Getting Off The Beaten Path in Quime, Bolivia
I´d always classified Bolivia as a pretty “off-the-beaten-path” destination, and thought of it as a country rich with opportunity for adventure and you know, poor in tourists. A traveler´s dream, right? So you can imagine my dismay when I arrived in the capital, La Paz, to find I was just another white face in a sea of many, many Gringos. Fine for a minute I suppose, but once I had my fill of craft beer and real cheese I consulted my travel Bible, Wikitravel.com, desperate to find the perfect, beautiful, off-the-Gringo-Trail destination. A tall order I know, but as usual Wikitravel came through, and the next day J and I set off for Quime.
Roughly 230 kilometers from La Paz, Quime is easily accessible by public transportation. Take any bus or minibus to Konani, and from there you can catch a collectivo to Quime, the whole trip taking less than four hours. If you´re traveling by motorcycle like I was, you´re in for what might possibly be one of the best drives of your life. As far as I was concerned the trip to Quime was worth it solely based on the last two hours of our drive there.
Quime is a small, idyllic town nestled in a valley and surrounded by the Andes. It´s the perfect place to spend a few days off the tourist circuit, chat with friendly locals, relax, and regroup. There are also a variety of activites to partake in for the adventurous and outdoorsy. We tried to accomplish a healthy mixture of both.
We checked into Hostal Colibri, which is basically a giant house overlooking the town, oozing with rustic charm. Great views, a spacious kitchen to cook in, lovely staff, and the perfect porch swing for reading made this easily one of my favorite hostels I´ve ever been to; it´s the kind of place you can enjoy yourself for days without ever leaving.
According to Wikitravel and the Quime tourist map we recieved, the city boasts everything from hot springs to horseback riding to snowboarding. Since we had spent every night in Bolivia freezing (high altitudes + unheated rooms) the hot springs were a no-brainer. And since renting a car and driver was a bit out of our price range as two people, we tried to motorcycle there. The key word being “tried.”
The ride was beautiful, yet the roads were incredibly steep and unpaved, putting our average speed somewhere around 2 mph. Literally. That combined with perpetually getting lost meant that by the time we were on the right path and I could practically feel the heat, the sun was getting dangerously close to setting and we were forced to turn around, lest we be stuck on a road like this in the dark:
The next day we set out with Tom, Colibri´s manager, in search of Laguna Naranjani, a lake at the top of a very, very tall mountain. Simply finding the trail presented quite a challenge for me, as I am not quite in peak shape. At Tom´s suggestion I did like the Bolivians and stuffed my lip full of Coca leaves (legal), hoping for some extra energy, but to no avail.
After about two hours and two months worth of complaining by yours truly, we finally made it to the top. The Laguna was beautiful and well worth the most difficult hike of my life. I guess.
Wanting to do one last activity so as to justify spending five days in the same place, J and I decided to visit the crude Chambillaya tungsten mines. According to Wikitravel you can basically befriend miners and go to work with them for the day. Fun, right? We decided to try our luck and show up on what we presumed would be a workday. However, nobody was there. It doesn´t take long for a traveler in South America to realize that every other day is a “holiday.¨ We took the oppotunity to explore a bit ourselves and enjoy the gorgous views of Quime.
We enjoyed our time in Quime so much that we decided to leave the motorcyle at Hostal Colibri and spend our last two weeks in Bolivia traveling by bus. This will give us a bit more time to see things, and of course ensures that we will have one last relaxing night in Quime with this one:
[box] To reserve a room at Hostal Colibri email Tom at Totmeuvital@hotmail.com. $8.50/ person.[/box]