A lady blogger suggested adding this to a list of potential places to go. As adventurous as I think I am, I wonder, in times of this pandemic, highly skeptical about going somewhere I have never heard of. And worse, what is their vaccination status, and quality of health care?
I like the idea of going someplace new and different. But to point to some country I have never heard of seems to tempt fate. Let me just illustrate the folly of this idea.
At random, I found Central African Republic, a landlocked country in central Africa. It is bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the southeast, DR Congo to the south, Republic of Condo to the southwest, and Cameroon to the west. CAR was a French colony, with a current population of around 5 million. It is among the ten poorest countries in the world. Per capita income is $400 per year. Malaria is endemic, and one of the leading causes of death.
So, let’s scrap this idea. In fact, I don’t think I would visit any of the neighboring countries either! But I would never say “no” under the right circumstances.
Instead, let’s pick a place that most of us have heard of, but perhaps do not know very much. The country I would choose is Bolivia, in South America. I know it has the famous Uyuni Salt Flats, and the even more famous Yungas Death Road.
I had a trip planned to Bolivia (along with Buenos Aires) in February, 2020, when the pandemic hit. My travel buddy, Mr. Mike was planning his annual dove hunting trip to Argentina. I planned to visit Bolivia on my own, before meeting up with him in Buenos Aires.
So, what exactly makes it any different? Bolivia has a stronger economy, plentiful natural resources, and better infrastructure. Plus, I am just an hour or so away from access to major health care services in Buenos Aires. The population is around 10.1 million, with 40% of the population under the age of 15. And best of all, tourism has become increasingly important.
In my younger days, I would gladly take on the challenge of the Death Road. My visit would have to focus on the Uyuni Salt Flats. Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat, at over 3900 square miles. Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, by comparison is only 30,000 acres. The flats can reach a depth of 10 meters in some places. Underneath the salt is 70% of world’s lithium reserves. The train graveyard is a big attraction.
So, what is the big deal? For me, staying in a hotel on the salt flats made of block of salt, sounds really interesting. The Luna Salada Hotel and Palacio del Sal were made entirely out of salt, from the walls, to the furniture to the floor. Palacio was made with a million blocks of compressed salt grains, with each room, an igloo styled dome. It even has a golf course! But salt hotels have a lifespan of only 10 to15 years, since rain causes disintegration.
Or maybe Bosnia, Armenia, Serbia, Slovakia or Slovenia?? I had a former neighbor and friend recently move to Slovakia. And my favorite cyclist, Peter Sagan is from Slovakia. The world’s two best cyclists (Roglic and Pogacar) are form Slovenia. I could be my kind of place.
Whatever you do, I hope you will consider the entire situation in the country you intend to visit. Many times, booking a tour will “hide” some of the issues in third world countries (like when I went to Myanmar). But never, I repeat, never, let anyone (even me) discourage you from visiting a place you have never heard of!!!