On a warm March day of 2012, at a serious UN meet in Vienna, the dynamic Bolivian president, Evo Morales defended one of the most ancient Andean traditions in an unforgettable manner. As an outspoken person, who is not afraid to practice what he preaches, Evo Morales stunned the entire convention as well as the world, when he opened up his bag of coca leaves (which he had sneaked in through security), plucked out a sprig and chewed it blissfully in front of the assembled political dignitaries. The gesture became an instant hit and the reaction which was mostly positive, ranged from applauding, hearty laughter and smothered snickers. Morales was, at that time protesting against the “historical mistake” that had banned coca and he clearly declared coca leaf as not harmful. A very controversial and much misunderstood leaf, coca is used in making cocaine and the Bolivian president is an active proponent of the plant. Coca represents the culture of indigenous people of the Andean region and when mixed with a pinch of baking soda, it numbs the stomach and reduces hunger. Much popular among labourers, a wad of coca supposedly gives a boost which is similar to a caffeine kick.
It is a very mysterious leaf indeed and my first experience of coca had been fitfully in the middle of an Andean trek. I was based out of picturesque Samaipata at that time and it was as idyllic as it gets. The trek in the Amboro National Park, however turned out to be a scary one and lack of proper infrastructure (or safety regulations) struck me hard. I ended up with a broken ankle and unbelievable sights of the national park helped me heal in the city base of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The southern city at that time was experiencing spring and pot bellied toborochi trees were in full bloom. Masses of pink flowers carpeted streets with fallen petals and the blue skies were joyfully cloudless. The sun was balmy too and those were some of my most pleasant Bolivian days. I traveled extensively through Bolivia after my ankle healed and with every destination, the South American country bedazzled me more.
I got hooked on to its fascinating natural beauty, the colonial charm, its rich indigenous heritage and the troubles undertaken to explore this mesmerising destination. There is no doubt, that Bolivia was a challenge for me and I had to learn rudimentary Spanish to be able to travel easy. But, at the end of the trip, all those efforts faded away and only stunningly beautiful memories remained. In this post, I will try to sum up the magnificent destination called Bolivia and share some of my most interesting travel memories too. However being a grand South American queen, that it is, 1 single post might not be enough to capture its thrilling beauty to the fullest and my words may tumble ceaselessly into a series. Strangely, this no holds barred tumbling of emotions, roller coaster ride of experiences is quintessentially Bolivia as well…for otherwise how can you capture a country, which is one of the world‘s beautiful enigmas? Rough hewn around the edges, absolutely surreal in its natural beauty, frustratingly complex, vexing, rugged and more than slightly nerve racking, Bolivia is a true uncut diamond.
NOTE – This post does not promote consumption of cocaine or any narcotic drug.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE