La Paz, Las Rockas

Trip Start May 30, 2005
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Trip End Sep 30, 2006


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Sunday, March 26, 2006

I got on the bus in Santa Cruz with it firmly in my mind that the journey was going to be 28 hours, and I wasnīt looking forward to it. I was quite happy, twiddling with my Rubikīs Cube and reading. In the morning weīd gained a lot of height again. Iīd spent about 3 weeks at around sea level and had totally declimitised. I got off the bus at a stop, went to the toilet and a little walk. I felt ill, dizzy and short of breath. I had to get back on the bus and sit down again, welcome back to the Altiplano.

A couple of hours later we were driving through a town and I was wondering where we were, it turned out to be La Paz! and the journey was only 18 hours longs, and here I thought my Spanish had been getting better, pah.

I found this great Lebanese restaurant a few doors up from my hostel, really great food, although I almost didnīt make it past the first night there. I was feeling a little hungry and ordered perhaps too much food. It all arrived and I started eating, within three mouthfuls the altitude sickness kicked in again. I felt sick, dizzy and hot. Looking at the food just made me want to throw up.

I almost just walked out leaving enough money to cover the bill, but the feeling passed and I could tentatively continue eating. I hadnīt been effected by the altitude like this when I first arrived in Bolivia, but then Iīd been in the mountains while in Argentina so that must have helped.

La Paz is a great looking city. I wonīt say itīs beautiful, but itīs stunning. Itīs set in a large bowl and you can gaze at the city as it rises 300 meters above the centre on a very steep slope. Of course it smells very similar to many other Bolivian cities, yep, of Urine. They just canīt seem to help themselves.

I did the usual tourist thing, walking around and looking at churches and other buildings and just generally having a nose around. I really prefer other smaller places to cities now and so I didnīt generally get over excited.

After Iīd gone to bed on my first night there I heard a loud bang, like the last time I didnīt think much of it even though my windows shook, and like the last time it was a bomb. Itīd gone off a few streets away, a second one went off in another part of the city later. Although not nearly as newsworthy as the Bali bombings last year it still had itīs effect here and I canīt believe itīs the second bomb that Iīve heard on this trip.

There was a parade taking place through the streets while I was there. It appeared to be a display of military strength as there were all manners of people in uniforms marching up and down and a few fly overs from the air force. I was quite concerned about one group of the military. Their uniform was the most NAZI looking thing Iīve ever seen, perhaps more so that Prince Williams fancy dress of a couple of years ago. They even marched in a very particular way that gave flash backs to Munich in the 1930īs, very disconcerting.

I took a day trip out to the ruins of Tiwanaku, I decided to try and do it on the cheap, for the fun of it. Rather than taking one of the tours. I had to catch a local bus up to the cementary to get the public bus out to the ruins. I saw a little micro with `Cementarioī written on the front, I jumped on and asked to go to the cementary, paying my money and sitting back enjoying the view. I didnīt really know my way round La Paz very well but after 10 minutes I recognised something that was in the wrong direction from the cementary. I shouted after the conductor "This is near Miraflores", a district of La Paz.
"Yes" he replied
"But I want to go to the Cementary"
"Your best getting out and crossing the road to catch another bus"
"What!" I couldnīt believe it, "Stop here".

When we came to a stop I asked for my money back as heīd blatently just allowed me on the bus to take my money. He said no and just smiled at me, I was so angry. The best insult that I could come out with was "Mentira!", which just means liar, he must have been shaking in his boots.

I eventually managed it out there without too many other dramas. I made a mistake out here. Talking to someone later, they said that if you donīt take a guide then itīs just a pile of rocks, but with a guide they can tell you and show you many interesting things. To me it was just a pile of rocks and I was mightily disappointed.

The nearby town was really beautiful though, really quiet with a nice square and an interesting church in the corner. It was a bit of a shame that I enjoyed this more than the Tiwanaku ruins themselves.

Usually when moving on to another place itīs with a bus, train, or perhaps a boat. I decided to move onto my new location in a slightly different way this time, by bike! More details in the next post!
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