THINGS I DID AND DIDN'T HAVEE TIME TO WRITE ABOUT BUT WANT TO REMEMBER
05.07.2016 - 23.07.2016
1. Tourism – They haven’t quite got it mastered yet but they are getting there. Our excursions and travels were all without incident but bathrooms and water were never as simple as in Peru. Our tour coordinator thought a 4-ounce bottle of water would do us on the 11-hour bus trip.
2. Mining is the number one industry.
3. The poorest of all the South American countries. Sixty percent of the population live below the poverty line and it is worst in rural areas. Some of the areas we drove through were the worst I have ever seen.
4. Has two capital cities. Sucre is the official capital although La Paz is considered to be the administrative capital.
5. Altitude. La Paz, is considered to be the highest capital in the world. It is 3640 meters above sea level (11,942 feet).
6. The airport (El Alto) is even higher at 4100 meters above sea level. We were many places higher than that. We felt fine until we walked up hill, even an incline was labour intensive. Everything was up hill!
7. With altitude comes dry land and dry air. My skin feels like leather. We all had a few minor nose bleeds.
8. Wifi – almost as bad as Peru.
9. Even more people chew Coca. The government claims to have strict control over the use of the leaves claiming all the cocaine in the country is coming from the bordering countries. From what I gather, no one believes that.
10. Bolivian Salt Flats. Tick! 11,000 square kilometers of flat white salt. Once under the ocean, now hosts very little wildlife, except the pink flamingos.
11. Many issues with drunk drivers on the salt flats. We even saw a driver, with tourists, drinking out of a flask. I expressed my concern when we booked and we had no issues. Our drivers were great.
12. Eighty percent of the population is Catholic however the Quechua and Aymara often pray to the Virgin Mary and the various Catholic saints while simultaneously offering sacrifices to the Pachamama (Mother Earth). Llama fetuses are often part of the sacrifice.
13. A decent meal is…..I am not sure we had one. Quinoa and potato with no seasoning. A bottle of water was between 5-8bs. Pizza was popular and our saviour. Our hotel in La Paz did have decent food and we ate there a few times.
14. The currency is the Boliviano; one Canadian dollar is about 5 bs.
15. Llama is on every menu.
16. The Cholas or Cholitas. The ladies in the big skirts and bowler hats or fancy hats carrying the colourful bags which hold goods or children. The sense of elegance is a direct contradiction to the obvious poverty. I often felt like I was walking through a movie set.
17. I will not forget all the begging in the street or worst the very young children dancing in the streets with a money dish in front of them. When we walked by, I saw a mother push her daughter to perform in hopes that we might pay. As much as it breaks my heart, I would never pay. I cannot encourage such exploitation of children.
18. I won’t forget the kids being offered cocaine in the streets in broad daylight.
19. La Paz was interesting and beautiful but it was also a little scary. I never felt like going out after dark. As much as I loved my time there, it made me a little sad.
20. I won’t forget how I felt when my guide told me he saved two of four Advil I gave him days before. Here’s what happened…..
While we took the nice tourist bus to Uyuni, our guide had to take a different, and I imagine, not so nice, bus. He had little sleep and at the end of our magnificent first day on the salt flats, he looked tired and mentioned he had a headache. He said don’t worry, I will go look for a pharmacy to see if I can get something. I gave him enough Advil for the night (4). Three days later when I hired him for our extra day, he asked me about them and said they worked so well, he saved two of them in case his daughter or wife had a headache or pain. He told me medicine was available but expensive and they would never use ibuprofen for pain, it was for serious fever. The conversation continued and I got the impression that although he was university educated, his life was not that easy. When we parted, he had my bottle of Advil, some Tylenol and a number of other things that I no longer needed. Talk about perspective.