Too Many Gringos in La Paz

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, August 6, 2007

We didnīt arrive in La Paz in the best form, having spent more or less 30 hours on buses to get there! Why this madness? Not to save money, thatīs for sure.   We had been relaxing for 3 days in Yacuiba (Boliviaīs far south-east corner) waiting for a flight to La Paz , but the day before the flight, we were informed it was cancelled as there was no plane available! These things happen, and luckily for us - not often.  

The bus journeys had been fairly uneventful and I had one of my best sleeps ever on an overnight bus - I must be adjusting! Ed however, sleeps like a baby (well, a large, hairy, snoring baby) on most journeys complete with Qantas-supplied eye mask, American-Airlines supplied pillow and yellow ear plugs which he actually purchased.  

Arriving at the outskirts of La Paz , we encountered El Alto - a new suburb perched on the rim of a crater which holds La Paz itself. From a distance, the numerous brick and adobe houses clinging to the hillsides look like rubble. Despite dire warnings from our guidebook about La Paz , the bus terminal we arrived at (normally some of the dodgiest places) seemed OK. We walked to a budget hotel where our companions consisted of a few dreadlocked Argentinian hippies and some locals - thatīs when you know you have a cheap room! Great shower īthough...  

Had a look around the main plaza. There are a few decent colonial buildings but much that isnīt appealing. The main touristy section was crammed with travel agencies and artesania shops - we found the locals in that area a bit surly when we asked for directions - tourist overload, Iīm sure. We suffered from tourist overload too within a few minutes of arriving, spotting mainly what I call "fancy dress backpackers" - the ones that insist on wearing locally bought clothes from head to toe: poncho, various bits of woven decorations, stripey trousers even the locals wouldnīt be seen dead in and alpaca hats with ear flaps.

Had a reasonable Lebanese meal (our tastebuds were crying out for some different flavours) and visited the Coca museum - which we can highly recommend. It aims to educate about the history of the coca leaf, primarily that Coca ≠ Cocaine. The Western world has been incredibly hypocritical about coca - banning it when they thought it prevented them converting the indigenous people in the deep, dark days and making it legal and taxing it to the hilt when they discovered that their "slaves" in the gold and silver mines could produce more with coca than without. The leaf has great cultural significance for the indigenous and high nutritional value as well - it is an integral part of life in the Altiplano and to ban it simply because the Western world supplies the necessary components to convert it to cocaine and indigest it to look for the next high.

Anyway, off my soapbox now - given that time is getting short in our journey, we decided to carry on to the Isla de Sol, located in Lake Titicaca for some R&R.
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