The first thirteen days of this itinerary include the high priority activities in Bolivia sans Lake Titicaca and Tiwanaku. The roads to these two places were blocked because of political demonstrations the whole time I was in Bolivia and I was unable to visit them as planned. Fremen Tours substituted the Yungas for the original Lake Titicaca days. You need much more time in some of these places but I was trying to see as much as possible in 18 days.
Fondest memory: Hard to pick between the 4WD tour of southern Bolivia and the riverboat trip on the Mamore River, but probably the former.
When I decided to go to Bolivia, I looked online for tour companies. I chose Fremen Tours because they are the only ones with the floating hotel on the Mamore River and they were highly recommended in the Rough Guide. They did an excellent job. They are not cheap (about $200 per day for everything) but they have the contacts to handle the logistics, which turns out to be very important. My primary contacts at Fremen were Winston Ford in their Atlanta office and David Fernandez in La Paz. I also met two excellent guides through Fremen, Mario Nina and Roberto Mendez. I'll tell more about them in subsequent tips. Fremen used Colque Tours for the 4WD tour out of Uyuni and Raices Turismo in Cusco, Peru.
Fondest memory: Mario Nina and David Fernandez are two excellent guides. They also became my friends. Both are Aymara and I learned much from them. Mario's English is excellent and he is very knowledgeable about northern Bolivia. He probably knows the rest of Bolivia as well; however, David was the guide that accompanied me to the South. David even walked 20 blocks to the airport to meet me one time when the roads were closed by demonstrators. Mario knows computers and let me back up my pictures to CD at his office. These are examples of the outstanding service I received.
Mario Nina used to guide people for Fremen Tours but he now has his own company, Zig-Zag Eco Tours & Treks and has a partnership with Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking. His office (Illampu Street 867 Office 5) is located near the northeast corner of Illampu and Sagarnaga Streets close to the Witches' Market. If you are going south on Illampu from the Hotel Rosario and come to Plaza Gaston Velasco, you have gone too far. There is now a Zig-Zag Facebook page but you must be logged into Facebook to see it. You may also e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Mario is very knowledgeable and his English was the best of any guide I have had in Bolivia. He knows the history, the flora and the Aymara legends; he is a real gentleman and it is a pleasure to travel with him. I recommend Mario highly. His partner, Caesar, is an excellent guide also and really knows a lot about Tiwanaku. Zig-Zag offers tours and adventure travel throughout Bolivia.
Fondest memory: One of my better memories is when Mario made me make a surprise visit to the house of an internet friend (that I had never met in person) on the very first day I was in Bolivia during his half day La Paz tour. I knew Cecy was in Canada on business but her parents and brother showed us the warmest hospitality. Having La Paz's best saltenas with Mario at the La Fiesta restaurant near Plaza Obelisco and watching a huge, but peaceful, political demonstration is also a unique memory. However, the absolute best memory is going to a small, remote school in the mountains outside El Alto (Collpani School) with Mario to donate childrens' books.
Roberto Mendez was my guide in Potosi. He is a former miner and really knows his way around. Twenty-five years ago, he pioneered the tours that go into the Cerro Rico mines. I met him through Fremen Tours but he also has his own company. He is a character and fun to be with. He also sings at the Belen Theater on Plaza 6 de Agosto some evenings. That is also where you can find him to arrange a tour. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to notice the El Tio ring he wears. Be forewarned, you need to be in reasonable shape to keep up with him on the walking part of the tour. Potosi is built on the side of a mountain at 4100 m. and has steep streets. See also my Potosi travel tips and travelogues.
Fondest memory: Having kala phurka with Roberto at the Dona Eugenia restaurant in Potosi (see my restaurant tips and Richiecdisc's General Tips).
bolivian people is so far the people I liked more around the world. Calm, helpful, bound to play and dance but alway colorfully sober bolivians are fantastic, no matter if you're in the altiplano or amongst cambas in the "lowland". It's quite rare to be vendor assaulted and even more rare to be beggar assaulted. This is more true out of town, as usual, but even in big town in touristic spots you almost feel ignored.
(only exception are: a bar in sucre and the "change corner" in santacruz)
a question, a preguntita, always get an answer and everyone will do everything he can to help you.
Fondest memory: the man with a cart, dick.. the panamerican congress of mechanics which repaired one of our moto in santacruz, angel, the old lady speaking about che while feeding us with papa reillenas and the lady next door.. The cambas girl who lived in italy with all her suggestion about police (the most likely to rob you) and restaurants... lot of people.
needs sharpen brains, if you need a confirm to this old says have a trip to bolivia and broke something "hard" to repair: You'll probably find someone that with a few ancient tools and lot of skill can solve your problem. Bolivians are also renown soldering and machine tool wizard so a missing part can be easily rebuilt
Fondest memory: I do think that the best way to travel through bolivia is with a car or motorbike or anything mechanic pretending some new fault any new town just to have it repaired!
When travelling around Bolivia, particularly rural areas, some of us may be shocked by the apparently backward and often primitive living conditions that we encounter. In response, some are moved to compare the locals lot with our own, and experience pangs of conscience and outrage and inequalities. In attempt to salve the guilt or inspire goodwill, many distribute gifts to local children and adults.
In Bolivia and many other developing countries, the lack of money, tv, cars or expensive things does not necessarily indicate poverty. The people of rural Bolivia have animals, food and homes that provide sufficient food, clothing and shelter.
When short-term visitors give money, they impose a foreign system of values and upset a well-established balance.
If you wish to be accepted by local people, perhaps share a conversation, teach a game from home or share your own meal. If you wish to make a bigger difference, you can donate money or better supplies to organisations working to improve rural condition. Bring a supply of bandages, rehydratation mixture or other medicines and leave them with local health-care nurse, or buy a handful of pens and a stack of exercise books and give them to the school teacher.
Fondest memory: Even being careful of our water, we were down to less than quarter liter about halfway though the walk and though beautiful, all we could think about was something to drink. We finally found a craftsman weaving a blanket and luckily he was selling beverages as well. It was a bit overpriced but at this point, we would have bought a litter for $10! We greedily drank and asked how far it was to the port and were glad to hear it was very close. We made our way there in a more relaxed manner now. We knew we would make the boat on time and wouldn't keel over from thirst. On arrival, we found some food vendors and made our way to the hamburger girl. We had shirked from the greasy affairs on the mainland but it tasted like a prime rib at this point. We basked in the sun awaiting the boat and reflected on a nightmare day that now didn't seem so bad. I vowed to never be so under prepared again, to carry more cash at all times. And hoped there would be ATM's in the rest of our Bolivian stops.
Fondest memory: It,s difficult to take only one memory of Bolivia, because the fully unforgettable moments lived on my travels to this beautiful land. Please, left me bring you three of them:
-1- The really splendid historical buildings on Sucre
-2- The incredible magnifiscence of the Oruro Festivities devoted to the Virgin of the Socavon (always last weekend before ash-wednesday, previous to the Holy Week Memories)
-3- Visit to Tiwanaku pre incaic archeological site.
just take it very easy at first..La Paz is the highest capital city in the world!!
altitude sickness affects most visitors, it might be a pounding headache, nausea, vomiting ...or all three, and a fact is it affects younger people more!!
Hey ,but don't worry..just drink some coca tea (available everywhere)..try some Diamox tablets(available over the counter in Bolivia/Peru) and just chill out. However, on our second day there we did quite a bit of walking with no problems.
Fondest memory: the view of La Paz as seen from the road to the airport is so awesome . the city sits in a bowl with snow-capped peaks in the background .. what a memory....PLEASE CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE PROPERLY....
Bolivia offers a multitude of hiking opportunities and lots of adventure travel options but the Salar de Uyuni is not to be missed. The easiest and cheapest way to visit this remote area are four-wheel drive tours run from the city of Uyuni itself.
Fondest memory: Bolivia seemed so incredibly cheap the first day we were there that I never thought to ask how much it was for the Internet. We had secured a room for $3 and just had a huge trout dinner in a fancy tourist restaurant for less than that price each. The Internet was never more than a dollar in Peru and I just assumed it would be even less here so we both went on for an hour with little thought. I was a little light on money as there were surprisingly no ATM's in Copacabana, which was our first Bolivian stop. Traveler's checks had proved of little use as large commissions were charged to exchange them and we had only emergency funds in cash so I had exchanged only a little and hoping for an ATM in La Paz. The day started out so inexpensively that it seemed $20 would last forever but the splurge meal had cut into it, and we had an early morning departure for Isla del Sol planned. When I went to pay for the Internet I was stunned when I was told I owed 60 bolivianos for the two of us. This was the equivalent of over $8 and though a typical price for an Internet cafe in Europe, it was highway robbery in South America. I forked over the money and walked out with about 2$ in my pocket to now empty nighttime streets devoid of money changers and still lacking an ATM to save the day. (continued below in MY Fondest Memory)
Fondest memory: The next morning I went out early to find the money changers only come out when there are incoming buses and returned to the hostel to see if the owner had any suggestions. She said we could pay for the tour and room on our return from the island and we gladly accepted the offer. The smart move would have been to order breakfast and a big bottle of water, and put them both on the tab but it seemed I had left my brains in Peru. Instead I bought a few rolls and off we trudged to the boat hungry with half a litter of water. The ride to the island was stunning and the weather picture perfect. We had opted to be dropped off at the top port and then walk our way for four hours to the southernmost one, where we would be picked up. We quickly set off snapping photos the whole way and forgoing what I assumed to be the more expensive shops of the port area. The island was gorgeous and it being the off season, not nearly as touristy as I had expected. This bode well for photographic opportunities but not for finding something to eat, or drink for that matter. The great weather also translated to it being very hot and dry on what turned out to be a walk straight across the highest ridge on the island. Soon we found ourselves parched and with a dwindling water supply. I had grabbed a bag of granola from my backpack that was left over from the Santa Cruz Trek and though it was dry, at least we have the energy to do the four-hour walk. We laughed as we ate what I had nearly thrown away a couple of times as being not worthy of consumption. (conclusion below under My Fondest Memory)
to point it out here: driving or just walking around in Bolivia makes you see and meet alwayssomething new!!
Fondest memory: a little sea next to the forest and therefor a (the) reason for the big humity in the forest. All together it gives this absolutely mysthic idea. Some kind of mixture of "Lord of the Rings" and "The mists of Avalon". Great atmosphere
Sibiria is a little village on the way from Cocha (bamba) to Santa Cruz.
This lonely horse gave an amazing impression, like a statue, not moving a bit, over the clouds...it was like painted.
Fondest memory: It has been a very special feeling to drive the streets on a beautiful sunny day and mention to be "over" the clouds. The view was fantastic and we´ve been almost the only ones there, so the silence was amazing.
Fondest memory: A big part of Bolivia are the Anden and the large Altiplano (Highlands). The first time in Bolivia one of the incredible impressions was passing by car altitudes of almost 5000m, and you didn´t realized this altitude. All the time going at almost 4000m you can´t believe that these "little" mountains are already at moe than 6000m. An amazing impression for me....then driving above the clouds as near this little village "Sibiria"...unbelievable.
More Regions in Bolivia