Bolivia

Lands & Livelihoods

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Bolivia

Lands & Livelihoods

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  • In the shadow of Bolivia’s snowy peaks, explore La Paz, the world’s highest capital city. Discover diverse neighbourhoods, navigate the continent’s largest black market, and learn the local lingo with Fundacion Alternativas.
  • Pick coffee alongside local campesinos in Yungas, a magical place where lush lowland forests meet the high Andes.
  • Hike to a remote community in the altiplano around Sucre to collaborate on a local development project while camping under the stars!
  • Immerse in Bolivian culture and unpack the effects of climate change with local organizers and ecological producers in Central Bolivia.
  • Stand in awe at the unique and unreal Uyuni Salt Flat – at 3,656 m./11,995 ft. it’s the world’s largest and most photo-friendly lithium reserve. And get a glimpse of some Andean flamingos while you’re at it!

Program Dates

2017
May 23 – July 1

July 11 – August 19
Applications Closed!

Fees + Community Contribution

$2,990 + $615
$3,280 + $750
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Sample Itinerary

*This itinerary is based on our previous experience with the region. Programs change every year based on the needs of our partners. This should give you a sense of what our program may look like.

Orientation in La Paz

Our program starts in Bolivia’s big city, La Paz. Following pickups from El Alto International Airport, we’ll get acclimatized to the sights, sounds, smells, and altitude of the region. At 3640 m./11,900 ft., we’ll explore the diverse neighbourhoods of the world’s highest capital. We’ll learn the lingo and get a crash course in Bolivian culture, politics, and FOOD!

We’ll start with some Spanish lessons allowing us to better connect with local change-makers like La Casa de los Ningunos and Agua Sustentable. With that in our back pockets, we’ll then begin unpacking Bolivia’s colonial history, the effects of climate change, and how land and livelihoods intersect in this country. We’ll also go farm to table and get our hands dirty working with Fundacion Alternativas, an urban food sustainability project.

And of course, get ready to learn to bargain hard in the local markets and savour the sheer delight of saltenas, humitas, and silpancho!

Coffee 101 in Chojilla

After getting oriented in La Paz, we will get dropped off at the head of a seldom-used Inca trail and embark on an epic two-day journey. We’ll pass 4600 meters of altitude and get a close-up view of Bolivia’s snow-capped peaks before descending to the town of Chojilla. Amongst Tungsten mines and coffee trees, we’ll learn to live off the land and talk environmental sustainability.

We’ll spend our time sweating alongside Café Takesi farmers who will show us how to pick and process our morning cup of joy. We’ll also see breathtaking sunrises and learn how this unique project is being used to promote fair trade and trade justice.

Community Approaches to Climate Change

After one night back in the big city, we will get to dig even deeper into sustainable living during a time of incredible change. We’ll be teaming up with Agua Sustentable or the Association of Organizations of Bolivian Ecological Producers. Working in and alongside a rural community, we’ll learn how community-based initiatives are being used to confront climate change and generate sustainable livelihoods in central Bolivia.

Enterprising Change in Sucre

Next, we’ll travel to Sucre, Bolivia’s constitutional capital. We’ll wander the streets, soaking in the beauty of the White City. We’ll then set off by foot with Condor Trekkers, a non-profit tour organizer dedicated to improving local livelihoods through social enterprise. Together with Rojelio, Johnny, and other friends, we’ll explore the Cordillera de los Frailes or crater of Maragua to take in breathtaking landscapes and learn about the local flora and fauna. Our trek will take us to a remote community where we’ll stay with local families, share stories, and collaborate on a local development project. Be prepared to eat traditional Andean food, play some football, and sleep under the stars!

Digging for Development in Potosi

Once one of the wealthiest cities in the world, Potosi is now one of South America’s poorest. So, for three days we’ll chip away at the mystery of Cerro Rico, or “the mountain that eats men”. We’ll connect with local NGOs like Cepromin, which works with mining communities across Bolivia. We will meet with miners whose livelihoods continue to come from the deep, and then tour an active mine to learn about the culture, traditions, and folklore of this iconic community. At the heart of it, we’ll try to uncover just how one of the largest silver mines in history has produced little more than dust for the local people. But we’ll also have the chance to connect with inspiring local initiatives working towards building a more sustainable future!

Dreamscapes at Uyuni

You’ll think you’ve landed on another planet when you arrive at the Salt Flat of Uyuni! Containing about half of the earth’s lithium reserves, these flats were created by the drying up of several prehistoric lakes. Visit the train cemetery, watch flocks of Andean flamingoes, and take some wild photos on this alien landscape. Then we’ll zig-zag across the Chilean border, to the town of San Pedro de Atacama where we’ll kickback, sand board, and star gaze before breaking for Independent Travel Time.

Independent Travel Time 

Our crew will also have Independent Travel Time (ITT) – a staple of all Operation Groundswell programs. You can travel independently if you desire but we encourage everyone to travel in pairs or small groups. ITT is the ideal time for you to learn more about your specific interests, whether it’s heading north to the famed ruins of Machu Picchu, relaxing on the Chilean coast, or exploring the stunning Colca Canyon around Arequipa in Peru.

 

**Please note that you are not under the auspices of the organized program during ITT. Team members will be given the emergency contact number of program leaders during ITT for any advice.

Disorientation, Isla del Sol, Copacabana

After ITT, we’ll reconvene in Isla del Sol for disorientation. A staple of every OG program, this is an opportunity to relax and reflect. On the shores of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, we’ll try to unpack our incredible adventure. We’ll share our wild and wonderful memories, tell tall tales from ITT, discuss what we’ve learned and talk about how to apply it to life at home. Then it’s back to La Paz for some tearful goodbyes!

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What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

All group transportation on the ground

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it

ITT

Independent Travel Time is your opportunity to go out there and explore on your own terms!

  • Head north to hike the glaciers outside of Huaraz or south into the deepest canyon in the world in the Colca Canyon.
  • Kick back on the beaches or catch a wave along the Chilean coast.
  • Hike up to the famous ancient ruins of Machu Picchu!

Accommodations

With OG, you live like the locals.

Traveling as much as we do on the Bolivia program, there will be a number of different styles of accommodation. In cities, we’ll usually be sleeping at clean, safe, and secure guesthouses that will feel like a second home in no time. When we’re trekking or in rural communities, we’ll generally be sleeping under the stars or in the community centre of the town we are staying in. Cold bucket showers are common while continuous electricity can’t always be guaranteed – so come prepared! Though Western comforts should not be assumed, you can expect to better connect with locals and their culture. 

Meet Our Regional Director

Emilie lives for creating and seizing opportunities; opportunities to meet people, to challenge herself, to laugh (loudly), and to learn. From Haiti to the Philippines, she early on found travel as way to fulfill all of the above. After a mechanical engineering degree, she quickly figured out that she had a magnetic attraction to engineering experience and connections rather than things, although things would be way easier! She now loves to get her different gears turning, with social and environmental change as the motor. Wherever Emilie is, you’ll find her breaking into a dance, trying to cook something new, and spending time outdoors as much as possible accompanied by endless evenings of music and board games.

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