Category Archives: Bolivia

6 Points to Remember while Traveling.

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1.) Find out the Truth for yourself.

If a fellow traveler tells you about their experience visiting  a place, hostel, excursion, or something to do, take it with an open mind and filtered lens. You will only know the truth once you experience it for yourself. Too many times someone had told me so and so is a bad city there is nothing to do there, and then I go and discover it is one of my favourite places! Listen to them fully and then put your own rationality into it and find out the truth for yourself!

2.) Let go.

Let go of time, seasons, worry and fear. When you let go you are able to not think about the past and memories you once had. You will stop thinking about the future planning and organizing. You will find that when you let go of all, you fall into the present and there infinity exists because there is no longer time. When this happens everything will flow, people, places to stay, food to eat, everything will fall into place. Easier said than done, but just do it!

3.) Always Carry Toilet Paper, Always.

4.) Take up a new Talent.

You are never too young or too old to start something new or learn something new. From language to bracelet making, to guitar playing to cooking to traveling just do it! But its wonderful to pick a hobby/talent that you can easily do while traveling because there is so much down time. Waiting for buses, hanging out with down time because you are tired, or just laying hanging out on the beach, something accessible. Traveling makes you have time for these talents that in a “normal routine life” you may not have time for! Oh and it takes a little bit of commitment too but all is possible.

5.) Learn how to to Cook Healthy Local Food.

Travel with spices and food so that you have no excuse to cook healthy. Maybe a little curry, coriander, pepper flakes, mustard seeds, garlic and or favourite cooking ingredients. Healthy means good food for the body and for the mind, there is no excuse to be eating out all the time and not eating healthy when you travel. The local food also makes this exercise more fun because you can experiment.

I always try and cook local of course, which sometimes is hard in places that are hard to grow fruits and veggies but local is the most important. There are always bug convenient supermarkets that have everything you could possibly want in one place, but many of these stores put small shops that are run by local families out of business. So I would encourage travelers to get comfortable knocking on their neighbors gate and asking if they sell cheese or who does, so that they buy straight from the people and not from the big stores!

6.) Hitchhike

You can learn a new language and interact with local people. Hitchhiking provides a free way to travel and a cultural experience as well. Go to gas stations and ask people by knocking on their windows. This way you can look into their eyes and decide if you want to get in the car. And you are more likely to get a ride by asking first and not just with your thumb. Say you don’t have the courage or you are traveling alone? No worries because many people will say no to you, so you will have a lot of practice and can learn patience and new people skills! My travels were much brighter because of Hitching.

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Uyuni – Salt Flats

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This part of my journey was the most majestic, magical, tranquil, serene, silent, breath-taking days. 3 days in salt flats, smooth mountains, flowing rivers, playful streams, frolicking emus, decorated llamas, profound canyons, winding valleys, wind blown snow, hot heated sunshine, freezing cold, dust filled cars, one way bumpy roads, land cruisers, and a delicate full moon against ranges of a sherbet sunset. I was in La Paz for one week with no plans.

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The Salt Flats of Uyuni are the largest salt flats in the world at 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi). It was transformed through perhistoric lake transformations. The Altiplano is the area where the Salt Flats are and are is a high plateau, which was formed during uplift of the Andes mountains. The plateau includes fresh and saltwater lakes as well as salt flats and is surrounded by mountains with no drainage outlets.

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My experiance before heading to the salt Flats: I was thinking of going to the jungle, or maybe to perfect my Spanish east in Sucre, I couldn’t make up my mind. Late one night I met some friends and one of them when asked what he was up to the next day replied, “I’m driving to Uyuni and doing the 3 day Salt Flat tour in the South Eastern part of Bolivia. I responded “that sounds amazing, can I join you?”. Because he has a car I knew it would be cheaper and we could go to more places and take out time. Three days later and I could not of imagined what was to unfold those upcoming days.

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On the Salt Flat tour we saw a bus turned over, these guys were definately stealing some of the bus parts.

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SAM_0548We left from La Paz at 10 am, one hour out of the busy city and we encounter patrol stop number one. The government official would not let us through because we didn’t have a fire extinguisher in the car. After convincing him we were to go and buy one, he finally let us pass. Next was gas. Bolivia gives a special price to foreigners for buying gas. It’s 4-5 Bolivianos a litre for Bolivians and 9.75 for foreigners. You can get turned down from gas stations too as many gas attendance don’t want to fill out paperwork for that and could potentially get into trouble if they give you a cheaper price.

Eventually after being turned down twice we were able to get gas for 7 Bolivianos. Most of these people end up pocketing the extra gain. 9-10 hours later we arrive in windy, cold, buzzing Uyuni and found a place to crash for $30 Bolivianos ($4.4 USD).

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In the morning we were ready to leave but I realised I lost my debit card, and ironically so did my friend. We ended up staying another night as well because we had issues filling up not our car, but the extra 70 litre tanks. Apparently they think we were going to go to sell gas at the border. So we leave the next morning at 10 am, start out for the salt flats. Anyways, after a lot of hassle and wasting time we finally were off. We didn’t have a map, or the slightest idea of where we were going. The salt flats are huge, I am grateful we did not get lost.

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Many people warned us against going alone on the circuit and we were convinced that we could do it ourselves. The next three days were full of bliss. Two hot spring stops, hundreds of mountains ranges, such varying sizes of lakes and colours. There are four different types of pink flamingos living in the area, and just the silence of the wind blowing through the flowers as literally not a soul in sight for kilometres and kilometres. You become apart of the landscape and it was so easy to connect to the land. The energy, the movement of the breeze and the stillness. I get chills thinking about it. That scenery was the most gorgeous landscape I have seen yet on my travels, I would absolutely go back to these flats and hear that it is even more stunning in the wet season as the whole flats become a lake and you can see perfectly the reflection of the sky onto the lake. It is something I want to go back to.

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For every way to get to a new mountain or river, there were always 2-5 different ways to get there. The roads were so bad, some literally had drop downs into dried up rivers. It could of potentially be dangerous. We did get 3 flat tires, including one that happened when we were close to 50 mph winds and the sand was being blown in our faces. Well, on the bright side, I now know how to fix a flat tire.

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If you go alone: bring a GPS with coordinates already mapped up and downloaded. GPS does not work in the middle of no where. Makes sure you bring enough food and water for the days you go into the circuit. There is no place to buy food, except one touristy place that was an overpriced restaurant near the hot springs ¨agua termales¨.

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We camped, which was crazy cold, probably the coldest I have ever been in my life. I could not feel my numb feet and have never shivered that much. I would recommend bringing fire wood if you can so you can build a fire. If you go by yourself make sure to bring AT LEAST 2 – 70 liter gas cans on your roof rack. There are no gas stations and if you are lucky in San Juan or other small towns you can knock on doors and ask the locals if they are selling any gas. Better to be safe than sorry.

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Tire

Here is John fixing the second flat tire, with such crazy winds it blew the jack off the car!

Toll

Here was a toll that one local town decided to make for cars to pass through and pay. Some towns even have a string or rope to make cars stop. Does not seem legal! This one he is using a rock to raise the toll.

In the end, after 3 days of travelling, getting lost, finding our way again, stumbling upon majestic rivers and pink flamingos, running out of gas, getting 3 flat tires, being too cold to sleep, loosing more things on the 3 day trek than our entire travels, and just being unprepared made for an eventful Uyuni tour for me. I would recommend taking a 3 day circuit from Uyuni to the Chilean border. There is so much competition out there, and tons of horror stories that I head. Like they say in Bolivia, what you pay for is what you get!

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Sucre Mural – BeeHive

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Sucre – Spanish influenced city with clean streets, beautiful parks, energetic plazas and with a modern twist. This is where many foreigners come to learn Spanish. The bus system is simple and slow, the streets are busy with more people begging for money than I have seen in all my travels, and the same old hectic markets and fantastic handmade milk ice cream can be found.

I tasted the best food I’ve had so far at a spot called Condor Cafe. It is a vegetarian non profit that support local communities outside of Sucre. The first time I had their panini sandwich it made me want to stay longer in Sucre. The owners are from Australia and Switzerland and find themselves working part of the year in Europe to sustain to project. Dedication!

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I learned how to make an artistic cloth that the local woman make. It takes patience and more patience.

I can see why people stay in Sucre for so long, it’s clean and calm. Honestly this is one o my most favourite large cities. I was pleasantly surprised. I almost missed out on Sucre and am glad I didn’t.

The Mural

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I loved the texture of the paint in Sucre, there was so much contrast.

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SAM_0680Where: Sucre, Bolivia at “BeeHive” Hostel. Not your average hostel as many people stay long term and there is a wonderful sense of community. The two founders, Amanda 28 from California and Suzi, 30 from Sucre. The BeeHive works with local woman of the community through projects such as workshops and volunteering to help woman gain more confidence and financial stability.

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Length of Time: 3 days, 4-5 hours a day and 5 nights I stayed in Sucre.

What: A tree mural logo that will eventually be turned into a “giving tree” where a passport sized picture will be placed on leaves or roots depending on how much you donate to the project. This mural was pretty quick in terms of stay and was a ¨logo¨ piece.

What I learned: You can always plan a mural last minute.

Visa for Boliva, Crossing the Peru-Bolivia Border

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Travellers from The United States must apply for a visa before entering into Bolivia. The U.S. is one of the few countries who are required to do so.

Here are all the requirements one must need for getting into Bolivia, keep in mind that you can stay for 90 days and the Visa is good for 5 years.

  • Pay the Bolivian Bank $160 (or $130 depending where you pay, I paid $160 in Puno) crisp US Dollars
  • Copy of your passport – this means just the page with your information and picture on it.
  • Copy of your passport picture – this does not mean making a scan of your passport again, this means purchasing and taking new photos. Don’t worry there are places everywhere to do this and you can even take one with the Virgin Mary or change your clothes on the extra pictures your $5 soles takes you.
  • Copy of the Malaria Vaccianations
  • Bank Statements – 2 months will do
  • Itinerary – make something up about where you will go on what date and be sure to include in it where you will be staying etc. You don’t have to make reservations just create a word document and make it look like it’s from a tourist agency.
  • Completed application from the Bolivian Consulate.

Then, after they give you your passport and bias you must make a photo copy of it and give it back to the consulate.

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Puno is about 2.5-3 hours away from Copacabana, making it quite an easy border crossing. It was only $20 Soles for a bus ticket. The bus waits for you to stop in the police station and border control then to walk across the border and get your entry stamp into Bolivia.

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La Paz, Bolivia

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Busy, fast, zippy, old and smoggy type of city. At an elevation of 3,650 meters (12,00 feet) with a population of 2.3 million. My most favourite thing about Bolivia so far: The Zebras. That is right, Zebras. I am not talking about the animal, I am talking about the humans who are paid to dress up as Zebras in full body costumes and be the patrol for the pedestrian crossings. Not only do they dance, and flail their arms everywhere, but they also give hugs and little notes of encouragement to people that pass by. There are murals throughout the city in dedication to the Zebras. It is in many Bolivian cities and they are well known and loved by many (including children who I saw hold tightly onto the Zebras). It was just too cute and I could not stand just being friends with these Zebras.

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La Paz was where I went walking and walking and walking and walking. Market after market, stores for buying local clothing, bread, electronics, corner stores, liquor stores, teenager stores, bead stores, string stores, shoes stores, leather stores, and endless amount of stores. Funny thing is that every single store that is similar to one another and sells the exact same thing is always found next to their competition. I still do not understand why they do not separate and get different parts of town and make more money. But this is how it is, one street for one thing in particular. However this makes shopping easy and you can compare prices without having to go far as well.

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One of the markets that was the most interesting was the largest outdoor market in South America in La Paz called “El Alto” which is located just above La Paz and could be considered (but not technically) another city of its own. Many people tell you to not go alone, to not bring a camera, and that people would rob us; but like everything else in South America, people are scared for no reason. We had no problems, only met nice local people, and never felt unsafe. In fact we decided to walk down from El Alto after through the city and that was one of my favourite parts of the while La Paz experience.

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During my visit I went to Mount Chacaltaya at 5,420 meters above sea level. It used to be the highest ski lodge in the world until…about 15 years ago it stopped snowing. Can you say global warming? Now it barely snows there and the ski lodge is abandoned. If you start sneezing, you know that the altitude is getting to you as your brain starts to swell and this is how it releases pressure. The view was stunning and actually the mountain that we saw was the same mountain that Paramount Picture uses in their opening reel. Try running in elevation that high, you cant. Try breathing full breaths, you just cant.

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The same day the tour continued and we continued to the Valle de Luna which was a lake that dried up about 9 million years ago. Walking at the bottom of this lake is incredible as the water formed beautiful statues and sculptures that mirror what the moon would look like if you were to walk on it. It was absolutely incredible to see first hand in one day how the climate changes over time! Mountain weather changing and huge lakes drying up.

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I decided to get a new prescription for my eyes for glasses and contacts as my one in the United States is up. Bolivia is super cheap for getting anything health related and it cost me $30 Bolivianos for an appointment and $120 Bolivianos for glasses. In total costing $13 USD.

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I painted a little canvas with a friend and we installed it at Cafe el Mundo where we would constantly drink coffee and eat delicious food. My friend Roberto is from Sicily and it was nice to be a little creative! We also found some friends to help us paint as well. I think they caused more damage than good, but it was nice company.

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Isla de Sol and Copacabana

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Shimmery glittery glazed sunshine upon the worlds largest and highest Lake, Lake Titicaca. Swarmed by white mountain tops and fluttery joyful birds, Inca ruins, lazy talking llama and sheep-filled fields, the Isla de Sol ¨Island of Sun¨ was a nice break in between two cities, not too expensive and so different than anything else I have seen on my travels.

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The town of Copacabana is where you can leave for the Isla de Sol tour. The town itself has one small touristy street, 6th de Augusto and this can be easily avoided. I stayed at a nice hostel, Sonia Hostel, for $30 ($2 USD) Bolivianos for a private room.

Copacabana is on a little peninsula and you can see the lake from all sides of town. There are tons of sites to see and things to do for day hikes, including one that was 3 hours along the lake. There are ruins in town, and rock carvings, Inca seats where supposidly the Inca empire would sit out and view the lake, and tons of great places to enjoy the views. I did a lot of exploring.

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The first day I was there I decided to go to the ruins around Copacabana and go to all the mirradors, where surprisingly I did not see a soul in sight. I think most people only stay one night and go straight to the island. Here at the top of this look out point there were 3 rocks that were used by the Incas to navigate the stars and decide when the seasons would change. The rocks are still there.

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Llama encounter! The Spanish word for Llama is Alpaca and they are all over Bolivia. What I didn’t know is that they can spit, they have an incredible range for spitting at tourists, especially when they are pissed off. I tried not to get too close but they just look so regal and feminine  I could not help myself!

To get to the Island of Sun there are little boats that go really slow about 3 hours to the North or South end of the Island. It was incredible, named this because the Incas believed that the island was where the sun came from. They also believed that another island just off the Isla de Sol was where the moon came from. Many say the birthplace of the Inca Empire was founded here as well.

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These islands are situated in the middle of this gorgeous lake that almost looks like an ocean because it just keeps going as far as you can see. It’s stunning landscape and turquoise shores remind me of Greece. Is this really Bolivia?

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I’ve been warned about Copacabana- “Don’t go there or the island of the sun, it’s too touristic!” And like I always say, don’t believe everything you hear try it out for yourself.

Copacabana is where all the Isla de Sol boats leave from. The town I will admit is touristy but you can get around it but not going down 6 de Augusto where you are bombarded by people selling bus tickets and telling you to eat in their restaurants. You can avoid it!

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I didn’t want to go from one big city to another so I decided to take my chances on it. This place was definitely worth visiting and Isla de Sol, Island of the Sun was one highlight of my trip. The island was touristy on the south end where people can stay…but nothing compared to what I have been warned about.

I met a man from New Zealand, Mark, and we explored the island through 4 hours of walking discovering ruins, a sacrifice table, and hundreds of lookouts out onto the bright blue water.

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There were three check points where you have to buy a ticket and the money goes to the local community. I was fine with this but it was the children you have to watch out for. They will take a look into your bag at the quickest chance they can. They also ask for money or candy. This was the first time I had seen children like this, interesting to say the least.

I stayed the night on the island, watched the sun set and then woke up at 6:00am for the sunrise over the Island of the Moon. The contrast was just stunning and so breathtaking I did not mind waking up so early!

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Here are the friends I met while on the Island. The boat ride was just beautiful and so lovely to chat with friends and get out of the city. I could not believe how beautiful it was there.

The boat ride there is super slow and was $20 Bolivianos ($2.9 USD) and back was $20 Bolivianos as well.