Polaroid of the week: Hanging around on Bolivia’s Death Road

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polaroid of the week bolivia death road Most of the time I would consider myself a grown-up and responsible traveler. My crazy idea to book Jess and I on a mountain bike trip down the Camino de la muerte – the Death Road, in English – may not have been one of my most rational travel decisions.

The road was given the title of the most dangerous road in the world by the Inter-American Development Bank in 1995, thanks to the hundreds of cars that had disappeared over the steep cliffs all along the road. This loose gravel and dirt road is often only 3m (9 ft) wide and essentially a single-lane road with two-way traffic – with almost no guard rails at all.

Even though I knew about the dangers of the road, we kept hearing such positive things about this tour and I thought that the trip from the La Cumbre at 4,670 meters (15,320 ft) to Coroico at 900 meters (2,950 ft) – that’s a drop of over 12,000 ft over a distance of 64 kilometers – seemed like a great adventure.

There is relatively little traffic on this road as a new, paved one was constructed in 2006, which left this road (almost) entirely to us thrill-seeking cyclists. The big news is that we survived the trip without any major injuries or broken bones – though not entirely accident free – and we can’t wait to tell you the whole story here soon!

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Polaroid of the week: The great potato feast in Sucre, Bolivia

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polaroid bolivia sucre potatoesAfter months of white bread, white toast and white rolls in Chile and Argentina, it was such a relief to arrive here to potato country. Bolivia has over 400 kinds of potatoes growing within its borders, and this is the main staple of Bolivian cuisine. Walking through Sucre’s central market, it was incredible to see these different kinds close up: various shapes, sizes and colors, ranging from tiny purple nuggets to long brownish radish-like shapes.

Health-conscious North Americans are currently going crazy for Bolivia’s biggest export – quinoa, but Bolivians prefer their starchy crops. In fact, 92 kilos of potatoes are consumed per person year year here, compared to just 1kg of quinoa.

Potatoes are eaten for breakfast and for lunch, and sometimes for dinner, too, with each variety used for different local dishes. Our favorite potato dish so far has been Papas a la Huancaina, which is actually a Peruvian dish but equally as popular in Bolivia. This easy vegetarian dish is made of boiled potatoes served with quarters of boiled eggs, all topped with a yummy, creamy peanut sauce. We’ve also had spinach and potato gratin, stuffed potatoes, a fair amount of fries and warming potato soups.

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Polaroid of the week: The crumbling grandeur of Potosí, Bolivia

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polaroid bolivia potosiAlthough we made a grand entrance into Bolivia by way of the seriously amazing Salar de Uyuni salt flats, the town where the three-day tour officially ends – Uyuni – is basically just meh. So after one night of a scalding hot shower and ten hours of sleep we hopped on the bus from Uyuni to Potosí, our first official stop in the country.

And what a grand stop it was. This colonial town was once one of the wealthiest cities in the world, thanks to the unmissable ‘rich hill’ or Cerro Rico, which was once filled with silver. Today the pure silver is gone, though the miners continue to go in every day under the most atrocious, dangerous and even life-threatening, conditions – breathing in silica dust and asbestos, to scrape out the remaining minerals.

The main reason for our stop here was that I wanted to visit this mine for myself – stay tuned to find out how that experience went (obviously, I survived!).

We spent our days walking up and down the breathtaking streets – literally breathtaking since Potosí sits at 4,000m (13,500ft), catching our breath in the beautiful central plaza and marveling at the colonial houses with their unique wooden balconies before climbing to the top of several churches and cathedrals. From above as well as on the ground, it is easy to see why this city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, one with such historic importance and grandeur that sits just beneath the clouds.

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Polaroid of the week: Sunrise over Bolivia’s salt flats

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polaroid bolivia uyuni salt flats sunrise

It is hard enough for anyone to yank themselves out of bed at 4:30am, but crawling out from under warm, llama wool blankets after two days of off-roading adventure across southern Bolivia was nearly impossible.

Impossible, but only for all of about two minutes until we realized that today was the day! At 5am sharp we would finally be heading out to see the sunrise on the Salar de Uyuni salt flats – the experience we had been waiting for the entire trip.

Our jeep raced the sunrise and parked in the middle of the vast salt flats just as the blue night sky turned red just above the salty, white horizon. The salt crunched beneath us as we watched the sun rise, slowly painting different shades of red, orange and pink on the ground around us.

When the sun had risen far enough into the sky, our driver sped us off to the Isla De Incahuasi, a cactus-filled island surrounded by the salt flats. Here we hiked and had breakfast with hundreds of giant cacti behind us and salt sprawling out in front of us as far as the eye can see.

Considering this trip? Stay tuned for more detailed posts on this adventure soon!

Have you taken a trip across the Salar de Uyuni? We would love to hear your story and what company you went with. 

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Polaroid of the week: The Stone Tree in Bolivia’s Siloli Desert

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polaroid bolivia arbol de piedraOne experience we were looking most forward to in South America was a trip through the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia. That’s why we traveled north through Chile back to San Pedro de Atacama, so we could hop on a three-day off-roading jeep tour from there to Uyuni, Bolivia.

We had seen pictures of the great expanse of white salt flats as far as the eye can see and were so excited to see this up close on the last day of the tour.

It turned out that the salt flats portion is just a half a day out of three, and the other two days we saw some of the most incredible scenery we’ve seen anywhere in the world: Red lagoons, green lagoons, white lagoons, volcanoes, beautiful rock formations, hot springs, geothermal geyser fields and colorful, rainbow mountain ranges.

Our stop at the Arbol de Piedra (Stone Tree) had us all in awe – this particular rock, projecting out of the sand dunes of the Siloli Desert, has been whittled down into the shape of a tree over time by sand and 120km/h winds that whip across 4,000m high Bolivian Altiplano in the colder months. Much like looking down at the Colorado River from the rim of the Grand Canyon, it is incredible what simple elements like wind, sand, and water can sculpt out of the earth!

There will be many more pictures and stories to come about our Uyuni Salt Flats tour. For now, let’s just say that after 3.5 years of travel, it takes a lot to impress us – and Bolivia’s southwest definitely knocked our socks off!

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