Chulumani … another hidden gem.

On the road to Chulumani.

The road to Chulumani was bumpy, very bumpy!  But we were excited; a place I had not been to before and we had heard so many good things about it … primarily that it was not touristy.  Let’s go! The four hour ride presented us with some spectacular views and scenery and although not the Death Road, there were still some bits where it was quite narrow and the sheer drops, quite literally, took our breath away.

Out and about in Chulumani.
Alex and Javier … “nos prestamos plata”.

Upon our arrival, we could see that it was a quaint little place.  Mostly indigenous folk, not that big, a Chulumani.  Apart from the fact that the rooms were gorgeous and comfortable, the place surrounded by foliage and birds, and that it had a swimming pool and felt like a retreat … the owner absolutely made it!  Javier, originally from La Paz, was beyond knowledgeable about the area and with his effervescent personality and desire to show and tell us what to do and see we had an absolute blast and ended up staying there for over a week.  I loved the fact that until the last day we were the only gringos in the ‘hood!  Days were spent exploring, yeh and sometimes even just relaxing by the poolside, and nights were spent deep in conversation with  Javier who has since become a great friend … as he likes to say “nos prestamos plata” (“we now lend each other money”, which he says only happens between really good friends).  Having lived in the States, he also has excellent English.  Javier lives in this gorgeous place with his equally gorgeous daughter, Lupita, who besides going to high school, also helped out around the hostel. Lupita … bright, excellent English, smart and a conversationalist … we loved you! If only 1% of the worldwide teenage population could be like you.  And to boot and excellent violinist!
central plaza and lots of unpaved dusty roads.  Had we just hit the Wild West?  It instantly had that homely, ‘welcome home’ vibe about it.  We asked around for accommodation (the places to stay can be counted on half a hand and struggling) and ended up at Country House.

The way to chill out at Countryhouse Chulumani.


A house with a (breathtaking!) view.


Chill out time.


Rural town life.

We went on some great walks and saw some amazing things.  The only foreigners around, the spotlight was often on us, but the people were really helpful and chatty.  We chatted to lots of locals who were more than willing to tell their stories as well as invite us into their humble homes.  There is no price one can place on this. We visited many little towns and one of my favourites was Chicaloma. This tiny place is home to many of Bolivia’s Afro-Bolivian population. The thing that really blew me away was to see some of the women dressed up in indigenous garb.  I was used to seeing indigenous people in these clothes, not black people! Ocobaya was another tiny but pleasant spot as was Irupana, where we found organic coffee and people drying their coca leaves on the road.

This is the way you dry your coca leaves.


Being invited into the home of some locals.
Alex showing Lupita how to make patacones.

The real beauty and intrigue of the entire area was to simply ‘be’ … to walk, to breathe in the country air, to take in the spectacular scenery, to talk to the locals, to absorb the culture, and to spend some truly amazing time with Javier and Lupita.

Lupita is a truly talented young lady and is part of the Chulumani Symphonic Orchestra, a group of young and talented musicians who gather weekly and practice.  Despite the fact that the teacher comes all the way from La Paz weekly and that the local council has tried to make their existence difficult (I will not get into the politics here) they all continue to get together and play their instruments. Alex and I went to visit the group and chatted to them about the importance of believing in themselves and following their dreams.  Dreams only come true when you believe in them! There is nothing quite like inspiring young people to be positive, to try and achieve their best and most of all push forward with vigour in the face of adversity. It was great to spend a couple of hours with them.  This culminated in a ‘performance’ for us that simply blew us away!  We were touched to tears! I hope that in years to come these kids will look back and think … we met two people who believed in us!

Some kids from the orchestra.


With the Chulumani Symphonic Orchestra.


With the Chulumani Symphonic Orchestra; Lupita far left.


With Lupita and Javier.

And as so happens on our travels, it was time to leave and move on.  This time, however, with a somewhat heavy heart.  Javier, Lupita and Country House Chulumani had made an enormous impact on us.  Would we see these people again?  Yes, I think we will!  Lots of hugs all around, tears in my eyes, and with a heart full of gratitude and joy we were off on our next adventure!

As we walked away from the hostel, I looked back at the waving Javier and Lupita and, with teras in my eyes, blew them kisses.  This is why I travel … THIS is why I travel!


With Javier, Lupita and Vaughn (the only other tourist we saw in the week).


Goodbye Countryhouse.


I will miss you Javier!

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

Dedication: To our ‘charming gardeners’. Javier and Lupita’ you are the charming gardeners who allowed our souls to blossom. You made us happy and you became our friends! We will never forget you both and this spectacular part of our journey.  Friends forever!  You are always welcome to visit us and stay with us in Australia.  When our journey is done and dusted, it is people like you that leave a footprint on our hearts.  Those footprints will always remain! We thank you profoundly!

Dedicatoria: A nuestros ‘jardineros encantadores’. Javier y Lupita ustedes son los jardineros encantadores que permitieron que nuestras almas florezcan. Nos hiciste feliz y se convirtieron en nuestros amigos! Nunca olvidaremos a los dos y esta parte espectacular de nuestro viaje. Amigos para siempre! Siempre estarán bienvenidos visitarnos y quedarse con nosotros en Australia. Cuando el viaje  esta terminado es la gente como usted que dejan una huella en nuestros corazones. Estas huellas permaneceran siempre!  Te agradecemos profundamente!

Next:  Copacabana and Lake Titicaca.

A local on her walk.




Amazing scenery.


Walks in off-the-beaten-track places.


Out and about.


Everyone deserves some rest time.


Ahhh, the tranquility.


Beauty … and no beast in sight!


“Long live the holy leaf”. (Coca)


Local life.


Yin and Yang … cultivation coca leaf style.


Farmers cultivating coca leaves.


The colours of Mother Nature.


Beauty and the Beast!


The Countryhouse dogs saying goodbye as we leave.


Chulumani … butterfly wonderland.


Drying coca leaves.


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One Life! Live It!
Alex & Ombi

Alex & Ombi

Ombretta (Ombi) Zanetti is a co-founder of She has been travelling the world since 1989 and since 1999 with her partner, Alex, who hails from Ecuador. They both like to venture to the lesser known places. Ombi shares her passion for different cultures through her travel stories and Alex through his lens. Come take a detour or two with them!

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