Bolivia: The Land of Contrasts, Part 1. The arrival.

Many moons ago, when I was in college and  crushed hard on a Bolivian singer in a reggae band, I became instantly intrigued with a country so exotic and so far away. My love and intrigue for this far off land  started with meeting someone from Bolivia and from then on, my interest was piqued.

Time passed and Bolivia would come and go in my conversations yet my curiosity maintained omnipresent.

As I  began my travel agency and started studying more about South America, it quickly became a destination that I desired to experience, mostly because everything I'd read had said it was such an intriguing destination but not always the  most tourist friendly ~ which was precisely why I wanted to go there!

A few months ago, I was invited to explore Bolivia with Magri Tours and I quickly jumped at the opportunity. The itinerary included the city of La Paz, Salar de Uyuni, Lake Titicaca and beyond. I was going to explore every last place that was on my bucket list and to say the least, I was super stoked about it.

Fast forward to right now ~ 2 days after a 17 day trip throughout South America which included 8 days in Bolivia ~ and I'm stricken to write about my experiences while in the land of contrasts, otherwise known as Bolivia.

I flew into the city of La Paz which holds an altitude of 13, 323 feet above sea level. I was a bit nervous about the altitude as I'd been in Peru and struggled a bit with altitude and everyone I met who'd been to La Paz warned me about it. Thankfully, a kind woman on the airplane shared her Coca tea ( known to help with altitude issues) with me in preparation for landing in La Paz and  nerves were calmed.
Never underestimate the kindness of strangers to help you in your travels.

I arrived in La Paz at 5 a.m. ~ tired and a bit dizzy from the altitude but never the less eager to finally be in the country that had drawn me to it like a siren to the sailors of the sea.

 Entrance into Bolivia for U.S citizens requires a Visa which you can purchase on line or you can purchase upon arrival. There are requirements for getting your visa so one must be prepared. For information on Visas into Bolivia, check out this site:
I had to present bank statements, a criminal background check, my travel plans within Bolivia as well as my flights in and out of the country and the proper Visa paperwork and of  course, $160 in cash. Be prepared when you arrive and everything will go smoothly!

Full moon sunrise. 

I was picked up promptly as the sun was rising just in time for me to come face to face with the city of La Paz. The airport is located high above the city of  La Paz in a dusty city named, El Alto. La Paz lies in a valley and  the only way in and out is to zig zag down  the valley roads until you find yourself in a bowl of cement buildings. I had to pinch myself several times as I was in Bolivia on the morning after a full moon and for me personally, experiencing Bolivia on a full moon was nothing short of arriving in Heaven still alive. I looked up, saw the moon shining over the buildings that painted the sides of the valley and I knew that I had finally arrived.

I marveled as we zig zagged down the valley roads and as we came to my hotel at Casa Grande I felt lost, almost like in another world. Metropolitan buildings co-mingled with colonial style  houses which co-mingled with plain, unassuming buildings as the majestic Andes mountains hovered above it all.

My first stop was the Tiwanaku ruins located back up and beyond the city of El Alto. It was a long haul to get there, well past the depressing, dusty, industrial town of El Alto. Once beyond El Alto, the Andes mountains began to become omni present and were a  beautiful back drop to the desert landscape.

We arrived at Tiwanaku ruins, void of any foreign tourists and began our visit. Similar to other ruins I had visited in Guatemala, Mexico and even Peru, the construction and similar symbols reflected a time in our history where people were ruled by the sun, the moon and the earth. It is said that many more ruins lie beneath the hard soil of Tiwanaku but they have yet to be unearthed. What is visible are shards of a culture that thrived in the harsh desert of Bolivia. It's important to walk through these ruins with a knowledgeable guide that will fill you in on the history and significance of everything you are seeing.

Viva la Vida Travel in the house ( of ruins!)

Our drive back to La Paz was equally as beautiful as the ride out to Tiwanaku. We rolled into El Alto in the midst of a dust storm and despite the bleakness of the storm and the city itself, there was an intense beauty in the way locals navigated the storm with grace and perseverance.

My first day in Bolivia was just the start of what would become an undying love affair with a country of contrasts as diverse as the human race itself.


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