Deaf Travel7th February 2014
The Wonderful Sights and Scenery of Bolivia
A visit to Bolivia provided some of the best photo opportunities experienced anywhere in the world.
The Bolivian city of La Paz, is famed for being the highest capital city in the world, reaching an altitude of 4000m. All of the descriptions we had read of the city described a cascading sea of buildings, spilling down the edge of a mountain. It was known as the city touching the sky.
We arrived during the evening and we went to a pub to try out a bottle of the local beer Judas. After just one bottle we were already feeling the effects of the alcohol and I remember turning to my friend saying our stay here is going to be cheap as we won’t need to spend much money to get drunk!
Next morning we were keen to explore the city which was swarming with Bolivians. It was loud and busy but there was a wonderful energy about it. We wandered around the "witches market" which was an experience to remember. We came upon an interesting item that turned out to be dried llama fetuses which locals bury under their front porches for good luck.
It seems crazy to say this, but one of the 'must do' activities in Bolivia is to cycle the World's Most Dangerous Road. Its name is no exaggeration – an average of 25 vehicles go over the edge every year. Despite hearing a lot of stories about this road, we did not care about it until we saw this one single dirt road clinging to the side of the steep cliff sides where vehicles regularly passed through travelling both ways!
Our guide shared with us some of the horror stories that had happened on the road since people started riding on it. He told us that only the week before a girl had stumbled over the edge. We didn’t dare ask if she made it alive or not. We had no idea of what we were about to undertake but looking at this picture you can certainly say that we were brave!
But after 60 kms of downhill cycling we arrived safely at the bottom, the scenery was so beautiful and we had lunch at La Sende Verde animal sanctuary where we were treated to drinks, a buffet and a play with some very inquisitive monkeys. Volunteers run the sanctuary, which saves animals from the black market. A lot of the monkeys were trained to steal, especially pickpocketing, so we were warned to remove anything of value before we went into their area. I even removed my cochlear implant!
One of the highlights of our visit to Bolivia was visiting the world’s largest salt flats known as the Salar de Uyuni. No one knows how much salt is in the salt flats but it is estimated to be millions of tons. We were surrounded by spectacular and surreal landscapes which gave us plenty of photo opportunities.
Our visit coincided with the wet season which meant that a shimmering layer of water covered part of the area and created beautiful reflections. Coming across this man mining for salt is one of my lasting memories of Bolivia.
We were told not to expect a lot of comfort as the conditions were very harsh but the rewards of the tour in a 4WD (4wheeldrive) were worth it in the end. First we went to visit the train cemetery where we saw the old rusting trains from decades ago. We climbed on them and we would never get this chance in the UK!
We then visited the Isla del Pescado which is known as Fish Island which was full of slow-growing cacti. Some of the cacti are over 1,200 years old and reach up to 10 metre high. This outcrop island had a great view of the salt flats all around.
Our journey continued as we passed an amazing red coloured lake which was called Laguna Colorado. It was home to 3 species of flamingo. We were feeling very fortunate to have seen them in their natural habitat rather than seeing them held in captivity in SeaWorld or somewhere similar.
After that we arrived in a desert of Siloli where the “Tree of Rock” was located.
Our scenery at that point was a barren volcanic desert-like landscape with rock formations that was very unusual. Being there just felt surreal, it was entirely different to any other place I have experienced. We ended the day by staying the night in the Village of Villa Candelaria where we stayed in a salt hotel at an altitude of 4600 m. Being so high it was freezing throughout the night! It was so cold inside the building I was tempted to sleep in the jeep!
On the last day of the tour, we got up at 5am which was a bit of a struggle, but it was worth it as we visited the Sol De Manana geysers where we saw the bubbling mud pools and steam jets which stank of rotten eggs. Geysers exist in only a few places on Earth so we were feeling very lucky to have experienced this.
After experiencing the geysers, we had a chance to relax in the natural hot springs where our sore bodies were comforted after experiencing the harsh conditions we had gone through for 5 days.
After our relaxing and much needed break we went to visit the “Dali desert”, to see the green mineral waters of this lake at the foot of Volcano Licancabur. Sadly, this concluded our trip and left us with some wonderful memories that we would never forget along with new friends from Argentina!
Article by Heather Thomas travel writer
posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Deaf Travel
7th February 2014