The stewardess on the airplane to Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, told us we had the first baby she’d ever seen flying to the salt flats. It is 3,656 meters above sea level, and so dry your eyes sting a little and your cheeks roughen after being outside. But it is a place unlike any other in the world - a place where the sky perfectly reflects at your feet, a place you can drive across for hours and see only white, a place so barren almost the only vegetation we encountered was an island, completely covered in cacti. Salar de Uyuni was once an ocean, but now all that’s left is salt - and we stayed in a hotel made entirely of it. Visiting this stunning place was one of the highlights of our time in South America.
Our three-week trip this past August was often rushed and sometimes stressful, filled with all that travelling with two young kids can bring, but it was also filled with completely unique experiences. We spent a week in Lima, Peru, where Jorge recorded a class and we explored the city with Abuelita. (We also had several near-death experiences riding in taxis.) The remainder of the trip, we travelled throughout Bolivia, including the city of Cochabamba, where Jorge grew up. There, we visited with family and friends, saw the places Jorge spent time in, ate food he remembered from a kid (anticuchos and salteñas and sopa de mani), and toured his old school. The lunch lady who had been there when he was a kid still worked at the snack stand, and she held Jamie close and cried. Everywhere, women and girls came up to Jamie in awe: “Los ojos!” (“The eyes!”) We quickly realized it was rare for a blue-eyed baby to visit South America. Jamie took full advantage of the attention.
After spending the next couple days in the salt flats, we flew to La Paz, which is where Abuelo lives. It is at nearly the same altitude as Salar de Uyuni, and their main transportation method is not an underground metro, but a system of gondolas (which Matthias loved). It is such an unusual, colour-filled city. Jorge’s brother Luis told us that only a people as stubborn as Bolivians would decide to build a city into the side of a mountain.
Twelve airplanes, three countries (if you count our layover in Mexico City, where we spent a few hours with Jorge’s sister Ana), three weeks without a good night’s sleep, two tired kids, and two exhausted parents. It was a difficult trip, but so memorable and beautiful in spite of that.