My Bolivia trip was peppered with mishaps, strangeness and staggering beauty. There have been instances when I wanted to just pack my bags and leave. One such incident had been at the Cochabamba airport, when multiple security checks made me nearly lose my flight to Sucre. Cochabamba is a well known food paradise and the airport was crowded. By the time, I had managed to rush to my transiting plane, my breath was short and I sank in my seat in sulking huff. It was much later that I came to know that delicious Cochabamba was also sinfully naughty and the city was a famous drug trafficking point. Needless to say, that caused much heightened security at the airport and I did not know what to make of it. Charming Sucre was a colonial delight which showered me with many honey coloured sunsets and my Hostal Sucre was a veritable rose garden. It was located in a gorgeous sugar white colonial villa and unfortunately its charm ended there. The rock hard bed and moody unpredictable showers made my Sucre stay very outdoorsy, but then I am not complaining.
An erstwhile wealthy town, Sucre was drop dead gorgeous and it was from here that I made 2 of my most memorable trips. One was to the weekly market of Tarabuco, where indigenous families from surrounding villages attended to shop, barter, sell and gossip. It was colourful, touristy and a bit expensive, but the drive to Tarabuco was spectacular. The 2nd was the trip to my next destination of the world famous Uyuni and it took me a lot of efforts to skip the high altitude silver mining town of Potosi. Uyuni town was a disastrous experience for. Being in the middle of nowhere, it was super expensive and even the most basic facilities burnt holes in the pocket. Uyuni, combined with dazzling white Salar and jaw droopingly beautiful Eduardo Avarua National Park, however remains some of my once in a lifetime experiences and it is impossible to put their beauty into words.
The week long trip into the wilderness was tough though, and we quickly learned to battle freezing cold, high altitude sickness, full bladders and hunger pangs for long hours. There was nothing available in the middle of the region and apart from a night stay at a salt hotel, we slept under the stars. The salt hotel stay was a weird experience, because everything there was made of salt blocks and at night it was very cold. But the night skies were literal canvases of entire galaxies, lakes were neon coloured, mountains and deserts were strangely shaped and vicunas, flamingos were our only companions. My return to Uyuni was marked by quintessential Bolivian road block and I nearly missed my night bus to La Paz. The bus ride was one made in hell and being conned into buying a seat in a full vehicle, I spent an entire night sitting in front of the stinking toilet. It was so unpleasant, that my entire La Paz stay was spent moping in my cozy, expensive hotel room and I had really splurged on accommodation there. I remember rushing out of the bus in La Paz and hunting for an expensive place to stay, and sitting under a hot shower for more than an hour.
Recommended Read for Bolivia travel planners : Money Matters Bolivia
I missed much of La Paz and did not leave the comfort of my room, except for short visits to the Witches Market, Lake Titicaca, Sajama National Park and Death Road. Apart from the Witches Market, all included overnight stays and I finally left La Paz for warmer tropical weather. The rainforests of Rurrenabaque was my last stop in Bolivia and I flew in a strange military (+commercial) plane to reach there. The inflight service was in a military style and we landed in an airport which was a clearing in the middle of the jungle. Wild fowl scurried on the tarmac and our checkin bags were parked under a large flowering tree. Rurrenabaque days were sweet, warm and molasses slow. Fishing for non scary Piranhas (blame Hollywood for the negative image), searching for equally non scary anacondas (Hollywood nonsense) and swimming with dolphins, caimans in broad sluggish rivers were unforgettable experiences. I left Bolivia soon after that, with mixed feelings of sadness and pride and it really felt as if I had achieved something. One of South America’s least-visited and exceptionally beautiful countries, Bolivia was a dream come true and it felt great to walk the unknown path.
” Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE