Living the high life in La Paz

Trip Start Sep 02, 2008
Trip End Dec 14, 2008

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Where I stayed
Arthy┤s Guesthouse, La Paz

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, September 28, 2008

The train from Uyuni was pretty classy - we had blankets, pillows and sandwiches, all provided by a man in a uniform and peaked cap, who, after our fairly restful night chugging across the altiplano, woke us up to say we should get our cameras ready for a pretty lake full of flamingoes that the train went right through - not quite the British Rail service we are used to!  The train dropped us in Oruro, from where it was a comfortable 2 hour bus ride to La Paz...

Typically enough, we missed out on the classic first breathtaking view of the city clinging to the sides of its huge canyon, as we were sitting on the wrong side of the bus!  But we made up for it the next day when we huffed and puffed up to a fabulous viewpoint from where we could gaze around a full 360 degree vista of this crazy, beautiful city, the highest capital city in the world!  My first impression of La Paz after a long overnight journey was big, hectic and smelly, but we found a charming, tranquil haven of a guesthouse only 5 mins walk from the bus station, and after a hot shower and a lie down, we were ready to take the city on!

We spent the next day and a half wandering around the steep cobbled streets and alleyways, trying not to get run over by the crazy traffic, checking out all the colourful alpaca knitwear on offer in millions of little handicraft shops, and trying to get the perfect photo of the funny little colourful buses that constantly squeezed down the tiny streets past us!

We visited the ┤Coca Museum┤ to learn the history of the coca leaf in all its guises - traditional herbal remedy for altitude sickness (where the leaves are chewed by indigenous people into a ball which they lodge in their cheek until it disolves), magic ingredient of Coca Cola, and now illegally mass-produced vital ingredient of cocaine.  We ate our cheapest 3 course meal ever - $1 each - and we didn┤t get sick!  And we narrowly avoided getting tear-gassed in the main plaza!!  Well...we met a kiwi couple the next day who had this experience around the same time we were in La Paz - luckily all we saw in the main plaza were people feeding pigeons and eating ice-cream, and a smart military brass band!

The following day, after our walk to the mirador to get the full effect of the city, we caught a taxi to the bus stop for our next destination, Copacabana, with the friendliest taxi man ever - we had a full GCSE Spanish conversation practice on the way - Como te llamas? Cuantos a˝os tienes?  Cuantos hijos tienes?  Donde vives? - and I think we kept up our end of the conversation muy bien!!

And so, off to Lake Titikaka......
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