The best ever!
06.06.2010 - 29.06.2010 28 °C
By far the best trip I ever had all around this fantastic world! this trip was made overland mostly in a great 4x4 with a driver and in our opinion the best , most knowledgeable and the most professional tourist guide we ever had, this trip started in La Paz, then we reached "Coroico" through the vile "most dangerous road in the world" and enjoying the most amazing and colorful views as the altitude started being left back, we felt in matter of hours as we were entering another world, it became greener and greener, warmer climate, nice little town (Coroico)after lunch we had walks to Cascades, Coca plantations, oranges, tangerines, limes bananoes and more tropical views! Next day we started our way down to the lower "Caranavi" and still we found this road above average yet frightening sometimes despite of our a highly experimented driver... we spent a night there and then followed next day to "Rurrenabaque" the road is somehow impressive as you can "feel" every kilometer pulling you inside the "Bolivian Amazon" upon arrival we checked in a Hotel and then next day, the adventure started! we drove about three hours to a place called "Santa Rosa de Yacuma" (due to the river running close) we had lunch there and then started a boat slow navigation seeing so many wild animals that it may be hard for me to detail them all ,but as I can remember, here are some: alligators, yellow spotted turtles, jabiru storks, whistling monkeys, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, capybaras, egrets, tiger herons, falcons, jungle eagles, black caymans, Cormorants, Paradise birds and many more we also swam with “Bufeos” or “Pink dolphins” and found a giant "anaconda" and big piranhas. That was three fantastic days so well informed technically and biologically about each animal and bird, that I was completely impressed about these creatures, which at simple sight are beautiful but hide so much in their nature. Then we went back to Rurre and next day we started the tour into the "Madidi National Park" where after a relaxed and pleasant navigation of about three hours we reached our camp, then we started the awesome walks to get lost inside the vast jungle, here we found some more wild animals such as: Wild pigs, tapirs small snakes, and tons of spiders, specially during the "Night walks", we also met healing and toxic trees used by indigenous in the amazon, big trees and sacred traditional healers, such as: soliman, the garlic tree, milk tree and many more! it was just an amazing tour, we even got to learn some ancient techniques of making attractive handicrafts out of simple jungle fruits! once back in Rurre we got our 4x4 and followed a very amusing road on which we saw about 6 snakes crossing it! down to Yucumo and then "Trinidad" this village somehow reminded me to a place where I used to go when I was a kid, hot, humid and friendly people, plus our guide treated us for dinner with some "Jungle specialties" such as: Monkey, capybara, snake, wild pig, amazon armadillo(tatu) turtle and stork meat... (certainly not for squeamish) Next day we followed to "Asencion de Guarayos" really nice little town where our guide took us to a sort of "reserve" to meet: Jaguars, Pumas, ocelots and monkeys, awesome visit! I got pictures of real jaguars and big cats, just amazing! next day we reached Santa Cruz, it felt a bit awkward to be in a city again but perhaps necessary. We enjoyed the city for a day as we went to some places our guide knew which we found very attractive, “Samaipata” was particulary nice with really nice technical information about this “mollo Culture” and the stuctures still standing, views were just unique, so great we decided to stay there for two extra days, just enjoying the place and the stories our guide told us, (did I mention that “Jery” (Gerardo Arce) is a professional archaeologist?) Next day we started our ride again to "Villa Tunari" in Cochabamba, located in the "Carrasco National park" as we drove the road changed completely, asphalt, and hot, a few hours later we reached “Villa Tunari” and got into a very nice hotel ,pool, fans for ventilation, good food and drinks! next day we had a visit to the "Machia" park where we played with monkeys and walked deeper meeting some other animals around (If you ever go there, do not take anything with you inside this park as monkeys are wild and will take anything you have in your hands, head or...pockets) one of my friends had his small camera, he tried to keep the monkeys away from it and had to hold on it tight! a monkey that was about to take his camera away bit him , it was not serious but I didn`t think they could be aggressive! After a really good lunch we went to experiment some adrenaline rush, as we went to “Chipiriri park” to play with swinging lianas and other swings safe enough to have a lot of fun, then we entered the "Orquidiario" to have a look at some of the types of orchids they have around here, next day we visited some caves where some "blind birds" live, interesting experience but a bit too much of a walk for my preferences. Then we jumped into our truck and drove down to "Cochabamba" nice city but again it made us want to leave it soon! Next day we took off for "Anzaldo" and then into the "Toro Toro National Park" we visited the "Umajalanta" caves, here with our guide and a local one, we were given helmets not to "destroy" the (stalactites) as we creeped around the dark caverns, that was fun! next day we trekked down to "El Vergel" , where we had a nice rock climbing adventure and then some delicious bath under a natural cascade! After this we drove again back to Cochabamba and then through a very panoramic road to "Sucre" On the road we were shown small “adobe” houses that were cracked and destroyed by an earthquake around 1992. As we arrived “Sucre” we found the city quite colonial and the facades are all white, it seem such a very "spanish" city but in the valleys of Bolivia, as we were here our guide took us to impressive "Dinosaur tracks" left on a huge wall, he explained paleontologically all the families and dinosaur types , it was a family passing thru and leaving their footsteps there, quite interesting! Next day again on the road, this time the road was particulary scenaric, from 2500 mts to 4100 ! great huh? we stopped on the way to visit a sort of a "Castle bridge" built about 1900, walked thru it and got glowing pictures!after 3 hours we arrived to "Potosi" located at 4100 mts of elevation, our heads didn´t really feel it but our hearts did! nice city, we had a tour here "Inside the Mines" went down to about 200 Mts to the 5th or 6th gallery, where real miners are still working chewing their "coca leafs" and worshiping "el tio" the devil! as they think he is the only owner of the Silver and Gold deep within the earth! The fact that our guide jery taught us how to "chew coca" or (achullicar) as they call it , was relevant, as I am sure we would not have been able to survive most of this long treks and crazy experiences without it, just like the miners! next day we visited the "Mint House" where black slaves brought from africa by the spanish left their lives making this huge machine move to make silver coins and working hard just for enriching the spanish crown! Next day we started a new road trip to "Uyuni", road was harsh and in some parts ok, as they are working to pave it, as we arrived went to a nice hostel and next day off we drove, our first stop was just 10 min. away from the village at the eerie "train Cemetery" our guide showed us there wrecks of an old accident that killed about 100 people and a very nice collection of steam and carbon powered locomotives from the 1950,s the story he told us was quite interesting , lots of money from the Bolivian government and a big corruption tale. Then we followed to "Colchani" a small village located an hour away from uyuni where people make nice salt made handicrafts and also "process salt"as we were explained , what they basically do, is extract the salt from the actual Salt flats, then they dry it, then powder and add iodine to it and finally and manually "bag" it , ready to be exported internally, he money they get from this job is almost nothing, therefore they ask you for tips as you take some pictures, we also met here a nice really old car that seats quietly there as a memory of old times, and the "Biggest llama in the world salt made" where we got some funny pics, we moved forward and our guide made us close our eyes for a minute to get an eye striking surprise...The White and endless extension of the "Salar de Thunupa", we stopped for a while to have some pics and hear the explanation about the "salt"regenerating itself and all about the 12000 plus Km2 of the "salar" after the locals take the salt they make a "mount" of about a meter tall and then they spill water into then, after a while the salt covers the whole completely, then we drove for a while on this tremendous extension and then reached the "Salt Hotel" not lodging anymore makes a nice sort of museum where everything is Salt made and to enter there is no entrance to be paid but you should buy something from their small shop. We drove on and stopped for a very nice activity, "Salt Cristals extraction" jery stuck his hand inside some small holes they call "Salt eyes" and got us some really nice "Salt Cristals" they looked like some sort of strange white mineral, this make nice souvenirs as I still have mine at home and people keep asking what is it made of? all I do is tell`em give it a lick...! well after this we drove on and found the pictoric "fish island" commonly named by tourists "Isla del pescado" well , we learned with jery that the actual name is "Inkawasy" and it features lots of Volcanic basalt, and petrified coral, amongst which giant and millenary cacti are growing, we had an awesome trek here while our driver was preparing our lunch, once back to the jeep we enjoyed it in the middle of this "White desert" just fantastic! we kept our drive and after about 2 more hours and two more stops to get more funny pictures we arrived to "puerto chuvica" a place where our guide Jery found us a Great "Real Salt Hotel" it was really nice, salt made beds, tables, floor, walls and all, I got a shower there and I think that is the only part which is not exactly salt made. Great dinner, bonfire by night and star observing to finish a great day! Next day we had breakfast, and then started our journey through a bumpy and dusty road, after about an hour and some stops to picture "Vicuñas" and "Quinoa cereal Plantations" we arrived to "San Juan de Rosario" a small village lost in the nowhere, there we stopped at a "tienda" store and got ourselves some candy, chocolate bars and Pringles, then we went to the strange "Necropolis" the "City of the dead" an ancient cemetery where the old "Lipez" culture left some of their dead trapped inside sort of bubbles made of volcanic material and petrified coral, the explanation we got was much longer and interesting archaeologically speaking but that is all I can remember now, back on the road we drove thru the "salar de Chiguana" and passed thru a Military control, then stopped again at a viewer to observe the “ollague” volcano, still smoking! the sight there was attractive and we went off for about half of hour walk, found some lizards, viscachas and something that in the distance seemed like and Andean fox, then back on the jeep and later we found the first lagoon, “Canapa” here we met the funny and colorful "Pink Flamingoes" and we pictured them so close, then drove a bit more to the "Stinky lagoon" and that is where we had lunch, despite of the smell which wasn´t that strong, after lunch we rode some more and saw about 4 more lagoons and a small salt flat, then we entered the desert of "Siloli" and our first stop was made to see the "viscachas" and make a very nice climb up to about 20 mts, on a very old petrified lava wave, as we got up high Jery showed us a "crater like" left by a meteorite as it fell thousands of years ago, going down was fun, then back in the jeep until next stop to admire the nicely shaped "Stone tree" we tried to climb on it but Jery said it was not allowed! still we got awesome pics! just a while more we arrived to "Red Lagoon" (Laguna Colorada) this is actually where the National Reserve starts so this is where we got off the jeep and paid our entrance fees, 150 bolivs each, plus we had to sign our names on a sheet. After this our guide Jery took us for a really nice walk while our driver was parking the jeep and making dinner, jery recommended us to take hats and scarfs with us plus heavy jackets, one of us didn´t see why , because inside the jeep it was too warm, but once more jery proofed us wrong and his vast knowledge and experience came into evidence, 5 or 10 minutes of walk towards the "viewer" a very strong and freezing wind came and made us shiver, thank God I was not the one who didn´t take jery´s advice! once back in camp we were given hot coffee and then later dinner, then we started a nice bonfire and then bed, Jery told us not to stay up too late since next day we had to wake up about 04:30 AM!! Next day as advised it was 04:28 AM, cold and dark! time to take off! I was still sleeping as we took off in our jeep! time later the spectacular "Sunrise" was something worth to see! then we stopped at the "Fumaroles" noisy and stinky steam coming out of the earth up to about 10 mts! Jery called it "geothermic" activity and explained it extensively, but I was still too sleepy to pay attention! just minutes later we all got off the car to walk around the stinky and impressive "Geysers" boiling sulphuric water, it was cold and I went back inside the car fast, but the scenario was just weird. Back on the road we passed the "highest" part on the road up to 5000mts! and then we saw Laguna Blanca, Laguna Salada, Laguna Amarillo and then to "pulcas" a lagoon that has a small Thermal water pool to its north side! we jumped in and water was just delightful!! We stayed there for a while until called by our driver who said breakfast was ready! we all rushed to our pancakes, bread, jelly, milk , cereal, butter and, more... Good meal! Thereafter we drove for a while and stopped for some nice pics, at the "Dali" desert which certainly look pretty much like a painting! rolling again ´til "Laguna Verde" the color of the lagoon with "Licancabur" at its back was just making us go picture crazy! Jery said there is a high concentration of arsenic and Manganese (I think) which does not allow life inside and colors this interesting lagoon! Also he said he has been climbing the volcano a few times and he found another lagoon with life at the very top of the actual volcano! isn´t that something? After that we started our drive back! We knew as jery told us it was going to be such a long ride but it was ok, we had good company, some snacks the best guide in the world and a good driver! so off we went, at about 02:00Pm we stopped in a village called "Mallku Villamar" this is where we had lunch and Jery showed us part of a "tail" from a small aircraft that had fallen here a while ago! After lunch we drove and drove and finally stopped in a place called the "Rocks walls" Jery invited us here for some "Rock climbing" which I pretty much enjoyed, as I practice this sport at home myself! Back on the jeep we arrived later to a big village "San Cristobal" where jery said seats one of the biggest Silver mine in South America still producing about 50 tons of silver daily! he showed us the church, rebuilt stone by stone (interesting story) and the market where we could finally get some drink to celebrate! about an hour later and thru a better road we arrived to Uyuni, then checked in a hostel and enjoyed a hot shower and a great pizza dinner at "Pizzeria Arco iris". Next day started again rough ride for a while (good our jeep was really cozy) we stopped in "Quillacas" for lunch and then drove thru Andean unique sceneries ´til we arrived to "Santiago de Chipayas" this was particulary impressive since it was not even a "town" or village, just a group of little mud huts lost in the middle of nowhere, Jery, our guide stopped the truck and told us to stay inside, about 200 mts away from the actual hot, he told us not to be scared but this people are very superstitious and respectful so that he needed to follow some "procedures" before we could come into scene! he took a bag of "Coca " with him and spoke as he approached the huts to an old man (the only one who came to greet him) they spoke for a few minutes and then Jery came back with good news ! he said we could then get near the village and meet the people, we did not know but the day before Jery had bought many goods for them, simple things such as :bread, canned food, cigarettes, Coca leafs and candy for the children, as we got closer and got off the truck many people started coming out of their huts with a very shy attitude, then slowly as jery started giving things out they came and got closer to us, we could then shake some hands and have some pictures of them, something that called our attention very strongly is that they all had the same "braids" on their hair, man and woman, later on Jery explained us that this deals directly with things like : marital status, age, number of brothers or sisters, etc. This was really an extreme ethnographical experience!! we followed on a crazy road, and many times we had the impression we were lost, there is nothing there! no people, no signs, no villages, not even llamas! then we arrived to the village of "Sajama" (Sajama National Park) (How did we dare to think our great guide was lost!!) we had a good night sleep there and next day we visited the "Highest Forest in the world" which features only
"Queñua trees" an endemic specie of tree that can grow and live on an altitude up to 5200 mts! then back for lunch in the town and by the afternoon Jery took us to reconforting Hot Thermal baths! just excellent after cold winds! Next day before we left this place which I found authentically Andean (lots of llamas and Indians) Jery took us to the "Geysers" this time they were basically boiling water holes, sometimes surprising us with water spills! then we drove on and found a really "nice" all paved road which leads from Bolivia to the Chilean border, once in "Patacamaya" we were given a nice option by Jery, drive back to la paz, or meet one of the worlds most spectacular roads down to "Urmiri", we definitely trusted our excellent guide and driver "Gerardo Arce" as this is his "real name! so off we went! We could not have taken a better decision! this road was simply amazing, just like the way Jery drove thru it! he told us this road is called the road of the 80 curves! and without doubt I counted close to this number! as we arrived, basic lodge and we enjoyed our time inside hot water pools and streams! Next day after breakfast jery took us for a walk and we found really nice views and some strawberry plantations! Back on the truck drove back and then we sorrowful arrived back to La paz, we knew this marvelous adventure had ended! This is still one of the greatest traveling experiences of my life and I can highly recommend anybody to discover this places that not even tour promotions in Bolivia may know they exist! If it wasn´t for Jery our more than distinguished guide we would have ended spending maybe more money and not even seeing a part of what we saw!
May you need any additional info regarding this trip or any part of it, feel free to ask! Experiences like this are the ones that make this life living worth! I really hope this trip “report” becomes helpful for any traveler as it cover a big part of Bolivia.