins of the Sun used to live during Inca times, as well as the southern point of Isla del Sol where we all climbed the Inca Stairway. Was embarrassing that little old ladies could sprint past me up the stairs. Oh well, unlike me they're used to the altitude. The locals drank from a waterfall at the top of the stairs - probably some kind of fertility ritual. I chose not to participate. Decided to splurge on a nice dinner in Copacabana. Had soup and salad starters, fresh trout main course, dessert, and maté de coca ... all for 7 Bolivianos (<$1US!!). I also ordered a liter-sized beer - that added another dollar to the bill. Watched fireworks on the beach at midnight. Happy New Years!
Jan. 1 - Went to La Paz today (world's highest capital city). Passed through a freak storm along the way. It started to rain, sleet, then snow. We were on some curvy mountain road at the time and our bus started to slip and slide. I seriously hoped that our bus had recently been blessed! La Paz is like a ghost town. Markets and shops are closed. So are tourist agencies, internet cafes, and almost every tourist attraction, restaurant and bar in town. There are a ton of tourist police walking the streets which is strange as there aren't many tourists about. Buildings near the legislative & presidential palaces are peppered with bullet holes, a visible reminder that Bolivia's changes in government (192 changes in 180 years!) have rarely been peaceful. I visited the Coca Museum, which was really interesting. It explained the role of the coca leaf, of which Bolivia is SA's largest producer, from Inca times through to its initial uses in medicine (topical anesthetic), soft drinks (as in Coca-Cola), pharmaceuticals (stimulant), and then recreation (cocaine!), and the current US War against Drugs (wanting eradication of the coca plant). Most use synthetic products now, except the cocaine users of course. I stumbled across a REAL coffee shop near my hotel. The smell of fresh ground coffee when I entered the place was heavenly. You rarely get anything but instant coffee in South America. I HATE instant. What do they do with the beans they grow here? There was also wine on the menu, it was Argentine and outrageously expensive (2 glasses of wine cost the same as my hotel room for the night!) but I considered it my New Years indulgence. The wine was worth the price, the hotel room wasn't.
Jan. 2 - It's Sunday, things are still closed, it's raining which has cancelled some sightseeing plans, so I've decided to head north to Coroico via the World's Most Dangerous Road. Coroico is a small town nestled in the Yungas, a region with steep tree-covered mountains and deep gorges. It's beautiful here, the sun is shining, a vast improvement over dull and dreary La Paz. It's also warmer as we're at lower altitude.
Jan. 3 - Rumors are floating that a transportation strike will hit tomorrow, so I decided to head to Rurrenabaque in the Bolivian jungle today. Hopped in a taxi with 8 other tourists & headed to the bus stop. Our "taxi" was the back of a pick-up truck. Our "bus stop" was 20 minutes from Coroico down a bumpy curvy road. With bodies and backpacks it was standing room only and the driver seemed intent on spilling some gringos around each bend. Quite the experience! Our bus was 6 hours late. There'd been an accident on Death Road and traffic was completely halted. We watched locals come and go on some of the side roads, their form of public transport literally the open box of a 3-ton truck. If one of those trucks had been heading our way, we likely would've climbed onboard. When our bus finally arrived we discovered the company had oversold seats. My seat number didn't even exist, and people were already standing in the aisle. No way were we going to stand for the next 15 hours, so we got a bit pushy, seats eventually got sorted, and finally we were on our way to Rurre.
Jan. 4 - Rurrenabaque is a small town, the frontier into Bolivia's Amazon Basin. It's hot and humid here, and within 10 minutes I had 5 mosquito bites. Ahhh, it's great to be back in the jungle! Signed up for a 3-day pampas tour leaving within the hour. The "pampas" are wetland savannas supposedly great for wildlife watching. We all piled into a jeep (6 of us from the bus, 2 new recruits, our guide, cook and driver) and drove for 3 hours on major rough-and-tumble roads to get to the river. Stopped to watch a cockfight at a village enroute. Transferred all bodies and gear into a boat and cruised for another 3 hours to reach camp. Saw some howler monkeys lazing in trees, numerous species of birds, and a cute little porcupine-like creature. Camp is very basic - dormitory beds, dirty bathrooms, no running water. More than a bit dreary inside, but we can't spend much time outside without being eaten alive by mosquitoes. But the group is fun & I'm sure we can rough it for a few days. Went for a boat trip at night searching for caiman. Didn't even see one - what kind of jungle is this?!
Jan. 5 - For a couple of months each year the Rio Yacuma rotates, bringing to the surface all kinds of decaying plant and animal matter. Just our luck that we're here during this smelly season! We donned rubber boots and went anaconda hunting today. Waded through some reed-filled shallow water, eyes searching, saw only one baby snake. I think everyone was actually relieved not to see a 6-meter anaconda heading their way! We kept searching, the water kept getting deeper, and eventually it was over our boots and stopped just short of our knickers. No luck with spotting anacondas, but we saw turtles, lots more monkeys and birds. We fed bananas to some capuchin monkeys who quickly disappeared after the banana supply dried up. Some of the group went for a swim in the river but there's no way I was getting into that scanky water! Stopped at the Sunset Bar for a cold beer and, of course, to watch the sunset. Went for another night boat trip, saw only 2 pairs of caiman eyes this time.
Jan. 6 - The mosquitoes are relentless and seem to be immune to repellant. I'm covered in bites but for once there's actually someone else in the group with MORE mosquito bites than me! It's extremely hot and humid, but we have to wear trousers and long-sleeved shirts in order to keep the mosquitoes at bay. What the camp lacks in comfort it makes up for in food. I don't know how the cook can produce such good meals from such a lousy kitchen. We spent another day in the boat, searching for pink river dolphins of which we saw a few. Then it was time to pack up and retrace our steps back to Rurrenabaque. Saw a large snake swimming in the river along the way. Definitely glad I didn't run into him yesterday. Stopped off to do a little piranha fishing but didn't catch anything. Once back in Rurre, everyone rushed to hotel rooms for a nice long shower, then met later for farewell drinks/dinner.
Jan. 7 - I'm heading back out into the wilds of Bolivia today, this time for a 2-day jungle tour with 2 others from the bus/pampas trip. We traveled by boat for almost 3 hours to reach camp. We're in Madidi National Park which supposedly contains some of South America's most intact ecosystems. We're also on a different river and yahoo, no bad odor! This camp is much nicer, has same dormitory beds but also hammocks, clean washrooms and NO MOSQUITOES. Went for a hike to an area where macaws live in holes in a cliff. They're such beautiful colorful birds, lots of loud chatter. Climbed to the top of the cliff for a stunning bird's eye view of the jungle and a closer look at the macaws. Tarzan may feel comfortable swinging from vine to vine through the jungle, but I wasn't so confident when using tree vines to haul my ass up and down this cliff! It was a very difficult climb, I got totally filthy, was exhausted at the end, but what an experience. Definitely a candidate for the "hardest things I've done in my life" list! Went on a night hike to see nocturnal animals. Saw a few spiders, birds, armadillos and other rodents of forgotten names. For a while we sat by the river, turned off all lights, and simply stared up at the amazing amount of stars in the sky.
Jan. 8 - On the pampas tour we spent all our time in the boat. Here in the jungle we spend all our time hiking. I much prefer the hiking, although in the pampas you see more fauna and in the jungle you see more flora. Went on a short hike at sunrise looking for wild pigs. We saw lots of tracks but not one little piggy. Donned rubber boots and went for another long hike mid-morning. Saw tons of wild pigs this time. Spent the afternoon being "artesans" - made necklace pendants and rings from nuts and seeds using natural techniques to smoothen and polish. The boys didn't want to do crafts initially, but in the end walked away very pleased with their creative talents. Returned to Rurrenabaque in the evening. Another quick dash for showers, then spent another evening together for farewell drinks/dinner.
Jan. 9 - Bus trip from Rurrenabaque to La Paz = 20 hours. Flight from Rurrenabaque to La Paz = 1 hour. Need I say more? Rurrenabaque airport is in the middle of a grassy field. Not a paved runway in sight but I think I saw cows grazing. The plane was a little 12-seater. These pilots seem capable of landing a small aircraft anywhere. Probably comes from years of drug smuggling in the jungle! Enjoyed the scenic flight and aerial views of the Amazon. Then spent 6 long hours killing time at the bus terminal in La Paz before catching an overnight bus headed to Sucre.
Jan. 10 - Sucre is a small city nestled in a valley, very picturesque. During colonial times it was the most important center in Bolivia. The laborers used to live in nearby Potosi, but the posh people and government resided in Sucre. Most people in Sucre still insist that it's the capital of the country, and I think in some way it shares that designation with La Paz. I've decided it's time to advance my Spanish so have booked lessons with a private Spanish tutor and will be calling Sucre home for the next 10 days.
Jan. 14 - 6 hours of Spanish lessons per day - what was I thinking? I'm so confused now I can barely speak any word in any tense or any language! There's no way I'll be able to remember all this stuff.
Jan. 16 - It's the weekend, no classes today. Did a day trip to Tarabuco, an indigenous village a few hours drive from Sucre. More than 50% of Bolivia's population claims to have pure Amerindian blood, making it the most indigenous country in SA. Our bus hit a dog on the road. The driver seemed oblivious, probably happens all the time, but all gringos onboard stared at each other in horror. There are a ton of dogs on the streets, running in packs during the day and barking all night, I guess it's almost surprising that we haven't hit one before now. Tarabuco is famous for its Sunday market. The market itself is similar to that of any other village but what makes it unique is the clothing worn by the locals - different hats, different ponchos, different from what I've seen before. I took a quick stroll through the stalls, then simply sat at an outdoor restaurant, sipped a few cups of instant Nescafe and spent hours just people-watching.
Jan. 17 - Went in search of the Immigration office today as it looks like I'll be in Bolivia longer than my visitors visa allows so I might need an extension. The Immigration office isn't actually where it should be according to my travel guidebook, or according to the guidebook of a Czech Rep couple I met at the hostel, nor is it where a travel agent and 2 other local people directed me. So where is this bloody place? Finally found it after 4 days of searching. Had to explain my situation to 5 different people before hearing that I don't need a visa extension, just need to pay a small fine at the border for each day over. I sure hope the border guys agree, cause I'm not so interested in seeing the inside of a Bolivian prison.
Jan. 19 - Arrived in Potosi today (world's highest city). I'm beginning to see that Bolivia has the lion's share of the "world's highest" designations. Bolivia is actually called the "Tibet of the Americas" because it's this hemisphere's highest, most isolated and most rugged nation. It also has the highest volume of roadside police checkpoints I've ever seen, usually >1 stop per hour of travel. Potosi has an amazing history. They found silver in the mountain near Potosi in 1545. Lots of silver. Enough silver for it to become the world's most prolific mine and for Potosi to become one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the world at the time. Potosi became the place to live despite its altitude of 4070m. By 1579, Potosi had 800 professional gamblers and 120 famous prostitutes. In the early 17C it had 36 major churches and 36 gambling halls - it's good to have balance! "Worth a Potosi" became the highest possible praise of a person or thing. In the 16/17C, the silver from Potosi financed Spain's empire and played a major role in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and Europe's trade with Asia. Silver prices and production eventually dropped in the 19C, which was the beginning of the end for Potosi. Bolivia is now one of the world's most poverty-stricken countries, and Potosi is just another poor city in a poor country. But the old churches, now mostly schools or hospitals, and beautiful architecture still provide evidence of its rich past.
Jan. 20 - Toured the "Casa Real de la Moneda" building, now a museum but Bolivia's former mint during 16-20C. It has original silver presses from the various time periods - from wooden mule-powered presses to steam-powered and eventually electric presses. There's also a large collection of ancient coins, some handmade in the 16C, and various other exhibits including weigh scales, silver products, an art collection, precious metals found in the mountain, and archaeological artifacts (lots of bones and mummified bodies). My favorite display was a rather ingenious trunk with 16 locks and a triple secure key mechanism that was used to collect coins to be shipped to Spain.
Jan. 21 - Cerro Rico, or Rich Mountain, stands proudly behind Potosi. The silver was discovered in 1545 by an Incan who entered the mountain in search of an escaped llama. It got cold inside, he lit a fire and saw a shining vein of pure silver. The silver stayed in the mountain until the Spaniards arrived, who then couldn't get it out fast enough. So the "Mita" forced-labor system was introduced. Quechua Indian and African slaves were forced to work in the mines, sometimes working underground for 4 months straight. Hundreds of thousands died of disease, accident or brutality. 70% of those who entered the mine never came out alive. Finally, 250 years later, the Mita system was abolished. The mine is still operational, now run by cooperative groups of miners instead of by the government, and now mostly producing a combination of silver, zinc and lead instead of pure silver. To make a meager living, miners today almost work themselves to death in the same mine that killed so many of their ancestors.
Jan. 22 - I went on a tour of the mine today. It was absolutely amazing. We donned rubber boots, water/dirt proof trousers, jackets, helmets and headlamps, then went to the Miners Market to buy gifts for the miners. Gifts were a little unusual ranging from soft drinks and alcohol (96% proof!) to coca leaves and dynamite (the real thing!). We toured through the mineral processing plant - it's obvious that health and safety regulators haven't visited recently. Working conditions in the mine are horrid. 12+ hours of hard physical labor, 4200m altitude, very hot, full of noxious chemicals (arsenic gases, silica dust & acetylene vapors to name a few). I found it hard to breath at times, probably took a few years off my life by visiting, but pity the poor miners who work here daily. Silicosis is a common illness. The miners don't eat while they're in the mine. Instead, like their ancestors, they chew coca leaves held in their cheeks similar to a big wad of chewing tobacco. Coca leaves chewed with a catalyst of plant ash results in insensitivity to hunger, fatigue or pain. The miners chew a bunch of leaves in the morning which is held in their cheeks until their brief lunchtime break when they switch to a fresh supply. The miners are superstitious. They worship Pachamama, or Mother Earth. They believe Hell can't be far from the hot and uncomfortable environment in which they work so the Devil must own the minerals they dig out of the Earth. To appease him they call him "El Tio" (never Diablo or Devil) and set up little figurines in places of honor, offering him cigarettes, coca leaves, etc. A little alcohol is always poured on the ground in honor of Pachamama or El Tio before the miners drink themselves. We crawled around the labyrinth inside the mine for hours, chatting with miners and presenting our gifts. We too chewed coca leaves and shared the bottle of alcohol, pouring a little on the ground for El Tio. We were fascinated and appalled by what we saw and heard. We wanted to linger but were also happy to escape to the clean air outside. To end the tour, we blew up our own stick of dynamite outside the mine ... dy-no-mite!
Jan. 23 - I now have my very own Latin lover. Every woman's dream. He may be a little too old for me though - he's almost 28 yrs! He's a tour guide now but, like all guides, was once a miner. He worked in the mine for 5 years, starting when he was 10. No such thing as child labor laws when there are hungry mouths to feed. We met at the Miners Carnival, a 3-day celebration when the miners forget the struggles of life and have a real blowout. There are parades each day with small bands playing, miners dressed in costume, dancers, and people carrying figurines of their mine's protective virgins and saints. There's also much drinking during the parade followed by nightly dancing and partying. Blowing up dynamite is very popular. Most of the time I felt like I was in a war zone! Water balloons, water guns and spray foam are also hugely popular - gringos are particularly favorite targets. I joined a group of tourists and guides at the mine to watch the parade. I soon had a poncho thrown over me and was dragged into the parade by Pedro and some miners I met yesterday. The procession was slow. Water balloons & drinks were plentiful. I got very drenched and a little drunk. People in the crowd looked at me with surprise and then approval. It was a ton of fun - my first time for being in a parade.
Jan. 24 - Day 2 of Miners Carnival. Early in the morning the miners took their virgins and saints to the church to be blessed. I'm amazed that they can even stand after yesterday's partying! Another parade followed, this time through town center. Firecrackers replaced dynamite thankfully, but water balloons and spray foam were still plentiful. I just wanted to watch today, but again got dragged into the parade. The sister of one miner took me to the very front of our group's procession. I guess she felt it important that the foreigner be seen as supporting their group. Not a great spot for me as I was more exposed to water and foam up there, but it would've taken a dynamite blast to release her death grip on my arm so I suffered and got soaked in the front.
Jan. 25 - I was going to leave Potosi today but got talked into staying a few more days. I visited some old churches, admiring the beautiful architecture and extremely ornate doorways. Pedro and I went to the circus tonight. I can't remember the last time I've been to the circus. I expected it to be pretty cheesy but was surprised at the quality of performers. I felt sorry for the trapeze artists though whose bodies actually smacked up against the tent roof when they were swinging hard to gain height.
Jan. 26 - I've decided to give Pedro a little vacation. He's never been on one before. Actually, he's only been out of Potosi twice in his life - once on a day trip with a university group, and the other when he was stationed in Cochabamba while serving in the army which all males must do for one year when they turn 18. We're on our way to Uyuni.
Jan. 27 - Signed up for a 4-day "Salar de Uyuni" tour. We drove through an endless stretch of salt flats today, a sea of brilliant white for as far as the eye can see. Kept thinking we were surrounded by snow or ice, hard to believe it's salt. 12,000 sq kms of salt! We saw how and where the salt is refined. Lots of shoveling and handling involved for a mere pittance in final sale price. We stopped for lunch on an island in the middle of the salt flats. It's covered in cactus, I've never seen so many. Many of the salt flats are flooded during rainy season and we were having great fun driving in a salt lake ... until we got stuck. Everyone took off shoes and socks & got out to push but we had no luck. Had to wait for hours for other drivers to stop and assist.
Jan. 28 - New scenery today - stretches of bone-dry desert from which volcanic mountains and strange rock formations suddenly appear. Stopped for lunch in a picture perfect lake and mountain setting. There are pink flamingos here. I always thought flamingos were a tropical bird - what are they doing at 4000m altitude? Passed a few tiny one-street villages, and lakes of brilliant green. Saw lots of llamas, wild vicuñas (of the llama/alpaca family), one vizcacha (long tailed rabbit), and some choique (ostrich-like birds). Spent the night at Lago Colorado, a lake with green and pink water and more flamingos. Watched as locals decorated their llamas with colorful string earrings and necklaces in preparation for Carnival.
Jan. 29 - Got up at sunrise to see geysers that bubbled and steamed. Lots of craters, felt like we were on the moon. The jeep has taken quite a beating but other than getting stuck we fared well. Saw lots of broken down jeeps along the way though. We stopped near the Chilean border to drop off some passengers who are heading to San Pedro de Atacama and to pick up others who will return with us to Uyuni. Stopped for lunch near another beautiful emerald lake. Saw lots of dead flamingos washed up on shore; winters can be very severe in this region and survival of the fittest apparently takes place.
Jan. 30 - Final excursion of the trip was a visit to the Train Cemetery just outside of Uyuni. Another strange and unusual place! Tour's over, we're back in Uyuni.
Jan. 31 - Roads are flooded and buses can't get through, so we're taking the train from Uyuni to Tupiza. Strange, for all the travel I've done in SA during rainy season, I've seen very little actual rainfall! Train doesn't leave Uyuni until 3:00AM, dreadful time to be traveling, but Pedro is excited as he's never been on a train before.
Feb. 1 - The countryside near Tupiza is supposedly where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid met their final demise after robbing one too many payrolls. We did a "triathlon tour" which visits the region on mountain bike, horseback, and jeep. The scenery is amazing, filled with box canyons, interesting rock formations and deep gorges. I'm sure my mountain bike had the world's most uncomfortable seat, especially when thundering over these washboard dirt roads. Pedro has never ridden a horse before but in no time was looking like an old ranch hand. My horse was the world's most stubborn! By jeep we climbed high into the Chicas Mountains for more stunning views. Pedro and Patrick (another tourist on our tour who we'd met before in Potosi) cycled back to Tupiza. No way I was getting back on that bike seat so I played princess and sat comfortably in the jeep.
Feb. 2 - Arrived in Tarija today, Bolivia's grape growing region. There are 4 main wineries, but also lots of small bodegas. Only one winery offers a tour - "Concepcion" - the world's highest winery of course. In my opinion it offers the world's worst wine tour! I knew way more than the tour guide, and the wine we sampled tasted like swill. So much for Bolivian wine! Found another amazing coffee shop serving the "real thing" - we visit twice daily for our regular café au lait intake.
Feb. 3 - Hired a taxi today and toured the surrounding countryside which is dotted with small towns and lots of small grape fields. We stopped at an area where they've damned a river to create a lake. Pedro's never seen a lake before this trip, nor has he ever been in a boat, so a short paddle around the lake was a must-do. Later we visited the zoo. It has hideously small enclosures for the animals, but Pedro's never been to a zoo before either so it became another exciting adventure. I feel almost embarrassed by my life of privilege. Having a Boliviano travel partner has provided great insight into the Bolivian culture and lifestyle, but it's also reminded me that there's so much I take for granted while others never have the same opportunity.
Feb. 4 - Carnival is now in full swing in SA and each country seems to have their own celebration. We were lucky to catch a wonderful parade tonight featuring local music and traditional costumes. We also went for dinner at a small local restaurant with a live band playing. Even attempted the local scarf-waving dance, more difficult than it sounds! We're close to the Argentine border now and the music, food, and atmosphere feels almost more Argentine than Bolivian.
Feb. 5 - Time to send my Boliviano boyfriend home. Oh well, he really was too old for me! It's also time to say goodbye to Bolivia. I had added Bolivia to my travel itinerary somewhat hesitantly, planning to stay maybe 2-3 weeks, but I simply fell in love with the place. There is so much visual evidence of tradition and culture here. Every place I visited I wanted to stay longer, and in most cases I did. The people really are dirt poor, but are so incredibly warm, kind and generous. I don't want to leave Bolivia and have in fact, stayed 38 days on a 30-day visitors visa, a fact that is making me a little nervous as I now approach the border crossing into Argentina ...
Exchange rate 1USD = 7.8 Bolivianos
Languages: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, Guarani