To continue with Bolivia (yes, I know it’s been awhile…I am almost always on the run these days and having the chance to sit down and write can be challenging), the land in the clouds and in the jungles has a unique beauty that really has to be seen to described, though I’ll give it my best go to offer you some of the things that I saw and experienced. Bolivia is a country that is close to my heart. In my previous post, I mentioned the effects of altitude, which I never completely got over during my time there, though it did get far less noticeable over time, during the end of my stay I could at least make it up the hotel stairs without feeling like I ran a marathon. I took the slow and steady approach and as the weeks came and went, and I felt myself acclimating. You’d think that with all of the danger that was showcased in the series danger, danger would be my top observation of the country (and yes, there was plenty of danger) it really was it’s beauty and the unexpected gems of architecture and culture everywhere I went. The cities and villages that I traveled to were all extraordinary, from the “sky city” of La Paz, and the trip to Zongo Valley to those lower in elevation like Chulumani and Rurrenabaque. There is a vibrance to each of the cites all have a unique flavor and, I think due to the huge difference in geographical location (from the high mountains to the Amazon river lowlands) and culture the country has a lot packed into it. No beaches on the ocean, but everything else!
One of those gems was at a castle we stayed at on the way to Chulumani from La Paz; El Castillo del Loro. Tucked away in a spectacular ecological park, with the sound of a river flowing close to the castle and hidden away in the Bolivian jungle, this castle had both a mysterious and majestic quality to it. The castle, the settings and the interior were from another time and place, and I loved it. You don’t exactly expect to see a castle pop up in the middle of the jungle!
After a long day of traveling over dry, dusty Bolivian roads, the misty, cool jungle was a welcomed respite. We’d arrived in the late afternoon, and everyone was anxious to get their rooms, have a bite to eat, and go to bed. I’d had a couple of pieces of bread that looked a little like the “elephant ears” that we eat in the states. Devine.
You really don’t get a sense of the grandeur of the castle when you first approach it on foot; it’s set back in the jungle a bit and although visible as you are driving to it, it’s far larger than it appears from a distance. It’s quite a spread: Large stone walls, a couple of floors (actually, there were three, at least in the area that I stayed, with a turret section that was another large circular presidential room at the top of the castle. You could certainly feel there were plenty of stories within the walls of this old place. To boot there is a cool looking stone parrot to welcome you!
Our stay was short, so I don’t have a lot of history to tell you about this old castle! I’ve included a link to their site that will give a little more info on it. I did hear that a treaty was signed here, and mentions of other celebrities and political dignitaries that have stayed, which this hotel certainly could accommodate.
I had a chance to walk the paths and roads surround the castle; you are in the jungle, and in a river valley full of tranquility with the gentle sounds of the river running everywhere you walk. It’s a place I’d recommend just for the sights and beauty.
Inside the castle, it had a distictly 19th century feel to it, with antiques everywhere… Furnishings, on old organ, massive fireplaces and armor and shields hung on the walls. In as much as you could take a stroll outside the castle, you could also spend a lot of time enjoying what is contained inside it also. That being said, it IS modern. Pools outside, a bar, showers in the rooms, breakfast service, etc. The best of the old and new.
Bolivian Street Art
On a completely different side of things, this isn’t something that I’d expected at all: Bolivia has to be the most artistic place on the planet for street art (graffiti). We are all pretty used to seeing this in urban areas all over the world, and although I am a fan of art of all types, I’d say that much of the graffiti I’ve seen in most places isn’t exactly on the same level as Picasso..LOL. But there were so many examples of very cool, very unique pieces of street art that I thought I would share with you here. Really catches your eye. I spent a few minutes looking over this one. This person had some artistic and technical skills!
Of course I saw plenty street art here that wasn’t that great either, but there was so much by some really talented people that I thought it would be fun to share with you. It really varied. The “Cool” image really had a great 3D appearance to it. Not as much seeing it in person, but as soon as I took the photo and saw a preview of it, it showed some real depth. Pretty awesome!
The next picture is an interesting one in that I have seen this kind of image everywhere… I called them the “Pac-man Dudes” because I’ve seen them all over the world. In fact, it’s happened so frequently I wonder if there is some sort of underground pac-man art genre. They seem to pop up in all kinds of unexpected places. Like the game, there are usually 4 of them (not always) and sometimes they are accompanied by their Pac-man nemesis that likes to gobble them up. I’d be interest to hear from you if you see Pac-man street art around the world. Just curious. I’ve been looking at this image and trying to figure it out. They are definitely a toothy bunch and look a little angry, but I haven’t really grasped the overall intent. Let’s hear your take. One difference is that with the street art they are often one color, not multi-colored like the game.
This next one isn’t as hard to figure out, and a little “edgy” but is pretty creative, don’t you think? I suspect the artist isn’t big on business people. But again, the thought putting the metaphor into graphic form is pretty good! On each of these, I’d love to get some responses from you. Give me a title or an interpretation. It was pretty cool stuff to look at during my down time. I do like to get a feel of a place when I get there, and I think that street art does make some interesting statements about the situation of a place. My own take here is that some of the business ideas are… well, as the dog seems to be doing… not popular. But there are some other interesting parts to it. The figure has his hands raised in a way that seems to show that people have to tolerate, and listen, to the idea that he is expressing. Anyway, it’s just my take, and one that could be completely wrong.
One more: Monster man. Funny looking guy with lots of toes, and oily grin on his teeth and a look that caught my attention. At first I thought he was some sort of fire hydrant… But not so sure now. Maybe something to do with oil? Maybe something a little more edgy? This one is open to lots of interpretation and I’ve got to spend a little more time thinking about it. One of the things that sparked my interest is that he, like the “cool” piece above is that it was in color. You often see a lot of black graffiti, which may have anything to do with the art practices there to the cost of spray paint. Anyway, the colored stuff usually stands out. I do have a lot more, but I thought I would share a few of these for you to take a look at and see some of those sights that I saw along the way.
Quite a contrast, don’t you think? From castles in the jungle to talented La Paz street artists, each day that I wasn’t working there was never a shortage of places to go, see and enjoy. I may post one more about Bolivia, but I have so many stories to tell that it may be awhile. The traveling I’ve been doing the past year and a half have really taken me to so many places and I have so many stories to share with you.
Bolivia is a place that I’d never have thought to visit had I not been working there. It IS a place that I think most people would enjoy having so many things to offer, from scenery to cultures (old and new), nature abounds and the convenience to modern cities usually not that far away. And, of course, that infamous “death road.” I had a great experience there and hope to one day return. If you get there, just walk slow and take it easy for the first few days.