Bolivia

I survived Bolivia and all I got was this lousy wifi

Sucre in all its beauty

Dear friends, Gather around this imaginary campfire and enjoy yet another mystical chapter of my South America trip.

It’s June 7, 2014. Sitting on the bus from Copacabana to peruvian Cusco, a nearby powerline going by a peasants house where they hang their cloths to dry inspired me to write this and try to spark your attention. Actually, this was my initial 10 page draft which got deleted while uploading. So this new version might contain a fairly higher amount of cynism. So strap on your anti-cynism helmets and let’s rewind by 15 days of Bolivia and 2 days of San Pedro (Chile).

So the bus from Arica to San Pedro switches in Calama where I meet my german mermaids Veronika and ‘Franzi with her backpack’. The avid reader might already guess why future reference to the latter will just be ‘Franzi’. In retrospect, I should have gotten a little suspicious of the two friendly backpack into overhead bin positioners (which might or might not be the official job description) when one consistently called me “Amigo” while I was fairly certain that I did not have this dude on my facebook or google plus account. Later it should turn out that “Amigo” did not really stand for “friend” but rather “Hello sir, I want something from you” in the more touristy regions. The market shouting in those triggered something in me, too. I actually created quite a laugh in the main street of Copacabana when my walk by answer to yet another “Isla del Sol, Isla del Sol!” to myself was “Hmm, Isla del Sol, I’d love ging there. If only someone could sell me a ticket.” but back the story.

San Pedro and the tourist bingo game

Well, if you ever heard someone say “And then I did Country X and Activity Y, have you done city Z?…” you might already understand why i call it Bingo. The well packed activities and excursions in the oncoming places appear like fields on bingo sheets where th biggest braggers shout Bingo when they have another line full. Examples are Sandboarding in SP, Stargazing, Saltbathing, Horse Riding and other one/half day activities. To my shame I have to confess that my own Bingo sheet isn’t empty either.

Sandboarding Snowboarding on glue and endless hikes up the dune… fuuuun! Result: Salty white hands and arms

Here is a quick rundown: Sandboarding is simply snowboarding for masochists. Saltbathing (and especially diving) is for people who like to tactily discover all their open wounds. Wait, that’s actually the same target group as for sandboarding.

But here comes my favorite one:

Salar de Horror-yuni

Pool Meat soup is served! Where probably life but also my most painful days emerged.

A 3 day trip from San Pedro to Uyuni that completly shiftet my all time highscore list of worst experiences ever. I spare you all the symptoms of high altitude sickness which I was happy enough to experience – even though I assumed some Swiss immunity – for all the trip because I’d like to keep one or two readers of this blog. The possible trigger was the first hot thermal bathing during strong wind and the following bottles of wine. A positive thing the trip gave me was a great new group of Aussies, Kiwis, Irish (and Poms* ) starring Ben, Sam, Anna, Mick, Tanya, Lucy and Nate.

The Salar Gang The Salar Gang

[ * ] “Hand me that Pom” and “Hand me that, Pom” are equally inappropriate things to say to a British person unless you’re being ridiculed by some Aussies.

Rock tree The tree that looked like a rock Flamingo Strong local flamingo mafia and the villagers trying to contain them. Stinky Stinky Salar A special kind of Selfie I’m trying to do here Salar A rare behind the scenes shot. Yeah, talk about fake moonlanding!

But even the worst nightmare has an end so finally in Uyuni I manage to get some sleep even though Franzi had to flee the room because of my … let’s call them “lions roaring”, “supermegahyperventilations” and “heart ping timeouts”.

Trains Think Zurich HB is something? Hah, let me introduce Uyuni mainstation.

Next stop: Potosi… or not

This miners city never really pushed my buttons, especially not after hearing that todays group was trapped in the mines because of a rock avalanche. So I gladly chickened out of that experience.

Luckily the Aussies invited me to share a cab to Sucre which would only take two hours. This sounded very nice to me since my Bolivian bus exprience to Potosi was a bit shadowed by the exhaustion fumes a friendly co-traveller let in by keeping his window above the exhaustion pipe open. But of course, Murphy had something fun in store for me, so here follows the story of how to get to Sucre in 5 hours.

Voodoo Mechanics and free Stargazing: Road to Sucre

Brakes are a wonderful thing. While driving down a hilly road, gearing down instead of braking all the way is like giving our girlfriend some space during difficult times. Our driver however was more the clingy type so during a steep downwards curve his love was not answered anymore and the brake pedal went all down forcing this guy to pull the handbrake, which also could be considered as “mildly used” driving into the gravel side lane with acoustic support from the backseats.

After good meant geardown advices and some crazy overhauling maneouvers a toll control point appeared which we slowly but steadily passed like in a slow motion video. Obviously under heavy protest by the controller and other people around. Luckily, two “mechanics” crossed our path offering to fix our problem by removing all wheels and rubbing parts of their sandals on the brake drums (as far as I remember, no chanting or sacrificing was involved, though). In the end, the brake fluid started pouring again as well as the wine we brought along to celebrate under the stary nightsky in the middle of nowhere.

Sucre, a beauty

Yes, without cynism, this is a nice town with a mediterranean flair that we managed to catch perfectly on their independence day, May 25th with many parades, good atmosphere and weird ice cream.

Sucre in all its beauty

Bolivia is also where I start to learn the hard way, that warm water is a luxury. But what could lighten up my mood more than teaching my Aussie/Irish friends the suspenseful art of Jass/Molotov?

Schellen in english: Christmas Decorations

So all in all, Sucre was a pleasant surprise but what follows tops it: The road to Cochabamba, maybe the funniest night bus transit I ever had. Anna and Mick are seated way back, so we chatter via my mobile hotspot about other people and probably the funniest Boliviawood movie ever made.

My seat neighbor made me laugh when ever she shrugged over a well predictable plot twist. Don’t ask me why she covers 50% of the view with her cap.

Boliviawood Movie Boliviawood Movie

Cochabamba

or how I’ve got my biggest wing collapse ever

Greeted by the local air pirat gang Jhusbel, Toño, Conejo and many more I can finally spread my wing again but gosh is it different up here over 3.5k asl: Less oxygen equals more speed and less pressure in the wing, something one should account in before doing a wingover like close to sea level…

Vinto, a sweet spot near Cochabamba The Cochagang! The Cochagang!

Cochabamba is also called the culinary capital of Bolivia even if people of all other cities don’t want to affirm that to me. I eat great and oh so cheap.

Me, in the arms of some stranger Gave a girl my glider bag to play, pure happiness

A short trip to little Switzerland brings back very strong homesickness: Little Switzerland, a funny name considering Switzerland already is so little.

After attending the biannual board meeting of the local paragliding association where my friends in guerilla style exchange every board member by majority voting (who said, these meetings were boring!) I take Jhusbel on a trip to La Paz where we meet local pilotesse Sandra and her friends driving us way out of La Paz to my first ever upthermalling over 4050m. Exciting, you bet. When finally landing after an hour, I can avoid letting my glider fall down on a cow. No everybody is this lucky on that day, right, Sandra?

Amazing thermalling 600m above take off near La Paz

Ok, La Paz itself is not exactly my piece of cake but of course, my Bingo sheet needs another field to cross: Death Road, yeah. La Paz Witch market, bingo! La Paz again, they really fear rain. Quite understandable considering a lot is built on sand.

It’s not the falling down part that should scare you. There are practically no cars or other traffic since they built a much safer alternative road. No, your concern should be your hands that will let you experience how a Tremor might feel. Quite depending on your front traction, I guess. [No Death Road pictures available, Tanya gladly accepts hatemail, she has my CD]

Death Road starts over 4k and goes down to 1k asl. Talking about layering off cloths

Okay, onwards tooooo

Copacabana, where I loose my solo hike&fly virginity

Because of road blocks, we start at 4am to Copa. Sweet comparison of my bag and a daytripper one’s. Copa is cut off from rest of Bolivia, this friendly fisherman rows our tour bus over.

Copacabana is nice and I kill my feet by hiking up an hour long to the antenna mountain just for a sweet solo flight (…twice) but the view is worth it. My bladders on the feet just suggest I shouldn’t have done that right after 5 hours of Isla del Sol trekking. Oh well, mind over body. When the sun is about to set, the motivation to reach the top before it gets dark is quite empowering.

Copa from the take off

For the rest I just let the pictures speak, have fun and see you next time!

They usually charge for such pictures but I could arrange a secret 1:1 date. Some donkeys for yor patience, lovely reader. Finally, Inca ruins! Actually someone’s house, I had to apologize for calling it a ruin. Yes, here we go Lots of lagoons. If you’re here, spend a night on the island’s south. Marvellous sunset. More Lagoons

I mean, I can’t only post pics without people, can I. Could just all be google images. Meet

Charlotte & Ainara

That’s it, folks! Hasta Perú!