Bolivia: an old school country in South America.
Old school is defined as whatever comes from an earlier era and is looked upon with high regard or respect. Bolivia is in many ways pretty old school.
A stranger is a friend you've never met before
After acclimatising to the thin air of La Paz my girlfriend and I boarded a bus to Copacabana (not the Brazilian one). Bolivia's Copacabana lies beautifully at lake Titicaca and it wasn't long before we were able to take in the stunning view while enjoying some freshly caught trout.
Copacabana at lake Titicaca is for many people a holy place. The distance from La Paz is 155.4 km which many carry out as a pilgrimage every year on foot.
Copacabana is hiding behind the wooden cross.
In Bolivia, as in many countries, religion holds a special place for most people. You will find an interesting blend between the "old Andean ways" and the more "modern" catholic way. Offerings are still a large part of the belief system for many be it: candy houses, toy cars, pretend money, dried lama fetuses or alcohol. It all goes on the fire and preferably as high up as possible.
My girlfriend being reborn (?) in her elegance :)
Mountains hold a very special meaning and at Copacabana the two twin mountains, San Christobal and Santa Barbara, together make up the sacred place called Huaca.
Lama fetuses (in the background) are commonly burned as religious sacrifice.
After a few nights in Copacabana we headed towards Cochabamba which has a beautiful town center and a lot of bus connections. From there we managed a bus connection to the national park of Torotoro. Bolivia is plentiful in beautiful landscapes and national parks. This one caught my attention because it has dinosaur footprints!! Yeah baby! :)
Only in Bolivia? Last week my bus stopped as it ran out of fuel. But the drivers flagged down another bus and solved the situation.
The distance from Cochabamba to Torotoro is a mere 150 kilometers. But the trip takes around 7 hours do to the small mountain roads which wind their way up through a gorgeous canyon. For the most part it was a cobblestone road which in itself amazed me quite a bit. I can grasp the concept of a few hundred meters of cobblestone road in an old town somewhere. But perhaps more than 100 kilometers?! Someone had to lay down all those stones and I'm pretty sure that it hasn't been done with some fancy machine. It looks idyllic...but it makes for a long and bumpy ride. We were the only tourists in the very local bus and it made for an even greater experience. I didn't join in on the chewing of coca leaves but I enjoyed looking over the seats ahead of me from where I could see from one fancy hat to the next.
The traditional clothes are worn by many and makes for a colorful visit.
The village of Torotoro is probably the definition of what's idyllic. Due to the dinosaur footprints that surround the village I halfway expected locals to sell all sorts of dinosaur merchandise but it really wasn't the case. For the most part the locals kept to themselves in a polite fashion and we could wander around as if we had been swept back in time - boxed into our own private time capsule of true Spanish colonial time.
Above: Torotoro, the steep mountainsides used to be horizontal until the valley floor collapsed many years ago.
below: until 1968 the locals believed that the footprints originated from giant chicken :)
No internet. Not much English. Good food. Fresh air. Fantastic hospitality. Low costs. Breathtaking landscapes. Dinosaur footprints. Quiet nights. No rush. Splendid!!
Polly wants a cracker? This parrot came to say hello one morning.
One evening we were at a small local restaurant where we enjoyed a lasagne that could only be rivaled within Italy itself (I had to ask for seconds). A storm swept over Torotoro and the harsh wind and rain cut the electricity for the entire village. Candle lights were now the dominant source of light and if I had the feeling of being back in time before then it was now enforced further. As we left the restaurant only by the light of an iPhone we had to pause for a second as a cow crossed the road in front of us.
The electricity did not come back until the next day so we were also issued candles at our hostel. I don't know if I could live a life like that. But I certainly could go back for more.
I love a guide that will let you do this! And then help you take a picture of it! :)
It wasn't easy "escaping" Torotoro. In fact the bus we were leaving on was cancelled and we had to stay an extra night. But the next morning we eventually boarded the old local bus and said our goodbyes to a place I hope will stay within my memories for a long time. I mostly slept on the way back to Cochabamba so I guess my body had found peace with the cobblestone road.
A typical market situation in almost any Bolivian town I have seen.
From Cochabamba we caught another bus which took us to Sucre. Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia although there are more government offices in La Paz. I don't really find that you get what you pay for when it comes to buses in Bolivia. Sometimes I get a luxury bus and other times I get something from the past...from way down the road of the dusty old past. And sometimes this difference plays out within the same company at the same price? It's like a lottery. The bus that got us to Sucre was like nothing I have ever seen before. It was basically a metal tube with wheels. I wouldn't even be able to guess which country it might have come from. It was sort of cool and scary at the same time. It could have come from a parallel dimension I guess? It was pretty old - that's for sure. And to my great surprise a large portion of the road connecting Cochabamba with the capital of Bolivia was cobblestone road? Oh well...we don't travel to see what we already have. We travel in order to get inspired and learn new ways.
Its not uncommon to see a doll hanging as a warning to criminals.
I had the honor of meeting the very famous artist who goes by the name Mamani Mamani. Check him out!
And of course I shaved before my girlfriend arrived. And I miss my beard already :)
I love Bolivia for more reasons than I care to mention.
Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - enjoying being offline. Think about it ;)