Breathtaking Bolivia

Trip Start Sep 01, 2005
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Trip End Dec 04, 2006


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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, March 31, 2006

Hi

How are you? I'm well. Where am I? Where have I been? Well we have been stuck on a relatively comfortable Landrover cruising along the largest and highest salt flats in the world for 3 days and 2 nights with a pair of funny Canadians, a nice New Zealand couple, a 15 year old cook and Carlos "The Man" our driver who drove 900 kilometres. During that time we saw some incredibly beautiful scenery, Fish Island (which was actually covered with cactus's up to a couple of thousands of years old), Red Lakes with Flamencos, The cutest llama in the world, Mini-Kangaroos, Green Lakes, Natural Geysers and Hot Springs, Desert lands and slept in a hotel made out of salt (bed, table, chair, the hotel, everything). Our mobile unit was one of perhaps 9 others but was leagues ahead of the rest in terms of service and of food provided for the 3 day affair (we even had an umbrella with our table when everyone else just had to use the landscape). All well and good as it may sound except for the fact that we could hardly breath because of the altitude, there was no shower for 3 days and Cumbia was the choice of music for the driver (sing)....."Dancing to the Cumbia we fell in love, Listening to the Cumbia we are in love, I think you like Cumbia, One, two, one, two, Disco! Disco! Music!......(repeat) So the song would go for an hour!!" After a hard tour of the natural wonders we retreated back to Uyuni for some really good Pizza, bid farewell to Graham and Neil from CAN and headed off the next day to Potosi with our new friends Nikki and AJ from NZ over some very bumpy unpaved roads.

In Po-to-si we visited the mines in Cerro Ricco where they have been mining the mountain for the past four centuries only having stopped it commercially recently leading to small groups of people forming co-operatives scraping through what was left over. The tunnels were small and the air at parts stale. The men that work in the mines were incredibly fit and strong but small at the same time. All with one side of their mouths chewing on coca leaves to give them energy to keep on working. With the average miner working hours in the day but 24 if something is found, the mine was bustling with miners running through the thin corridors whilst we could barely walk in the terrible conditions. Our guide, Hi-me, had been working in the mines for 7 years before he struck it rich with a find abundant with silver and since then has been doing tours in the mines for 22 years. The only reason we were even allowed in was that gifts were encouraged to be brought in with us such as more coca leaves, dynamite, cigarettes and soft drinks. The latter was the most popular one. We learnt about the god and the sacrificial llama that they gave offerings to for good luck and safety and also got to blow up some dynamite............cool! The experience of it all was unforgettable but I would not like to go in there again. Only having spent 3 hours in the mines we had enough and headed our way back to Potosi, the highest city of its size in the world 4200m and at one time the richest city in the world due to the mineral rich mountain, to check out the first place in the Americas that money was minted (100% silver back then which was shipped to Spain but ironically now the coins are minted in Spain for Bolivia now, at a cost and made out of cheap stuff) and to have a some llama burgers (which tasted like tough beef to be honest)....yum!

Longing for some more breathable air we caught the second fastest taxi ever averaging 110 klms an hour over some of the 8% of paved roads in Bolivia to Sucre where en route we managed to get a flat tyre. Sucre which is another UNESCO world heritage sight (Potosi as well). We found Alliance Francaise for some good quality food and a Market with fresh fruit juices we chilled out basically in our "Hotel" watching cable TV for a few days. Also went to a Textile museum where we saw some unbelievable beautiful woven pieces of art, mostly recent but some were up to 2000 years old.
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