We’re at the end of our three month stay in Bolivia: one of the most incredible periods in our lives. In the past 91 days, we’ve seen more amazing places and done more exciting things than I could ever have anticipated. It’s been an experience that we’ll never forget
Santa Cruz is in Bolivia’s Amazonian Basin, surrounded by jungles, with the hot, humid climate of a rain forest. So the existence of a massive field of sand dunes just sixteen kilometers south of the city is a geological marvel. On our very last day in Bolivia, we visited Las Lomas de Arena, declared a National Park in 1990.
Seven kilometers outside of Santa Cruz, the Biocenter Güembé combines aspects of a resort, a natural recreation park, a swimming pool, and a zoo. We visited for half a day and could happily have stayed for much longer, relaxing by the pool or exploring the grounds more thoroughly.
While “chewing” is the popular term for it, the leaves should never actually be munched upon. Instead, they should be placed one-by-one into the cheek, forming a small saliva-generating ball which you just leave there. Because the stems of the leaves can hurt the inside of your cheek, you should remove them first. Some remove the stems by sliding the leaves between their two front teeth, while others use a lick-fold-tear method.
If you’re going to call yourself “Island of the Sun”, you had better be pretty awesome. Island of the Tick and Sock Isle, you guys can go ahead and suck: we’re not expecting much from you. But an island named after the entity around which our world rotates, which provides warmth and life to everything on the planet? You had better be freaking amazing. And with some crazy Inca ruins, a central role in ancient mythology, and a gorgeous setting in the world’s highest navigable lake, the Isla del Sol definitely delivers.
The hill at the northern end of Copacabana is called the Calvario, or Station of the Cross. The trail, leading past fourteen crosses, takes about thirty minutes to ascend, and at the top, you’re rewarded with a great view of the city behind you and Lake Titicaca, stretching out endlessly in front.
Though we didn’t enjoy our time in the city of Copacabana, there were plenty of interesting things to see in the immediate area. This was a place of extreme importance for the Inca Empire and pre-Inca tribes, and a number of centuries-old ruins still exist today.
Oh, Copacabana. We really wanted to like you. You were perhaps the city in Bolivia we were most looking forward to! It started out perfectly… the bus ride from La Paz was beautiful, and included a short ferry trip. By the time we arrived, and took in your gorgeous location along Lake Titicaca, our excitement level was through the roof. But we have to be honest, Copacabana. In the end, you were the worst town we visited in Bolivia.
The biggest tourist draw in Villa Tunari is Parque Machía, just across the river from the village. The park is home to a non-profit organization called Inti Wara Yassi, dedicated to caring for sick or previously captive animals. Our visit was a bizarre experience, as interesting as it was troubling, and has become a constant topic of conversation between me and Juergen. Rehabilitating wild animals is usually an inarguably noble endeavor. But with Inti Wara Yassi, we’re not so sure.