Travel Journal

Bolivia, La Paz

(Tuesday 19 April 2011) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 246-7 4/10-11/11
I had a little surprise trying to catch the bus as despite the clerk telling me it left from there, it actually left from the terminal next door. So a little running and I got onboard. Not a very good bus but I kind of expected that Bolivian buses would not be up to the standards I have been use to so far in South America.
I had done a little research and thought the border crossing would be easy but I was wrong. I thought the visa at the border was just a stamp but I was pulled aside and had to fill out a visa form as I watched the other passengers file by. At least I had my backpack which we were required to take through customs so if the bus left I wouldn’t be totally screwed. The form was long and I found myself just making up address and phone numbers of work, home, emergency contacts and so forth and turned it in. I was then told to pay $135 for the visa. I was not expecting that but the lady showed me the notice and no, they would not take a credit card so I pulled it out of my reserves and headed out the door not seeing anyone from my bus, headed out to Bolivia hopping the bus would still be there.
I only got about one hundred feet before the immigration lady ran after me and brought me back. It seems she forgot she needed a photocopy of my passport and a photograph of me. Fortunately I also carry extras and was able to supply her with them and took off again.
My bus was just clearing customs when I got across the border and some of my travel mates congratulated me as they thought I was not going to make it. I stowed my baggage back onboard and sat down to rest from my ordeal.
I wish I could have taken pictures of two things on the bus ride into La Paz but my camera was not handy. I finally saw the Andes as I had expected, huge, majestic snow covered peaks that were amazing. The second was driving into La Paz where the pass suddenly opens up and you see a great valley below not of fields and streams but just houses. They aren’t beautifully buildings but they just seem like they belong there, that they are part of the valley itself. They are all brown and almost seem organic hugging the slopes. I did get some shots leaving La Paz although they are not very good from a moving bus.
The bus station is about a kilometer up a hill from the town center and I looked briefly for a tourist information booth that should have been nearby according to the guidebook but I couldn’t find it. I was developing cramps and gas – I don’t know if it was from the high altitude here or the brownish meat they served with pasta on the bus but I set out to quickly find a room and settled on a hostel with limited internet access in the lobby. One of the main reasons for coming here was to see the Los Titanes del Ring which features cholitas or wrestling women. I had seen them on travel shows and the Amazing Race and thought it would be fun to watch. What were the odds they would only wrestle Sunday Nights? So I laid down and rested and felt better in the morning.
Of course, after checking tourist information, Sunday nights were the only nights the cholitas wrestled. Looks like I’ll have to do that on my next trip! There was a large march or protesters in the streets and things got a little heated as insults were yelled from the crowd and responded to by the protester. A rock was thrown near me but besides that it was rather peaceful. I found out later that the marchers were civil employees such as teachers, medical workers, and so on that were not happy with their ten percent raise and the other people were not happy that they got a ten percent raise to begin with.
I went inside Inglesia de San Francisco or rather the museo next door that was the cloister and allowed access to the choir in the rear that overlooked the interior of the church. There were many religious paintings naturally. Taking a narrow staircase you arrive at the roof of the church with its many bells and are treated with views of the city. You weren’t suppose to take pictures of the interior of the church which I discovered on a sign on my way out. Lo siento!
I walked down the main street which has plazas every few blocks. I am surprised how clean the city is considering it is the poorest capital in South America. There’s the occasional graffiti but no litter and the plazas seem to always have workers keeping it clean and maintained. ]
I stopped at the Museo de Etnografia y Folklore which was way too many textiles from different regions of Bolivia. It’s sections on masks was interesting if not somewhat spooky.
My visit to the Bruha Market was underwhelming. It was about twenty stalls selling potions, herbs, llama fetuses, etc. Perhaps it was the altitude and all the walking I had done that day. The only sign I had of altitude sickness was a slight pressure headache but the walking even with slow, deep breathes was hard. I believe this is the highest elevation at which I have ever been.
I was hungry after the workout and popped into a restaurant and told them I wanted meat. Well, here you go!
I had purchased a ticket from a travel agent to catch a tourist bus to Copacabana the next morning. It’s possible to get local transportation but everything I read advised against that. I went to sleep early and rushed through breakfast to be ready for the 7:30 pickup but the receptionist gave me a note in Spanish and indicated that there would be no bus as the road was bad. I waited for the travel agency to open and they tried to sign me up for the next day but I really wanted to get out of town now so I hiked up to the bus station and was able to get on a 1:30 bus out. As I mentioned I was able to get a few pictures of La Paz on the way out and also some photos of the Andes in the distance.

  • be carefull by nellie the mom

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