The Road to Bolivia’s Altiplano

We were finally on the road heading toward Bolivia’s altiplano and salt flats from the muggy east and into the Andes. Arriving in Sucre, we knew there was a big problem with the truck. How you ask? Every time we went over even a small bump or hole on the road, something slammed on the back right of the truck. We could feel Vida’s pain. One of the airbags the previous owner installed had completely sheered off. What we were hearing was metal on metal.

The mechanic we tracked down to add an additional leaf spring and remove the airbags soon discovered another problem. Our frame was also cracked. Driving Pantanal and the road into Sucre had taken a toll. It would be fresh carrot juice every morning for the next week as we waited for the repairs.

We got the truck back 5 days later and Vida had some bounce. The mechanic had installed springs to replace the airbags he removed. It was almost enjoyable to hit a speed bump.

Next stop was the mining town of Potosi where we slept at a hot springs (Ojo del Inca) perched above the city. A lot of people we talked to are not fond of Potosi, but George and I both felt an energy in the town’s colonial center. I also managed to snag a proper vegetarian lunch, which helped.

The road to Uyuni on the edge of the Salar was gorgeous and treacherous with the hail. Honestly, I was so focused on the days to come that I hardly noticed.


Steaming water and biting bugs in Aguas Calientes Bolivia

Yet again we had trouble at the Bolivian border. Our day excursion from Brazil to the Argentine side of Iguazu Falls had left us in a technically illegal status in Brazil. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue. The tourist would simply exit Brazil and be forced to pay a fine if they reentered the country in the next five years. As it stood, George needed a Bolivian visa. Before getting the visa, he needed to exit and reenter Brazil (get stamped out and stamped back in). He couldn’t however exit Brazil into Bolivia without the visa. So, a pickle it was. Eventually after bouncing around Corrumba and many visits to the border, he paid a fine and obtained the necessary stamps and finally the Bolivian visa.

Ready to be on our way, we again entered Bolivia and headed to Aguas Calientes. Many travelers only visit the altiplano of Bolivia. It never occurred to us that as you move east in Bolivia, the terrain flattens out into fields and the culture shifts with the hotter weather. The clothing becomes more western while the people seem less guarded (at least on the surface).

Aguas Calientes is situated 135 miles from the eastern Border of Bolivia. A hot thermal river runs through town. During the day, it’s almost unbearable to enter the water because it’s so hot but the river becomes pleasant with nightfall.

Unfortunately, our arrival was timed with the yearly arrival of a fruit fly sized bug that bites. The bugs were so small, they managed to find their way into our tent through the mosquito net and partook in a smorgasbord. George declared war, not resting until he had killed every bug he could find. The bites itched like a sand fly bite. I was loosing my mind scratching for days.

Boquete – the Napa Valley of coffee

…or so lonely planet says.  G and I being coffee junkies were obviously in whole hog.  As an aside, I have no idea when I picked up the phrase ‘whole hog’.  I’m just going to roll with it.  It turns out much of the Panamanian produce and coffee is grown in the Boquete area.  There is plenty of hiking, and the town itself is picturesquely back dropped by Volcán Barú.


We had heard from some lovely ladies that we met in Osa that Refugio del Rio was the hostel to be at and included a river and hot tub.  Since we now have a full-blown bed bug anxiety disorder, we schemed on ways to sleep in our truck but use the hostel facilities.  This turned out to be a piece of cake.  The hostel sees lots of campers and overlanders.  We snagged a spot in front of the hostel by the river.  The wonderful little river drowns out all the sound at night.

Every Thursday, the hostel has a bbq open to the public at a steel of $5.  G was able to top off the meat reserves, and I had piles of veggies and rice.  Since I was first in line, I got my pick of the bounty.

Most of the subsequent days were spent abusing the internet (we had some trip planning to take care of).  We did manage a few walks around town, a visit to the local panadería, as well as a few visits to the grocery store.  At the grocery store we went balls to the wall and bought bags upon bags of coffee as well as several bottles of rum.  Feeling a little lazy after a day of interneting, we ventured out to an underdeveloped hot springs.  On that front though, I advise travellers to steer clear.  I like my hot springs in two varieties: resort setting with all the amenities or pristine pool in a remote location.  What Boquete offered were two mosquito baths complete with farm animals for your viewing pleasure (we heard there was a more developed pool in the area but didn’t get a chance to check it out).

All and all, I think the town is worth a visit if you happen to be in the neighborhood and the cooler climate is a nice break from the heat in the low-lying areas.


Kiting and Hot Springs in La Ventana

Five miles North of La Ventana there is a place known as the ‘hot springs’ beach.  There are hot springs that are right under the shore break.  At low tide you can dig a hole in the sand and you can get scolding hot water coming from the ground.  A week ago we went with our camping neighbors from Montreal (Tommy and Melisa) to the hot spring beach to build a jacuzzi of sorts on the sand.  We dug (more like found it) a big whole in the sand.  We put a big tarp in the whole and we filled it up with hot water from the springs.  The deal was that Tommy and I would be kiting while the girls fill the whole.  Didn’t happen exactly as advertised but at least we kited for a bit 🙂 …