BOLIVIA: CULTURAL ADVENTURE TRAVEL IN
THE ANDES and AMAZON 2004
An Aymara shaman performs a blessing ceremony on Island of the Sun in
beautiful Lake Titikaka.
Rutahsa Adventures has led wonderful trips to Bolivia trip in 2001, 2002, and
2003. It was not our intent to make Bolivia an annual event, but the country
has proved simply too spectacular not to go again in 2004. This year we are
scheduling our trip for the dry season in order to be able to cross the entire
Salar de Uyuni and visit the remote area of the Lagunas Colorada and Verde
(the Red and Green Lakes) to see the scenery and exotic wildflife there. The
dry season is also the best time to visit the Madidi National Park in the
The 2004 Bolivia trip will be scheduled for July 22 - Aug. 11. We will need 12
participants to make the trip go. As usual, participation will be limited to
16 travelers. If you are interested in visiting this little-known republic
with so much to offer, please review the following itinerary carefully and let
us know if you'd like to sign on to this trip. Included meals are indicated for
each day in brackets following description of the day's activities: [B,L,D].
HERE'S THE ITINERARY:
THE ANDEAN ADVENTURES BEGIN...
DAY 1, Thurs. 7/22: AM: Land in La Paz, at one of the world's highest
airports, over 4050 m (13,300 feet) above sea level. During the transfer from
the airport to our hotel we drop about 1500 feet, and get our first views of
La Paz, sprawling throughout a valley below the
plateau on which we landed, with snow-crowned Illimani towering on the distant
skyline. We will proceed directly to the Hotel Rosario, a pleasant 3-star
hotel with a good restaurant, to rest, sip some coca tea, and begin to
acclimate to the altitude. It is highly advisable to take it easy upon arrival
to avoid soroche, altitude sickness. We'll become very familiar with
the Rosario before the trip is over, and if you'd like to preview the digs,
visit their website (and use your "back" button to return to this itinerary) by
clicking here: Hotel Rosario.
PM: La Paz, population approaching a million, is the de facto capital of
Bolivia, which is to say that although the much smaller city of Sucre to the
south is the legal capital of the republic, most of the government offices are
located here in La Paz, and most government business is done here. We will get
oriented in La Paz by visiting a small park overlooking much of the multi-hued city, visit the Plaza Murillo with its government palaces and
cathedral, and then set out on foot to explore the incredible market complex
near our hotel. Here block after block of shops, booths, and street vendors
offer an amazing and bewildering array of goods ranging from wonderful woven
goods of alpaca and llama wool, musical instruments, antiques, foodstuffs,
hardware, and all the items a well-supplied brujo (witch doctor) might
need, including herbs, potions, and dried llama
fetuses. You can buy old mine lamps, stirrups and even fake fossils from
For supper we'll visit a peña, where Andean musicians sing and
play folksongs featuring panpipes, charango, quena and other
traditional instruments. This special welcome supper and cultural experience
is included in the tour cost (drinks extra). [D]
DAY 2, Fri. 7/23: AM: After breakfast (included) we'll board our private
bus for the drive of about three hours south across the windswept
altiplano to the famous mining town or Oruro, founded in the 16th
century. Here we'll have lunch and also visit the Candelaria church and the
colonial mine over which the church was built. This mine has been converted
into a mining museum, with artifacts from the old days of mining. We will also
meet El Tío, a sort of devil-god respected by Bolivian miners as
the guardian of the underground riches, and who must be propitiated for the
Shortly after 3 PM we'll board the train headed for Uyuni. From our comfortable
"executive class" coach we will enjoy wonderful views of Lake Poopó just
south of Oruro, where flocks of waterbirds are commonly seen along the tracks,
while in the distance mirages baffle the viewer seeking the horizon. Further
south the line passes through somewhat bleak but beautiful
altiplano grasslands where herds of
llamas and alpacas roam and occasional villages and mining towns are passed.
Somewhere along the line night will fall and the likelihood of witnessing a
beautiful sunset is good. A good supper can be had in the dining car, before
nightfall if you like to watch the scenery roll by as you dine, or afterwards
if you want to focus on conversation.
Our train arrives at the dusty altiplano town of Uyuni-- a town created
by the coming of the railroads-- around 10 or 11 PM, and we will be met here by
our local guide with transportation to carry us to Jardines de Uyuni, our
rustic but charming little hotel. [B]
DAY 3, Sat. 7/24: Today we begin four days of real travel adventure in a
caravan of 4WD vehicles, as we set out to explore the region of the great Salar
de Uyuni, reputed to be the world's largest salt flat (10,582 sq km, or 4085 sq
mi), a landmark feature for the Apollo astronauts when passing over South
America. Just a short distance from the town of Uyuni, the great Salar de
Uyuni lies gleaming, nay blinding-- be sure to bring a hat with a visor
and good dark glasses.
Although we have visited the portions of the salar nearest to Uyuni numerous
times, the next four days of the itinerary (days 3 - 6) are new to us at
Rutahsa Adventures, so we are short on photos with which to illustrate the
itinerary and a little short on details about the sights to be seen and our
lodging. But this we can tell you: Expect a world of startling, if austere,
beauty. The Footprint guide for Bolivia describes this area as "one of
Bolivia's most spectacular and most isolated marvels." Expect some fairly long
travel days. Expect low temperatures. And expect to rough it a bit: hotels
will be spartan, typically with shared bathrooms and some may have
dormitory-like sleeping quarters. But the rewards for putting up with these
really rather minor inconveniences will be ample: You will travel where few
outsiders have been, seeing dramatic volcanic scenery, geysers, strange colored
lagoons, indigenous villages, precolumbian mummies, and the mind-blowing Salar
de Uyuni. We expect to see flamingoes
and vicuñas (the smallest of the Andean camelids); other exotic
wildlife that could be seen along the way include vizcachas (an animal that looks like a rabbit with a squirrel's
tail!), Andean foxes, and even pumas (puma sightings are rare and unlikely--
but not impossible!).
Today, after breakfast at Jardines de Uyuni, we head south to Quetena, passing
through various pictureque villages including San Cristobal, Alota and Kulpina
K and lots of Andean desert scenery. South of Alota the "road" passes through
terrain that the Footprint guide describes as "collections of eroded rocks
surrounded by snow-capped mountains". Somewhere along the way we'll find a
suitable picnic spot and stop for a box lunch. We will overnight at a basic
hostal in Quetena. [B,L,D]
DAY 4, Sun. 7/25: Our route today takes us to Laguna Verde (Green
Lake), geysers, Laguna Colorada (Red Lake), and the Desierto de Siloli (Siloli
Desert), eventually ending the day well to the north at the pueblo of
San Juan where we will again overnight at a rustic hostal. Lunch will be a
picnic somewhere en route. [B,L,D]
Laguna Verde lies at an elevation of 4400 m (14,436 ft) and will be the
southernmost point of our trip, lying just north of the Bolivian border with
Chile. The lake covers 17 sq km and is said to derive its odd green color from
magnesium, calcium carbonate, lead and arsenic in the waters.
Laguna Colorada lies at 4278 m (14,035 ft) and covers some 60 sq km, but is
very shallow, less than 1 m deep. Its red color comes from tiny organisms
living in the water, and these in turn provide food for three species of
flamingoes that live here: the James flamingo (rare) and the Chilean and Andean
flamingoes. Strange to say, the flamingoes derive not just nourishment from
their lake, but their color also! Flamingoes are hatched with white plumage
and acquire their pink color from their diet.
The two lakes, the geysers, and the Siloli Desert all lie within the Reserva
Eduardo Avaroa, created in 1973 and 1981 to protect the fauna and flora,
especially the bird species, of this region. There are 80 species of birds,
including flamingoes, the ostrich-like suri, the horned coot (soca
cornuda), Andean goose (huallata), and the Andean hillstar
(jurunkuta). We hope to see many of these.
DAY 5, Mon. 7/26: From San Juan we will drive north, entering the Salar
de Uyuni to roll across the great white salt expanse itself, over-arched by a
sky so big it looks like it needs someone to help hold it up! The best view (if it isn't too cold) is from atop the vehicles. We trust our drivers to
navigate by their knowledge of distant landmarks-- roadsigns are precious few
out on the salar, and inexperienced visitors have been known to become
disoriented and lost. Well out in the middle of the huge salt pan we'll find,
rising like Venus from the sea, Isla Pescado
rising up out of the flat snow-white salt.
On Isla Pescado we will take a short hike to admire the beautiful cacti that cover the island. There is a colony of
vizcachas here, so if we haven't seen them before, we have another chance.
We'll also find weird coralline-looking calcite encrustations over
the black volcanic bedrock. These encrustations are not coral (they are
probably algal-related deposits) but are indeed evidence of the once great lake
that existed where today's salt flat lies. The calcite shows that in past
times the lake nearly covered Isla Pescado and has since evaporated away.
After hiking around Isla Pescado a bit we will continue on across the salar to
the little town of Jirira at the foot of Volcán Thunupa. Here we'll
overnight in another simple lodging. [B,L,D]
The stunning natural phenomenon known as the Salar de Uyuni was once a great
intermontane lake comparable to Lake Titikaka, but which has since evaporated
away leaving behind salt deposits 10 m or more thick across the former lakebed.
The exact cause of the lake's disappearance is debated by geologists, though
the most common explanation is climate change in post-glacial times. However
it got here, it is spectacular! During the wet season the salar is sometimes
covered with a thin layer of water and is transformed into the world's largest
mirror, resulting in scenery that is mind-boggling and disorienting. And driving across it is even more confusing! But in the wet season the salar can
also be impossible to cross, and the Reserva Eduardo Avaroa impractical to
attempt to reach. For this reason we have chosen to visit this region in
the dry season, when 4WD vehicles can roll across the flat hard salt at highway
DAY 6, Tues. 7/27: Today we ascend partway up one flank of Volcán
Thunupa to see the mummies of Coquesa. Then we head back towards Uyuni,
again crossing part of the great salar. Before reaching Uyuni we pass through
Colchani, a village entirely dedicated to the cottage industry production of
salt from the salar. Salt is first scraped from the surface of the salar and
piled in heaps. Later it is collected,
fire dried, and iodine added as it is bagged
up for sale nationwide.
Not far from Colchani is one of the world's strangest constructions, a hotel
quite unique in concept: the Palacio de Sal,
built entirely of blocks of rock salt quarried directly from the salar! This
photo was taken a couple of years ago when the hotel was out on the salar
proper, but disputes with local officials resulted in its being dismantled and
removed to its present site. We'll plan to stop here for a visit to see how
the reconstruction is coming along. Inside the
Salt Palace everything is made of salt. Truly an amazing, imaginative and
Uyuni was founded as a railroad town, and just outside the town is a "train
graveyard" which, time permitting, we will visit to marvel at the rusting hulks
and some unknown graffiti artist's wry
Once back in Uyuni we'll settle for the night at the familiar and welcome
little Hotel Jardines de Uyuni. Its rooms with private baths and hot water
will now appear the height of luxury! [B,L]
DAY 7, Weds. 7/28 : After breakfast we board our 4WD vehicles again
and head out on an adventurous gravel road across a series of Andean ranges to
reach fabled Potosí. Our route takes us through the old mining town of
Pulacayo where, amazingly enough, there is another railroad graveyard that features a train allegedly held up by Butch
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Somewhere along the route we'll stop for a
picnic lunch. And there will be photo stops for dramatic scenery,
vicuñas, herds of llamas and alpacas. In fact the variety along this
road is mind-boggling: you are likely to see snow on mountaintops overlooking
sand dunes, near-desert stretches of altiplano, a delightful trout stream lined
with green vegetation in the bottom of a picturesque canyon, and geologically
tormented strata of many a dramatic hue
thrust up towards the sky. It's a long, but very rewarding drive, and if none
of the river crossings delays us, we'll reach the famous mining city of
Potosí well before dark. After checking in at the Hostal Colonial we'll
go to supper at the Restaurante San Marcos, an old mine mill converted into a
restaurant-cum-mining museum. Quite a place! [B,L]
DAY 8, Thurs. 7/29: Today we sally forth from Potosi a mere 20 km to
visit Hacienda Cayara and get a glimpse of what life was like on an important
colonial estate. Hacienda derives from the verb hacer, "to do or
to make". Grand estates such as Cayara --founded in 1556, and reputedly the
first hacienda in the colony-- were typically (and necessarily) self-sufficient
enterprises in which almost everything except imported luxury items was made or
done on the estate itself. The hacendados (estate owners) were feudal
lords who ruled vast terrains and often vast numbers of Indians who were tied
to the land as serfs. The casona (big house) of Hacienda Cayara is a
well-preserved example of its type, furnished with period furniture, paintings
and decorations. We will have lunch at the hacienda and try to imagine what
it was like to live here as members of the Spanish colonial elite.
In the afternoon we will return to Potosi for a second night at the Hostal
DAY 9, Fri. 7/30: The coat of arms of Potosí bears the legend
"I am rich Potosí, the treasure of the world, the king of mountains,
the envy of kings." According to legend, silver was discovered at
Potosí in 1544 by one Diego Huallpa who had climbed a mountain in search
of lost llamas. The Spaniards were quick to investigate rumors of Indians with
silver, took possession of the mountain peak, soon to become known as Cerro
Rico ("Rich Mountain"), and Potosí was founded in 1545. Within 25
years it was the largest city in the New World, with a population of 125,000.
Riches poured out of the mountain into Spanish coffers, changing the financial
structure of Europe. Potosí itself was awash in wealth; Spanish
aristocrats in Potosí built themselves palaces and dozens of baroque
churches. But all this came at a terrible toll of human misery, as the mines
were operated by enslaved Indians who died by the thousands in the bowels of
This morning, after fortifying ourselves with a hearty breakfast including some
strong coffee or hot chocolate, we'll head for Cerro Rico, the mountain that made Potosí. This peak, now
stripped barren and plundered inside and out, is still being worked by hundreds
of miners, and we will find out what it's all about by going underground into
the Candelaria Mine. First, a necessary stop is at a market to buy
appropriate gifts for the miners and for El Tio: bags of coca leaves,
strong black cigarettes, perhaps some rum, or you could even buy dynamite and
blasting caps, which no doubt the miners would truly appreciate, but let's not
tempt fate. At the adit we will be issued carbide lamps and hard hats, perhaps
a slicker, and then duck our heads as we enter the dark underworld. Within the drifts we'll visit with
miners working veins with hand tools, under
conditions that are very 19th century by modern mining standards, but which are
still a far cry from the awful circumstances endured by the Indian slaves in
Each of the many mines under Cerro Rico has a shrine to El Tio,
the miner's god of the underworld, who must be placated if his mineral wealth
is to be extracted and the miner to return safely to the world of sunlight
above. We will save a portion of our gifts of coca and cigarettes to leave
at the statue of El Tio before we exit
Back again in sunshine and fresh air, we'll ponder the toil we witnessed
underground as we take our lunch and get ready for an afternoon tour of the
Wending our way through narrow streets
overhung by balconied colonial homes we will visit the Casa de la
Moneda, a colonial mint turned into a splendid museum. The mint building
is a fine example of colonial architecture, with an anomalous later
embellishment, the head of Bacchus. Next,
depending on how long we spend at the Casa de la Moneda, we'll move on
to the Convento de Santa Teresa, with its museum, and the San Francisco
Convent for the best rooftop view of Potosí.
One of the interesting things to note as you pass along the streets is the
variety of highly distinctive men's hat styles affected by the cholitas
(Indian women who have adopted a highly stylized western mode of dress).
Overnight for a final time in the Hostal Colonial. [B]
DAY 10, Sat. 7/31: After breakfast we board our private bus (no more 4WD
on this trip!) and leave Potosí behind, headed for beautiful Sucre, the
legal capital. Although there's lots of mountain scenery to pass through, it's
an easy three-hour drive over one of Bolivia's best highways. That is, three
hours with no stops...but we have things to see en route, starting with the
colonial church of Manquiri.
Manquiri is located some kilometers off the main road, and is seldom visited by
outsiders. In fact it seems not to make the guidebooks. But its colonial
church is beautiful and worth visiting. Manquiri might be a good place for our
On the outskirts of Sucre we'll visit a late-19th-century mansion called
the Castillo de la Glorieta. This amazing home was built by a wealthy
Bolivian merchant who wanted to show his fellow countrymen what fine European
architecture was all about, which he did by using as many styles as possible in
a single building! Its
interior features are as unsual as its
exterior. An amazing confection to say the least.
Our home for tonight and the next two nights is the very pleasant
four-star Hostal Su Merced, within easy walking distance of the central plaza
and a number of good restaurants. In spite of interesting stops en route, we
should arrive in time to enjoy strolling about Sucre. To take a look at the
Hostal de Su Merced, click here: Su
Merced, but don't forget to use your "back" button to return to this
DAY 11, Sun. 8/1: After a really fine breakfast at the La Merced, we
board our bus for a few more kilometers to the village of Tarabuco where local
Quechua people still wear traditional costume of multi-colored ponchos,
chuspas (woven bags for carrying coca leaves), elaborate axsu
(overskirts) for the women, and helmet-like headgear (apparently derived from
conquistadors helmets) for the married men and women. Sunday is market day in
Tarabuco and this market is famous for its color. A great place to buy
beautiful traditional textiles.
En route back to Sucre we will stop at Jatún Yampara, a tiny indigenous
community participating in a tourism project. Here we can visit a traditional
Quechua home, see some of the local crafts, perhaps participate in a blessing ceremony to Pachamama, and, by our
presence and our purchases, aid this small community.
Overnight again at he Hostal de Su Merced. [B,L]
DAY 12, Mon. 8/2: Today will be a relaxing all-day stay in Sucre.
Founded in 1538 as La Plata, the city was renamed Sucre in 1825 in honor of
General Sucre, first president of the new Republic of Bolivia (which was itself
named after the Great Liberator, Simón Bolívar). Sucre is
nicknamed La Ciudad Blanca, i.e., "The
White City", due to the tradition of whitewashing all the buildings in
central Sucre. It is generally agreed that Sucre is Bolivia's most beautiful
city, with a relaxing atmosphere and just a thoroughly pleasant place to be.
It is also a university town and the students add to the friendly ambience.
After another great breakfast at our hotel we will begin a guided tour of some
of the most important sites of Sucre, including La Recoleta convent and a fine museum of native textiles of
the region. Here you can see valuable old textiles, plus high quality new
pieces (many for sale), and perhaps witness a demonstration of
backstrap loom weaving.
The afternoon will be free time for enjoying other sights of this compact and
very walkable city on your own. The possibilities include people watching on
the lovely plaza, shopping for crafts and fine Bolivian chocolates in the shops
on and near the plaza, visiting the central market, and seeking out more
historic buildings open to the public, such as the cathedral. You can even take a short tour out to the big quarry on
the outskirts of town to see the impressive display of dinosaur tracks
unearthed by the quarrying operations.
Overnight again at Hostal de Su Merced. [B]
DAY 13, Tues. 8/3: AM: Free time to enjoy Sucre further. Every time
we have taken a group to Bolivia they have always requested "more time in
Sucre", and with good reason-- it really is a charming place.
This afternoon we will visit the Casa de la
Libertad, site of the declaration of independence from Spain, and then
continue on to the airport to catch our flight back to La Paz (flight ticket is
included in the cost of the excursion). If the weather is favorable we'll be
treated to some jaw-dropping views of the Bolivian Andes. In La Paz we'll take up lodging at our old familiar
haunt, Hostal Rosario. [B]
DAY 14, Weds. 8/4: Copacabana is our goal and Lake Titikaka our very
special thrill today. We'll leave La Paz early in a chartered bus headed north
to the small port of Chua to board the modern catamaran Consuelo that will transport us in
style across the beautiful and grand lake to Copacabana. An extensive
breakfast buffet will be served shortly after we get underway and you can watch
the scenery glide by as you dine in the spacious main salon lined with picture
windows. After breakfast it's up to the sun deck atop the vessel. Titikaka,
famous as the world's highest regularly navigated lake at 3856 m (12,651 ft),
is stunning, and you will be amazed at the extent of ancient agricultural
terracing evident on the hillsides all around the lake. A fine lunch will also
be served during the cruise to Isla del Sol (Sun Island).
Upon reaching Isla del Sol (legendary birthplace of Manco Capac,
the first Inka, and his sister-consort Mama Ocllo), our catamaran will dock at
an Inka ruin for us to board a boat constructed in the ancient fashion of
totorara reeds from the lake. On this craft we will sail a short ways
around the island to a very well-done
visitors' complex, owned and operated by the same company that operates the
Consuelo. Here we will see Inka stonework at a sacred spring, Inka
terraces with many native crops and medicinal plants identified, and perhaps
see a demonstration of the use of the traditional Andean footplow. The complex features an excellent small museum,
totora reed boat building and dance demonstrations, plus a chance to see
llamas, alpacas, a vicuñas and possibly
even a guanaco (the rarest of the four Andean camelids) up close.
After leaving the visitors' complex we cruise towards the north end of Island
of the Sun to the village of Challapampa. The village men will probably
welcome us with traditional music and the
women like to welcome foreign visitors with lais (admittedly not an Andean
tradition, but a way in which the women can participate in welcoming us). Men
from the village will row us to the far end of the island where we'll land
and make a stiff 15 minute climb up to the crest of the island and the ruins of
an Inka building. From here we'll hike
back to Challapampa, after first receiving a blessing from an
Aymara shaman to safeguard us on the rest
of our travels in Bolivia and on our return trip home. The walk back to the
village is mostly downhill, takes about an hour or hour and a half, and
features glorious evening views.
Once back aboard our catamaran we will have supper in the salon, served by
candlelight. After supper, if the weather is favorable, sitting and conversing
in fresh air and moonlight on the upper deck will be a pleasant pastime
before going to bed in our cabins below decks. [B,L,D]
DAY 15, Thurs. 8/5: We hoist anchor in the morning, and while
having our breakfast, sail the remaining hour to Copacabana, a charming lakeshore resort town.
However, Copacabana is more than just a resort town. It is the site
of Bolivia's most important religious shrine, an impressive
Moorish-style cathedral built in 1610-1620.
Many miracles have been attributed to the Dark Virgin of Candelaria or
Copacabana, a black wooden statue of Mary housed in this great church.
Although many pilgrimages are made to Copacabana for many reasons, one of the
more unusual practices is for the owners of newly purchased automobiles to
bring their vehicles here to be blessed by a priest and then showered with
We plan to visit the basilica; however, we are arriving on the date of a
folkloric festival which might mean altering our plans somewhat. The festival
will undoubtedly add to the interesting attractions for us to witness.
Our lodging in Copacabana will be the Hotel Rosario del Lago, an attractive
sister hotel to the Hotel Rosario in La Paz on the shore of Lake Titikaka.
Here's a link to the website for the hotel: Rosario del Lago. [B]
DAY 16, Fri. 8/6: We return to La Paz today, by land, in private
transportation, enjoying scenic altiplano vistas all along the way. The day's
highlight will be a visit to the monumental pre-Inkan ruins of Tiwanaku.
Tiwanaku is the ruined capital of one of the earliest Andean empires, believed
by many archeologists to have been the longest surviving empire of all the
precolumbian Andean civilizations, flourishing for over a thousand years. The
site is particularly noted for its monolithic gateways, giant idols and other architectural uses of
gigantic stones. The ruins are known to have
been visited by one of the Inka emperors and are thought to have served as an
inspiration for the later Inka stonework.
In La Paz we'll settle in for another night at the Hotel Rosario. [B,L]
LET THE AMAZONIAN ADVENTURES BEGIN...
DAY 17, Sat. 8/7: And now, for something completely different...be
prepared for hot and humid! Today we fly in two 16-passenger aircraft operated
by Amazonas Airlines, from La Paz in the Andes down to Rurrenabaque in the
Amazon lowlands, about an hour's flight to the northeast of La Paz.
Rurrenabaque is a river town, in a vast region where the rivers are the
highways and have been since time immemorial. The town sits on the east bank
of the Río Beni, a major tributary to the Amazon, and is just outside
the boundary of the huge, nearly undeveloped Madidi National Park.
Rurrenabaque is the principal gateway to the park.
The Madidi National Park was created in 1995 to protect a mind-boggling
4,500,000 acres of Amazon basin wilderness teeming with wildlife. The
ecological zones range from montane cloud forest to dry tropical forest, humid
lowland rainforest to savannah, and wild rivers to lakes. The vast park is
home to more than 1000 speices of birds; 44% of all new world species of
mammals are found here, and an estimated 38% of neotropical amphibians.
Obviously the varied jungle ecosystems include a huge variety of plant species.
Before heading into the park we must overnight in Rurrenabaque, which will give
us some time to explore the small town, see what life is like in this frontier
region of Bolivia, and start to acclimate to the warm Amazon climate.
Overnight in Hotel Safari. [B]
DAY 18, Sun. 8/8: After breakfast we board a river launch and head
upstream on the Río Beni towards the Chalalán Ecolodge inside the
Madidi park. To reach the lodge we'll have to turn off the Beni and proceed up
one of its tribs, the Río Tuichi, and after reaching the dock for
Chalalán lodge we still have a bit of a walk through the jungle. We
should arrive before lunch, which we'll be served at the lodge.
The Chalalán Ecolodge is a project of the indigenous community of San
José de Uchupiamonas, Conservation International, and the International
Development Bank. The purpose of the lodge is to provide access to the Madidi
to outsiders in an ecologically sensitive and sustainable manner, and at the
same time providing jobs and income for the native people.
The lodge consists of three bungalows with three double rooms in each, plus
three "honeymoon" cabins, all designed and constructed in traditional styles
with traditional techniques and materials. Bathroom facilities are shared.
There is a dining hall seating 24, a bar, a small crafts shop, and a library
with field guides and reference materials appropriate for the area.
Activities at the lodge include hiking jungle trails, bird and animal watching,
plant identification, canoeing and swimming, reading and relaxing. Animals
commonly seen near Chalalán include monkeys (spider, howler, capuchin,
and squirrel monkeys), tapirs, alligators, wild pigs, and capybaras (the
world's largest rodent). For bird-watchers, some 340 species of birds live in
the vicinity of the lodge, including macaws, toucans, tanangers, hummingbirds,
and hoatzins (strange, primitive-looking birds!).
After getting settled into our respective rooms and having lunch, we will be
guided on a walk along part of the 25 kms of trails developed in conjunction
with the lodge. After dinner there will be an optional night walk to see
nocturnal wildlife. [B,L,D]
DAY 19, Mon. 8/9: Full day at Chalalán, with a variety of
activities to choose from. We have programmed another guided walk to learn
about the plants of the area, including fruits and medicinal plants. And, of
course, any walk is an opportunity to see birda and jungle animals. After
lunch a swim in the lagoon near the lodge is a pleasant option. Later in the
afternoon we'll likely take another hike on a different trail. After supper we
can learn about the history and the legends of the area. [B,L,D]
DAY 20, Tues. 8/10: Up for an early breakfast today, for we must walk
back to the dock and return by boat downriver to Rurrenabaque, arriving
in time to catch afternoon Amazonas flights back to La Paz. At the La Paz
airport we will be met, as always, and taken back down into the city and to the
Hotel Rosario for a final night. [B]
DAY 21, Weds. 8/11: Alas, all good things must come to an end, and this
wonderful adventure is no exception. You will be transferred from the Hostal
Rosario back out to LPB airport for your flight back to the U.S. or other point
of origin. But you will take with you a ton of photos if you are a
photographer, some wonderful textiles if you are a shopper, and a million
memories no matter what! Don't be surprised if you start considering a return
COST OF THE TRIP: The costs listed below are based on a minimum of twelve
excursionists, in double occupancy rooms. Single room accommodations are
available at an extra cost.
HOW TO GET ON BOARD: Let us know you are interested by e-mailing Dr. Ric Finch
at Rutahsa Adventures. We will be happy
to send you an application blank or to put you on our mailing list for trip
up-dates, as you request.
- At the time of this writing (Dec. 27, 2003) the trip cost for 12 to 14
participants is $2515 per person in double room accommodations. For 15 to 16
participants the trip cost falls to $2330 per person. This price includes: all
lodging; all transportation (including transfers in from airport to hotel and
vice-versa; ground transportation by private bus, by train, and by 4WD
vehicles; catamaran transport across Lake Titikaka; air transport from Sucre
to La Paz and from La Paz to Rurrenabaque and back to La Paz); all entries to
museums and other sites specified in the itinerary; daily breakfasts, 12 lunch
and seven supper meals; bilingual local guide service; and the services of a
bilingual tour conductor.
The above prices are expected to be final as they are based on firm quotes from
our suppliers. However, air ticket prices are subject to change without
notice, and in the event of air fare hikes the above prices would have to be
- Travelers desiring single room accommodations will be charged a singles
supplement of $245.
- NOT INCLUDED: Air fare from home starting point to La Paz and return;
meals not specified in the itinerary; alcoholic beverages; medical and
personal expenses; souvenirs; tips; Bolivia exit tax of $25.
- Although we do not sell airline tickets we can help you find economical
flights. We highly recommend Solar Tours of Washington, D.C. for flights to
Latin America. Call 1-800-388-7652 and ask for Patricia at extension 558;
Patricia is familiar with our plans, so be sure to tell her you plan to
go on Rutahsa Adventures' Bolivia trip. Patricia gives us and our customers
the best flight prices we have been able to find.
Because much of this excursion takes place at elevations above 10,000 ft, we do
not recommend this trip for anyone with a history of difficulties at high
altitude. We also recommend that participants arrive in La Paz one day early
(July 21) to allow ample time to adjust to the altitude. We plan to do this
ourselves. And you surely won't regret the extra time in this interesting
city. If you choose to do this, let us know so that we can book a room for you
at the Hostal Rosario. Please note: Space at this hotel is already getting
limited due to lots of bookings during this season, so this is a matter that
you need to decide on early.
- Return to beginning of webpage.
- To see other fine trips available through Rutahsa Adventures, click here:
Photos on this website by Janie and Ric Finch, @copyrighted.