Up front, I want to give my highest and sincerest recommendation for Gery Hartman (with Expeditours Bolivia) as a tour guide to anybody considering spending time visiting Bolivia. My family of three spent an entire day with Gery (Gerardo Arce Hatman) in Bolivia on 27 June 2014 – this was a day-tour from Copacabana to Tiwanaku and back, and included a number of other interesting stops along the way. We had arranged this with Gery via email several months prior to our trip to Peru and Bolivia. A short word about contacting Gery via email: only use one of the following email addresses in communicating with him: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com ; his other accounts were hacked into months ago and using any other address could result in false and/or malicious messages.
Our day with Gery was one of the highlights of our trip. Gery is a wonderful guide – not only is he extremely well informed, he also speaks very fluent English. But most of all, he is a genuinely wonderful person and we all thoroughly enjoyed spending the day with him. Throughout the day we talked about all kinds of things from history to politics to philosophy – he has interesting stories to tell no matter what the topic, and trust me when I tell you the conversation got pretty lively at times! It takes approx. 4 hours to drive from Copacabana to Tiwanaku, but Gery made several stops along the way to show us really interesting things that we would have otherwise driven right by. The most exciting (and totally unexpected) stop for me was at the home of Paulino Esteban, who was the lead reed-boat builder for Thor Heyerdahl in the Ra-II (and other) expeditions. I had read Heyerdahl’s book about the Ra Expeditions as a teenager, so meeting Sr. Esteban was really exciting for me – it turned out Gery and Sr. Esteban have known each other for a number of years which made the stop very “easy” and comfortable for everybody. Of course lots of pictures were taken of Sr. Esteban with all of us, and Gery was able to translate (as he is also fluent in Aymara).
The time at Tiwanaku was fascinating. There is a museum at the site in addition to the ruins. Because he also has an archeology background, Gery went into great detail explaining what we saw in the exhibits, and many aspects of the ancient culture which one could so easily miss out on ( if on the typical guided tour) . For our lunch break, we ate at one of the local restaurants and (of course!) he was friends with the owner who sat and talked with us while the food was being prepared. My only regret at Tiwanaku was that we didn’t have quite as much time at PumaPunku as I would have liked – this is because it closes at 4:00PM and we simply didn’t have a lot of time left after seeing everything else because Gery made it all so fascinating.
The drive to/from Tiwanaku took us through part of El Alto (very near La Paz) and another thing Gery did was make stops to get us snacks/drinks which we would probably not have tried otherwise. We bought a gigantic bag of Bolivian “popcorn” and we all munched on that most of the way back to Copacabana. By the time we were near Copacabana it was completely dark outside so he made one more stop so we could all get out and look at the stars – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars so clearly before! The Milky Way was incredibly bright, and we saw several “shooting stars” too. Back in town we decided to get some dinner together so the day could last a little longer.
To put it simply: we have never had a more interesting, insightful, or lively tour guide in any of our travels. When we return to Bolivia, we will definitely plan more of our time with him.