Star Date:  May 2013


Hello Dear Family & Friends!

Hola!  Genial.
(Hi! Cool.  Spanish. )



"Every angry thought is contributing to world violence, to local violence in your home, relationships and town.  It's the building blocks and creator of war itself,  …. be Aware of this.   Take responsibility for our thoughts and emotions.  Choose how we wish to be and create ourselves & what we wish to create in our lives & the world." 
(Owen Fox)  

Floating amongst the clouds, rooftop of the world, Bolivia shines as the highest, most remote, driest and coldest nation in the southern hemisphere.  It has been called the Tibet of South America.  Being the poorest nation on the continent makes for an interesting political climate; ripe with strikes, protests and demonstrations.  Rich in resources it is too poor to develop them and so is a target for exploitation.  In 1932 oil companies speculated on oil reserves in El Chaco.  Standard Oil backed Bolivia, Shell backed Paraguay.  After 80,000 lives were lost part of the land was given to Paraguay.  No oil was found.  An so it goes in the giant chess game of world power.  Bolivia has had over 200 governments in power since independence from Spain only 180 years ago.  Don't like the government?  Just wait a month or two. 

The current President, Evo Morales, is an indigenous farmer, representing the over 70% of Quechua speaking indigenous people in Bolivia.  Indigenous natives make up 85% of the population of Bolivia.  A former coca grower and activist he is getting a taste of his own medicine with increased strikes and roadblocks.  Bolivia recently passed a law that declared that Mother Earth has rights!  Such forward thinking.  He also is focusing on education and sharing some of the wealth with rural folk.  Morales has many critics of his recent policies but thus far he seems to have maintained a connection with his roots and Nature.

Coca has been an integral part of the Bolivian culture from the beginning.  The Inca love goddess is represented holding leaves of coca.  The leaf is chewed into a golf ball sized 'akullico' which is held in the cheek to provide relief from the effects of high elevation, cold and pain.  The raw leaf is neither harmful nor addictive but instead is full of medicinal properties and rich in calcium, iron and vitamins.  It was the secret ingredient of Coca cola and only after the derivative of coca, cocaine, became an expensive recreational drug mainly in the U.S.; was traditional use of coca threatened.  Thirty thousand acres were set aside to preserve growing this important plant but in the 1980's the DEA barged in to help curb the production of cocaine.  'Cocaleros' or coca growers were abused and the DEA was thrown out finally in the late 2000's.  President Morales led the campaign "Coca si, cocaina no".  Coca yes, cocaine no.

During our rest in the charming, warm colonial city of Santa Cruz, we first met Manuel and his traveling store in a van, selling coca products.  He travels South America sharing his hand made coca products and educating the people about the health benefits of the coca leaf.  He emphasizes that this leaf is NOT cocaine anymore than potatoes are vodka.

After almost not getting into Bolivia (see April 2013) we were then blocked by a landslide between Santa Cruz and Samaipata.  Was this a sign?  Once cleared our van limped through ankle deep mud into the charming little foothill town of Samaipata.   Samaipata is where 3 different ecosystems converge: Amazonia, Chaco and the Andes.  There began our wild ride known as Bolivia.  We met up with Manuel again parked on the town square.  We joined him for a trip to the ancient pre-Columbian ruins of El Fuerte.  The true history of this fascinating continent is shrouded in mist, just like the surrounding mountains.  If only those condors or rock precipices could talk.  

He invited us to experience Ayauasca with him and a local shaman.  Open to explore the culture of S. America we agreed and before we knew it we were fasting then sitting in a dark, candle lit room with a small group the following night.  Not knowing anything about Ayauasca except that it is used by S American shamans to break down barriers in our minds/psyche and expand our awareness; we relaxed to the blessing, music, chanting and feather rattle of the kind shaman.  After drinking the mixture specially prepared from 2 jungle herbs and roots we laid down and let the experience flood over us.

The journey that Ayauasca takes you on is an individual spiritual voyage into realms beyond our current reality.   The guide is the power and substance of the Amazon, clearly and vividly displayed as one starts to enter this other realm.  Like crawling along the jungle floor, through roots and across leaves I became part of Nature, no longer an observer.  Colors became vibrant as I ventured through the depths of the forest, down a 'tunnel'.  Beings started to encroach on my path, but on I went.  Suddenly an immense green snake, vivid to this day, crawled beside me and started blocking my path.  I told him to, "Move on, I am on my path."  I had been told that visions can turn frightening and I seemed focused on higher goals.  Once this immense obstacle slithered away I walked lightheartedly upwards.  Colors by this time were dazzling and my spirit sang as I entered a large cavern, colors radiating around me.  From this soaring place of peace and knowing I was connected to the source, and looked down through a massive lens at the illusion of the human storyline below.  Slowly re-entering my body and storyline I laid there, 2 hours later, bathed in the light and knowing I had just connected to the other realm.  This remains with me to this day.

Not every vision is enlightening and if done incorrectly there can be negative side reactions.  This is always to be done with the help of a guide or a shaman.

We got along so well with Manuel that we were invited to join him (for an offer of gas money) to Sucre the next town about 10 hours up further into the Cordilleras.  A real genuine person and a gentle spirit we were blessed that our paths had crossed.  Driving along he all of a sudden saw a small brown arrow showing 'La Ruta del Che' - the route of Che.  Veering off we embarked on a grand adventure for 6 days through some of the worst roads to date.  Che Ernesto Guevara is an icon for change and revolution worldwide.  (see his history on our page on C*ba).  Che is either loved or hated.  Idolized as a hero or despised as a murderer.  After helping win the revolution in Cuba he wanted to spread his idealism further, ridding S. America from the imperialism of the U.S. and control by the C.I.A. in the political arena.  Born in Argentina he thought hiding away in the mountains of Bolivia would be the perfect base for guerilla training.  His plan was wrought with failure as he had bitten off more than he could chew.  He and his small army worked their way through these remote mountains until he was cornered, captured, and executed in a small schoolhouse in La Higuera.  His body was flown by helicopter to the Knights of Malta Hospital in Valle Grande where photos were taken to prove to the world press he was dead, his last death.  Before being shot by a soldier Che told him emphatically that, "You will only be killing the man".   He was right.  Che has become a hero and martyr to change and revolution and this icon lives on.

We wound our way along disintegrating roads ( the government does NOT maintain them on purpose).  The tiny remote towns are seldom visited and the roads impassable for months in the rainy season; luckily we had very little rain.  We stayed in small guesthouses, visited a Che museum in Valle Grande, including photos of him laying peacefully in their local hospital.  Eyes staring wide.  To enter the museum you talked to someone downstairs and they gave you the key to have a look at the memorabilia collected from their town's short claim to fame. 

The scenery and the remote villages were worth the trip alone.  At points Manuel wished he hadn't brought his van on the terrible roads.  At other times we were all saying prayers as the van teetered on the edge of gravel precipices falling 2000 feet to the river bed below.  I heard the doves saying, "It's ok, it's ok."  It really wasn't a road in many places.  But then that is part of this grand adventure.

In La Higuera we stayed in a small compound with a couple of volunteer doctors from Cuba and visited the little schoolhouse where Che met his end, just 25 ft from our door.  'Tu exemplo alumbrar. Un nuevo amanacer '- Your example lights the way. A New dawn.  It has become a little shrine of sorts with people who make it to this isolated spot paying respect.  Che is still dearly loved in many parts of the world.  'Hasta la victoria siempre' is one of Che's most famous slogans. 'Until Victory, Always.  Can't help  thinking 'live by the sword, die by the sword'.  A real shame and waste of an intelligent forward thinking young doctor.  Dead at 33.

Slowly we wove our way through the Cordillera Mountains up towards the Andes.  Almost a week later we stopped at the small village of Tarabuco, above 9,000 ft. elevation.  Bands were playing and hundreds of indigenous people were milling around.  Seems we had just missed the President's visit by about 10 minutes.  What a treat to see the endless parade of bright traditional costumes as people walked around the small town square.  The following day was the large weekend market with a dizzying display of wares, farm produce and colorful ethnic dresses and hats.  Tired from the elevation we slowly walked around trying to absorb the brilliant display.  Manuel's van wouldn't start and we went ahead to Sucre - meeting him later in town and hoping it was a little warmer than freezing at night.   

We collapsed at the Grand Hotel and spend a couple of days in the friendly city of Sucre.  Good thing it was so friendly because it was impossible to leave.  Literally.  The road blockades had moved to surround Sucre.  'bloqueros' - roadblocks are a common form of protest in Bolivia.  Nature also provides natural roadblocks in the rainy season - spending the night on the other side of a rockslide will make you appreciate having extra jackets, food and water in your bag.  Diagonal semi trucks blocking the roads is another matter.  We were stuck for 4 days with no traffic in or out.  On the 5th day I found a van driver who would bypass the blockade by means of a bumpy precarious road and continue on to Potosi - the world's highest city at 4,090 metres (13,420 ft) . A smooth trip once we had joined the pavement; our merry band of travelers, 2 other couples and the driver, decided to take a break and have some lunch before continuing on.  Not all in Potosi glitters of the silver mined here. 

Fooled me!  At a restaurant a well dressed man welcomed us at the door.  Seated us.  Gave us menus and explained the chicken special of the day.  Seven people were at the table.  A little boy was noisily trying to sell us movie DVD's - a distraction.  Another man watched nearby. When I turned away – my fault - he disappeared with my bag (including my new laptop, phone, etc!) Into thin air.  He didn’t even work at the restaurant!  It was a big set back for the webpage as I had just finished 2 pages and backed them up – then lazily thrown them into the bag with my laptop.  All gone.  First time in 10 years!  The crook gets points for ingenuity though.  The keystone cops at the 'Tourist Police' went through the motions and didn't even flinch at an offer of $200 cash - no questions asked.  Just another local thief going shopping at a 'tourist store'.  They claimed he must have been from Peru!  Things come and go but memories are with us - woven in our tapestry of life. 

Arriving in Uyuni was like being thrown into a deepfreeze in your pajamas.  Usually these warm blooded 'woosies' from Hawaii go running in the other direction when the temperature drops; but we are glad that we stuck it out on the Altiplano - the highest plain in the world.  But then everywhere is high, cold and spectacular in Bolivia.

From the time we crossed the border we heard about the Salt Flats near Uyuni.  Not going would have been like visiting Egypt and not seeing the pyramids, "because everyone does!"  We went on an expedition to the surreal blinding salt flats, staying in a hotel made of blocks of salt.  The bed platform was salt, the bedside tables were salt, the walls and floor were salt.  At night it was so cold that after dinner everyone just crawled under mountains of blankets and hid until morning.  Luckily the days were sunny because staying at 15,000 feet was nothing short of freezing - and no central heating anywhere in S. America.  No matter what direction you look there are wind swept mountains, snow capped peaks, and interesting rock formations.  The next couple of days we explored the even more ethereal rainbow rock mountains, parks, green mineral lakes, red lakes with pink flamingos, geysers, bubbling mud, hot springs, strange rock formations, and the Salvador Dali Desert. The scenery was nothing less than spectacular at every bend.  We were in a land cruiser with 4 wonderful, fun people from Spain.  What a trip.  And all for $25 a day.

La Paz, the capitol, was a whirlwind of activity after our time out in remote S.W. Bolivia.  Lively markets, towering cathedrals all with 'chalitas' in bowler hats bustling about.  We called these dear ladies 'little dumplings' and loved to interact with them.  I'm sure they keep warmer with their padding than me in this cold elevation.  In the markets we ate potatoes, potatoes and more potatoes, just like everyone else.  They have yellow, blue, red, white, big, tiny and even black potatoes.  If you like potatoes or quinoa this is the place for you.

Lake Titicaca, one of the highest navigable lakes in the world, is a stunning site with the sapphire blue water contrasting with the high, dry Altiplano.  The villages of the Aymaran line the shore of the 230 km long lake.  At an elevation of 3820m it has islands of the Sun and Moon, the cradle of the Incan civilization and birthplace of the sun according to Incan mythology.  The Island of the Moon was where young virgins were treated royally before they were sacrificed to the gods.  Not being virgins we took a boat out to the Island of the Sun and spent time on this small, unique island, close to the Incan gods.  With beauty like this all around us we were living in the surroundings where myths were made. 



And so it goes.........................................Next traveling up the Altiplano of the Andes, and exploring Peru.  Until next month let's remember to watch our thoughts.   Be aware of what is going on around us but help create the world we wish to live in, starting with one encouraging thought at a time.  Shift from anger and upset to gratitude and optimistic thoughts.  From fear to love and caring.  We are glad you stopped by. Thanks for keeping in touch.  We love to hear from you.  Take care!



Love, Light & Laughter, 

xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph


Travel notes:

1 US Dollar = 6.91 Bolivian Boliviano

One meter = approx 3 feet of altitude

Pay particular interest to the rules of altitude sickness.  Google
'Himalayan Mountain Rescue' for good guide lines to follow when traveling above 8,000 feet.  Diamox can help and is sold everywhere.

Santa Cruz:
Hotel Bibosi (%334-8548; good rooftop view, clean rooms
Don't miss hanging out at the Central Plaza or finding the good vegetarian restaurants .  No info sorry.  Just ask.  They all serve lunch only.

Residencial Kim: Just kitty corner from the Town Square and down a few doors.  Extremely clean and quiet!

Directly across from the back door of the market.  Tiny little doorway with great people and vegetarian food (tell her ahead).  Amelia , Grandma and little Franko won't let you leave hungry.  They said they were going to put up a sign "Buen Banquete Restaurante.

Routa del Che:

Valle Grande:
Alojamiento Teresita: Just up from the Town Square,
new rooms upstairs. Escalante y Mendoza #107

Che Museum:  One one side of the plaza look for the sign.  Get the key from the lady at the desk on the first floor and enjoy an eclectic trip through the life of Che. ($1)

We always stay near the Central Plaza.  On one corner, in a coral colored building, is a hotel with good upstairs rooms with morning sun and hot water!  Yes!

The little gazebo in the park will make potato empanadas if you have time to sit and wait.

We cooked at the Bruasteria Esperanza.  Wonderful lady! Just walked in off the street and she made way for me to cook vegetables in her very popular chicken and chips restaurant.  Calle Monteagude S/N

La Higuera:
e stayed in a small compound with a couple of volunteer doctors from Cuba and the local one room schoolhouse.  Across the dirt lane from the little schoolhouse museum where Che had his last supper. $12

International Hostel Hotel, one block from the central plaza, phone # 67601033.  Good rooms and food.  Alberto is a great guy with a good project Cajamarca.  They have been planting trees and teaching ecology to young kids for over 20 years.  Volunteers accepted.  email:  Come help out and stay in this fascinating town.  Bring your long johns!

Grand Hotel, calle Aniceto Arce #81, just off the main plaza.  Just ask for this landmark hotel.  Friendly, full service, and the water is hot!

Condor Cafe and Trekkers: Happy Veggie Food. Wonderful non-profit group running a tasty little vegetarian restaurant.  Get a tucumana (vegetable stuffed pastry and salad).  Cakes, coffee and tea to warm you up in this homey gathering place for lost condors and travelers.  Let friendly Romina help you pick something to eat or a trek to take in the surrounding mountains (as low as $42 for 2 days).  Locals are taught and employed to help with this worthwhile project. Phone #728 91740, 102 Calle Calvo,  Volunteers accepted.

Koy Wasi:  Small guesthouse, cold but without side windows not as bad as some others.  Good location, clean, reasonable.

Casa de Turista: Ave Potosi, Good pizza and Mexican food.  Wood oven means warm room!

Calle Sucre Next to Red Planet  (they charge 2x a much for the same tour) is wonderful Norma at Sumaj Jallpha Expediciones.  Only 650 pp for 3 days/2 nights.  Tell Norma what you need.  She matched us up with similar people and tried to get vegetarian food.  Make sure to double check everything but their company takes you on a few back roads where other groups don't go.  Say you want to sleep, so not near the partying Israelis!
Phone # 591-2 6932778

As with all tours ALWAYS get everything in writing before paying.  We often pay half before and half upon completion.

La Paz:
Lion Palace Hostel and Dragon China Cafe:
Calle Linares No 1017  Good choice, quiet, well located

Inti Karka Resendencial, No 132 entree Illampu y Linares, phone # 712-46951

The place right up the hill from Karka is a good budget choice.
Pizzeria "La Nonna", J llamper Esq Santa Cruz, #757, phone # 2-459146  Inexpensive good pizzas and the wood oven warms the room.  Great place to get out of the cold.  Friendly, warm.  Did I say warm?

Just up on the waterfront from the boats to the islands was a hotel with reasonable priced rooms - rates increase on the weekends.  Watch for pick pockets here. 
Wharf to the islands in Titicaca.  Titicaca Bus lines to La Paz.  You can pay $6 extra and go out to see the floating islands in Puno on your way to LaPaz.

Isla del Sol Lake Titicaca:
Stay at the Posada del Mango.  Left at the dock, new 2 story, 4 room guesthouse, right across from the water, bathroom, warm new blankets.  Another one with the same name further on.  Cheaper, shared bathrooms.  Hard to find anyone interested in renting you a room or to open the restaurant - persevere!









The surreal Salt Flats in S.W. Bolivia.


Interesting rock formations.

Miles and miles of flat, blinding white salt.


The perspective was fun to play with.


Fun playing and trying new angles.


People from all over the world have visited these salt flats near Uyuni.


This hotel made from blocks of salt even had a small art gallery
 with things carved out of, guess what?  Salt.


Vicunas are now protected.  Unfortunately they taste good and their
wool is extremely warm.


Mushroom rocks.


One of the many beautiful lakes reflecting the wide open sky
 and clouds.


We had everything from our suitcase on, just to try to keep warm
at 15,000 feet.  Days were sunny but nights were freezing
 (without heat of course.)


Xavier, Paco, Nagore, Paula, from Spain, all 'dancing' to the lively
Bolivian tapes!


Salt gave way to sand.


Enjoy life while you can!


Pink flamingos in a red mineral lake.  Stunning!


Ethereal rainbow rock mountains near the Salvador Dali Desert.


Geysers, bubbling mud, hot springs and steaming volcanoes.


Everyone bathed and relaxed in the hot springs.


Good friends.


Life is cold and simple in rural Bolivia.


A rock rabbit popped out of one of the many crevasses as we climbed
around an interesting rock formation.


Sometimes there wasn't even a road.


Manuel's eye catching 'Coca Van'.


Coca, the holy and medicinal leaf of the Incas.


This Incan man was sitting beside a bag of fresh coca leaves 4 feet
by 5 feet.  Coca
is full of medicinal properties, rich in calcium, iron
and vitamins.  The leaf is chewed into a golf ball sized 'akullico'
which is held in the cheek to provide relief from the effects of
high elevation, cold and pain.


The lovely, relaxing Central Plaza in Santa Cruz.


What a bunch of characters.  This band was strolling around
the square.  Taking himself entirely too seriously the man on
the end would take off with a song and wouldn't stop until
the band told him enough was enough!


Contemplating her marketing strategy!


Amelia , Grandma and little Franko won't let you leave hungry. 
During the day they set up a restaurant in their tiny little house
across from the market, doing vegetarian on request.  The baby
slept right on the dirt floor next to the tables.  At night they pushed
 over the tables, flopped down the mattress and, 'Buenas Noches!"
 Franko loved his balloons and when we left we bought him a
big red truck.


Catching up on the morning gossip in the market in Serrano.


Manuel travels South America sharing his hand made coca products and
educating the people about the health benefits of the coca leaf.  He
emphasizes that this leaf is NOT cocaine anymore
than potatoes are vodka. Google 'coma coca' in Peru.


The Ruta del Che, a serious adventure.


Che Ernesto Guevara is an icon for change and revolution worldwide.


Although the roads are disintegrating and impassable during the
rainy season, the scenery is spectacular.


Off to visit a friend.


After helping win the revolution in Cuba he wanted to spread his
idealism further, ridding S. America from the imperialism of the U.S.
and control by the C.I.A. in the political arena.  Born in Argentina
he thought hiding away in the mountains of Bolivia would be the
 perfect base for guerilla training. 


The little schoolhouse where Che was shot 8 times; his final death.


Joseph with a Cuban doctor
in La Higuera.


All the locals and campesinos still wear traditional clothing
in Tarabuco.


Time for a quick lunch while Mom sells vegetables.


Love the different hats from different villages.


One of the main churches in Sucre, a charming colonial town.


There was a display of masks worn during celebrations in
different areas of Bolivia.


About 5pm the zebras would appear in the streets of downtown
Sucre to direct traffic and help ladies across the street.


Llamas, relatives of the camel, are the main domesticated animal in
Bolivia.  They are raised for their wool, meat and for pack animals.
  They get ornery sometimes and can be seen spitting at each other.

Llamas in pajamas!


Warm blankets help on a cold morning in the market.


Downtown La Paz has restored many of its colonial buildings.


Guards at the Presidential building.


Lively markets, towering cathedrals all with 'chalitas' in bowler hats
 bustling about.  We called these dear ladies 'little dumplings' and
loved to interact with them.  I'm sure they keep warmer with their
 padding than me in this cold elevation.


This woman is creating her own reality.  She makes, sells,
and obviously eats her own doughnuts.  When diabetes
strikes she will wonder why she got it.  What we eat today
affects our health tomorrow.



Chalitas at the lively Saturday morning market.


Discussing the latest news.


In the markets we ate potatoes, potatoes and more
potatoes, just like everyone else.  They have yellow,
 blue, red, white, big, tiny and even black potatoes.
 If you like potatoes or quinoa this is the place for you.


Houses everywhere as population rises.


Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world.


Heading home for the night on the Island of the Sun.


Corn stalks for the animals.






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