Bolivia is where you go when you want to see South America at its most authentic. While I had some of my most adventurous travel experiences there, I never felt unsafe. Lucky for me, I had to honour to write the script for this video, so I could let my mind wander back to this unforgettable journey.

It all started with riots…
To get to La Paz from Lake Titicaca, I had walked across Bolivia’s border with Peru, where I was nearly stoned (by missiles of the rocky kind, not after smoking certain herbs!) during a border conflict. It could only get better from there.

And it sure did. Exploring La Paz, the City in the Clouds, was as exciting as it was fun.

Llama fetuses and nightclubs
Like all new arrivals, I was amused and intrigued by the Witches’ Market (llama fetuses anyone?), the Coca Museum (the plant, not the drink!), and the countless mass strikes. It all seemed amazingly foreign to me. At the same time, I was surprised about how progressive La Paz can feel if you visit one of its trendier restaurants, modern art galleries and pumping nightclubs.

Tackling the Death Road
Among mountain bikers, the Camino de la Muerte near La Paz is a bit of an icon. So called because of its ridiculously high number of traffic fatalities, its hairpin bends are not for the faint-hearted. Being a Dutchie, I was practically raised on a bike, so I decided to give it a go. On a Bolivian mountain bike, without all the bells and whistles… Not only did I survive, but (only because I somehow had managed to miss the rest stop) I was also the first to cross the finish line!

Strangled by an anaconda
Next was a pampas tour. Our guides went hunting for anacondas and then draped the slippery, smelly swamp creatures on their shoulders. I’m one of those ‘do-as-the-locals-do’ kind of people and so I gave it a go too. The poor snake I picked obviously wasn’t happy to be disturbed, started strangling me, and had to be pulled away from my neck with some force.

Survival training in the jungle
In the Amazon Basin, I happened to be the only person to sign up for a jungle tour, so the guide just took me along to his own village deep in the jungle, where they speak an ancient language that few people can understand. He and his family fed me freshly caught fish with tropical foods and taught me how to process sugar cane. At night, I rolled out my sleeping bag under a mosquito net in a thatched hut that also served as the community hall. On day 3, my guide showed me how to survive in the jungle, in case I got lost (because this had actually happened to one of their previous visitors… who died before they could get to him!).

Stuck in the salt desert
I must admit that I was also very glad to be back on the ‘gringo trail’ when I visited the Salar de Uyuni, because it meant that I was in good company when our 4WD broke down in the middle of the endless salt desert. It was freezing cold, but somebody had brought a guitar, so we just funked out on Bob Marley’s ‘Stir it up’ and danced until the driver had fixed the car.

Bolivia is a place where all those things can happen to you and you simply won’t mind. Complaining doesn’t get you anywhere, because there’s no next trip, no other accommodation, and no alternative transport anyway. Despite being poor, the people of Bolivia are extremely generous and accommodating and happily show you how to make do with very little. Going back to basics like that, made me feel very much alive.

This is a Tourism Media production for Expedia’s series of Destination Travel Guides
Film permits: Rohan Trundle & Sandra Wilkinson
Shoot planning & camerawork: Jon Reid (La Paz) and Mark & Jan (all other destinations).
Script: Barbara Winters
Music:  Jacquie Joy
Video Edits: Sawyer