Texts and images : Samuel Bitton and Daniel Chappuis
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 some large format printed images of their own land has been presented to them, at first they simply didn't recognise the places.
Daniel Chappuis travels in this region since 2001, and he has decided to help them in his manner. Both Daniel and Samuel have a great love for travel and photography, and one day came the idea of joining forces
and putting Samuel's photographic work to contribution. This web page has therefore been created in order to share the results of their collaboration in helping these people.
One evening, Daniel had the great idea of entertaining Samuel with a slide show of his Bolivian adventures. That evening, Samuel was on for a great show: breath taking landscapes, wild, unknown and rough lands, the perfect recipe to fuel his thirst of adventure and photography.
And the idea of being able to put those future images to good use, was just as exciting.
Samuel consider Daniel to be a "Great Man". He shares values which are important to him, 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 autoctones. 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
For Samuel, the idea was then too tempting to use his photographic work to contribute to his project.
Daniel and him, together with Johnny, a precious local friend, went on to explore this region for more than a month, in view of bringing back some exclusive images. Backed up by the locals’ agreement, their 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 (as of 2013), there is still nothing on the internet about these places!”
CAPTURING OF THE IMAGES
From 18th sept. to 19th oct. 2012, Samuel joined Daniel and Johnny who guided him in some of these areas they are currently exploring in order to give him 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. They have therefore limited themselves to key areas and have dedicated several days to each of them in order to maximise their chances of capturing great lights. And great lights they 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 Samuel 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 him 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
- 2019 :
- 2018 :
- 2017 :
- 2016 :
- Chirstmas 2015 :
- 26 November 2015 :
- Summer 2015 :
- 2nd December 2014 :
- 28th July 2014 :
- 4th March 2014:
- December 2013:
- 21st November 2013:
- 15th November 2013:
- 24th June 2013:
- May 2013:
Johnny is very proud to send Daniel a picture of the 4G antenna providentially blessed from heaven and about to be inaugurated. It will allow a much improved communication for all the people of Esmoraca, Mojinete, Chuqui etc.. Hacia la Cumbre participates in the payment of Johnny's expenses, who has been working for years to try to advance the project. It works marvellously... when the power supply is not interrupted from Tupiza, 100km away!
Organized in grotesque conditions in La Paz with our support, Irene Delaveris led an expedition of four archaeological-touristical experts guided for nine days by Johnny. The expedition was financed at the last minute by Solidar Suiza, an offshoot of the Swiss DDC. We're very excited, we've been waiting for it for 15 years!
The budding Indiana Joneses come back bluffed by their adventure. For the first time, a corner of the veil has been lifted over a major archaeological heritage in Bolivia that has been totally ignored to date.
While the country is in the grip of serious political dissension, Irene sends Daniel a report of 1.8 GB. Subject to uncertain financing, she is planning a project that will last at least ten years. As such, Johnny will naturally be solicited and therefore salaried.
Santiago near Tutayoj above Florida.
Cirilo, of Guadalupe, has recorded 653 overnight stays in the past 12 months with the various accommodation providers. This is remarkable and growing. It seems that the Italians have particularly spread the word.
Diego, guide of Ciudad de Roma, had the fright of his life seeing one day an intrepid tourist flighing in the air under a strange multicoloured canvas, "playing" in the strong wind between the peaks of Cruce Abra before landing proudly next to the jeep!
Guides must on a case-by-case basis encourage struggling visitors to put one foot in front of the other between their sticks, but occasionally also discourage unrealistic pationnate climbers who would like to go down to the bottom of the ravine to climb the spire of a cathedral! Quite hard the guiding job!
Daniel Conod accompanies Daniel (Chappuis).
Isaac agrees to carve steps in the rock around the extraordinary statue of Mirtha which is only visible in the sun for 45 minutes a day in the early afternoon. About forty cuts will ensure the steps of the stunned photographers.
To sign the contract we find Isaac and his wife at their summer hut: no windows, interior space 1,60m/3m, the ground layer is an elevation of earth 80cm wide.
This Sunday, on the way back, we pick up the teacher Juan and 3 students 4 km from the village, who have come to collect wood for the school's bread oven.
Daniel Conod is very grateful for the sticks in the viscacha valley. The ledge flanks a 20m cliff!
On the Abra Cantu Ciénega Pass circuit via the Padre towards the Mirtha statue, several rocky areas that were not cleared caused problems for some tourists as well as the guides.
These passages, studied in 2016, have now been developed to ensure a relatively safe and comfortable route for the benefit of all. The guides have a visceral fear of the accident. No air or even telephone rescue solution is possible.
Due to the malfunctioning of the remote areas, the material prepared by Johnny in Tupiza and sent by truck, will take a year to arrive in Guadalupe!
Travel accompanied by Françoise Chevalley.
The guides of Ciudad de Roma had evoked in 2015 a problem which had appeared during the visits. Some tourists are physically uncomfortable in this high-altitude mountainous environment with no trails. Difficulties reveal themselves during the excursion. To avoid imposing a long and overly tiring circuit, an emergency return shortcut from the glacier and the underground lake to the watchtowers should be considered, with some tricky passages. Accepting the request, we have therefore studied this project of the viscachas valley pass which leads to the summit at an altitude of over 4300 m. The work has been done, Isaac is very proud of it.
Johnny funded by Hacia la Cumbre has worked hard to maintain the Condori pass 1.5 days walk from Esmoraca.
Another day's walk away, an ugly passage beyond Estancia Grande towards Bonete Palca has been laboriously rearranged to allow fully loaded donkeys to pass.
Conference "Exclusive Bolivia" at the Azimut of Estavayer-le-lac (Switzerlnad).
Daniel Chappuis and Samuel present a 2 hour conference, with slide show and video, about Daniel's aid project.
- The benefits from the sales of the photographs, together with some private donations and income from public presentations, made it possible to start the concrete aid.
- A project for the status of an association under Swiss law was drawn up: "Hacia la Cumbre" drafting the standard contract to frame each aid action.
- Epic realisation of the securing of a pedestrian circuit in Ciudad de Roma.
- Implementation of a second action similar to Estancia Grande entirely managed by local actors.
- Establishment of a regular internet connection with Johnny from Esmoraca and Cirilo de Rio Seco.
- Very notable and pleasing increase in overnight stays in Guadalupe: +250%!
- Gathering of 13 years of archaeological archives to compile a voluminous file (more than 30 illustrated pages) for the attention of specialists. To this day, the mysterious pre-Columbian people who left us their remains remain totally enigmatic.
- The 2015 expedition will be devoted to monitoring the work that has been done and launching other actions depending on the limited resources available. In addition, the exploration of various as yet unknown geological or archaeological sites will mobilize a great deal of energy.
Conference "Exclusive Bolivia" at the ciema of Bex (Switzerland) called Grain d'Sel.
Daniel and Samuel are giving this 1hr conference, suported by videos and slideshows, about the whole project.
Daniel's trip from 3rd Sept. to 14th Nov. 2013
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.
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 of 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.
At Estancia Grande they map, using GPS coordinates, the limits of an 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 no 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.
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!!
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 jerrycans.
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!
Conference "Exclusive Bolivia" presented by Daniel et Samuel to Nestlé's retired employees at Vevey (Switzerland).
Publication of Samuel's images on two double pages in Invitation magazine, No 52 of December 2013.
Conference "Exclusive Bolivia" at the festival Rencontre de l'Aventure of Bulle (switzerland): Daniel and Samuel give this 1hr conference suported by videos and slideshows about the whole project.
Daniel is back from 3 more months of adventures and new discoveries with his friend Johnny.
Conference "Exclusive Bolivia" at the Foyer Association Sport et Loisir Nestlé (Vevey, Switzerland).
Daniel Chappuis and Samuel give this 2hr conference, supported by videos and slideshows, about the whole project.
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.
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 his companion Johnny.
HOW TO GO THERE YOURSELF
The goal being indeed to promote a bit of ethical tourism in this region (we hope that the pictures below will motivate you to go there), so here are some infos to prepare your own "adventure" trip.
- 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 Tupiza from Milton or Alberto. Contacts via Tupiza-tours from Mitru hotel or via Johnny Velasquez tél. 00591 71 828425.
- Another possibility, from La Paz or Sucre: Biz renta car Bolivia. Good indirect reference.
- Being able to support altitudes between 3800 and 4500m. A step acclimatization is strongly recommended.
- 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 Tupiza-tours.
Where is it?
Tupiza is the city that serves as the back base and allows most of the food and fuel purchases. A hospital will provide any additional care to the field clinics. Note that it is strongly recommended that you take an emergency pharmacy with you.
As far as accommodation in this city is concerned, the Mitru Hotel, the most honest establishment within a 300 km. radius, will welcome you with your vehicle.
Tupiza (south-chichas) can be reached in 15 hours by bus from the La Paz terminal (LPB) via Potosi. Transport companies (flota): Trans del Sur (semi-cama), Expresso Tupiza (pura cama).
You can also arrive by train from Oruro via Uyuni. By road also from Argentina from Jujuy via La Quiaca/Villazon.
The southeast Lipez is approximately 120 to 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
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.
Esmoraca, Mojinete, Cienega regions:
On the road from Esmoraca to Cienega (50 inhabitants), Daniel, Johnny and Samuel explored for the first time a very narrow canyon which reminded Samuel of the famous Antelope canyon in the United States. In this canyon they discovered several ancient granaries or "chulpas" in the local language.
From the small and remote village of Cienega (50 inhabitants) they 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 Samuel who love colourful landscape, this is pure heaven. They spent 3 full days there to explore the different valleys and summits around. There is still so much to discover and photograph, Samuel could have spent weeks just in this very region.
Ciudad de Roma region:
Ciduad de Roma is probably one of the most amazing sites Samuel has ever seen and photographed in his 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 regions:
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 varying meteorological conditions.
Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve:
The following pictures are no longer exclusive. Indeed in the last part of the trip, Daniel, Johnny and Samuel went on 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 South Lipez.
In order to end his trip in style, Samuel offered himself 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 his eyes could see, while the sun was disappearing behind the horizon and painting a rain-bow of colours over the whole landscape at his feet, this was one of the most extraordinary experience of his life.