The ‘Benedicion de Movilidades’. (Blessing of Automobiles).

La Virgen Morena del Lago (the Dark Virgin of the Lake) lives in Copacabana, and she’s responsible for the bizarre ritual of the Ch’alla. Immediately after the conquest, Spanish treasure-seekers looted Inca temples around the lake, and priests destroyed any remaining shrines and idols, including a large female idol with a fish’s tail at Copacabana. When subsequently a series of devastating frosts ruined crops, locals … Continue reading The ‘Benedicion de Movilidades’. (Blessing of Automobiles).

Sende Verde Wildlife Sanctuary. Bolivia.

It all started when a lorry driver brought them a monkey he’d run over. The owners of Sende Verde agreed to keep it, and now they have over four hundred animals, some rescued from illegal trafficking, some abandoned pets – all rescued from lives of misery. Visitors can see black spider, orange howler and capuchin monkeys at close quarters. Dangling from thin branches, bodies elongated, … Continue reading Sende Verde Wildlife Sanctuary. Bolivia.

Cholitas of La Paz.

They are everywhere in La Paz. Bowler-hatted women with wide layered skirts and yards of petticoats. A strange look. A fashion adopted from the colonists who used their own Spanish style to separate themselves from the indigenous people. But the Aymara took it, and made it their own, and centuries after the Spanish left, flounced skirts (known as a pollera) and fringed shawls continue to … Continue reading Cholitas of La Paz.

As High As A Kite. In La Paz.

We’d been told to get there early. But the line was still long. Everyone wanted to try it. Where there’s a queue in Bolivia there are vendors. Men, women and teenagers paced and hawked. Ice-cream men did a roaring trade, pushing hand-carts, and handing out cones. Ball-point pens seemed to be the hot item of the moment. ‘Boligrafas, uno peseto’, shouted a man holding out … Continue reading As High As A Kite. In La Paz.

La Paz. Not Just Another Big City.

There’s no way a city like La Paz should be where La Paz is. Squeezed into a gully, red-brick houses tumble down steep slopes, and seem to dangle precariously, half-way between heaven and earth. It’s topsy-turvy crazy, with the poor people living on the canyon’s lip at 4,000m; (‘El Alto’ literally means ‘the high place’); the city centre about 500m lower, (referred to as ‘la … Continue reading La Paz. Not Just Another Big City.

Butch Cassidy Meets Captain Kirk. From Tupiza to Uyuni, A Sojourn in the Solar.

I kept wanting to say ‘beam me up Scotty’. Not because I wanted to leave but because it was all so other-worldly. From the moment we left Tupiza to the moment we returned, four days later, it was just one amazing landscape after another. Totally out of this world. Tupiza is red rock country. The place where Butch and Sundance spent their last days. Deep … Continue reading Butch Cassidy Meets Captain Kirk. From Tupiza to Uyuni, A Sojourn in the Solar.

The Time Machine of Hacienda Cayara.

Set high, amidst pock-marked mined mountains at 4,100m, the town of Potosi has a faded, drained air. It’s glory days are long gone, and while remnants of beauty remain, the flesh has clearly been picked from it’s bones. Twenty-three kilometers, 30 minutes, and another world away, lies the rich fertile valley and hacienda of Cayara; the oldest country estate in the continent of South America. … Continue reading The Time Machine of Hacienda Cayara.

What the Devil! Carnival in Oruro.

Carnival in Sucre was a blast. Carnival in Oruro was completely over the top. For most of the year Oruro is a grim mining town with nothing much to recommend it, but a week before Lent it explodes into a frenetic fiesta of colour and music. It’s the most raucous and outrageous party of all. Aida urged us to go, telling us it was ‘different’. … Continue reading What the Devil! Carnival in Oruro.

Carnival!

‘The whole country is just one great big Fellini fest’, said Jim in the run-up to Carnival. Sucre was awash with music and parades; dancing in the streets, folklore, traditional costumes, youths throwing balloons filled with water, kids shouldering massive water pistols, and squirting spray foam. It was just one big party. And it went on for weeks. Bands – groups sometimes of fifteen to … Continue reading Carnival!

Plaza 25 de Mayo. Sucre.

Every town here has one. A central square. In Sucre, it’s the ‘Plaza 25 de Mayo’. We go there most days to sit on the benches shaded by palm trees and watch the world pass by. Campesinos sell woven bracelets, bags and belts from brightly coloured striped blanket bundles that they sling over one shoulder. Ragged children sell corn to feed the pigeons, loose sweets … Continue reading Plaza 25 de Mayo. Sucre.