Bolivia buses provide cheap travel option

Only one part of Al Sever’s trip included the hair-raising ride down the mountain on the Road of Death when he traveled to Bolivia from May 14 to June 4.

He stayed in the city of La Paz for about four days to get used to the altitude.

“The airport is at 13,000 feet, and some people do fall over while getting their luggage,” he said.

After finishing the mountain bike trek down the Road of Death, he headed south by bus to the Uyuni Salt Flats.

“Buses are extremely comfortable and cost roughly a dollar an hour. Most backpackers take overnight buses so they can sleep in the reclining seats and not have to pay for a hotel room,” Sever said.

He left the La Paz bus station at 7 p.m. and arrived at the Uyuni bus station at 8 a.m. From there, he went straight to tour the salt flats.

“Next day I caught a bus to the old silver mining town of Potosi … richest city in the world for a couple centuries,” he said. “Miners are still digging the same mines for 500 years.”

He boarded a bus that was headed to the capitol of Sucre and attended the Independence Day fiestas.

“After that, I was running low on time, so I flew to Rurrenabaque, a small town in the Amazon basin. The town is loaded with Jewish kids backpacking, and most signs in town are in Hebrew,” he said.

He spent three days at a jungle lodge where he did some hiking and some fishing for piranha.

The shopping was very inexpensive in those areas, he said. Clothes made from alpaca wool and top namebrand hiking clothes could be bought for $10 or less.

Sever said 30 percent of tourists in Bolivia are Israeli and there are signs written in Hebrew everywhere.

“Of other backpackers I met, most were young women in their 20s or 30s, traveling alone because their boyfriends or husbands are too busy playing video games and don’t want to travel,” he said.

He found other tours there, which he didn’t take, that involved guides taking guests up the river for four hours and leaving them there.

“One tour gives you a machete and comes back for you in five days; the other tour gives you a machete and a guide and you then walk cross-country through the jungle and over two mountain ranges for 15 days, where they will pick you up along a river,” he said.

He considered his trip to be inexpensive. He paid $650 for a round-trip flight, paid $29 for a hotel in the capital and from $5 to $8 per stay in other places.

“Lunch in a small, local place is about $1 for soup, salad and chicken with rice,” he said.

One thing stuck out to Sever in his travels – concern for transportation and the environment.

“While Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, everywhere you travel you see large billboards advertising the government program that will pay to convert your private vehicle to operate on natural gas,” he said.