Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Road to La Paz

As previously mentioned, we got to La Paz via a 17 hour night bus from Santa Cruz. We had been told that the long distance buses were really comfortable, with air conditioning and bathrooms and, embarrassingly, we were naive enough to look forward to relaxing during the ride.

Well, once again, we were horribly mistaken. While, admittedly, the seats weren't too uncomfortable and sleep was possible, the bus was hot as hell (definitely no A/C) and the toilet was out of order. Let me just repeat that: no toilet. For 17 hours.

If you have spent any time with me, you know that I insist on being extremely well hydrated and as a result, I use the bathroom about once an hour. The realization that I had no access to a bathroom for that period of time was my personal hell. At first, I tried to bully the driver into letting me use the bathroom ("Solo urino!"), but he wasn't having it. Finally, I annoyed him enough that he pulled the bus over on the side of a dark highway and pointed me to the banos publicos, which was a dark shack with a hole in the floor run by an old Bolivian woman who insisted I pay her. When I told her my money was on the bus, which had kindly kept moving while I was in the bathroom, she told me to give her my shirt. I shook my finger at her and ran away, confident that she wouldn't catch me but scared nonetheless. After that experience, I stopped drinking water for the rest of the trip. In defense of the bus driver, he did stop for bathroom breaks. Twice. In 17 hours.

But in the end, the trip was worth it because La Paz is incredible. The city is built in a huge valley surrounded by mountains, with the houses practically built on top of each other, clinging to the valley walls. It's seriously breath-taking.
View of La Paz when entering the city

Downtown and the mountains beyond
What's also breath-taking is the altitude. At 13,300 feet, the altitude here is no joke. The first day here, V and I were both battling splitting headaches and were out of breath after even the smallest physical effort. Luckily, we were fine after the first day and were able to explore the city.

From what we saw, my conclusion about La Paz is that it is a city of extremes. One second you are surrounded in the street by women dressed in the traditional costume, bowler hat and all, or you see people selling the most random things on the street, like dried llama fetuses:

The next second someone's cell phone goes off and the ring tone is the latest Rihanna song. Every time we think we are in some third world backwater, we are smacked back into the modern world by something we would see or hear back at home.

What I also love about La Paz is that it is crazy and colorful; it's an extremely dynamic city with beauty to be found everywhere. The people are gorgeous and colorful and interesting to look at, the architecture is bizarre and different from block to block. It's frenetic and wild and we love it.

Tomorrow, we fly to Rurrenbaque to tour the Amazon, which we are so excited about. I won't have internet access for a week, but hopefully I'll have a badass blog post to show for it. Thanks in advance for your patience!


  1. an old bolivian woman stopped by the house today, really pissed off. she took our toilet.

  2. This blog will be one of the best things about 2012.