Katia, a volunteer from Canada, writes about her travels in Bolivia, a weekend getaway with the Bolivian girls of Proyecto Horizonte:
Before coming to Bolivia I was told by one of my friends not to come back to Canada without having seen the famous salt flats of Uyuni (Salar de Uyuni). When I got here I quickly realized that this beautiful, geographically diverse country has lots more to offer. I then made it my goal to see Bolivia’s key cities and travel destinations before I leave. I came to Cochabamba alone but quickly made friends with my coworkers because everyone at Proyecto Horizonte is very friendly and easy to talk to. I was very happy to find out that some of the girls were also interested in exploring their country. And this was how Claudia from Human Orientation and Training, Lidy that works in communications, Mabel, the kindergarten principal, and I planned our weekend getaway to Bolivia’s Altiplano around mid-May.
Early on Friday morning we took a bus from Cochabamba to go to the city of Oruro. The city is famous for its carnival that takes places every February. The bus ride offered one of the most magical landscapes I have ever seen. We were so high up in the mountains that I had the impression that we could litteraly touch the sky. It was a mesmerizing view. We got to Oruro about midday and went up to the very beautiful statue of the Virgin of Socavon, the patron saint of Oruro. We enjoyed a very nice view of the growing city from the top of the mountain. At about 3 in the afternoon we took a train to Uyuni. The train ride was also very picturesque. We passed by a beautiful lake just as flamingos were flying over it!!! We got to Uyuni late at night but had no problem finding a hostel and booking a tour of the salt flats for the next day. It gets pretty cold in Uyuni at night so to anyone traveling there I would recommend bringing warm clothes.
As soon as we got to the salt flats the next day I quickly understood why this travel destination is so famous worldwide. The view is truly hypnotic; all you see is the vast white never ending salt desert and the bright blue sky. It is almost impossible to tell where sky ends and ground begins. Then as you continue driving an island of huge cactuses where lamas wonder around, Isla Incahuasi, appears out of nowhere in the middle of this desert. It was truly incredible. We saw a lot of tourists taking creative pictures with optical illusions. Our group of girls wasn’t as creative so we had to let these unique landscapes speak for themselves in our pictures.
Salar left a very strong impression on all of the four of us but it was time for us to head to the city of Potosi. I was very excited to get to Potosi because I had read a lot about its history. It was one of the largest cities in the world in the colonial times due to the fabulous wealth its silver mines were producing for the Spanish. We really enjoyed walking in the streets of this beautiful colonial city and visiting the museum of the Casa de las Monedas. However, for all of us, the highlight of our day in Potosi was entering one of the mines of the famous Rich Hill (Cerro Rico). Dressed as miners, we were bravely following our guide through the dark, narrow and just plain scary mine as he was telling us about the challenges and the dangers the miners face in these mines every single day. It was very sad to hear; it was an eye-opening experience.
What an incredible weekend getaway! We were able to see so many special places in just three days. I loved traveling with the local Bolivian girls who are now not just coworkers but really good friends that I am going to keep in touch with when I get back to Canada!