Tag Archives: potosi
April 8, 2011

Thoughts on Bolivia

I’m glad we approached Bolivia after traveling through Ecuador and Peru first.  I think it lessened the inevitable culture shock.  On the other hand, when we arrived in Chile (a post for another day), it felt almost like we were returning to the United States, the quality of living (and prices!) were so much higher.  Below are the things that occurred to me as we traveled through Bolivia.

Coca Leaves

What’s the first thing you think about when someone mentioned Bolivia.  It’s “cocaine,” isn’t it?  The whole time I was there, I didn’t see or hear anything about the white powder.  Not that I was running in those circles or anything, but no one even offered it to me.  I found it surprising, considering that it happened more than once in Peru.

What Bolivia does have, though, is coca leaves.  You can buy them by the bag-full at any outdoor market and, if you ask for the activator (a sticky, bitter substance made of ash, sap, bananas and/or who knows what else), you can get “high” with them in a perfectly legal, even morally acceptable way.

Oksana and I tried them a couple times and the effects, for me, were on par with drinking a venti-sized cup of coffee from Starbucks (assuming, of course, your coffee tastes like freshly-cut grass and completely numbs your cheek and tongue!)  Oksana really liked chewing coca leaves while hiking – they allowed her to completely ignore any pain she was feeling on the long, steep hike up Colca Canyon.

(In Potosí, it was almost comical the way the miners kept stuffing the leaves into their mouths.  Plucking each stem, they’d add them one at a time, over the course of hours, until their cheeks were bulging like a greedy hamster!)

After seeing the widespread use of coca leaves in both Peru and Bolivia, I’d guess it’s about as addictive as marijuana and about as socially acceptable as smoking cigarettes.  I wonder if that’s why the two countries have relatively few smokers…


March 23, 2011

PV014: Salar de Uyuni

The Salar de Uyuni is the most amazing natural wonder I have ever seen in my life.  During our two trips through the world’s largest salt flats, Oksana and I got so many good photos and videos that editing them into a single podcast episode was more challenging than editing the ones where I don’t have enough footage.  I worried that I wouldn’t do this amazing landscape justice.

This video is almost fifteen minutes long and that’s even after I decided to eliminate day two and three of our tour (I may make that into a shorter episode later.)  I had the great fortune to be able to interview not just Oksana and myself, but also our guide and every one of the new friends we met on these tour.  This isn’t just “Arlo and Oksana’s Experience on the Salar,” it’s “Arlo and Oksana’s (Alaska), Rémy and Aurélie’s (France), Wendy and Dusty’s (Ohio), Soledad and Joaquin’s (Buenos Aires), and Oscar’s (La Paz) Experience on the Salar!”

Not everyone is as comfortable as we are in front of a camera — and we’re far from comfortable talking into a lens, ourselves! — so I want to thank everyone who contributed to this video, especially Soledad and Joaquin who struggled with an unfamiliar language on camera.  For what it’s worth, I think that having a 2-to-1 ratio for English-as-a-second (or third!) -language to native English speakers in this video is pretty cool!

Fifteen minutes may be asking too much of some internet viewers.  If you find yourself bored by the setup, might I suggest you jump to the 9 minute, 45 second mark?  Spoiler warning: It’s awesome!

Finally, there are more stories and photos of our Uyuni trips on:

Rémy and Aurélie’s travel blog: NEWZ FROM THE WORLD
Wendy and Dusty’s travel blog: roamthepla.net