No Oxygen even for Sir Ed Hillary

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Nov 04, 2008

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Where I stayed
Residencial Latino

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, March 27, 2008

One thing works in La Paz...the good coffee chains! Its great to get away from Nescrapfe for a few days and back to the world of real coffee beans at decent prices. So as you might have guessed we have done a couple of coffee stops during our walks around La Paz (both at Alexander Coffee shops).

Not only is the coffee good, but the places are an escape from the unbearable noise and lack of oxygen of La Paz. Of course the height factor affects non-locals a bit (although we are now quite climatised). If that wasnt sufficient, it looks like Bolivians at La Paz love putting extra pollution machines on their vehicles. Every single one of them produces a huge cloud of smog when it goes along, and from what you can see on the pictures, there is no space for one single car more in this city.

So walking around means ingesting smog every step...we cant wait to get some fresh air again!

We did the "La Paz" visit today, walking around different areas such as the Cathedral (very nice inside), and the Witchcraft market which seems to be half a dozen shops with baby llama bodies lying around and lots of Inca looking statues.

As recommended by our "not always good" guidebook we visited the "Coca Museum" which promised to tell us everything about the coca leave, its industry, history and uses. Well, Mr Guidebook writer...again you are wrong! Its dissappointing and its the closest to a bunch of pages printed off Wikipedia by a child of five in a rush to get to the toilet after a very bad llama indisgestion. "Get wiff it!" (as an Ohio colleague used to say) and put some more interesting things on your recommendations!

Anyway, after a totally unsatisfactory experience at the Coca Museum (now to be called "Caca Museum") we challenged all the information services of Bolivia to get some information on the road blocks towards Peru. The newspaper states that the blocks are already up around the country, but they dont actually say to what level (all vehicles stopped) or if it affects tourists, etc.

We tried watching Bolivian news, and CNN in Spanish at the hotel, but the first only keep stating how well the country is doing while USA is sinking, and CNN in Spanish only reports on the subprime mortgages...terrible stuff.

The tourist office was surprised to hear about a road block (a new one at least), while travel agencies were only to happy to say "nothing is happening" to get our money if possible.

So in any case, we booked our bus from La Paz tomorrow directly to Puno (Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca) and will just hope for the best. The bus company has insisted that they will go through the frontier without any problem, but it all sounds too good to be true. We should know tomorrow at lunch time! Just in case we are taking a few cans with us. If we have to join the road block we might as well do it on a full stomach...

We decided to skip Copacabana which is the main point for tourists to get to the Titicaca attractions. Firstly we want to avoid as many tourists as possible (as we know that Peru is just going to be packed with them), and secondly the situation in Bolivia is not going to get any better so the earlier we get to Peru, the better. We will just do all the stuff related to Titicaca from Puno where no one seems to stay.

Probably the best experience of the day was riding on a "Truffis". These are the local bus-taxis which clog all of La Paz. They are normally small 9 seater vans built for very small people, but they tend to cram up to 12 during most of the day.

Taxis are dead cheap to move around La Paz (10 Bs per ride which is about 80 cents Euro) but only Radio Taxis are to be trusted as the rest have a bad security record (accidents and robbery) so we stay away from most of them. "Truffis" however are only 1.50 Bs each and very fast. They all go to different destinations around the city which the assistant shouts out of the window continously.

It was great to go on one of them to the bus station, but we could hardly fit inside...and Marcos is not exactly the tallest European around!

Anyway, thats all from Bolivia and our next report will be from Peru (hopefully tomorrow). Funnily some of the countries we have passed seem to be rapidly decomposing politically and economically (yet again in their history).

- Bolivia was not big surprise but is happening faster than expected with the export restrictions.

- Argentina seems to have come to a stop and the streets of Buenos Aires appear to have been taken over by protests, while main roads are cut. Food seems to be scarce in shops of Argentina and while everyone complains that great stateswoman (Mrs Kirchener or Cristina as her friends call her) has said that everyone that is protesting is just acting like clowns....

- Ecuador and Colombia are at it again. It all seemed so nice at the OEA summit a few weeks ago when they were all kissing and embrassing and promising eternal friendship. It didnt last so long... Its seems Ecuador is a bit angry at Colombia killing an Ecuadorian FARC (presumed) member within Ecuadorian territory. And correctly so, only Ecuador should be able to kill their own criminals! What has life come to!

So. Ta for now!
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