Where To Go
My Quest For Zest...
DESTINATIONS IN BOLIVIA
Uyuni Salt Flats
Isla Del Sol
MY QUEST FOR ZEST...
After traveling through Ecuador and Peru, I found myself settling into Bolivia for exploration. I explored Lake Titicaca and Isla Del Sol. I spent time volunteering on an organic farm, and taking Spanish lessons to improve upon my basic vocabulary. I trusted myself to bike Death Road, nevertheless riding the brakes the whole way. I adventured into the unknown sailing down the Rio Verde on a raft that newly made friends and I constructed out of wood and tubes. And, of course, visited the famous Salt Flats.
Lake Titicaca and Isla Del Sol can be accessed from Puno in Peru or from La Paz on a tour. Lake Titicaca was super unique, but a bit too touristy for me personally. I however had a great experience on Isla Del Sol. It's a quite island that offers beautiful views, hiking, and relaxing. I felt a more authentic feel there from the locals. I was lucky to arrive over a holiday, watching women in their local dress arrive, dance and laugh was a fun event to participate in.
As far as cities go, I really enjoyed La Paz. I felt it had a lot of heart, soul and authenticity. You can do walking tours, eat in the local markets, visit the old town witch markets, watch local women wrestle in what seems like a 'normal' event, go up in a cable cart over the city, enjoy social night life... It's got it all. Prices are cheap for accommodation and food. At the local market you can find all kinds of fresh produce or food vendors and eat for roughly $2, leaving with a full belly. I found it interesting, on the walking tour, to hear of the prison there that is famous for being run by the inmates. For more information on this I recommend the non-fiction book, Marching Powder by Rusty Young, for an eye opening account into an inmates experience.
From La Paz, you can take a day trip to cycle Death Road. This is not for the faint of heart...it didn't get its name for nothing...The road is windy and treacherous. The sides of road are met with a huge cliff drop. It's safe to say my arms were sore for days after due to riding the breaks the whole way down! As scary as it was, it was also enjoyable, maybe a combination of the views and adventure made it a positive experience. I would say that the road is even more scary in a car than on the bike.
Rio Verde was another trip I took from La Paz. A friend and I joined a group last minute that was headed out on serious adventure. I updated my parents of my plans, leaving them in worry and fear, and headed bravely into the unknown. As a group we built a raft out of bamboo and inner tubes. We used it to float down the river, setting up camp along the way. Each day we would pack up and float further. One day we walked the river, playing like kids, jumping through waterfalls and enjoying the nature. It wasn't until the last day that someone fell from the raft into the water...which so happened to be me...
Sucre is another big city, and you'll find a lot of backpackers travel here to take Spanish lessons. Prices are cheap for booking a week's worth of courses and the food and cafes are good to study in. I enjoyed freshening up on my vocabulary, however, my language skills were still far from where they needed to be.
From Sucre I went to a farm just a couple hours away by bus. I volunteered in exchange for food and accommodation. It was a small coffee farm that also grew a lot of it's own food. I learned to make empanadas and some new dishes. I helped in the kitchen, played with the children, and worked on building plots for vegetables. It was inspiring that the family had built their house by hand and started the farm from organic land.
Salar de Uyuni, the famous Salt Flats are another popular destination among backpackers. For good reason I guess. It's unique, beautiful, and expansive. It is a lot of time in the car, but the views are one of a kind. You take stops along the way and your meals and accommodations are provided for you. You see salt flats, geysers, amazing nature views and your cold journey is rewarded at the end with a trip to a hot spring. It can be deterring to strip into a bathing suit in the cold, but it's worth it! You reach high altitudes during the tour so drink lots of water and be easy on the digestive system. I skipped dinner and went straight to bed on the last night due to nausea. Accomodation can vary, but you might get to experience sleeping in a room that seems to resemble a salt cave. Make sure to go with a group you like, because it is a lot of time spent together. Be prepared with good music and creative energy for taking perspective photos on the flats. Don't be bummed if it rains, people say it's even better during the rain as it creates a mirror effect, and prices even go up for the jeeps. Take snacks and extra layers, it's cold!
Visiting the mine in Potosi was an eye opening experience. It was heavy on the heart to be honest. It wasn't the first mine I have gone in a mine, but the workers conditions and stories always seem to blow me away. It's hard for me to fathom they work such long hours in dark, depressing and confined conditions for minimal pay. The danger risk is high and the health hazards are worrisome. It brings up a lot of emotions when experiencing what is involved in this role.