Bolivia

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Cute friendly Bolivian children
Day 99 - Free camping

Bolivia is a great country. It doesn't have many tarmaced roads, everything is super cheap, and the Bolivians are really nice people. Apart from the pickpockets...


The roads of Bolivia

We set up camp in a dry riverbed in the mountains. Our tent would be swept away if it had rained. However it stayed dry so no exciting story there. Our campsite for the night

Only salt in every direction

Day 100 & 101- Uyuni salt flats.

The worlds largest salt flats - 20,000 sq km (the size of Wales?) of nothing but salt, half a metre deep for 100km in every direction. Spectacular, especially at sunset.

Michelle won the 'random gymnastics' competition

Sunset over the salt flats

A random Bolivian on his way home. Jesus was his name...

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Day 102 & 103 - Potosi silver mine

This place is crazy. It's the highest city in the world at 4000m, built around a mountain that is rich in silver. We went on a tour of the mine, which has horrendous working conditions. Dynamite, which I bought for 70p


Outside the dynamite and cocaine shop

We had to take gifts down for the miners. We bought dynamite (seriously!), coca leaves (cocaine - yes, I'm still serious!) and a 50% alcohol drink.

Coca leaves are really nice to chew -
click for video

It was proven correct that you can't set off dynamite by biting it...

Hauling a 2 ton cart of rocks. Note coca leaves stuffed in cheek.

The average lifespan is 10 years, 1 in 6 miners die each year. They earn £2 a day, breathing arsenic dust and pushing 2 ton trolleys of rocks for 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. They don 't eat all day, they just chew coca leaves to numb their senses. Pushing the cart. The bottle of coke was a gift from us.

That was a yellow suit before she fell in the toxic waste.

Safety is non existant for the miners and for visitors. When looking round the processing plant a girl in our group fell into a pit of slurry up to her neck. She was badly shaken and spent the rest of the day covered in chemicals you would need a space suit to handle in England. Luckily her head didn't go under. Crawling through some tunnels

We tried the 50% alcohol drink. It was really nice and tasty...

Then one guy nearly fell into a machine that would have removed his arm, but luckily grabbed Michelle in time to steady himself. Later on, when deep underground he then fell down a shaft, dislocating his kneecap. It could have been worse - if he hadn't landed on Michelle, he would have Michelle, giving dynamite to a miner. She wouldn't let me keep it... :-(

fallen down another shaft as well... After much screaming and distress, the guide pushed his kneecap back into place and he was able to walk again so we didn't have to drag him out from miles underground...

 

Day 104 - 106: Sucre (Capital of Bolivia)

Not much here except dinosaur footprints... The wall behind Michelle in the photo used to be the muddy edge of a lake 65 million years ago. The rows of dots are dinosaur footprints. A 25 metre brontosauraus walked top to bottom, and a tyranosaurus rex left to right.

Bolivia is so cheap it's beyond belief. We are eating 3 course meals plus drinks for £1. I don't even object to leaving a 10% tip...

In the meat markets you can buy cows noses for 30p, but I wasn't hungry at the time...

We waited for the dinosaurs to walk past again, but they didn't

La Paz

Day 107: La Paz (Altitude 3700m)

The world's highest capital, except it's not the capital really. People who fly to here get instant altitude sickness, but we're used to the height now.

 

Bolivians drive in a way that makes Italians look courteous. Traffic lights are purely decorations and if they haven't blown their horn for 20 seconds, they have their car confiscated (I assume). Roundabouts are like the first corner of a motocross race... if you know what that's like...

 

They sell some fascinating things. In the witches market you can buy dried llama foetus' for £1.30. Useful to know if you ever need one...

Hmm. nice...

Day 108: Mountain biking down the world's most dangerous road

100 people die each year on this road, including 2 cyclists. Therefore I reckon we had around a 1 in 5000 chance of dying...

It starts at 4,700m in the mountains and descends to 1,200m, 70km later in Coroico. It's just a one-truck-wide mud road, with certain-death drops on one side. And trucks just round the next corner...

We had no real dramas. 4 of our 15 fell off, but rather boringly, no serious injuries. It was spectacular scenery, but because the risks were so high you never had the thrill of going really fast.

I don't really see how it's possible to die here...

At the top, above the clouds

The road ahead is paved with mud. And trucks...

Day 109: The worlds highest ski resort. Altitude 5400m

Higher than Everest base camp, and will probably be the highest place we go in our lives.

It's not really a ski resort. There's one lift and it doesnt work...

And there's no snow.

 

Higher than Everest (er... base camp)

Luckily at the top was a comfortable rest place...

We chewed loads of coca (cocaine) leaves (30p a bag!) to 'help with the altitude' but they are revolting and all they seem to do is make your mouth numb.

We climbed up around 400m fairly slowly, with stops, and still my heart rate was around 140bpm.

Ski conditions would have been perfect... with some snow...

A big statue thing. Yawn.

Day 110: The Tiwanaku ruins

Apparantly there was a bunch of people who lived here in Bolivia 1000 years ago and they built big stone statues.

They later became the Incas. Or did the Incas kill them all? I can't remember.

Bolivia was flippin great. Interesting, crazy friendly and really cheap. Now for Peru...

 

 

Taking photos at the border upsets officials. So that makes it a challenge...

 

Next country - Peru