Discovering incredible Bolivia - La Paz, Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats), Potosí, Sucre and Santa Cruz.
06.08.2017 - 02.09.2017 -15 °C
I spent just over a month in Bolivia and had an incredible time.
The terrain here is varied, extreme and nothing short of spectacular, especially at high altitudes.
La Paz is an enormous, sprawling city in the heavens and full of surprises.
La Paz's airport is at an elevated point even higher than the city itself. My flight arrived at 2am and my taxi driver zoomed down through the windy, narrow streets until we reached the hotel.
The journey from the airport in to town isn't the prettiest, but give it a chance... La Paz is a really nice city.
During my stay, the entire city was celebrating graduation across their many tertiary institutions. They all set tp the same date, so students and their friends and families all over the city can celebrate together.
I visited the parades, and got talking to some newly graduated nurses and medical assistants. They had never met or spoken with a foreigner before, so there was a lot of intrigue on both sides.
They explained the whole graduation celebration to me and about the many places I should visit in La Paz, and other festivals around the country.
High Altitudes and Cable Cars
Exploring the city is great exercise. Almost every street has a steep incline.
La Paz has the biggest, most comprehensive cable car system I've ever seen. It looks like an amazing feat, and Bolivians are justifiably very proud of it.
I travelled to all of the far reaches of the city this way, which offered some great photo opportunities!
I flew from La Paz to what felt like a lunar base, Uyuni. We arrived at night, to something like -5 degrees! As the shared cab left the airport we had a very clear view of the enormous moon, and many of the star systems.
When I arrived at my hostel, I was warmly greeted and taken to my dorm where I met my new roomies from the Netherlands. They suggested that I'd be able to book my trip for the following morning, and head out to Salar de Uyuni straight away. Bonus.
I hunted around the very quiet flat, lunar base for some dinner. The pizzas in Uyuni are really good regardless of which restaurant you choose.
Note, that the tyranny of distance means that everything in Uyuni is much more expensive, even water.
When I got back to the hostel, I made a pre-emptive pack for a four day desert adventure.
Salar de Uyuni
I got up extra early and headed over to my target trip company....
Red Planet gets universally good reviews on Tripadvisor....
They had space for the same day, so I was in luck. Bag packed, I stored my big backpack, got some supplies and joined my group.
Our group spanning Netherlands, Canada, Ireland and Australia were split across into two Landcruisers with three rows of seats.
We had a nice briefing about the trip and set off.... first to the train wreck...
Basically a graveyard for old trains that once connected Uyuni to the world, and amazing photo opportunities to get us started.
The desert is enormous and stretches far and wide, connecting Atacama in Chile for example.
We drove for a good couple of hours before stopping for the mandatory trick photos!!!
Words can't really describe the feeling of being within this place. It feels a million miles away from anything, and there's no 3G or wifi out there, so you really are isolated!
This part of Bolivia was once under the sea (yet it is now elevated at 5000 metres above sea level). So, occasionally you see bommie like formations of coral. We stopped at this beauty for a hike, and seriously amazing views!!
There are several enormous lakes within the desert, most notably a big red one, coloured by a strange algae.
Many kinds of birds live up here, especially pelicans and flamingos!
We stopped at many gurgling geysers and truly boiling springs
The rock formations here are truly unique too.
On the second night, we stopped at an accomodation centre with a naturally heated pool, staying at a consistent 40 degrees or so. At night the air temperature is -15 degrees, so the contrast is a bit of a shock to the system, both getting in an out. but oh so worth out.
Our group, plus groups from other companies congregated to the hot pool after dinner and enjoyed a swim and the incredible unobstructed view of the stars.
One of the guides treated us to a planetarium style explanation and guide to the star systems, with a bit of history related to naming ,etc. It was really fascinating.
The Salar de Uyuni trip was one of my favourites of all time. If you get the chance, don't miss it!
This town is known for being one of the highest on earth, and also for it's enormous mine. The Spanish knew of huge silver deposits here. Over 8million African and Indigenous slaves died pulling it out.
Today locals are still mining here, extracting whatever they can find, and send it down for refining.
I employed a local taxi driver to take me up and show me around. It's a courtesy to take gifts for the workers - stuff they need to get the job done - dynamite to blow up the walls, and coca leaves to keep them going throughout the day.
If you think you've seen hard yakka, wait until you see these guys at work. They graft in danger and dust all day for a pittance.
This city is unique in Bolivia in so many ways. So much so, that many locals would prefer to secede.
The city sits closer to the Brazilian border and over many years attracted immigration from all over Latin America, Asia and Europe. It's truly a sub amazonian multicultural hub. I stayed here for 10 days and had a great time.
The main square is truly gorgeous and a nice place to be at any time of day or night. Police constantly patrol so it's very safe. Uniformed coffee sellers also roam the park so you're never far away from a cup.
I had the good fortune of meeting nice friends here to show me around.
We went to a great Caribbean disco playing Salsa and Bachata and visited many of the great cafes here.
I had a really nice time here. It's a fairly progressive, tranquil and safe city, with great weather and a ton of restaurants.
Many people choose to stay here and learn Spanish.
The city was in the midst of preparing for a huge national festival when I visited. The main park was filled with different dance groups rehearsing. It was really nice to see.
My hostel was the departure point for a really terrific walking tour. We got to visit and know about all of the historic sites, plus commentary on historical and current politics of the country.
I had a great time in Bolivia. It was full of amazing surprises!!
On to Brazil....