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.

River floating in Bonito Brazil

We had heard that Bonito Brazil was a must stop on our way back from Iguazu Falls. Bonito is a paradox. Surrounded by open fields filled with cattle, you would never know pockets of jungle with crystal clear water flowing throw rock-bottom rivers are tucked into the folds and crevices of the area.

We had Camping do Gordo to ourselves aside from the occasional young couple escaping what I can only assume were their families prying eyes. The campsite is situated on one of the clear rivers. After acclimating to the cool water, we started our first float downstream. It was so perfectly serene with light refracting off the water’s surface.

Bonito offers plenty of activities, but the real draw is the Rio Prata (Silver River). To visit the river, you drive over dirt roads and past perplexed cows to the jumping off point of the tour. Nestled in lush surroundings is a well manicured base where your procure wet suit and snorkel for a float down the river. A short hike gets you to the starting point of the roughly 2-hour trip. Floating downstream we passed what felt like hundreds of tiny little worlds nestled in tree roots stretched into the river from the banks. The experience is more like scuba diving than snorkeling because you are not fighting with the currents.

G and I were already falling in love with Brazil, and Bonito really sealed the deal for us.

A boat ride into Iguazu Falls

We made the call in Pantanal, Brazil to make the drive south to Iguazu Falls instead of coming north from Buenos Aires. As you can see from the video below, we had an OK time.



Note: We stayed at Hostal Natura on the Brazilian side which is a little out of the city, but has great facilities for campers, a pool, and a swimmable lake. There is also an organic veggie farm near by with amazing produce. Highly recommend.

We visited the Brazilian side the first day from which you get a better sense of how expansive the falls are.

Outside the park entrance is a bird sanctuary which feels a little like a zoo. Don’t fear though, their mandate is to rehabilitate injured birds and provide shelter for those who are not able to reenter the wild.

The following day we headed to the Argentine side of the falls. It wasn’t until the eleventh hour and some encouraging sentiments from our guide that we decided to take the plunge in the form of a boat hauling ass towards the falls. The entire ride took 30 minutes or so which was enough time to take four passes at the falls.