La Paz - pretty but dodgy

Trip Start Sep 02, 2010
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
The Point Hostel

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bring it on! Today we go to La Paz, Bolivia – which somehow feels a bit more real than going to Bolivia on the other side of the lake! We got our taxi and on the bus at the bus station without any hassle thankfully.  We are going with Tour Peru bus company as from many sources it appears to be the most comfortable and it is a fairly long journey.  The bus was packed full of tourists and this time at the border had to stand in a huge queue to go through the formalities – we are missing the special treatment already!  So, off to Copacabana again where we have an hour break and then switch buses. For our hours break we wandered along the front – complete with pedalos and various boats to rent to tourists.  It is a bit of a holiday town but pleasant enough.  I had my first spaghetti carbonara of the trip – which isn't necessarily because I really fancied it (which I did) but because we don’t speak Spanish and looking at a menu is a mystery unless we get an Italian! 

Then we had a rush back to the bus and had about a four hour bus journey to La Paz.  We arrived around 4pm and the view into La Paz on arrival was quite spectacular.  La Paz is situated in a bowl like depression in the mountains and we has started going past the top of the mountains as they poked through the altiplano on the bus ride.  These were the same mountains you can see in the distance from Lake Titicaca.  It is kind of like the Pamir Plateau in Tajikistan in that you are already so high that a 'high’ mountain, circa 6000m plus doesn’t actually poke up that much from the ground but is still covered in snow.  Anyway, dropping into La Paz we could we the city spread out below us and carpeting the sides.  I had a rather irritating tourist opposite who kept trying to take photos over me and learning over my face.  I should have done the same to him with the mountains previously but I’m more polite.

We got dropped off at a hotel rather than the bus station and walked to the hostel.  We are feeling pretty acclimatised by now so even tackling hills with backpacks is manageable now thankfully.  We are staying at the Point hostel, which I booked online as highly rated.  At the moment it is pretty dead – presumably because the students have gone to uni.  It irritatingly plays loud music all day long into the courtyard whether people are there or not.  The hostel organisation was pretty shambolic.  The guy on reception didn’tseem to have a clue what he was doing, the type of room we booked apparently doesn’t even exist, he tried to charge us to much, and he couldn’t give us a key to the door immediately – later on it materialised as a padlock as the lock is broken apparently.  Anyway – not a good start.  Then it turned out to be unisex bathrooms, one of the doors doesn’t lock, etc …I was getting more and more annoyed.  Breathe deeply.  Anyway, pe3rhaps the standards aretoo high coming from hotels and the cushy life.  The hostels one defining positive is the beds – as they are warm and comfortable as it does get cold at night and we have no heating anymore.

So after settling in we thought we better go out and get some money and some dinner.  We asked the guy on the front desk if it was safe as it was dark and he said yes – although probably best to get back in an hour.  T was around 8pm and we started walking down the hill towards a main street.  Almost immediately a drunk guy staggered out of a building in front of us – utterly wasted and just managed to skip around him.  Then acouple of meters on a chap walked up to us and triedto engage Ryan in conversation, we got past him and encountered another drunk.  Down a flight of steps and onto the main street where we struggled to fnd anything but fast food joints and the off café.  We felt horribly exposed getting money out of a cash machine.  We settled on the café and ended up with a huge Caesar salad and some take away cake.  We then had a nervous walk abck to the hostel.  In the café I’d been working out various strategies and moving money and my card through various pockets before sticking my credit card in my bra.  Better safe than sorry.

Anyway – we got back to the hostel just fine but it was an interesting experience of La Paz and not a very positive one, although it definitely feels like a city with a lot of life in it – with the street stalls and general chaos.  Tomorrow we have our ‘biking the death road’ activity and so we spent the rest of the night eating cake, packing for tomorrow and watching a rather fantastic storm that suddenly came over the city and our hostel.
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