From 2 June to 1 July 2000 I visited Bolivia and Peru. Of all the countries I've visited, these are probably the most photogenic countries. Especially the Altiplano in the south of Bolivia near the border with Chile. Here you can see incredible landscapes. I've made 400 photo's of which more than 80 at the Altiplano. Unfortunately I can only show a small selection on these pages.
The highlights of my journey through Bolivia are Cochabamba, Sucre, Potosí, Altiplano, La Paz, Tiahuanaco and Lago Titicaca. The highlights of my journey through Peru are Lago Titicaca, Cusco, The Inca Trail with Machu Picchu and Lima.
Because of the high altitudes it can be quite cold at nights so bring warm clothing. Also hot water showers are not everywhere available. Combine this with the near freezing temperatures in your hotel room to have an unforgettable shower :-)
There is not much to see in Cochabamba, but the relatively low altitude of about 2500 meter makes it a good place to acclimatize. Cochabamba is famous for "Cristo de la Concordia" a statue of Jesus that rivals the one in Rio de Janeiro. The statue is a few centimeters higher than the 33 meter of the Jesus of Rio de Janeiro. Each meter stands for one year of Jesus life. The few extra centimeters are explained because Cochabambinos claim that Jesus lived for 33 years and a bit.
Climbing the many stairs of the mountain was quite an exercise when you just arrived from the below zero altitude of The Netherlands.
Cristo de la Concordia
Sucre is the judicial capital of Bolivia. Sucre houses many museums and a beautiful cemetery. It is also one of the largest producer of the typical Bolivia hats. Just outside Sucre there is a cement quarry where they have found dinosaur tracks. Around Sucre you can also walk some Inca trails.
In Sucre I also bought some coca leafs. Coca is the source of the illegal cocaine but the leafs are chewed daily by many Bolivians and Peruvians. Chewing
coca suppresses your appetite, lessens the effects of altitude sickness and it will anaesthetize your mouth. As a side effect it gives you green teeth :-)
Coca leaves are also used as a sacrifice to Pachamama (Mother earth). If you don't chew the leaves yourself, its a welcome gift to helpful locals.
The right photo show the dinosaur tracks that run uphill
The left photo shows that the ancient floor now stands almost vertical
My coca dealer :-)
Potosí lies at an altitude of 4090 meters. It is a mining towns at the foot of "Cerro Rico" which in the Spanish days he mountain of silver. Nowadays little silver is extracted but lead, zinc, copper and tin are still being mined.
Worth to visit is "Casa Real de la Moneda" (Royal Mint) where the silver was minted into coins.
The most interesting things you can do in Potosí is a guided tour to the mines. First you have to go to the miners market to buy coca, pure alcohol, dynamite
and other essentials as a gift for the miners. The working conditions are still from the middle ages and the mines itself are hot and muddy, have low ceilings
and a lot of (rope) climbing needs to be done.
In the mines you can find statues of Tío, the devil beneath the earth. To please Tío, coca leaves and pure alcohol is offered before the statue.
The last three Saturdays of June and the first Saturday of August there is the "Fiesta de Espíriti". On these days, llamas are offered before the entrances of the mines while the miners chew coca and drink pure alcohol. The llamas blood is splashed against the mine to attract Pachamama's attention, cooperation and blessing. After that the llama is cooked and eaten by the miners. The stomach, feet and head of the llama are buried as an offering to Pachamama.
The statue of Tío
A sacrificed Llama
The highlight of the journey was the tour over the Altiplano (high plains) near the border Chile. Here you find the most spectacular landscapes, volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, colored lakes with flamingos and endless salt deserts. While most people only do a one day trip to "Isla Pescado" in the middle of the salt lake "Salas de Uyuni", you should really make a tour of at least 4 days. Also stay overnight in hotel "Playa Blanca" at "Salar de Uyuni". This hotel is made of salt blocks. Even the furniture is made of salt. Be sure to wear a lot of clothes and blankets at night since there is no heating it is literally freezing cold.
A Llama near "Lago Colorado"
An aqueduct on route to Uyuni
Sunset at "Salar de Uyuni"
A beautiful mountain
Llama on the banks of "Lago Colorado"
"Isla Pescado" in the middle of "Salar de Uyuni"
Me in front of one of the big cactuses on "Isla Pescado"
La Paz is the capital of Bolivia. The city center lies in a large valley. The higher you climb, the less tourists you see. A unique place to visit is "Mercado de Hechicería" (Witch market). Here you can find strange merchandise ranging from herbs and to dead llama fetuses which you should bury beneath a new house as an offering to Pachamama.
From La Paz you can take a trip to the pre-Inca city ruins of Tiahuanaco.
When I visited La Paz there was the festival of "El Gran Poder". Originally a procession, it is now a parade that begins in the morning and ends late in the evening. It features an endless stream of dancing groups and music bands in colorful costumes.
The view over La Paz from a high peek
On of the dance groups at "El Gran Poder"
Lake Titicaca sits on the border between Bolivia and Peru. It is an important place of the Inca. On the Bolivian side there lies "Isla del Sol". It is believed that on this island is the birthplace of the sun and the first Inca "Manco Capac" appeared here.
On the Peruvian side you will find the floating islands of the Uros people ("Islas Flotantes"). These little islands are made of reed and people are still living on it. They also make beautiful canoes of reed just as they did many centuries ago.
A typical Inca delicacy is roasted guinea pig which I tried in Puno. You get a dish with a complete guinea pig. Most internal organs were removed but his eyes and two little balls (kidneys?) were still inside. The guinea pig tasted good but it was more bone than meat. If you don't want to eat guinea pig, you should try Llama or Alpaca. Chopped Llama is quite tasty.
A traditional reed boat of the Uros people on one of the "Islas Flotantes" (floating islands)
The guinea pig I ate in Puno
The railway tracks between Puno and Cusco
Cusco is the old Inca capital. The center of the Inca empire. In and around Cusco you find many Inca ruins. One of the most spectacular are the ruins of Sacsayhuamán.
On June 24 there is the Inca festival "Inti Raymi" (Festival of the sun). During this festival, old Inca rituals are performed. It is quite an experience to see it but is is also extremely busy at that time.
The Inca King during the "Inti Raymi" festival at Sacsayhuamán
The thing to do in Peru is the 4 day hiking trek to "Machu Picchu". During this trek you pass many Inca ruins. At times the route can be very steep and you have to climb many stairs but you will be rewarded with beautiful mountain views. A disadvantage of the trail is that it is so popular that it can be quite busy on the narrow trails. During most of the trek, there are now showers and toilets. So be prepared to do "your business" while dozens of hikers walk by.
Early in the morning of the 4th day you will arrive in "Machu Picchu", the most spectacular Inca ruin. Since the city was not known by the Spanish conquistadors, it took till 1911 before it was 'accidentally' discovered by Hiram Bingham.
After your visit to "Machu Picchu" you can climb down to the city "Aguas Calientes". Here you can give you feet a rest in the hot spring baths. To get back
to Cusco, you must take the train. You can take the tourist train back, but for a real experience you should take the local train. This train is jam packed with
locals with lots of luggage. Normally you have a train ticket with a seat number but since it is very busy, you will be already glad if you make it into the
Tip: If you don't want to fight your way into the evening train, try to catch the train before "Aguas Calientes" station. To do this follow the railway track a few kilometers in the direction of "Machu Picchu". After the tunnel you will (hopefully) find the train waiting.
Porters on route to the highest peak of the Inca trail
Me during the Inca Trail
Finally arrived at "Machu Picchu"
The train back to Cusco
On the way back to The Netherlands we had half a day in Lima, the capital of Peru. Here we visited the museum "Rafael Larco Herrera". This museum has an incredible collection of Peruvian ceramics. Especially the ceramics of the Moche culture are beautiful depicting gods, priests, warriors and scenes of mutilation and death. In a separate building, you will find lots of erotic pottery that show you explicit sexual scenes and extremely big sex organs. You have to search quite hard for that building since there are no signs that reveal its existence.
Some erotic pottery hidden in a remote building of museum "Rafael Larco Herrera" in Lima