Now that we’ve wrapped up our tour of the salt flats, it’s time to officially say goodbye to Bolivia. On that thought, we decided to share some interesting facts and observations we’ve noted about Bolivia, as well as summarize our time here:
Interesting Facts/Observations about Bolivia
1) You may have noticed from our pictures in Bolivia that there are several women dressed in traditional garbs. These women as known as cholas, or more affectionately cholitas.
These women were traditionally part of the lower class and worked mainly as servants to the upper class. They were denied entry into some restaurants, discriminated against, and even forbidden from certain parts of town. However, in the last few years there has been a change in how these women are perceived. They are now seen as strong women who are looked up to in society as being progressive in fashion, finance, and politics. And, depending on what region you enter, you will notice slightly different wear and definitely a different hat!
They also happen to have a wrestling league. Every Sunday night there is cholita wrestling in La Paz (unfortunately we were not there on a Sunday night).
2) We mentioned a lot about the elevation of Bolivia, as Bolivia’s Altiplano is home to the world’s highest city (Potosi), highest capital city (La Paz) and highest navigable lake (Lake Titicaca). However, the rest of the country is quite diverse and at a lot lower elevation, meaning it is quite hot and humid. It is even home to parts of the amazon rainforest!
3) We noticed some Bolivians have negative feelings towards their neighbouring Chileans, as much of Bolivia’s land and coast was lost in war with people from Chile. They seem to feel closest to the people of Peru, as they share much of the same culture and way of life. It’s great that we chose to travel both together, as we noticed the same overlap.
4) The Bolivian Salt Flats are the largest salt deposit in the world (60% of the world’s salt is there!). Underneath, the flats are home to the largest deposit of lithium in the world. Now, battery producing companies are trying to get their hands on all the lithium within Bolivia.
5) Traffic is very interesting in Bolivia. For the most part, there are no red or green lights, or other signage to govern intersections. People just drive up to an intersection and honk their horn to warn others they are around and zoom across. When there are cars piled up on each side of the intersection it just seems to be whoever can push their way in first.
6) If you haven’t noticed from our photos already, purchasing goods happens at various street vendors. Get your bread from the bread lady sitting on the one street corner, or your toilet seat from the toilet seat man next to the fabric man. It’s a handy little set-up, as you won’t find any box stores here.
7) There are stray dogs everywhere. They hang out at shops and restaurants. They patrol the streets at night in packs, searching through garbage. It’s not uncommon to turn a street corner and see two (or three) dogs humping one another.
Most were cute, but there were some questionable ones also…
Our final goodbye to Bolivia was on our flight out of Unuyi. We thought we’d share our interesting journey. The airport in Unuyi is quite small, resembling more of a bus station with just one small desk and a few chairs to sit in. Thankfully they kept the place warm with these patio heaters:
We took off from this one runway in the sand, past a single control tower, looking into the cockpit. On every seat all that we could see were “air sickness bags for air sickness” and Ebola handicards:
We took off as soon as the doors closed (late of course, as we’re on South American time) with no safety briefing. Landing in La Paz, the main international airport, things didn’t change too much more. We wandered off the plane onto the tarmac, walking past luggage bags, all of us uncertain of where to go. We kind of meandered aimlessly across most of the airport until someone opened up a nondescript door and waved us inside.
After that experience, we were glad there were ladies offering massages in this glass box…
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Bolivia, appreciating its strong culture and welcoming people. It is still a developing and nation, and is sure to change over the next few decades. As a result, we truly felt this country was more for the “traveler” rather than the “tourist”. Only because the tourism industry is still developing, and there aren’t many other visitors around. Luxuries and conveniences aren’t as readily found, and you are required to fend more for yourself. We hope this wouldn’t discourage anyone from visiting Bolivia though, as some of the most amazing sights we’ve ever seen call this country home!
Highlights: Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats) cannot be missed. Our first view of La Paz will always be remembered. The colorful lagoons and wildlife of the Eduardo Abaroa Andean Fauna National Park are jaw-dropping. The city of Sucre is pretty cute.
Lowlights: Facilities are not fully developed, so expect little for washrooms or sanitary conditions and be careful where you eat. Transportation requires some bravery and some patience. Beer tastes watered down.
Thanks for the good times Bolivia!