AID TO THE POPULATIONS OF BOLIVIA'S SOUTH-EAST LIPEZ

This page is dedicated to the population of Bolivia's south-east Lipez region. These people are poor but rarely miserable. In many ways they are in fact much richer than us. Their references to quality of life are very narrow. These men and women are humble, dignified, and with their feet well on the ground. This is a very authentic, rustic, and picturesque world. However, the majority of them dream of electricity, descent health care system, safe drinking water, more wood to cook, better roads, better phone networks, etc.!
One very peculiar thing, they do not look at the landscape that surrounds them at all in the same way that we do. When we have distributed to them some large format printed images of their own land, at first they simply didn't recognise the places.

My good friend Daniel Chappuis travels in this region since 2001, and he has decided to help them in his manner. Both of us having a great love for travel and photography, one day came the idea of joining forces and putting my photographic work to contribution. This web page has therefore been created in order to share the results of our collaboration in helping these people.
WARNING!!! You will discover here some totally exclusive images of landscapes never photographed before (to the date of august 2013). So enjoy, you are privileged!


HISTORY

One evening, Daniel had the great idea of entertaining me with a slide show of his Bolivian adventures. That evening, I was on for a great show: breath taking landscapes, wild, unknown and rough lands, the perfect recipe to fuel my thirst of adventure and photography.

And just as exciting was the idea of being able to put those future images to good use.

My friend Daniel is what I consider a "Great Man". He shares values which are important to me, he has a big heart, lives a life with nothing superfluous and filled with countless travels and adventures in some of the world’s most remote places. And lately, he has set himself a great challenge which has kept him busy for the past few years, and it is far from finished as the task is immense. But let him explain all this in his own words: “An incredible adventure of trek and exchange in 2001 had allowed me to discover a totally unknown area of Bolivia (detailed texts on demands). During 8 trips cumulating a total of 2 years on location, I explored, prospected, and discovered with great interest some of the most amazing landscapes, prehistoric remains still unrecorded and some of the most pleasant aboriginals. Contrary to other regions more developed for tourism, the few inhabitants of these areas are starting to build up the idea of welcoming tourists. Feverishly, sometimes awkwardly, they are preparing themselves with the help of some rare NGOs. Unfortunately what is still missing, among other things, is to make these wonders known to the world. I continue my inventory of archaeological sites (600 granaries, ruins, petroglyphs, rock paintings), trails’ exploration, and encourage the villagers as I go along.”


PURPOSE OF THE AID

Therefore, the idea was just too tempting to use my photographic work to contribute to his project.
Daniel and I, together with Johnny, a precious local friend, have explored this region for more than a month, in view of bringing back some exclusive images. Backed up by the locals’ agreement, our intention is to publish these images and reinvest all the profits into this project.
Daniel explains that “the ultimate goal is to discourage emigration towards urban areas and Occident by allowing the locals to live more decently. Everything is done in a win-win atmosphere, as far as possible from principles of charities or assistantship. Inventory of accesses, roads (tracks), main attractions; health, radio and telephone communication; visibility, contact, marketing; ecological aspects, sustainable model, modest, simple; self-development; internal awareness towards the value of the local landscapes and history. It is also paramount that the majority of the future tourism’s revenues remain in the hands of the local communities. Everything takes place above 3800m of altitude, countless treasures are deserved on foot... it's pretty athletic, rustic, isolated, but so unbelievable and mind-blowing. Must be seen to be believed! And up until now, there is still nothing on the internet about these places!”


CAPTURING THE IMAGES

From 18th sept. to 19th oct. 2012, I have joined Daniel and Johnny who have guided me in some of these areas they are currently exploring in order to give me the opportunity to photograph all the beauty of those landscapes.

During those 4 weeks, it was very difficult, not to say impossible, to cover photographically all the destinations that Daniel and Johnny have already explored. We have therefore limited ourselves to key areas and have dedicated several days to each of them in order to maximise our chances of capturing beautiful lights. And beautiful lights we have had!
These areas include: Cienega and the Condors valley, Rio Seco, Ciudad de Roma near Guadalupe, and Pampa de las Lagunillas (see detailed map on the side).
After collecting a great harvest of exclusive images from these places still unknown to the world, it was impossible for me to come to Bolivia without going to photograph the nearby regions of south Lipez which are already known, where tourism is already well developed, and where the landscape is just as breath-taking. Daniel and Johnny have therefore kindly guided me around the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve (which includes Laguna Colorada, Laguna Verde, and Dalí desert) and finally the world famous and extraordinary Uyuni salt flat.






LATEST NEWS AND PROGRESS

2nd December 2014 :

Conference "Exclusive Bolivia" - at Bex's (Switzerland) cinema Grain d'Sel.
Daniel Chappuis and myself are giving a 1hr conference, with video and slideshow, about the whole project. More the details can be found on my web page by clicking here.

28th July 2014 :

Daniel's trip from 3rd Sept. to 14th Nov. 2013

Rio Chilenas:
The local population is asking Johnny and Daniel to show them sites of potential touristic interest. Thanks to Froilan Acho they discovered two ancient villages near Rio Chilenas abandoned by their inhabitants in less than 20 years. Furthermore, during a memorable exploration, Roberto makes them discover a large yellow coloured lake (Thommy) populated by thousands of flamingos.

Rio Mojon :
Completion of an aborted exploration in 2012. Daniel and Johnny have discovered what looks like ruins of a village in Honda Palca (Jatun) with old cultivated terraces, and have visited an important group of family granaries with inside separations. An extremely rare thing, at the foot of one of them, a sort of amphora indicated by Herminio Mamani Calisto and two decorated potsherds. No traces of fire.
Daniel is perplexed and remains in a state of desperate hope that help will eventually come from the archaeological world. The indigenous and Daniel would love to know more, to understand. But it is naturally un-conceivable that non-professionals nor un-authorised people perform any kind investigation. Help! It is urgent. Goats keep finding refuge in these fragile ancient monuments, destroying them slowly and irretrievably.
We only protect efficiently what we know well. It is therefore crucial that the scientific world starts investigating, questioning, answering, in short, giving interest.
A shepherd mentions to Daniel and Johnny that more petroglyphs exist on the plateau where they already had discovered some the previous year. One more thing to investigate in 2014.

Cienega, Estancia Grande :
Johnny and Daniel continue their exploration. Impossible to do the return trip in one day so they hire a few donkeys from Max and Juana. The summary of their exploration journey is available in this "Tessons de Boulivie" article (only available in French).
At Estancia Grande they map, using GPS coordinates, the limits of a ancient village likely to be thousand years old.
Only a small day walk away, Estancia Grande Antigo: the mystery grows. Many fields, ancient terraces, Spanish ruins, but not ancient village, despite finding several arrowheads and a few lithic tools. Higher, a few granaries but more importantly some surprising and imposing low furnaces. What age? Please Help!
When back at Halloween time, extraordinary testimony from Cienega to encourage them in their continuing effort in a touristic development. More details in the "Tessons de Boulivie" article (only available in French).

Guadalupe :
Daniel and Johnny witness an "esquilada de vicunias" (vicuña's wool shearing) above 5000m. of altitude. Some great people were present.
A few intrepid travellers keep including a one day visit to Ciudad de Roma in their 5 day travel circuit in the area. One day is probably two short to properly discover this area but it is really encouraging. The locals are thrilled, some even jealous.
The large and unexpected eco-tourist road construction continues. A dual carnage road linking San Pablo de Lipez to Rio Mojon.

News from Johnny

On 16th June 2014, Daniel is able to have a 1/2 hour long telephone contact with Johnny. The line is better than his Swiss neighbour!!
In brief:
Frost hasn't affected the crops as much as last year. There should be enough to feed Lipenia and its 8 Chichenos (the sow and its piglets)
Unfortunately Johnny remains too alone to deal with too much.
He has started learning how to use computers but doesn't yet have an email. He's working on it.
His mother is a bit sick but otherwise all is well. His sisters from La Paz are asking news from Daniel. Ramiro (his brother) works at Esmoraca's mine where a modest vein of wolfram was recently discovered. Luck and boon!
Regards from friends at Cienega, including Béatrice.
Rosita is taking profit of a good deal with her god father Facundo who has offered her, under conditions, some of his llamas. A great opportunity to improve her everyday life.
A bulldozer is extending the track leading to Bonete Palca.
Still hard work to obtain petrol or gasoline but Jorge keeps trying to arrange cans.

General goals for 2014 and beyond

- We are working on the foundations of the aid action for the south-east Lipez development. One of the main challenges is managing to stay away from any dishonest or profiting intermediates.
- Exploration of Rio Mojon's plateau in Chalviri area.
- Petroglyphs search at Cienega.
- Setup of contractual work to repair mule trails.
- Improvement of virtual means of communication between towns and countryside, developed and un-developed areas respectively.
- In San Antonio de Esmoruco region: we hope Santos will be free of his teaching duties at Rio Chilenas so he can come back to his native village and show us some petroglyphs around his estancia at the foot of Ciudad de Roma.
- Estancia Overjerias should reveal an antique occupation of which we know nothing except the presence of a few petroglyphs near the river.
We've been told of some granaries at the foot of the cliff adjacent to the plateau..., then, only the ancient village will remain to be found in order to complete the trinomial!

Latest News History:
4th March 2014:

Conference "Exclusive Bolivia" presented to Nestlé's retired employees at Vevey (Switzerland).

December 2013:

Publication of 2 double pages in Invitation magazine, No 52 of December 2013.

21st Novembre 2013:

Conference "Exclusive Bolivia" - at the festival Rencontre de l'Aventure of Bulle (switzerland): Daniel Chappuis and myself have giving a 1hr conference, with video and slideshow, about the whole project. All the details about the conference are available on the festival's web page by clicking here.

15th November 2013:

Daniel is back from 3 more months of adventures and new discoveries with his friend Johnny.

24th June 2013:

Conference "Exclusive Bolivia" - Foyer Association Sport et Loisir Nestlé (Vevey, Switzerland)
Daniel Chappuis and myself will be giving a 2hr conference, with video and slideshow, about the whole project.
Monday 24th June 2013 at 19:00, Foyer Association Sport et Loisir Nestlé 1st floor, Rue de l'Hôtel de Ville 1, Vevey (Switzerland).
This event is organized by the Nestlé Photo Club. Admission is free.

May 2013:

Up until October 2011, Guadalupe village had only received two tourists: Daniel Chappuis and Johnny Velasques, his expedition's faithful companion. 5 families have built and furnished guest houses in prevision to welcome more tourists. In October 2012, 3 of them where already totalising around 50 tourists, coming to visit Ciudad de Roma, a success that can only give great hopes to the future.

Aldo Rezzonico from La Paz, rents two jeeps to intrepid travellers who have been thrilled by their visit to this area of south-east Lipez. One of them is going back in November 2013 for another week of discovery.

The dirt roads have once again undergone some serious damages in early 2013. The newly build dirt road which links Mojinete to Rio Mojon (around 80 km.) has been particularly affected after only one rainy season. Since April, half a dozen of local volunteers are trying to make the governor aware of the issue in order to obtain some urgent aids as this new means of communication is vital. In 10 years, some scarcely unused mule trails have not received the maintenance they would need, and are therefore becoming un-usable. The founds hoped to be generated by the tourism will therefore be very welcome to help solution these problems amongst others.

Mobile networks have been installed in Mojinete, San Pablo de Lipez and San Antonio de Esmoruco. There is a public phone in Esmoraca. Less predictable, there is a functional radio in Rio Seco, Guadalupe and Bonete Palca. But you can't really count on it very much yet!

Daniel is going back again this year for 3 month of adventure and new discoveries with is companion Johnny.


HOW TO GO THERE YOURSELF

Idealy:
  • Being able to speak a few words of Spanish.
  • Having one month available. Indeed, committing yourself to the roads of south-east Lipez requires a non-negligible time investment.
  • Possessing a bit of pioneer’s spirit.
  • Renting a 4 wheel drive at Aldo's: http://www.rentacarpetita.com.
  • Being able to support altitudes between of 3800-4500m. A step acclimatization is strongly recommended.
  • Travelling with food independence, but with dependence on accommodation and local guides, this is how you will contribute to providing a better life to the populations.
  • Do not attempt to traverse the villages in an uncivilized manner as the local populations are sensitive and fragile. We are not at home, we are on their territory. So we look for the contact, we politely introduce ourselves, simply explain the reasons for our presence and what we are looking for, and we ask permission.

Also possible but probably more restrictive, if you only have 15 days, you can negotiate a tour service from the Lipitour agency at Tupiza, run by William and his wife, or Valle Hermoso via Adolfo Pedrasa et Maria.

Where is it?
The town of Tupiza is the base which allows to get most of the food supply one needs, as well as petrol. A hospital is also at hand in case of necessity. Note that it is highly recommended to carry with you a first aid kit. With regard to accommodation, the Mitru Hotel, is the best one around and will welcome you as well as your vehicle.
You can reach Tupiza (sud-chichas) in a 15 hours bus trip from la Paz airport (LPH). Available bus companies are Illimani or Panamerciana.
You can also get there by train from Oruro via Uyuni. And from the road you can also arrive from Argentina by La Quiaca/Villazon.
South-east Lipez is located approximately between 120 and 250 km from Tupiza.

Best time to go:
June, or even better August to November.
Temperature: -10ºC to +25ºC.

Generally, just make sure you remain in control of your trip.
To help you with your travel plans, Daniel (boulou.dc@bluewin.ch) can be contacted, and according to his availability, he will gladly provide you with all sorts of advice, contact names and addresses, GPS points, etc.

Just be aware that, to our knowledge, no emergency services cover the south-east Lipez region. So you are going there at your own risks.


THE IMAGES

Important note :
My job as a landscape photographer has limited me to this subject only. Daniel, after all these years of repeatedly visiting those places, has developed a pretty close relationship with some of the locals. He photographs them regularly and has accumulated a great amount of portrait images over the years. Our photographs are therefore complementary and the landscape that I have photographed is indeed inhabited. You will thus find interleaved with my landscape images, a few portraits captured by Daniel (his images are clearly marked with the copyright notice "© D. Chappuis".

Tupiza region:
Tupiza, with its 23'100 inhabitants, is the capital of Sud Chichas province. It is in this town that Daniel establishes is "base camp". It is where he plans and prepares each and every one of his expeditions in the "campo" and where he buys his food and petrol. Tupiza is known by the tourists and provides a few tour operators which offer one or several day trips to the Uyuni salt flat and Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve.




Cienega, Esmoraca and Morinete region:
On the road from Esmoraca to Cienega (50 inhabitants), we explored for the first time a very narrow canyon which reminded me the famous Antelope canyon in the United States. In this canyon we discovered several ancient granaries or "chulpas" in the local language. From the small and remote village of Cienega (50 inhabitants) we set off on foot for a small expedition of a few days in the tiny village and even more remote of Churkior Grande located in the Condors valley.





Rio Seco region:
Rio Seco village is located right in the middle of landscape of immense beauty. The ground is composed of many layers of very colourful rocks going from yellow, orange, red, pink, grey and even sometimes blue. For people like me who love colourful landscape, this is pure heaven. We spent 3 full days there to explore the different valleys and summits around. There is still so much to discover and photograph, I could have spent weeks just in this very region.






Ciudad de Roma region:
Ciduad de Roma is probably one of the most amazing sites I have ever seen and photographed in my life. Here, erosion has sculpted rock pillars several 100 meters high, creating what looks like natural cathedrals. Some areas are filled with natural rock sculptures where our imagination can let us discover all sorts of known figures, like Mickey Mouse, the virgin Mary, or all sorts of animal portraits.








Rio Chilenas and Pampa de las Lagunillas region:
Seen from the air, this region of Pampa de las Lagunillas resembles the moon surface, a landscape filled with holes everywhere, but with the difference that here everything is colourful! From the ground, all these holes are filled by little lakes more colourful from one another. Blue, red, green, yellow, white, there is for just about every tests, and very often the colours change from one year to the next, due to different meteorological reasons.






Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve:
The following pictures are no longer exclusive. Indeed in the last part of the trip, we went to visit some areas which are already world famous where tourism is well developed, even if it is a rather "adventurous" type of tourism.. At Laguna Colorada, it is really difficult to take in all the beauty of this place, so incredible it is.






Uyuni salt flat:
Uyuni is probably one of the most touristic towns of Bolivia. You can find many tour operators which, like in Tupiza, offer different types of excursions in the Sud Lipez. In order to end my trip in style, I offered myself an evening photo session at the Tunupa volcano summit. Being alone at 5100m of altitude, with the immensity of Uyuni salt flat as far as my eyes could see, while the sun was disappearing behind the horizon and painting a rain-bow of colours over the whole landscape at my feet, this was one of the most extraordinary experience of my life.