South America Part VI - Bolivia

Note: I have been have a TERRIBLE time trying to attach fotos on Yahoo lately...many hours in the internet cafe and no luck. Because we must move on to haul Satori, we will send the rest of the messages without the foto attachments. WE really regret this because we have some fantastic fotos to share. Hope the stories are still worth your time without the fotos.

There were some interesting things to do in La Paz. Because the city is in a bowl with mountains around it, the streets are very steep. For this reason we would go out exploring downhill and then take a taxi back to our hotel.

Sander found a small company who repaired his electric razor that works better now than it has in years…cost - $10. They replaced the batteries. Could we have done that in the USA, the land of throw-aways? We got a lovely picture of a lady selling flowers. Photo #2 will be one of our treasures for a long time to come. We also found a very interesting museum in the city funded by someone from Holland. The pros and cons of the coca plant were explained there. On the antiplano in the highlands, the coca leaf has historically been important to the people. Chewing the coca leaf and drinking infusions of the dried leaf have proven medically affective to combat the affects of high altitude. They also have a strong positive affect against high blood sugar level of diabetics. The evils of coca came with the purification of the leaf – hence the negative and addictive properties of Cocaine.

Although it is a small museum, it is a great example of what can be accomplished when thought out properly. Interestingly, museums in South America are often a matter of just throwing things together in a haphazard way. We would shudder at seeing some valuable and interesting paintings hanging askew on the wall. Our friend Richard (in Cajamarca) confirmed for us that Peru is the country of crooked pictures. One of the funniest stories about pictures came from Nancy while in La Paz. Our hotel displayed a large map of the area on the wall in the lobby. Nancy was tracing a route on that map with her finger when all the lights went out. They had mounted the map over the light switch.

Photo #1 is of Lake Titicaca as we approached Puno. Note the beautiful blue of the water. That is the effect of the clear air at the high altitudes. Steve and Nancy were recovering from their high altitude problems, but Jane was getting sicker all the time. It seems that her cold settled into her chest and a nasty sinus infection was developing. Each day she would need to rest for two hours in the early afternoon in order to survive the rest of the day. That was a real concern. The Carlman’s wanted to see more of Bolivia and all of it was at the same altitude or higher. For this reason we decided to part company in La Paz. Jane and Sander went on south to Oruru where they would catch a train south to the border with Argentina. Nancy and Stephen spent the next two weeks exploring several cities in Bolivia. It took them a total of ten days to become accustomed to the high altitude.

We went on by bus south of La Paz to Oruru where we made arrangements for tickets aboard the train. Then we went straight to the pharmacy and purchased amoxycillin. We had to wait until 3 PM the next day for the departure of the train and used that time to explore a mine tunnel museum. The whole central area of Bolivia depends upon mining. The city of Potosi was the silver capital of the world. Towards the end of the 18th century it was the wealthiest city of Latin America sending all of its bounty on to Spain. Today silver extraction continues on a small scale, but tin has taken silver’s place as the primary metal export of the country. The train ride to the south of Bolivia was interesting but most of it was at night. Early the next morning found us walking across the border with a young couple from England on holiday. They had both just completed their training as lawyers (perhaps properly called barristers in this case). We often met young people on holiday as we traveled and really enjoyed their company although we often wondered how they could afford to be vacationing for such long periods of time. The “One World Alliance” offers Round the World flight packages for a very reasonable price, about $1600. Over the period of one year the person has a choice of several countries and then several cities within those countries to visit. A general itinerary must be decided before departure with dates set. The dates can be changed but a change in itinerary brings an extra cost to it. We often met people in their 20’s or 30’s who had finished one job and were vacationing before returning to seek a new one. The job market in Europe seems to be a bit different from the USA. The situation seems to be a lot less permanent and the young people are happy to stay mobile and independent. Of course they are usually without children as well.

Perhaps it would be interesting at this point to mention our expenses while traveling in South America.

The most expensive hotel for us was in Cajamarca, our second night. It cost $22. Except for Chile we always had a private bath with hot water and the rooms were clean. Nearly always we had to ask for towels, soap and toilet paper but they were provided. Chile is more expensive than the rest. For a private bath there we would have to pay more than $20. Most restaurants offered a menu for a reasonable price, from $1-3. This would consist of a soup, several choices for the main course, and a drink. In Argentina this expanded to a filet mignon of the highest quality, potatoes and asparagus, with a bottle of excellent wine for less than $10 for the two of us. Transportation by bus was inexpensive in all the countries and the range of services offered by the bus companies varied. The more expensive service offered extra wide seats, videos, air conditioning and meals. When we chose to travel through the night, we would pay the extra money and ride quite comfortably.

Perhaps you can see that vacationing in these countries is very affordable. We have also heard that it is equally affordable in the far East countries.

The next message will tell you a little more about our favorite country, Argentina.