15 days in BOLIVIA. Enough or not?!
Each traveller I met in South America told me – “Be careful about the food in Bolivia, I got food poisoning there” … My response – “Don´t worry, I survived three weeks in Thailand, I will be OK.” Result – “Almost two weeks of diarrhoea in Bolivia” 😀
But firstly, let me tell you how my beginning of Bolivian adventure started and who I started it with. On 20th of October, I crossed the border between Peru and Bolivia (again, no problems at all, I was travelling from Puno where you can visit “Floating Islands” – nice but too touristic), arrived to town “Copacabana” (not the beach in Rio de Janeiro haha), bought a boat ticket to “Isla del Sol” alias “Sun Island”, spent couple of hours with friendly Argentinian guys (Mariano and Andres who I met on my way to Copacabana), took a boat and arrived to the biggest island of the lake “Titicaca”. I was told to negotiate prices of hostel directly on the island, therefore, I didn´t book anything in advance (actually I never do haha). While searching hostel I met an extremely friendly French girl Cecile who agreed to look for a hostel with me and we found one with the views over the lake, beautiful mountains and only for two of us for a price 25 bolivianos per night! Around 3 euro … Sounds almost unreal?! No, because this is BOLIVIA!!!
So my first stop in Bolivia was “Isla del Sol” – the biggest island of the lake “Titicaca” which is inhabited by two groups of indigenous people – “yumani” (in the south) and “challa” (in the north). The island is incredibly beautiful and with Cecile we decided to stay there for two nights so we could do hiking through the whole island and exploring its beauty. The lake has temperature of around 10C degrees, pretty cold but we couldn´t resist and went for swimming the next day of our stay. Our dinners and breakfast were served with an amazing view over the lake and we couldn´t be happier… However, the first stomach problems already appeared on the second day of my stay. Still can´t decide whether because of the food, cold weather, the altitude (the altitude of the island is around 3800m) or the combination of all of the factors …
Our next stop in Bolivia was unofficial capital “La Paz” (which means “peace”) where we arrived especially with the intention to experience “ruta de la muerte” alias “ the death road” – the most dangerous road of the world. We did it through the agency “No Fear” with a price of 350 bolivianos (pretty pricy compared to other day trips I already did in South America). That day we did more than 60km on bikes with group of people from different parts of the world including Brazil, Ecuador, Sweden, … And was it that difficult or dangerous?! Well, compared to the activities I have already done in Ecuador (such as bridge jumping, or canyoning and waterfall jumping) this “death road” wasn´t such adrenaline but better than nothing 😛
While staying in La Paz I learned one important thing – I will NEVER EVER come back to party hostels such as Loki during my “discovering” travels! And WHY?! The answer is easy … During my travels I am trying to learn as much as possible about the culture of the country I am staying in, about people, its traditions, habits, language, about all of the cultural and linguistic details, therefore, I do COUCHSURFING! However, if you go to party hostels, the chance you will learn something about the local culture is minimal! At such places you can meet incredibly amount of foreigners, “travellers”, tourists from different countries, you can party with them and have fun BUT you won´t learn anything. Not even how to dance. When I saw group of “gringos” (people from USA) and Europeans “dancing” reggeaton (typical latino dance) that night in Loki Hostel, I wanted to cry – literally!
During my travels I really try learn, to educate myself, to get better in every aspect possible – and in party hostels I can´t do it! So after my “La Paz and Loki Hostel experience” I was more than excited to leave this place and experience my first couchsurfing experience with my CS host Ronmel in city called “Cochabamba”. Ronmel is a nice guy, little bit shy and introvert but with a great heart. He showed me his city, its typical food “pique macho” and tried to help me with my stomach problems which were getting worse and worse…
My next stop was in real capital of Bolivia – SUCRE – which I consider to be the nicest city of Bolivia with warm climate, friendlier people, even probably with good food, however, from now on I stopped eating… 😀 I spent my free time with guys from couchsurfing who showed me around, both of them were truly nice BUT I missed something! Something what I could have found in almost every other country of South America – “latino spirit”, “latino energy”, “latino music” … Bolivia has much to offer, however, the real latino spirit full of positive energy, laughing, dancing, singing cannot be found in Bolivia… Honestly, after four months living in Colombia I felt being more “latino” than people from Bolivia are…
So my birthday was getting closer and closer and I really wanted to do something special on my birthday. So I planned that for my birthday I would go for a famous 3-day trip to “SALAR de UYUNI” alias “Uyuni Salt Flat” connected with a trip to the south of Bolivia and visiting its beautiful lagoons, volcanoes, thermal water, … However, before arriving to Uyuni, I made a day stop in small mine town “Potosi” in order to visit “Ojo del Inca” – lagoon in the middle of beautiful rocky mountains with thermal water with temperature of 30 degrees. Honestly, paradise on Earth!
Two days before my birthday, I arrived to Uyuni, booked a trip to Salar (you have to negotiate prices really hard, some people I met paid around 1000 bolivianos, while I paid only 650 – well, what can I say?! – good negotiation skills & months of experience haha). So a day before my birthday we started our trip to “Salar de Uyuni” which is the largest salt flat of Bolivia covered by pure salt. Our group consisted of two girls from Belgium, a girl from the UK, a boy from New Zealand and a boy from Sweden. Everybody nice but I really missed “latino people” during the trip.
I will not describe in details how the whole trip was, just some short summary – Salt Flat is beautiful place, worth visiting, you can do crazy pictures and watch beautiful sunset! Lagoons, volcanoes and natural landscape of southern Bolivia are breath-taking, however I don´t think 3 day trip is worth visiting with the agency. During three days you spend most of the time in the jeep, travelling from point A to point B while on specific places you just stop in order to take pictures. Weather is freaking cold, wind too strong and the altitude too high (almost always more than 4,000m). I am glad I went for this trip but surely I wouldn´t repeat it. Regarding my B-day, well, it wasn´t that great as after dinner I started to have problems with my stomach (AGAIN!) and I spent the whole night vomiting and with diarrhoea. Moreover, without “latino spirit”. After all I didn´t have the best birthday ever, I can say that for sure I will never forget it! 😀
To sum up and to answer my question whether 15 days are enough for Bolivia, I wanna say that for getting to know the country, its culture and people, you need to stay AT LEAST one month and more in a country, so for this purpose I say 15 days are not enough! However, from my point of view of “latino girl” and girl who loves eating, I must say that 15 days were more than enough! I urgently needed to get better (with my stomach and ability to eat again!) and I urgently needed a company of friendly, open-minded, open-hearted and smiley latino people… What unfortunately most people from Bolivia are not … Although they are good people with good hearts, the first impression they do is not that positive. You cannot feel the positive energy and see the smile on people´s faces as you can see in Colombia. I can´t say I don´t recommend Bolivia to visit (I really do, Bolivia has a lot to offer) I just say I missed the real “latino spirit”. But I am truly happy I had the chance to visit this country, get to know its people at least a little bit, experienced “the death road” and visit amazing “Uyuni Salt Flats” & “Isla del Sol”.
Now, time for famous ARGENTINA!!! 🙂