Bolivia really is the Best

I think it would be untrue to say that I didn’t have some preconceived ideas as to what Bolivia was going to be like. I would mostly blame movies and all the warning sections in the guide books.
I was expecting cocaine taking, gun wielding kidnappers. What I got were some incredibly friendly and very welcoming coca leaf chewing people. I think the nation suffers from having a natural facial expression which is set into a frown but we quickly saw some smiles when chatting and interacting with them.
Now I am not going to paint a completely rosie picture, I will admit that we were fairly responsible in where we went and certainly were fairly cautious as to which taxis we caught. There were a couple of occasions when we were a little worried but certainly on the whole we felt very comfortable.
The first thing we noticed in Bolivia was the altitude. This is probably due to the fact that on the first day we arrived we ascended from 2000m to sleep at 4800m above sea level. In fact the whole time we were in Bolivia (apart from the jungle which was just above sea level) we were at about 4000m above sea level. Which is bloody high!!
The altitude really does effect you, it’s certainly difficult to catch your breath at times and any physical exercise leaves you gasping for air. We did notice though that our recovery times got significantly quicker over time.  
The sights we saw were some of the most fantastic we have come across. While spectacular though they are all quite raw. That is to say that in most other countries we would have been held back by barriers or instructed to walk on walkways. Not here though, in fact you could clamber all over a lot of the natural sights and there wasn’t a “do not touch” sign to be seen. I think that’s something that will definitely change over the years.
One of the nicest thing about Bolivia is the evidence of the indigenous peoples. I don’t know whether this is due to strong genes or just a lack of inter breeding but there doesn’t seem to have been as much “dilution” by the Europeans as elsewhere in South America.
It’s also clear that Bolivia is not as developed as other countries. There are a lot of people living in villages which, when you see them, make you feel as though you are watching something from the past. There seem to be a lot of people living in rural communities in a manner which won’t have changed very much in many decades.
We didn’t get to discover enough but it did seem that the norm was to own a very small farm or small holding. Which usually consisted of just one small field with maybe a pig or two, a donkey or a Llama. There was quinoa and potatoes abound.
The picture I had in my head of the ladies carrying their loads in brightly coloured fabrics was indeed the norm. In fact it became pretty clear how much work the ladies actually did, you would often see them in the fields.
One of the stranger things we saw was that in the markets you would be able to buy a whole variety of produce. However the stalls would be divided into there different sections. That is to say that you would have a fruit area, an egg area, meat area, kitchen utensil area etc etc. Within these areas every stall would be exactly the same!! Even the stall owners wouldn’t have won any salesman of the year awards as they just waited for you to approach them.
The fact that you weren’t given the hard sale every time you went into a shop was also quite refreshing and it was nice just to have a look without being pestered. It did make bargaining harder though as they just didn’t seem to care whether they made the sale or not.
Now I am not going to say that Bolivia is stuck in the dark ages, certainly not, as apart from a couple of places we had internet in every place we stayed. There were also a fair number of smart phones and tablets on show. Also we could pay by card in most places (another dig at Argentina?!)
The most scared we have been in Bolivia has probably been on some of the roads. With altitude comes high roads and long drops on the side of the roads. A lot of the roads we were on were unpaved and when two mini busses tried to pass each other the tires of the outer bus had to be inch perfect!!! The most scary was after it had rained as there were times we certainly didn’t want to get a slide on!! On the flip side it makes a mockery as to what we won’t drive our cars on.
On the whole though the places we saw struck a nice balance between modernism and retaining some culture and tradition.
In fact we both fell in love with the place. The whole experience was just fantastic. Yes we scared ourselves to death on planes and pushed ourselves way too hard at altitude but had a great time doing it. It really felt that we had come to another country and another world (if that makes any sense)
To cut myself short I would just say we had an absolutely fantastic time and saw some of the most amazing sights in Bolivia. I couldn’t recommend coming here enough. T

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