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27th April 2010
Cochabamba lies in a wide fertile valley surrounded by high mountains. It has the usual handfull of colonial churches in the center and a busy market.
We hired a taxi for the day to take us into a remote valley to see the rarely visited ruins of the fortified Inca city Incallajta, 150 kilometers from Cochabamba. It is an enormous complex. On the way we visited the little mountain pueblos of Tarata and Totora.
25th April 2010
Around Sucre are many little pueblos where the indigenous women weave intricate pieces by traditional methods, dating back thousands of years.
Tarabuco, 65 kilometres to the southeast where women weave multi coloured cloth, has a sprawling Sunday market. People from the nearby pueblos arrive in traditional dress.
A 4 day trek in the Cordiellera de los Frailes took us through small Quechua speaking communities. Here the women weave black and red cloth panels with no set pattern. The technique has been passed down the generations, each one taking 3 months to complete.
We walked along old Inca footpaths, saw dinosaur footprints and pre Inca pictographs. In one of the pueblos we shared a field workers lunch. Potatoes, corn cobs and beans are placed in coals and covered with earth in the middle of the field. The food slowly cooks while the people work.
19th April 2010
Sucre, founded in 1538, is a Cultural Heritage Site. It is a city of dazzling white colonial buildings and churches.
There is a bustling central market where anything and everything is sold. The local food is fresh, cheap and good. One of our favourites is papas rellenas (potato balls stuffed with cheese and egg).
At Santa Teresa Convent we purchased sweets from the nuns by way of a miniature revolving door which isolates the nuns from the outside world.
15th April 2010
At 4060 metres Potosí, founded in 1545, is the world´s highest city and a Unesco World Heritage which once had over 80 churches and was the richest city in the world.
Silver from the mine supported Spain for over 200 years to the detriment of millions of Bolivian and African slaves. Conditions in the mine today are not much better.
Many fine colonial buildings remain along the narrow cobbled streets of the old town.
The traditional Bolivian women (Cholas) wear their hair in 2 long plaits with a hat on top, a full skirt (pollera) over multiple petticoats and wrap themselves in colourful shawls. Sadly, the younger girls opt for jeans and t-shirts.
We were reluctant to leave Potosí but didn´t want to miss out on the little local trolly/train that wound its way around the hills to Sucre, stopping for people waiting by the tracks and at pueblos not reached by road. There were people with big bundles sitting in the aisles, someone had a dog, and someone got on with a bucket full of the local brew. It took twice as long as the bus but well worth it.
13th April 2010
On the edge of the salt flats, we spent a night in a hotel made entirely of salt – salt brick walls, salt floor as well as salt beds, tables and chairs.
Our final day began as the sun rose over the largest salt flats in the world, El Salar de Uyuni (10.5 square kilometres) at 3700 metres.
In the middle is La Isla del Pescado (Fish Island), a coral island covered in Cardon cactus.
We spent some time composing tricky camera shots on the salt surface before ending our excursion at Uyuni with its train cemetry where all Bolivian trains go when they die.
12th April 2010
A fine introduction to Bolivia was a 4 day excursion with Tupiza Tours from Tupiza to Uyuni via the Uyuni Salt Flats. Through the Quebrada de Palala our 4 x 4 ascended to the high plains where llama and the smaller, endangered vicuña graze.
After the abandoned (ghost) mining town of San Antonio we visited hot springs, coloured lagoons with flamingos, geysers, multi coloured volcanoes both dormant and active, a necropolis in tiny San Juan containing remains of pre Inca people, strange lava formations as well as a ¨Dali¨ desert – all between 4000 and 5000 metres.
We were in good hands with our driver/guide Victor, who was very informative and always cheerful. Magali, our cook kept us well fed, getting up in the early hours to prepare wonderful meals. Her dried llama tamales were delicious. Together with Mariana and Martin from Argentina we had a great experience.
06th April 2010
We continued north from Salta to San Salvador de Jujuy (1200 meters) and on to La Quiaca (3440 meters) on the Bolivian border. The highway through yet another spectacular gorge (quebrada) is dotted with little adobe villages populated with indigenous people.
Purmamarca (2190 meters), a staging post on the Inca Road, is surrounded by multi-coloured hills, has a lovely adobe church facing the square and a lively handicraft fair.
Large colourful mosaics made from flowers, seeds, leaves and moss depicting Easter scenes lined the streets of Tilcara (2460 meters). The local Festival de Doma (a bareback wild horse riding competition) was new experience for us.
At 12 midday (mas o menos) in Humahuaca (2990 meters), a life-size statue of San Francisco Solano emerges from the clock tower to bless the people below.
And now onto Bolivia ….