Sweet and Salty Bolivia

During our trip through the Southern part of Latin America we heard many stories about Bolivia. Good things and the typical horror stories, too. Nevertheless we decided to see for ourselves and planned a round trip through Bolivia starting from Iquique / Chile.

Robin’s dad joined us for this part so we rented a BMW F650 GS for him.

Our planned route (roughly 2500km, thanks Jorge for the many tips):

The route led us East from Arica to Putre, a really nice little Andes village at 3650 meters still on the Chilenean side where we stayed for the first night.

As we planned to stay at an altitude between 3500 and 4500 meters most of the time, we took some precautions – we drank huge amounts of water and some coca tea, took aspirin and generally just took it  easy. Despite  Isabel having some breathing difficulties during the first night we all got used to the altitude quite well.

The next day we crossed the border to Bolivia at appr. 4500 meters. For the first time we had to pay for our documents and it took us about two hours until we could finally enter the seventh country of our trip. We learned that the Bolivian burocracy is even worse than the Chilenean. Nevertheless the landscapes of the Bolivian Altiplano were simply breathtaking and we soon forgot about the annoying border-crossing. Volcanoes covered in snow as high as 6400 meters, red canyons, green grass with countless lamas, alpacas and vicuñas as far as the eyes can see.

On the way to Oruro where we stayed for the next night, we passed a lot of poor and sandy mountain villages. Bolivia is by far the poorest country we have visited so far which was sometimes a bit shocking. We saw pigs and lamas feeding from garbage in the street, dirty hostels you do not want to set foot in as well as poorly looking people.

Our hotel in Oruro was the best we could find right in the centre but still it felt a bit like staying in Frankensteins villa. Besides the strange interior design we all got stuck in the dodgy lift and taking a shower was more than adventurous with water temperatures changing from 10°-50° automatically.

The next day we continued to Sucre, the capital of Bolivia (La Paz is just the seat of government). Sucre was a great surprise. It is known as the “white city” and has beautiful colonial buildings, clean and shiny plazas, friendly people, excellent food and very pretty surroundings. The city is “only” 2800 meters high, so the climate is very comfortable. During the day it gets pretty hot, but dry, at night it can be quite cold. We met a Swiss guy who had been travelling on a motorbike for a while and now lived in Sucre working for a social project a bit outside of town. He took us to the kindergarden that was just being built by a Bolivian-German cooperation. It was super interesting and very nice to see the happy kids there.

We stayed for three relaxing days in Sucre before continuing our trip to Uyuni.

The Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat. Rainy season was already over, however large parts were still covered in water. We therefore decided to book a jeep tour instead of driving across the flat on our own bikes. We did not regret this decision when we saw the salty vehicles on the flat…

The Salar is really unique. The colors of the white salt and the clear blue sky are amazing. All there is is white salt as far as one can see and of course we had to take the typical pictures.

The way back to Chile was the first real offroad piste we had to conquer. So far the roads were surprisingly good. A lot better than we heard from other travellers. Also we did not have any problems with the police, another thing we were warned of a couple of times before. Quite the contrary, officials were pretty friendly and due to Robin’s authoritative behaviour towards the toll road employees, most of the time we didn’t even have to pay the usual toll fees.

The last stretch on the way back to Chile was only 200 km long and mostly sand which especially Robin’s dad was not used to. After Danny crashed once it almost took us  the whole day to get to the Chilenean border at Ollague. There was no chance we could have done the next 200 offroad km to Calama, the next big town, the same day, so we had to stay in this dusty little border town. We definitely had have nicer places to stay before. On top of that Robin felt bad the whole day and got really sick in the evening with shivering and fever. So for the first time of our trip we had to use some serious medicine from our well equipped first-aid kit. Fortunatelly the next day Robin felt good enough to continue and we all made the 600 km back to Iquique.

We have now relaxed for a couple of days in our nice hostel here in Iquique. Robin’s dad will fly back home and we will continue our trip to Peru.

Watch our video of this amazing trip here:

And find our pics here:

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