A Travellerspoint blog

A bit Salty in Southwest Bolivia

all seasons in one day 0 °F
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Okay, since last time I checked in have crawled through narrow, suffocating mines, played with dynamite, danced on the world´s largest salt flat, and seen ridiculously colored lakes. After many lying tour agents, long bus rides and getting harassed by some drunkards in a depressing little town, I am finally in Argentina, which is a huge relief. I grew quite tired of getting hit by babies strapped to the backs of old women on buses with a golf ball sized wads of coca leaves in their cheeks.

When I started traveling so many months ago, I came in with a very rustic mentality. Give me a bed and whatever food is around and I am happy. Well, after traveling in Peru and Bolivia, where it is nearly impossible to find potato chips let alone a good bottle of red wine, I realize that I very much appreciate the finer things in life, things which Argentina seems to have in abundance. Steak, wine, attractive houses and parks; it feels like I am on a different planet, light years away from dusty, garbage strewn streets lined with crumbling houses that were so prevalent in the ¨indigenous¨ countries. Historically, I have attributed the poor state of the things to economic subjugation by corrupt governments, but in South America, I think the people themselves share much of the blame. There just seems to be no aspirations whatsoever of living for more than shining shoes and shovelling in mines. I think I am just bitter that I could never find a cold coke. Anyway, enjoy the photos of the amazing natural beauty of Southwest Bolivia.

Tom

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Apparently the richest silver deposit on Earth in Potosi

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All set to go into the ¨Devil´s Mine¨

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Claustrophobia trial by fire: tight tunnels and thin and dirty, hard to breath air

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Check out the massive wad of coca leaves in this guy´s mouth

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Happy Birthday Erin! (Angel food cake with a dynamite candle and ammonium nitrate sprinkles)

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Maybe it´s a good thing she wasn´t here to blow out the candle. (The ¨after¨ picture was useless)

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A sign discouraging playing with dynamite

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Train Cemetery in Uyuni

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A hotel made of salt

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I really don´t know why Alex is stuffing the grill with straw

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Driving on the flooded Uyuni Salt Flats

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Uyuni Salt Flat: perhaps the brightest place on earth (I lost my sun glasses a day before)

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A bit of perspective

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Our transportation

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Photography can be a lot of fun when there is no perspective

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Crawling out of a Pringles can

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Fighting an action figure

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An Irish guy crawling out of my nose

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View from Isla del Pescado

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View of some volcano

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Rain coming in on the flats

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Salt flats near sunset

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Jumping for joy (The guy with my jacket is a stunt double because everyone in my group was a dunce with the camera)

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Check out the water at my feet

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Remind you of Super Mario Bros?

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Salt flats sunset

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Eating dinner in our salt hotel (Irish Conner, ´Merican Tom, Dutch Minke, English Emma, English Lucy, and Irish David)

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Another volcano

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View of a flamingo lake

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Apparently the white stuff is borax

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Flamingo eating

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Can you count the seven colors of these mountains?

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A view of tree rock

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That damn Shaun got me obsessed with rock climbing

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Laguna Colorado (red lake)

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Volcanic view of Laguna Colorada

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Trying to stand in the strongest wind I have ever experienced

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Another view of Laguna Colorada

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Early morning geyser

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Sunrise at the hot springs

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Laguna Verde is not as verde as I had hoped

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Rock side basketball court

Posted by tommydavis 11:26 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

A Few More ¨I Almost Died¨ Stories in Bolivia

95 °F
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Pulling into La Paz, Bolivia I really only had one thing on my mind: doing the famous downhill bike ride on the ¨world´s most dangerous road.¨ As stupid and outrageous as it sounds, it really is one of the area´s biggest tourist attractions. It consists of something like 3600 meters downhill in a couple of hours on a gravel road with a deadly 1000 foot or so drop on the side. In fact, about 80% of visitors to La Paz do the ride. Every year, about one or two unfortunate tourists (most of whom have little or no mountain biking experience) fly off the side to their untimely death. Along the way, we stopped at a few precarious points with names such as ¨Isreali curve¨ and ¨French girl turn¨ (You can guess how they got these names.) But what about someone like me? Someone with significant mountain biking acumen, if I may say so myself. Well the guide, Diego, made a big mistake by telling us that no one ever beats him on the last stretch of the ride. Of course I tried, and the two of us were soon barrelling down the steep, rocky road, taking turns passing each other when we saw an opening. For about ten minutes, it was about the most intense thing I have done in all of my travels... until my back tire blew and I almost careened out of control into the side of the cliff. I made it down in one piece though, successfully completing the first of many dangerous trips in Bolivia.

Soon after, I flew in a small plane into the Amazon Basin to mount a trip to the amazingly bio diverse ¨pampas¨ swamps: home of giant rats, monkeys, pink river dolphins, alligators, pirhannas, black mamba and cobra snakes, and of course, giant anacondas. I assumed that swimming in these waters would be off limits, but the guides seemed to have no problems jumping into the dirty water, so of course I didn´t either. I have to admit though, I was not thrilled about hanging out long when I knew that any one of several animals could take a nice chunk of flesh out of me with no warning. The brave swimmers got alligator tooth necklaces made by those who opted to stay home to make handicrafts.

Perhaps the highlight of the pampas trip was the night excursion where we used one hand for flashlights to find alligators by their reflective eyes and the other hand to hold a beer. The river banks were alight with thousands of fireflies and about twenty crazy fish decided it was a good idea to jump into the boat. Unfortunately, long exposure photos of the full moon were impossible in the moving boat.

After the pampas trip, the flight back to La Paz got cancelled because of rain (the runway gets muddy). The next day, the entire country was on strike about some new constitution, so I could hardly get food, let alone a flight out. Apparently the country grinds to a halt quite often because of these strikes. To be honest though, people did not seem to riled up and mostly just loitered around the streets with nothing to do. I guess this is just life in Bolivia.

Next on the agenda is a mining town called Potosi where you can buy dynamite and blow up part of a mountain. This one should be good.

Tom

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All decked out in orange, as usual

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Starting the ride at 15000 feet

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Why not throw in a bit of fog, just for fun

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The closest one to the edge: that´s me

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Poorly lit photo of the group

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After the bike ride

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Tight tunnel in Iglesia de San Francisco

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Bolivian breakfast of champions: egg, avocado, tomato and cheese sandwich with coffee

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Bolivians must love kissing

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La Paz alleyway

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Please fasten your seat belts and don´t hijack the plane

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We were lucky the runway wasn´t muddy

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Beni River sunset

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Setting off in the pampas

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I think this is a Comoran

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The size of a large pig, the capybara is the world´s largest rodent

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Alligator infested waters

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Cheeky monkey

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This creepy fish jumped into the boat and hit me in the chest

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View from our camp

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Ankle deep in swamp, looking for anacondas

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Getting a bit deeper

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...

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Creepy things crawl under these flowers

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Swamp view

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Handling a wild anaconda

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Now swimming in pirhanna and alligator infested water

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Stuttgart Sven doing a back flip

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Turtle family

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Boat view of the pampas

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Fishing for pirhannas with Joe from England

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Slightly hidden sun

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Soccer sunset

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I saw a lot of these bastards

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Revolutionary flag on the day of the strike

Posted by tommydavis 17:41 Archived in Bolivia Comments (2)

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