Forget about alpacas – the wild vicunas have a fur that is much more extraordinary. Even socks made from it cost around 500 euros. And Bolivia’s highlands are surprising with completely different records.
The highlands in Bolivia
ZBetween the parallel Andean mountain ranges lies the highlands of Bolivia, the 3000 to 4000 meter high Altiplano: treeless, sprinkled with huge lagoons with fluttering pink flamingos, an endless expanse, 700 kilometers long and 200 kilometers wide, with dust-dry stone deserts, salt lakes, volcanoes, bizarre rocks, but also with green plains, on which llama herds graze.Hide advertisementsdisplay
In the north is Lake Titicaca, the largest high mountain lake on earth. This is where the Ruta 1 trunk road begins, often straight, over La Paz, at 3600 meters the world’s highest seat of government, on to Oruro, famous for its three-day carnival – protected by UNESCO, with carved wooden masks in the form of grimaces and diablada -Dance.
On Maundy Thursday, the even more colorful Anata takes place, in which only indigenous people can participate. Here you ask the Achachilas, the weather gods living in the mountains, for a good harvest. Most of the locals are farmers. Bolivia is a poor country. There are gravel roads off the main road – past villages and vegetable fields built from red Adobe bricks.
There is a dry season from April to November, the sky glows in an intense blue. The daytime climate takes getting used to: during the day t-shirt weather at 23 degrees Celsius, at night the temperatures suddenly drop to freezing point.
The fine wool of the vicunas
In contrast, an alpaca camel looks old: its petite relative, the wild vicuna, has even finer, denser, because slowly growing, white belly wool. It is considered the most exclusive wool in the world because only a few ounces can be shaved per animal every two years.
The price after spinning starts at around 500 euros for socks and 15,000 euros for a coat. Bright shimmering yarn, rare and absolutely wrinkle-free.
The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt lake in the world
Surreal like a lunar landscape made of crunching crystals, studded with salt cones. Glistening bright in the sunlight, reflecting when it rains. The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt lake in the world, 160 kilometers long, 135 meters wide, covered with a thick salt crust that even trucks carry.
Its primeval landscape, created 10,000 years ago, is at risk: the brine contains five million tons of lithium, which is used for batteries. The degradation has a negative impact on the groundwater level.
Commitment to the diversity of peoples
Colorful hats geometrically patterned scarves with flowers, animals and people as a motif. In the highlands, the indígenas wear famous colorful fabrics made from llama, alpaca, and sheep wool, dyed naturally. They are called aguayos. The word comes from Quechua and means « to weave ».
The beautiful costumes vary in color from village to village. Bolivia describes itself as a plurinational state: More than 50 percent of the 11.9 million inhabitants belong to the indigenous peoples, especially Quechua and Aymara.
The constitution recognizes 37 official languages, including the almost extinct Inca language Puquina, the last remnant is sung as a secret language by the healers in the highlands.
The dinosaurs’ footprints
Did a herd of raptors and a brontosaurus walk here? The paleontological trail leads across the limestone quarry Cal Orcko near Sucre: 5000 dinosaur tracks over 1.5 kilometers. It is an absolute rarity.
Petrified footprints of 300 animal species were discovered in the highlands, with and without claws, bouncing, crawling, pounding. Considered the best fossil location in South America.
Hundreds of varieties of potatoes
600 types of potatoes grow in the highlands, in Bolivia, the tubers are called papas. Not just boring yellow ones like our Linda or Sieglinde, but deep black, velvet red, also warty called witch, curved called puma claw; and all tasty.
One variety is called the daughter-in-law test and is difficult to peel because of its folds and dents. The original potato was discovered 8000 years ago on Lake Titicaca, highly revered by the Incas, who even put it in the grave as an extra.
Stones show the way when hiking
Only they point the way in the barren plateau – Apachetas, as the Incas already used for orientation. If locals come by, kiss the pile of stones or pour water on the floor, for Pachamama, Mother Earth, revered as personified nature.display
The cairns also urge hikers to exercise caution because of the looming altitude sickness Sorochi. For prevention, a Bolivian saying goes: « Run slowly, eat little, sleep alone. »