They live in La Paz and they all have one thing in common: they carry Bolivia in their hearts. In this series of portraits, Thaki Voyage invites you to meet Bolivians, both born and bred, who travel in their own country and share with us their vision, their treasures and a few secrets.
Who are you, Loan? What is your relationship with Bolivia?
Hello! My name is Loan, I’m 23 and I was born in Geneva. I’m passionate about sport in general, cycling, running and hiking in the mountains. I discovered Latin America starting with Argentina and Peru 3 years ago during a 6-month trip, and I immediately wanted to come back. The following year I returned to Peru, where I worked for a while in a café in Cusco. As part of my studies at the School of Tourism in Lausanne, I chose Bolivia to do a work placement with the Thaki Voyage agency. Bolivia is a country I didn’t know very well, but I wanted to discover …
Tell us about your latest trip to Bolivia?
We spent a weekend in Coroico, a village just over 2 hours from La Paz, but at a much lower altitude, so the climate is really pleasant; it’s almost like the Amazon, but less stifling. It’s ideal for a number of activities, there are many hikes to be done in the region, but above all it’s the ideal place to rest, to get away from the hustle and bustle of La Paz for a while. To all travellers planning a trip to Coroico, I recommend the Sol y Luna hotel. It’s an ecolodge, with lots of huts scattered around the jungle, with a magnificent view, several swimming pools and other activities on offer.
What's your favourite thing about Bolivia?
My bike! I was very reluctant to bring it with me from Switzerland, but in the end I don’t regret it at all. It allowed me to discover a lot of places, and in a different way. I’m starting to get to know several nice routes around La Paz, it’s just often a bit difficult to get out of the city with the traffic, and Bolivians don’t necessarily respect cyclists, but you get used to it, and as soon as you get out of the city, the scenery is extraordinary. I’d love to do a trip of a few weeks by bike through Bolivia, for example between the Salar d’Uyuni and South Lipez regions.
And your favourite place to recharge your batteries in La Paz, or anywhere else?
I really like the Lake Titicaca region. I’ve been there several times before, each time to different places, and it’s always super relaxing, and the scenery, with the lake and the snow-capped peaks in the background, is really beautiful. Last time, I cycled there and back, taking small roads and passing through many communities, raising cows and goats and growing potatoes and quinua. I’m planning to go there again soon to visit the Santiago de Okola region. For me, it’s the best place to get away from the hustle and bustle of La Paz.
What's your favourite culinary speciality here?
I’d say the chocolates, or the coffees, both of very high quality. I come from the land of chocolate, but I prefer Latin American chocolates, which really express the exceptional terroir of the Andean slopes or the Amazon. We can also see that there is more and more know-how, both in cocoa and coffee. Whereas these products used to be exported unprocessed to Europe, today there are more and more chocolate makers, craftsmen, roasters and so on. And, unlike most cocoa and coffee consumed in Europe, most of them are EU-produced, organic and fully traceable.
What's your best memory of your trip to Bolivia?
3 years ago, when I discovered South Lipez on my arrival from Chile, I was of course expecting exceptional landscapes, but it was totally beyond my expectations. It’s very hard to describe these landscapes as they seem to have come out of another world. On top of that, I was travelling alone at the time, but shortly before the visit to South Lipez I’d met some other super-friendly travellers, and the excursion, already extraordinary in itself, accompanied by this great group of friends, really made the moment very special. I dream of returning to this region and having a little more time to explore it.
Finally: a book, music album or artist to recommend to future travellers?
Although there are many traditional music groups in Bolivia, I would have to say Savia Andina, one of the most important in the country. It was probably this group that introduced me to the charango, a typical Andean instrument, a sort of small guitar with plucked strings and a unique sound, which I love. Savia Andina also use other typical Andean instruments such as the quena and the most famous Andean instrument, the siku. Among my favourite songs from the group are ‘Verbenita’ and ‘El Minero’. Some typical music, such as the Peruvian chicha, is slowly beginning to make a name for itself, and I think Bolivian music deserves to do so too.