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, Naira? What is your relationship with Bolivia?
My name is Naira Sandoval Villegas, and I was born and have lived most of my life in La Paz. I love connecting with nature and the surrounding mountains. I’m an artist designer, specialising in Andean textiles, as well as a tourist and trekking guide. Bolivia is at the heart of South America, a country of incredible geobiological richness, with lots of microclimates, and I love showing off this diversity!
Tell us about your latest trip to Bolivia?
My last long trip to Bolivia was in 2019: we toured Bolivia in 15 days, avoiding the political problems … I was lucky enough to visit Hacienda Cayara, one of the oldest haciendas in the whole of South America. I also visited Tupiza and was enchanted by the reddish carcavas (rock formations) to be found there.
What would be your favourite place in Bolivia?
At the risk of not being very original, I’d say the Salar d’Uyuni! It’s a surreal place, with stromatolites and coral dating back millions of years to the inland sea. This white immensity is so peaceful that I never tire of returning there when I accompany groups. And when there’s water and you can see the reflection of the sky on its surface, it’s truly magical!
And your favourite place to recharge your batteries in La Paz, or anywhere else?
Sorata is one of my favourite places to recharge my batteries away from La Paz. The village is at an altitude of 2,800 metres and offers spectacular views of the Illampu. You can swim in the river and enjoy the natural surroundings. Isla del Sol is also one of my favourite destinations for escaping from the city, as there is no noise from cars or motorbikes. You’re sure to find peace on this island.
Your favourite culinary speciality?
Tarwi Pesto is one of my favourite sauces to accompany pasta or potatoes. Tarwi is the Quechua name for the changeable lupin (Lupinus mutabilis), a highly nutritious legume from the Andes.
Charkekan is also one of my favourite dishes. The dehydrated meat tastes spectacular, and combined with the llajua it’s a real delight!
What's your best memory of your trip to Bolivia?
As far as music is concerned, you should listen to the Kjarkas: they are the creators of the Lambada and the most popular Bolivian musicians in the world!
For literature, I’d say Guano, Salitre y Sangre, a very interesting book about an important episode in Bolivian history: the War of the Pacific, its economic stakes, the role played by England and France, and how Bolivia lost its access to the sea to enrich a few elites!