I don’t know how many pictures I took during our weeks in La Paz… and I don’t want to count, because the total would probably freak me out. Just from our apartment window, I must have snapped over a hundred! But I’ve gone through them all, and picked out some of the great images that didn’t make it into other posts. I think it’s safe to say, La Paz was one of the most photogenic cities I’ve ever seen.
We’ve already written about the our visit to Tiwanaku for the Aymara New Year celebration. But we had so many pictures, we’ve had to split them up into two posts. Here’s our second set of images from this amazing festival… including the sunrise, and the events which followed. Keep your eye out for Evo Morales: this is the second time we’ve been able to see Bolivia’s president!
The pre-Incan ruins of Tiwanaku, just 35 miles west of La Paz, host Bolivia’s biggest celebrations in honor of the Aymara New Year. With a belief system rooted heavily in the natural world, the Aymara recognize the winter solstice (June 21st) as the true beginning of the year. We woke up early in the morning to take part in the fun.
During our three-day tour of the Salt Flats and southwestern Bolivia, our guide Faustino subjected us to a steady diet of traditional Bolivian music. The best album, and one he played on repeat almost continuously, was from a band called K’ala Marka.
The refuge for the second night of our Uyuni trip was located high up in the Andes. It was cold. Regardless of my sleeping bag and fourteen layers of clothes, I laid awake half the night shivering and listening to the pattering sound of something against the roof. “Hail”, I thought aloud. “Sand”, came a voice from the other bed. Jürgen apparently wasn’t sleeping either.
We were both wrong: it was snow
On the second morning of our trip from Uyuni, we awoke with sore backs and cold toes after having spent the night in a salt hotel. The place was built entirely from the stuff: salt tables, salt floors, salt walls. Instead of sleeping, I spent the night licking my bed. But we loaded our tired bodies dutifully into the jeep and, within no time, had reached the desert of Chiguana. Shrubs, sand and the occasional llama were our only companions as we cut southwest through one of Bolivia’s most underdeveloped corners.
Also called the Isla del Pescado thanks to its fish-like profile, the island of Incahuasi is situated smack in the middle of the enormous Salar de Uyuni. We arrived there midway through the first day of our tour. Covered by millennial cacti and composed of coral, the island is a stunning reminder that the salt flats used to be part of a gigantic lake.
At 6am, we were out on Sucre’s streets, desperately searching for a taxi to take us to the station for our bus to Uyuni. But there were no taxis. There wasn’t even any traffic. The streets were dead calm, except for our cursing and complaining. A morning dash to the far-away bus station wasn’t the best way to start this trip.
By bus, a trip from Sucre to Potosí takes just a few hours, and it’s even faster by taxi. But if you’re more interested in scenery than speed, check out the ultra slow bus-train, which winds its wobbly way around mountains, lakes and valleys, offering spectacular views every inch of the way.
On the second day of our hike, we woke at sunrise with aching shoulders, backs and legs, but possessed by a strange energy. The Crater of Maragua was within sight, and the promise of restorative thermal baths at hike’s end made us eager to get moving. But breakfast and packing up the campsite took longer than anticipated: a delay which would later haunt us…