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Bolivia

Curious what backpackers do in Bolivia? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Isla Pescada - the cactus island!

    In the middle of the Salar de Uyuni - you'll read something about it in the next posts - there's this small island with all that cacti on it. And in the center you can find the hugest cactus of the world, which is missing more than 12m. It's over 1200 years old.

  • So, dann mal los. 6088 m, rauf auf den Huayna Potosi. Wird schon klein Problem sein... vielleicht die Höhe. Aber mit der Agentur High Camp Lodge hat es auch der Holländer geschafft. Und der hat nich mal Berge in seiner Heimat.
    Als erstes packen, Sonnenbrille? Meine Alpaka Handschuh? Ich nehm die vom Bund, die sind immer in meiner Jacke...
    Und dann nehmen wir mal den Bus, drei Stunden durch ein ehemaliges Abraumgelände einer Mine. Sieht super aus, so ein Auffangbecken mit Cobalt und Eisen. Hat rot und blau, aber auch Gift. Und dahinter dieser Berg, mit seiner weißen Krone.
    Im Bus sitzen schon ein paar Briten. Stephen, Ryan, Richard und Anne, 4 von 7, gute Quote. Und diesmal kommt keiner aus London, sonst immer. Zuerst dachte ich auch Stephen wäre Australier, aber er kommt nur aus dem Süden Englands.
    Naja, auf jeden Fall hab ich ne Sonnenbrille gefunden, gefälschte Oakley.

    Nach der Fahrt sind wir zum ersten Camp, nix mit Wandern heute. Stattdessen sagten wir Richard und Anne Goodbye. Die wollen das Ding heute nacht besteigen. Das klingt jetzt irgendwie pervers. Naja, die verbleibenden fünf zogen sich hübsch an, um mal zur Gletscherzunge zu gehen und mal ein bisschen Eisklettern zu üben, und wie man als Michelin Mann überhaupt gehen kann. Die Bewegungen waren eher wie ein watschelnder Pinguin. Is aber auch schön.

    So, let's do that. 6088 m to Huayna Potosi. Will be no problem at all...but maybe the altitude will kill you. But with high camp lodge the Dutch guy did it, and he has no mountains at all in the near area of his whole country.
    First I have to pack....hmm tienes gafas del sol? And my alpaca gloves? Do I need them? I will take my other gloves, they're always in my rain jacket...

    And then, let's take the bus. For almost three hours we drive on a former mine road through "lagoons", lakes were they dumb the leftovers from the production. Colourful, but also poisonous. And directly behind it, this huge mountain with the white crown. Again 6088m, a lot of ice and in the night maybe a bit cold.
    Within the bus there quiet some british people around. Stephen, Ryan, Richard and Anne, that's four out of seven. And this time no one comes from London! Abd so far everyone is nice and has a pretty brtish kind of humor. I thought first Stephen comes from Australia, but no. It's the South, but just Southampton. Do the Australians descent mostly from Southampton?
    Anyway, it was fun, and I got some fake Oakley glasses.

    After the ride we got to the first camp, just near the road, so no hiking today. Instead we said Goodbye to Richard and Anne, they wanted to climb it in the same night. The remaining five of us dressed up properly, like a marvelous Michelin man, and went to the glacier's tongue.
    Here we just sat in the sun and got the good Englishman's tan, lobster red. And in between we did some ice climbing and we were introduced how to walk on a glacier without just slipping like retarded penguins. I like penguins.
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  • Considering the fact that this App can't contain larger texts, I have an extra footprint in English, same same, but different:

    Well, yesterday evening, when the bus arrived this huge city, I was impressed. First by the huge size. And second was that this city looked different from most of the cities in South America so far. It looked more liked my imagination of Mogadishu, but without black inhabitants. The streets were more like dusty paths with huge stones on them, there were real packs of street dogs and nearly no shops or anything.
    Then I realized, looking at maps.me, that La Paz isn't just La Paz, there are two cities, La Paz and El Alto. And Last one is the bigger City. It's placed on the Alti Plano, the high plateau from were I just came. In contrast to that is La Paz placed in a valley east of El Alto. Here it doesn't look good either, but better than up there. The city has everything what a big one needs in South America, beside of a beautiful old town. Nearly like Coventry, but with more people. And everyone has black hair and is brown, so also not Mogadishu.

    As I want never prejudice to win, I have to get to the walking tour here, done by the Red Cap Agency. Its not a free tour, it costs $3 or 20 Bolivianos. But to be fair it's one of the most interesting tours...

    Let's start with a brief history of La Paz: The city was founded by the Spanish as a station for the silver transports from Potosi to Peru. It's the seat of the government on the highest altitude and the full name is "nuestra Señora de La Paz", our women of peace. But it's not really about peace when you look at the first highlight, San Pedro prison. It's a bit different compared to most prisons. Let's start with the fact that you have to buy your own cell. And so there are luxury cells with a great view, netlfix account and a hot shower, bit also holes in the ground. Caused by the fact of burying your own cell, whole families are moving to this cells because it's like a bought flat. And so that creates a whole community within the prison, because they have to create an income to pay the bills. And so one can find there restaurants, shops and bars. Simply everything that you need in a small town, and one of the biggest and well known cocaine production site. And to sell this product to the outside world, the british inmate Thomas McFadden developed the idea to offer a guided tour through the prison. On this tours coce was selled like hell, till McFadden was released. Afterwards different people tried to continue the tours, but there were stabbings, rape and muggings, so today the tours are prohibited.

    So much to that one, there is also a big street market like in every big bolivian city. And this market is more than just a possibility to buy your groceries.
    By the way, there are more types of potatoes that I've ever saw in my life. That's the reason why the people from La Paz are called potatoehead, chucuta.
    The other function of the market is to be a dating place. The women wear their typical clothing which is known from all the documentaries on discovery channel. There they stuff the hips because it's a sign of fertility and the skirt has to be longer than the cuffs, remember that one.
    The funny melon hat that they are wearing is rooted on the british railway workers, who build the railways from Potosi to the sea in the 19th century. If the hat is straight on the head, they are dating or married. If the hat is slope, they are ready for dating. And if theses women are flirting with someone, they show their cuffs, therefore the long skirt.
    The women in the same place prefer men with thick hair and big belly's, I'm currently out of that for sure.
    And so is this market also a place to look for hat's and who is with whom and whatever.

    Next station is the witches market. Here the locals can find everything what they need in matters of magic like aphrodisiacs, medicine, things for curses and against them. And what's most interesting for tourists, hydrated lama phetus.
    You have to offer them when you marry, buy a car or build a house. An urban legend says that lamas are not enough for big and important buildings. So they sacrifice homeless persons. They get them drunk, and before passing out they're set in concrete. It's just a legend and nobody would confess it, but there were some human remains found in the basements of old and big buildings.

    Last stop is the presidential palace and the theme: Evo Morales. The president who wants to become president for a third period, contrary to the Constitution. After a failed referendum, in which he asked the Bolivianos whether he should go for a third presidential period, he wants to go for another referendum. You could get the image of a president who is on the well known way to become a dictator, but the real situation is a bit more complicated.
    Bolivia didn't had many good Presidents, although they had in 191 years 88 Presidents. So nearly every two years another one. And some of them where burned in the presidential palace, so it's called "palacio chamuscado", burned palace.
    The last president with a longer period was Lozado, an America friendly president who privatized many state owned enterprises and tightened Bolivia nearly to it's ruin. In the following protests the military shot more than 60 persons, most of them policeman trying to protect people. Not that good.
    Compared to that did Evo Morales many good things, like nationalizing the former enterprises to create an income for Bolivia. Also he supports education and included the indigenous into his politics, after all their are the majority of people in Bolivia. But also he is a populist who is against gay people and blames fast food to be the reason for hair loss, although he likes to eat it. Abd after a population census he wanted to ban condoms, because there are to less Bolivianos. After a protest he changed his mind.
    So now the time will tell the story whether Evo will become the problem, because he is still very popular in Bolivia which you can see everywhere.
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  • Staying at a really nice hotel in the centre of La Paz, less than a minutes walk to all the touristy streets. Rainy/cold season been a bit of a shock to the system though! H has been in heaven visiting all the crafty/leather shops and may have made a few purchases. However, the goods for sale in certain shops were a tad shocking - llama fetus anyone?! Have been enjoying lots of good food out (mexican feast for lunch today for just £3!) and been exploring the small streets.

    Not hanging around for long though, as we have flights booked to the Amazon tomorrow morning - off in search of a warmer climate and some jungle wildlife!
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  • Opted for the 45 minute flight instead of the 24 hour terrifying bus journey to Rurrenabaque and by the sounds of it was money well spent! Our plane had only 19 seats and one seat in each row - was quite bumpy but enjoyed great views over the snowy Andes then the Amazon!

    When we arrived we set out to book onto a Pampas tour for the cheapest price possible - after popping into a few agencies we managed to haggle one down to £50 for 3 days/2 nights all included! We saw monkeys, birds, cobras, caiman crocodiles, swam with pink dolphins, went on a night boat ride to see the caiman's red eyes, piranha fishing and even anaconda hunting (albeit unsuccessful!). We were pretty lucky with the weather and only got completely soaked a couple of times. Our guide almost lost us all in the middle of some wetlands, we shared our cabin with what seemed like 100s of bats and we were bitten alive by mosquitos that can actually bite through clothes (who knew it was possible?!) but had a great time! Back to La Paz tomorrow for one night to escape this 100% humidity and then to book a bus to Copacabana for the following day!Read more

  • Clocks set to New York time now as we have made it to Bolivia!
    The rain was still coming down this morning in Puno when we got the bus and it was freezing! Just 4 degrees! We were given blankets and then duvets for the bus lol, was lovely and cosy!

    Watched We are the Millers (well we missed the end unfortunately) which was funny and nosied at the views every now and again. Mountains in the far distance across the lake and pretty flat ground where we were. Mostly used for farming and livestock including donkeys, cows and sheep. I think we passed a Peruvian cattle market too. Not very organised looking but lots of people in their colourful dress and a very large number of cattle.

    Bolivia crossing was simple, just a bit of a queue, and from there just 15 mins to Copacabana, a tiny town in the Lake. We are here the night and have stopped for lunch by the lake. Sat on a terrace enjoying a drink and food. Rich and Rob opted for Lama sandwiches, apparently the best in town. Conclusion is that it is nice, but tough. Still waiting for my food...lasagne! Lol
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  • Leaving our big rucksacks behind at what is now becoming our base hotel in La Paz, early yesterday morning we set off with our daypacks for a 2 night stay on the highest lake on earth. After a 4 hour coach we arrived at Copacabana just in time for a lake view lunch and our 1:30 boat across to Isla del Sol, the birthplace of the sun according to the locals. Straight off the boat, we were greeted by local children offering to show us up to various hostels, all precariously balanced on the side of the mountain at the top of uneven stone stairways. We found a private little double room with an incredible view over the lake where we watched the sun rising between the clouds at 6:30am this morning! Life on the island is definitely rustic: no vehicles, limited electricity/hot water, the locals using donkeys to ferry supplies from the incoming boats up their self built houses - however it was certainly worth skipping a shower for!

    Now we are back in Copacabana and have just checked into a beautiful hotel up the hill away from the town with white dome shaped buildings - reminds me of Greece! We've reserved a pre-dinner slot in the outdoor hot tub and looking forward to eating in the well-reviewed restaurant here in the hotel.

    Back to La Paz tomorrow after lunch for a couple more nights before catching an(other) overnight bus to Cusco, Peru where we'll spend a few days before the big trek to Macchu Picchu starting a week today -ahh!
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  • Forget all that we said before: best landscapes so far are here!
    Starting the adventure: a Toyota Land cruiser, 200 liters of gasoline, a driver\guide, a cook, an Argentinian guy, a French woman and a thousand kilometers and four days of adventure on the Altiplano at 4000 meters.
    The landscape was absolutely incredible, between prehistoric and the Mars-like dunes...Llamas, condors and hardly any people only ghost towns at 4500 meters, in which first the Inca and later the Spanish were mining for gold, silver and a bunch other minerals that pop out of earth spontaniously, in cities so high that the first Spanish families were unable to have children, because the babies died of altitude...only when the Spanish were changing to local woman, the next generation of exploiters could be born;-)

    We can actually understand the problem....sleeping at night at our camp at 4300 meters is anything but easy...it's was literally breath-taking.

    Ps. Tupiza was the starting point of this trip, and apart from that it was important because Ulf got rid of his 7weeks beard.
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  • Long drive through multicoloured and llama filled mountain roads to Bolivia's altiplano. Had lunch at the scruffy and remote mining town where Butch Cassidy & the Sundance kid died, having robbed the mine's payroll and been hunted down by Bolivian police.
    Then finally reached the Salar de Uyuni, the worlds biggest salt flat. So big it's visible from space. 11,000sqkm vast expanse of white, flat salt in distinctive hexagonal shapes. Incredible, perspective sight. We drove for miles and miles over flat whiteness. Eventually reached Incahausi Island marooned in the middle. Lots of cacti and almost as many people. Strange to be in the middle of nothingness, with loads of tourists. But nevertheless, very spectacular.Read more

  • Final glorious volcano & green lake - no flamingos on this one due to the arsenic. Then to our final night in a hostel attached to the park rangers office. The most remote place I think we've ever been - felt truly otherworldly. It was freezing cold, we were at about 4800m. Yes, that is me, Clare, jumping - just to get a little higher! I felt a little breathless after that.
    There were guys cycling this route. Hats off to them.
    Learnt some Quechuan words from the driver Johnny & cook Julia - ari, mana & haku = yes, no & let's go!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Plurinational State of Bolivia, Bolivien, Bolivia, Bolivië, ቦሊቪያ, Bolibia, بوليفيا, Wuliwya, Boliviya, Балівія, Боливия, Bolivi, বোলিভিয়া, བོ་ལི་ཝིཡ།, Bolivija, Bolívia, Bolívie, Bolifia, Bolivia nutome, Βολιβία, Bolivio, Boliivia, بولیویا, Boliwii, Bolivie, An Bholaiv, Boilibhia, બોલિવિયા, Bolibiya, בוליביה, बोलीविया, Բոլիվիա, Bólivía, ボリビア共和国, ბოლივია, បូលីវី, ಬಲ್ಗೇರಿಯಾ, 볼리비아, बोलिविया, بۆلیڤیا, ໂບລິເວຍ, Mbolivi, Bolīvija, Боливија, ബൊളീവിയ, बोलिव्हिया, Bolivja, ဘိုလီးဘီးယား, Boribiya, Bolivtlān, Bholiviya, बोलिभिया, ବୋଲଭିଆ, Boliwia, Puliwya, Bolivïi, බොලීවියාව, Boliifiya, பொலிவியா, బొలీవియా, โบลิเวีย, Polīvia, Bolivya, بولىۋىيە, Болівія, Bô-li-vi-a (Bolivia), Bolivän, Orílẹ́ède Bọ̀lífíyà, 玻利維亞, i-Bolivia