The Wish List Tourist: Bolivia

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A Northamptonshire woman has set off on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

You can follow her progress with the Northants Telegraph.

Rebecca has been enjoying the mountain highs and sad lows of Bolivia.

I was told that if I was going to get sick anywhere it would be Bolivia.

And I was. So much so that I missed one of the sights I was looking forward to the most on my trip to South America – Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat.

But I managed to make it through with only one disappointment.

Bolivia was bookended by two stunning, natural attractions.

Lake Titicaca and the Isla del Sol were a pleasant introduction to this country.

La Paz

La Paz welcomes you with a statue made from car parts of Che Guevara stepping on the American bald eagle.

On market day its streets are lined with stalls selling llama foetuses and potions that should be steered clear of at all costs.

This is an ugly, dirty city and I was glad to leave.

High up in the mountains, more than 4,000m above sea level, Potosí holds a special, but undesirable pull, with its trips down mines, where children as young as 10 are working, and conditions are deadly.

It’s a sad fact of Bolivian life, so as a tourist I was encouraged to take food, drinks, coca leaves and dynamite to give the miners.

Uyuni

In Uyuni, I happened on some travellers’ luck.

Not only is this the gateway to the salt flat, but I was there at the same time as the Dakar Rally.

Before I succumbed to the lurgy, I got to see both the cars and bikes go through this small town to rapturous crowds, including the Bolivian president.

Every day was a party – and then it was over and the town was quiet.

The train graveyard, surprisingly fascinating, became the town’s only tourist attraction again and it was time for me to leave too.

Lake Colarado

The highlight of Bolivia was the altiplano.

The beauty of the multicoloured Lake Colorado, inhabited by pink flamingoes, was magnificent.

My sickness (yup, not better yet – it was a month before I was well again) was almost forgotten while I watched and listened to flocks of these beautiful birds, set against a mountainous backdrop and reflected in the still water.

The day’s sightseeing was coupled with the strange Rock Valley, made of solidified lava and shaped by the strong wind.

And then back to reality, as I arrived at the basic border crossing, to take the road to Chile.

Travellers’ tips

Be careful what you eat/drink/swim in. I wasn’t the only traveller suffering in Bolivia.

The weather in the desert changed in a flash while I was there in January.

One minute it would be hot and sunny, the next cold and pouring with rain. Take layers and a poncho!

Eat: Humita

Drink: Herbal tea

Loved: The scenery

Hated: Child labour at the mines

Where I stayed

Hotel Jerusalem, Potosí

Toñito Hotel, Uyuni, which serves tasty pizza.

Where I ate

The Melting Pot y Rock, La Paz

Manzana Magica, Potosí.

I didn’t get to eat here, I arrived too late in the afternoon and the food was sold out, but a vegetarian restaurant in South America with good reviews needs to be listed here!

Get there early to avoid disappointment.

Where I drank

Oliver’s English Tavern, La Paz.

What I saw

The Bolivian Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, including Laguna Colorado, Laguna Verde, mountains, volcanoes, geysers and hot springs.

This altiplano has a stunning variety of colours and is unlike any place I’ve ever seen.

Rock Valley, Enrique Baldivieso Province.

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