Bolivia 7: Lago Titicaca

This section covers our trip from La Paz to Lago Titicaca.

Gern wären wir die Todesstrasse gefahren, denn landschaftlich soll sie bezaubernd sein – leider war es vollkommen vernebelt und so sind wir kurz nach der Drogenkontrollstation wieder umgekehrt. Es ging dann in Richtung Lago Titicaca (190km lang, 80km breit) und wir mussten bei San Pablo de Tiquina mit der Fähre übersetzen (Bol 60 per Wagen= R120) und fuhren dann bis zum Strandstädtchen Copacabana, wo wir im Hotel Gloria übernachteten und von dort Ausflüge machten.

After our arrival at Lago Titicaca we found suitable accommodation at Hotel Gloria with parking possibilities also for large vehicles. Next morning we woke up and it was snowing. On this day we got some laundry done and Uwe and Almut visited a trout farm on the shores of the lake.


Copacabana itself is a quaint town with interesting old church decorated in mosaic tiles.

Next day we travelled by boat to Isla do Sol, a 2 hour boat trip, where we spent the day visiting a museum and Inca ruins ( complete with a Shamaan). The vistas were great – in the background the snow-capped Cordilleras Munecas & Real and the blue lake in front of us).

Leaving the lake we took the road to the border, where unfriendly Bolivian officials booked us out of the country, but we were warmly welcomed by friendly Peruvian border personnel. As we had no letter specifically stating that our vehicle insurance by Clements (USA) explicitly covered Peru, the customs official was kind enough to endorse the vehicle entry papers so that we would not have any problems at police road checks.

Bolivia 6: Trip into the Madidi Jungle

Was wäre ein Besuch in Südamerika ohne den Urwald zu sehen? So beschlossen Uwe,Almut, Karin und ich , einen Abstecher per Flugzeug in den Bolivianischen Jungel zu machen. Per Flug, da die Strasse dorthin eine zweitägige Reise auf schlechten Pisten gewesen wäre. Buchung machten wir über ein Reisebüro in La Paz. Der Flug dauerte 45 Minuten und ging bis Rurrenabaque, wo wir von Alex empfangen wurden -Representant der Gemeinschaft, welche die Madidi Jungle Lodge besitzt.

Following the arrival by air in Rurrenabaque, we arrived at the Madidi Jungle Lodge after a 3 hour boat ride into the Madidi National Park. Ronny, our guide from the community, accompanied us. We stayed for 3 nights/4 days and were lucky to see a variety of animals, birds and learned a lot about the flora during daily walks. It included red howler monkeys, wild pigs, capibaras, red brocket deer, yellow squirrel as well as tamarind monkeys, fished for golden Piranha, observed caymans. Birds included the Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin) which looks from a bygone era.

During evening walks a number of interesting insects were sighted.

The food prepared by Doña Erica was delicious and mainly consisted of local fare ( eg. catfish prepared in Jaivanaleaves and spiced with bark from the ajo tree (garlic tree).

Bolivia 5: via Oruro to La Paz

Nach der letzten Nacht im Hotel Girasol in Uyuni wurde uns klar, dass Karin nicht an der Höhenkrankheit litt, sondern dass es etwas anderes sein musste. Ausserdem hörten wir, dass die Lastwagenfahrer nach diesem Wochenende die Strassen dicht machen wollten. So fuhren wir ohne weitere Stops durch bis La Paz und hielten uns auch nicht länger in Oruro auf, denn diese Stadt machte keinen einladenden Eindruck. In La Paz gab es die hervorragende Clinica Alemana ( in der aber kein Wort Deutsch gesprochen wurde -zum Glück etwas Englisch) in der Karin schnell diagnostiziert wurde.La Paz wird uns wegen seiner interessanten Märkte unvergessen bleiben.

Due to the pending trucker strike announced for the following week, we decided to drive straight to La Paz via Oruro. Here Karin was diagnosed having both a bacterial as well as a parasite infection – fortunately Clinica Alemana has an in-house path lab and we left the clinic within 3 hours medication in hand. We found suitable accommodation in the Hotel Berlina (on Calle Illampu in Zona El Rosario)-which was the only hotel with a parking garage high enough to accommodate both our vehicles (2.50m approx.). This proved to be a blessing as we could leave our vehicles parked there while later making an excursion into the jungle. On top the hotel has a terrace which lends itself to photograph across the city – or fly a drone -which a Costarican visitor did, but promptly received a message not to overfly the government area!

It also was conveniently situated to visit various street markets and travel bureaus for arranging the jungle trip to Madidi and also to take a taxi to downtown to do a city tour on the Red Bus which included a short trip to the outskirts to see the moon landscape.

From the hotel rooftop restaurant we had a good view across the city. On a clear day the prominent peak of Mount Illimani (6439m) is visible which is snow-capped. Hotel Berlina is situated in an older part of the city and in walking distance we found good restaurants (Aunt Tia became a favourite stop), craft shops and also the indigenous witchcraft market (Mercado de Hechicería) selling potions, herbs and dried Llama fetuses. Basically anything can be bought in this area. The colourful cloths, bags, shoes, masks are a feast for the eyes and very typical.

La Paz is at a height of 3600m and walking the steep streets in our neighbourhood made us realise that we had not fully acclimatised to the altitude yet. Note: Sucre is the capital, but La Paz the largest city). The airport of La Paz is in El Alto, 400m higher than the city: arriving or leaving by plane is at 4000m, the highest large city in the world and many a traveller suffers altitude sickness on arrival. El Alto is also serviced by the Teleferico which we never had the time to take for a first-class aerial view of La Paz. However, we also witnessed the most polluted river passing right through La Paz with industrial waste and sewage.

Bolivia 4: The Lakes south of Salar de Uyuni

Nach unserem Besuch des Salar fuhren wir nach Süden um die Lagunas Cañapa, Colorada und Laguna Verde zu besichtigen. Der Weg führte durch bezaubernde Wüstenlandschaften inklusive der Dali Wüste.

We continued from the Salar de Uyuni southward via the small settlements of Villa Martin Colcha and  San Juan, passing the still active volcano Ollagüe (5869m) reaching Laguna Cañapa late afternoon just in time to witness a beautiful but cold sunset with numerous flamingo and other birds around the lake.

After a quick supper we crept in and prepared for what is to become our coldest night yet – minus 17 deg C. All water we had was frozen, including the lake before us. Our roof hatch was decorated with the most beautiful ice crystal patterns.

Only after the sun had risen and started warming the area, did the Andes flamingos move from the huddled formation which protected them during the night. The Andes flamingos started stalking on the ice, wondering how they could reach their source of food under the ice.

Our route continued to Laguna Colorado, a beautiful red lagoon. Karin did not feel well ( altitude?) at all and we took shelter against the cold night in a hospedaje without showers. We had to shower in a house next door for an extra fee of Bol30 – all very rudimentary,not too clean with Llama wool and hides everywhere in the house.

The following day we drove to the geyser Sol de Mañana and reached an altitude of over 5000m. The damage the Dakar race does to the environment was clearly visible -deep tracks everywhere (now everybody drives off the roads). Karin continued suffering and did not feel well when we reached Laguna Verde, where camping is not allowed. Icy winds cut short our stay although the colour of the lagoon was an interesting turquoise-green.

We returned to Laguna Colorado, took up accommodation in the same hospedaje. Next day route was via the town of San Cristobal back to Uyuni where we stayed in the hotel Girasol (sunflower), where we could park our vehicles safely in the backyard.


Enjoy the rest of the pictures from this trip.


Bolivia 3: Salar de Uyuni

Wenn es in Bolivien eine Sehenswürdigkeit gibt, welche wir uns nicht entgehen lassen wollten, so ist es der Salar de Uyuni – ein riesen Salzsee. Je nach Lichtverhältnissen gibt sich dieser See anders und ist u.A. auch Ziel der Dakar Rallye gewesen mit Übernachtung im Salzhotel.

Der Salar liegt kurz ausserhalb des Städtchen Uyuni, wo wir am Lokomotiven Friedhof übernachtet haben bei entsprechend tiefen Temperaturen, welche in diesem Gebiet herrschen.

Close to Uyuni is the train cementary with many steam locomotives from an bygone era. Here we camped, fortunately we found a small shelter where we managed to prepare supper – the temperature dropped and the wind picked up -the night dropped to -6 deg C.

Next day we drove to Isla Incahuasi on the Salar de Uyuni. This island is in the middle of the salar and is speckled with cacti reaching 6-7m. At the island a salt hotel has been erected which became part of the Dakar.

It was an experience to camp on a nearby island with an ice cold, clear night sky.

The next morning we enjoyed to view the various crystal formations on the salar and took time out to collect some clean salt and to enjoy the vast expanse of this unique sight.

We then took the road south to the region of the different lakes toward the Chilean border.


Bolivia 2: Sucre to Uyuni via Potosi

Der erste Eindruck von Sucre, bekannt als die “weisse Stadt”: ein Kabelgewirr. Diese Art der Vernetzung sollte uns weitgehend in den nächsten Monaten begleiten. Sucre ist eine schöne Stadt mit interessanter Altstadt, meist in weiss gehalten, besonders auch die offiziellen Gebäude. Am Plaza mit Simon Bolivar Statue versammeln sich gegen Abend die Menschen, gute Restaurants ( im Cosmo gegessen – sehr gut), mal wieder Wäsche pro Kilo in einer Lavanderia gewaschen und vor der Abfahrt eingekauft.


We camped at Alberto and Felizidad – they were in the process of adding a bathroom and renovating so that bikers can be accomodated as well. Sucre proved to be a pleasant city with atmosphere, photogenic architecture. While strolling we came across a student dance competition, all in  colourful indigenous dresses – a bonus while visiting the city.


Our route continued from Sucre at 2700m via the famous silver mining town Potosi at 4100m. Potosi produced most of the silver that the Spanish shipped to Europe and is infamous for the bad conditions under which the locals had to mine. Potosi is not a city to dwell for long – somewhat run down, poor, industrial. Here we started to feel the altitude – mainly headaches, exhaustion. We bought sweets with Coca content and had coca tea with the evening pizza – the taste is somewhat bitter. Next mornings breakfast at Cherry’s is not worth writing home about -pretty mediocre.

The road from Potosi to Uyuni is beautiful but arid: many Llamas, desert-like stretches with a number of mountain passes above 4000m. Arrived in Uyuni quite late, filled up at a gas station where a police officer negotiated the price with us. Then we drove out of town looking for the train graveyard to overnight wild – a cold night awaited us…

Bolivia 1: Border to Sucre

Bolivia-Ruta del Ché to Sucre-1

Gleich bei der Grenze wurden wir mit Korruption konfrontiert – hier wollte der Beamte USD5 pro Wagen haben um unsere Papiere zu bearbeiten – diese Dollarnoten verschwanden sofort in einer Tageszeitung – und das, obwohl ein grosses Schild zur Bekämpfung der Korruption daneben stand. Ob es wohl überall in Bolivien so weitergehen wird? Auf alle Fälle waren uns hier die Polizisten und Militärs unangenehm. Weiter ging es über Villamontes, wo wir im Hotel Los Rancho übernachteten,  weiter bis Santa Cruz ins Landhaus (mit Camping) von Sergio.

In Villamontes we had our first taste of the endless string of military monuments of Bolivia – there seems to be evidence of strong military influenced government in the country.

El Fuerte Landhaus is a suitable camping stop in Santa Cruz, the restaurant offers good food and Sergio can give advice and we learned a lot about the country, especially in view of the trucker strikes the country was experiencing ( but fortunately did not affect us).

We soon learned that filling up diesel or petrol as a foreigner had its problems. Per litre price for local was Bol 3.72 whereas foreigners had to pay Bol 8.80! Initially we parked in side streets and went on foot to the service station to fill 20ltr canisters at a time -a hard slog to fill up. In this case we paid around Bol 5.50-6.00 per ltr. At the service station pump attendant often flatly refused to fill the vehicle at the pumps as all stations are supervised with CCTV. As time went on we realised that not only foreign vehicles are affected, but all vehicles without official registration plate – and there were hundreds of them, plenty of motor cycles. All filled up with canisters and as time went by we were brazen enough to park on the station and carry our diesel – even when police came by, nothing happened.

On our way to the Samaipata ruins, we stopped at Gerd Griese’s famous little meat processing factory in Samaipata. Rumour had it that the world’s best liver polony is made here. What we found were the best hams, salamis, sausages and of course, an excellent liver spread. We bought stacks as this is difficult to obtain in Southern America. Unfortunately we had extremely heavy mist in the mountains and could not visit the ruins -however we found an idyllic camping spot in a stream close by at Mama Pascuala camping.

Next in line was to travel the Ruta del Ché to the town La Higuera, where Ché Guevara was captured and shot. Staying at the Casa del Telegrafista, run by the french couple Oda and Juan allowed us to gain insights into the historic last days of the hero of many South Americans.

From La Higuera we travelled a full day through a variety of landscapes, desert like and not as we had thought Bolivia would look like.We travelled to Villa Serrano where we found at the hotel Mi Tierra a parking spot in the backyard for the vehicles. During supper in a local restaurant serving delicious chicken we were quite an attraction as foreigners -the town is not generally frequented by tourists. Imagine our surprise to see a sculpture of the “Bremer Stadtmusikanten” on a plaza in the town.

The road took us via Padilla, Tomina and Sudañez to Tarabuco, known for its Sunday indigenous art market. However, during the week it made more an impression being a town featuring in Clint Eastwood movies.

Startling to us was the relatively new monument depicting a scene of a heart being ripped out of the body of a Spanish soldier.

We then travelled further on to Sucre where we stayed with Alberto and Felizidad  – only to later find out that Alberto is professor in electrical engineering, speciality electrical motors. Best of all – Sucre can be visited on foot, about a 10 minute walk.