Presenter Ian Wright explores Bolivia, one of the
poorest countries in Latin America but one of the richest
in culture and landscape.
His journey begins on Lake Titicaca.
It's the highest navigable lake in the world and covers
some 3000 square miles, linking Bolivia and Peru. The
Island of the Sun is the place where
the Inca Empire began and Ian learns that the first
Inca married his sister, then convinced the people that
they were the children of the sun god who had risen
up from the lake. An hour by boat from the Island of
the Sun is Copacabana, where every
Sunday the locals bring their cars for a blessing by
Father Bernadino. The ceremony is Christian but has
its roots in the Inca tradition.
From Copacabana Ian hitches a ride to La Paz where he hunts out some bargains at the Market of Sagarnaga.
Next door is the Witches Market, the
place to find bizarre cures for uncommon ailments, such
as llama foetus.
Ian flies to Sucre and plans to catch
a bus to Potosi from there, however there's a bus strike
and Ian has to spend the night at an enchanting hacienda
just outside town. Next morning he resumes his journey
and en route to Potosi he witnesses preparations for
a bull fight. He also stops off Tarabuco,
famous for its handmade clothes and weavings.
At last Ian reaches Potosi, one of
the richest cities in South America due to the discovery
of silver in the 16th century, by a llama herder called
Diego Huallpa. Ian plans to go underground and experience
the mines for himself, but first he stops at the miners
market to purchase gifts for the miners: cigarettes,
alcohol, coca leaves and a few sticks of dynamite! Miners
start their career at the age of 8 or 10. They are self-employed
and gifts from visitors supplement their meagre incomes.
During colonial times millions of African and Indian
slaves died due to the harsh conditions in the mines.
From Potosi Ian makes his way to Uyuni.
Just outside the town is the largest salt flat in the
world and Ian hooks up with a tour group to check out
the immense salt lake which covers more than 4500 square
miles. That night he stays at the Palacio del
Sal - a hotel incredibly sculpted entirely
Ian gets a ride to Uncia, where the fiesta of San Miguel is taking place.
Allegedly the patron saint of Uncia fought off devils
who were trying to attack the town using only his fiery
breath. Thirty-six different groups perform a traditional
dance and the participants' costumes become more and
more extravagant as the day wears on.
Next morning Ian follows a tip that a Tinku
fight is taking place in a nearby village.
Twice a year entire villages turn out to take part in
a strange tradition where every family member pits their
strength against the opposition. The blood that is inevitably
spilt during the proceedings is considered a sacrifice
to Mother Earth, but when things get too rough the referees
intervene with their whips.
After returning to La Paz by bus, Ian joins a group
cycling to Coroico in the lush Yungas region. It's a 38 mile ride with a 2
mile drop in altitude, and is very narrow with a sheer
drop below. Thankfully Ian negotiates it without incident
and arrives in Coroico and basks in the fertile sub-tropical
climate which is far more hospitable than the highlands.
Ian ends his incredible journey by trekking to Huayna
Potosi, one of the spectacular Andean peaks
that overlook the city of La Paz.