We had such a great time during our first hike with José, that we immediately scheduled another: this time through the Parque Nacional Carrasco. Carrasco is one of the most ecologically diverse areas in Bolivia, with a total size of about 2400 square miles. 5000 plant species have been recorded here, including over 200 types of orchids, and the park is home to rare animals like the Andean Spectacled Bear, the taruca (North Andean Deer), the jaguar, and the Andean Cat.
On our second full day in Villa Tunari, we struck out into the rainforests north of the village, under the supervision of José, a great guide with twenty years of experience in the region. A six-hour hike along rivers which left our shoes soaked, legs pockmarked by the itchy bites of vicious flies and minds scarred by our first encounter with quicksand. It was a blast.
According to our original itinerary, we were to visit the jungles of Rurrenabaque after our stint in Cochabamba. But after looking at the map, we altered our plans and instead checked out the jungles of the Chapare province, much closer to Cochabamba and less frequented by tourists. The capital of Chapare is Villa Tunari.
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.
After surviving the morning blizzard in the mountains, we emerged intact onto the dusty plains south of Uyuni. This was the last portion of a long, three-day journey which had offered some of the most incredible nature I’ve ever been exposed to. Salt flats, semi-active volcanoes, deserts, lagoons, and more. But there was still a bit more to be astounded by.
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
Soon after entering the Eduardo Abaroa Andean National Reserve, we arrived at the Laguna Colorada. With water that shifts spectacularly between deep blue and dark red, the reason for its name is immediately apparent. Home to bright pink flamingos, the lagoon is bordered with yellow rings of sulfur and highlighted with mounds of pure-white borax, which jut into the water like tiny glaciers and are slowly disappearing. With the gray, snow-capped peaks of the Andes serving as a backdrop, the Laguna Colorada looks like one of Bob Ross’s fever dreams.
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.
A geological marvel, the Salar de Uyuni is one of the most perfectly flat areas on earth. There aren’t hills, bumps, shadows, vegetation or depressions of any sort, and given the lack of visual reference points in such an immense area, one’s sense of perspective is bound to become skewed.