Visiting Sajama, (remember here), turned out to be the perfect first stop after leaving La Paz. The road east was open and safe. We left there all fired up, but I was still a little apprehensive about heading south.
We had heard that the road blocks and protest were over, but this is Bolivia… you just never know!
In order to get south, we knew we’d have to drive through the two protest strongholds of Bolivia, Oruro and Potosi. We had already been rejected once trying to get through at Oruro, (remember here).
There used to be another road that went directly to Sucre, but apparently the protesters blew up a key bridge with dynamite. After that, the road became impassable, forcing all traffic through the protest centers of Oruro and Potosi.
Meanwhile, in May, Bolivian authorities intercepted over 137 sticks of dynamite and 375 kilos of an explosive substance called ANFO. The government then made a new law stating that it was illegal for a person to be in possession of dynamite while at a protest.
I don’t know… that sounds like a good piece of legislation to me.
Anyway, as we headed south this time, the roads were clear. There were remnants of the blockades, but everything was passable.
On our way south we wanted to stop at the small village of Curahuara de Carangas. Our friend Eric had told us of a small church that had, get this, art work from the 16th century! With the help of some locals, we found the small town, and the church.
Ok, allow me to tell you something that you probably don’t know about Bolivia. I certainly didn’t. This country has one of the oldest and richest colonial histories of any country in the Americas! The reason is because the Spanish found gold and silver in Potosi. These riches of Bolivia were the single reason the Spanish Crown existed over the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Bolivia basically bankrolled the Spanish for centuries.
Because of this, there is an ENORMOUS amount of cultural history hiding in the nooks of this country, like this church. It has been deemed the Sistine Chapel of South America, but barely anybody even knows about it!
As a matter of fact, it was completely abandoned until 2006, when this Padre found it and began restoring it. When we arrived he was raking the yard in a pair of over-alls and chewing a huge wad of coca leaves. After a brief introduction he agreed to give us a private tour.
Inside this tiny church there are paintings that date back to the 1500s. Did you catch that? This isn’t the type of thing you see outside of Europe. The fact that this tiny little church sits in the middle of nowhere on the Altiplano, full of this history and art, is just incredible!
Below, Stevie and Sol enjoy a full canvas from 1570. This thing was just hanging out on the wall. No protective covering. No nothing! If it weren’t for the altitude and dry climate, this would have never survived.
The walls of the church were covered with murals like the one below, which shows a bunch of Native Americans burning in a lake of fire. The Padre told us that the Spanish used these pictures to help convert the natives.
A truly sad affair, first the European conquered and enslaved the natives, forcing them to work to death digging gold and silver in the mines. Then, those who survived were told to convert to the twisted white man’s religion or else they would burn in a lake of fire forever.
I better not get started on religion… not a good thing…
And this one… this one actually gave me a nightmare!
Anyway, it was a truly great experience to visit that little church in the middle of nowhere. We packed back into the van and continued south.
Our next destination was Ojo Del Inca – The Eye Of The Inca.
The Ojo Del Inca is the eye of a volcano. It is an almost perfect circle, a cone, where the edges are about 5 feet deep and the center over 150. The water is hot, around 35°c. It is said that the water has special powers, and Inca kings came all the way from Cusco, Peru just to bathe here.
Well, this certainly was not to be missed. Our GPS got us close, and then with the help of some locals we found Ojo Del Inca.
Well, if it’s good enough for an Inca King, then it’s good enough for my little Soleil! Since Sol was born, we haven’t really had a lot of swim time. Turns out this little chunk-a-lunk floats… mostly.
She had kinda a strange reaction to the experience though. She didn’t really get excited, or scared, or… anything. She was just very calm. Not what I expected, but cool nonetheless.
This is another 5 star Bolivian destination that should not be missed if you’re cruising through. Send us a message if you need the GPS coordinates.
Our next destination takes the cake. We had heard about this place through a blog follower from Colorado. Our new friend Sergio is originally from Bolivia and made us promise not to miss it. We are very greatful to him for suggesting this hard to find, off the beaten path gem.
La Hacienda Cayara
GPS 19° 30′ 04.72″ S – 65° 52′ 52.69″ W
This place is… gawd, I don’t even know how to describe it, but it’s one of those places you DON’T miss if you are traveling through Bolivia. It was the first country estate to be founded in Bolivia back in 1557. And the entire place is a museum. To be able to stay in a place like this is so unique and so rare that… hell, it has to be done!
Our Sprinter Life karma was rolling because when we arrived, we had just missed a huge group of people from the World Heritage Site. The only people there were a few members of the family that owns the place. That’s right, we spent the night getting drunk with the owners. They were wicked cool.
The next day Arturo gave us a private tour of the estate. Below Stevie sits under two stellar paintings from the 15th century.
Here, Arturo shows off the family library, with books dating back to the early 1500s. Insane.
The actually have an original copy of the Spanish book, The Rules For Indigenous People. If these guys knew about Ebay… well, enough said.
Although they have an extensive collection of 400 year old books, the most impressive thing I saw was the collection of National Geographic. Fifty years without missing a single issue, from the far boondocks of Bolivia!
The property is just amazing. I could go on and on, but I wouldn’t be doing it justice. If you can, go there.
It’s experiences like this that make enduring the challenges of Bolivia so worth it!
After leaving this place, we drove to Sucre where we are currently posted up, resting. After Sucre our plan is to hit the Salt Flats, then move on to Argentina. A new country, can’t wait!