It is normal to describe a place with an allegoric phrase. Among the many phrases we have heard one has stuck to our ears "Bolivia, corazón de Sudamérica" which translates to "Bolivia, heart of South America". At first we assumed it had something to do with the country's location at the center of the continent. After our visit to Bolivia, we are not sure if this is the reason or if it is due to its rich culture and history.
Bolivia is a country of contrast and legends. The old and new coexist in perfect harmony. The national geography includes a section of the high Andes Mountains and also a good part of inaccessible regions in the Amazon jungle. And everything we saw followed suit; extremes do not oppose each other there, but rather seem to compliment one another.
Our trip was two weeks long and we barely saw a part of the mountain region close by La Paz, capital of Bolivia.
At an elevation of more than four thousand meters (about 12,000 feet) there is a plateau among the snow covered mountain peaks in the Andes. This plateau is called the Altiplano and we traveled by car through it. During several trips lasting from one to three days we were able to visit some very interesting places. In some of those places was were we had the opportunity to talk to some of the most colorful people we have ever met.
It turns out that on the Altiplano there are several archeological sites of civilizations with advanced cultures, which predate the Incas. According to our guides, even the Incas proclaimed that their origin came from the mighty Titicaca Lake. Like some of the Great Lakes found in North America where part of the waters belong to Canada and the other belongs to the United States, the waters of Lake Titicaca are shared by Peru and Bolivia. In this trip we were able to visit one of these archeological sites called Tiwanaku and sail on the sacred waters of the Titicaca.
During our stay we were able to share our time with good-natured people that received us with affection and respect. Many treated us as family and told us stories of their customs and beliefs. We would enjoy sharing one of these beliefs with you.
The earth emits energy and receives it. This is the energy that performs the miracles that we normally take for granted like the earthly harmony. Not the harmony amongst humans, but instead pertaining to the planet itself, it fuels the planet’s turning and allows life to take hold. According to the person who told us the story such energy springs from the Altiplano.
Days latter we had the opportunity to talk about this belief with another person who is also a mystic. This other person said that whomever had told us such story was wrong. While he is correct about the energy found in Bolivia, he was incorrect about it sprouting from the Altiplano. The mountains are not the source, they are the receivers.
During the colonial era, Bolivia was one of the main silver mining centers of the Spanish Empire. This is the reason why many Europeans went to explore and live in that region. Many of them found wealth and implemented their way of living. In La Paz we saw some rather large buildings dating to those times and in the cathedral at Copacabana we witnessed an impressive selection of paintings related to that era.
But Bolivia is not all mysticism, history and old culture. The people there smile and dance. During our visit we heard as much American as folckloric music in the nightclubs and other public places. The architecture we saw in La Paz and the towns we visited is extremely modern.
We are bilingual, speaking either English or Spanish with ease. Since our trip was booked from the US the travel agency in Bolivia assigned us to the group tours for English audience. We are glad it happened that way because it showed us how adept the Bolivians are for non-Spanish speaking tourists, the guides and the receptionists at the hotels do speak English. Many other individuals we spoke to tried to communicate in English and did so rather well.
Other interesting sites on the Web:
De Boyz in Bolivia Very informative, realistic and humorous.
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