Cholitas Luchadoras, El Alto, La Paz

Exploring South America: 14 Bolivian Moments (A Photo Essay)

Bolivia.

A land-locked country, home to harsh mountain ranges, colourful cloth and wooly llamas. Home to cholitas dressed in top hats and heavy skirts. Land of political upheaval and traditional birthplace of the Incas. Site of once-full silver deposits and site of colonial greed and, quite simply, some of the slowest Spanish ever spoken.

Here are 14 moments from travels through this sometimes difficult, always revealing country…

 

Graffiti of Bolivian "cholita" woman

This cholita was sprayed across the side of a building in one of the villages of La Isla del Sol. Note the piglet running behind her, another common island sight.

 

La Paz seen from the hills

La Paz, as seen from El Alto. This sprawling, chaotic city is home to thousands of people and an ever-increasing number of tourists who use it as a base camp from which to bike the Death Road or visit Lake Titicaca. Make the effort  to get lost in the street stalls and grab yourself a cozier lunch – likely served alongside a sopa de maní – far from the main plaza.

 

Llama foetuses, Bolivia

Used for medicinal purposes, these llama fetuses are especially conceived, aborted and removed from their mothers. Sold in varying stages of growth and “forms” from powdered to whole, they can cause a bit of a clench in the gut when first seen.

 

Flamingo, Salar de Uyuni Expedition, Bolivia

Journeying to the Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flats), past colourful lakes and snow-capped peaks. Flamingos abound and make for endless entertainment as they search in the mud for their next snack.

 

Dancers practising "diabladas" for Oruro, Bolivia

An afternoon walk provided an impromptu show when I turned a corner to see a group of men and women rehearsing a Diablada in the streets of Sucre. Soon, they’d be dressed in colourful costumes and dancing this same choreography at the Festival de Oruro, alongside thousands of others.

 

Dancers practising "diabladas" for Oruro, Bolivia

Picnic near a WaterfallHiking in the mountains near Sucre and taking advantage of a convenient waterfall for a  lunchtime backdrop.

 

Locals swimming on the Isla del Sol

A family gather on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

 

Lovers in Bolivia

A young girl and her boyfriend sneak a moment together beneath Christ of  Peace’s gaze, atop Cerro San Pedo in Cochabamba.

 

Bolivian woman and two children

Playing near Uyuni’s abandoned train yard on the border of the much-visited salt flats…

 

Cholitas Luchadoras, El Alto, La Paz

Slam! A mysterious masked mad man wins a point during a clash at Cholitas Luchadoras, a popular novelty wrestling event held in La Paz.

 

Cathedral in Copacabana, Bolivia

The Cathedral in Copacabana held a national event for young people with special needs, and colour filled the streets as the children and their carers entered.

 

Man and boat, Copacabana, Bolivia

On the shores of Copacabana, a man rests by one of the dozens of comical paddle boats waiting to be hired by a beer-laden gringo.

 

Site of Che Guevara's execution, La Higuera, Bolivia

A moment in the room where Che Guevara was executed in La Higuera, in the dry foothills near Valle Grande.

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