Catching My Breath

Trip Start Apr 27, 2009
Trip End Apr 27, 2010

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Where I stayed

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

After a beautiful trip up through the Lucau National Park and a much easier time explaining why the passport number I was leaving the country with was different than the one when I entered I finally made it out of Chile and into Bolivia. Spending the best part of 3 days on a bus wasn't good preparation for La Paz - between the taxi driver that ripped me off and the fact that my room was on the 4th floor all I was ready to do once I arrived was go to bed. Before you start to think that I've definitely got really unfit bear in mind the fact that La Paz is the highest capital city in the world at about 3,600m above sea level - and, trust me, you notice the lack of oxygen! Tasks that should be no problem - such as climbing stairs become much harder and for my first 2 days I had a constant headache and very little appetite. Nevertheless, after dropping my bags off I headed out to grab some food and water to tide me over til morning before getting wrapped up to catch some sleep. It's much colder in La Paz (especially at night) than it was in Arica and it would appear that I've got too used to the heat and so needed to sleep in my thermals and some socks despite the bed having a sheet, 2 blankets and a duvet! Not a good omen for going home in a few weeks!! Between the breathing problems, being cold and the hammering rain and hail I almost started to wonder why I was in such a hurry to leave Chile!!

La Paz is a very busy city and has tons of character in the form of steep, bustling streets. It's definitely one of the most unusual cities I've visited, lying cradled high up in the Andes. Each time I forgot about the altitude and started walking at a normal pace I was quickly reminded that there was a reason people were taking it easy other than the typical South American lack of concern for the clock. I took the "hop on, hop off" bus tour of the south side of the city and the Valle de Luna - apparently "hop on, hop off" didn't quite translate because the only stop was at the Valle de Luna where we were given 40 minutes to wander round before heading back up into the city. It's a very different place than the Valle de Luna in Chile and was formed as the heavy rains and strong winds eroded away the soil in some areas leaving huge towers rather than a flat surface. The variation in altitude from the highest part of La Paz to the lowest is about 1,000m (or a Munro - the hill not my Dad!) and that translates to a temperature difference of about 10 degrees celsius meaning that my jumper was on and off frequently during the open-top bus ride.

Once I got back to the city centre I wandered up the Prado, completely bemused by the number of mini-vans populating the streets. They generally had someone standing in the sliding doorway shouting out street names and their price faster than I could process them. Between all the shouting and the Bolivian obsession with beeping the horn it makes for a very noisy city! After a couple of days it didn't feel quite so overwhelming but to start with it's a bit of a culture shock compared to Chile!

The prices are definitely more appealing than those in Chile, however, making the fact that my hotel didn't have kitchen facilites irrelevant because going out was so cheap. I got a really nice steak with chips and a drink for less than 4 - and that wasn't the cheapest place I could have eaten!

Off on a trip to Lake Titicaca in the morning which should be interesting.
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