Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Bolivia: Day 1

by Kathy 26. November 2007 08:00

<< 2007 Journeys: Bolivia | Day 2: La Paz, Janko Marca and Sajama >>


Traveling to La Paz


On the plane, the morning sun revealed spectacular cloudscapes over the Andes mountains.

We had been flying all night. As the plane descended through the clouds, we could see the snow-covered mountains that surrounded La Paz:

At almost 12,000 feet above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital in the world and is nicknamed “the city that touches the sky”. It has a unique location, inside of a large natural bowl carved out of the high altiplano. The airport is located on the flat altiplano above the city, at about 13,300 feet high. Ben and I had read plenty of stories about the debilitating effects of altitude sickness (nausea, headaches, difficulty breathing, insomnia) and had started taking preventative medicine the day before; whether it was the medicine, our genes, that “magic pill” that Maurice gave us at the airport, or our consumption of coca tea (or a combination of all four), neither Ben nor I suffered from altitude sickness during our trip.

The route from the airport had us dropping down from the edge of the crater, into the city below. View of La Paz on our way from the airport:

La Paz is structured so that the city center is in the bottom of the bowl, with the sides covered by the poorer neighborhoods (unlike most cities where the wealthy are generally situated up high with a nice view). Because of the altitude, the higher areas in La Paz can be much colder and do not have the plant life of the lower areas.

Our hotel in Bolivia (the El Rey Palace Hotel) was spacious, very comfortable, and centrally located. View from our hotel:

After a quick breakfast and short nap at the hotel, Maurice met us for a stroll through the city and a relaxing lunch at an excellent restaurant, La Comedie. Ben and I on the way to lunch:

We were also joined by Marc, one of the four Belgians who would be riding with us on this trip. After lunch, Ben and I decided to visit a few museums and to wander through the market areas. The streets were pretty crowded with cars. Ben:

There are also numerous minibuses, each with a “caller” who continually yells out the location and price from the side of the minibus. If you want to ride, you give a wave and hop aboard.

We visited the Museo Tiwanaku, which has some interesting artifacts from the excavations at Tiwanaku, as well as few mummies. Here I am at the entrance:

The museum was quite small and only had a handful of visitors. While in the museum, we were approached by two girls who were interviewing people for a school project. Since Ben and I have been studying Spanish at our local community college for a year and a half, we were able to converse with the girls, and answer their questions (where were we from, how long were we staying in La Paz, etc.). At the end, one of the girls asked me if I would be her “madrina” (sponsor) because she wanted to come to the United States to study. I explained that I was already the madrina for a girl in Bolivia, Maribel (although she did not have plans to travel to the U.S.), and that we would be visiting Maribel the next day.

We continued walking through the streets of La Paz, in search of another museum that Maurice had recommended. On our way, we came across a peaceful and orderly protest in the streets:

At the time of our trip, Bolivia was experiencing a lot of social and political turmoil. Economically, Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, although it has an abundance of natural resources. The population of Bolivia consists of approximately 65% indigenous people, and the current president (Evo Morales) is the first indigenous president. There has been, and still is, much oppression of the indigenous people. While I don’t understand all of the complexities of the social and political history, there appears to be a great divide between some of the wealthier non-indigenous people who live in the eastern low-lying cities, and the indigenous people who live in poorer communities along the high altiplano and who are demanding greater rights and benefits. While we were in Bolivia, there were violent protests in the low-lying city of Sucre, with several deaths, causing Maurice to change our route to bypass that area.

More views of La Paz: We had to walk up the hills a bit:

After a long trek, we finally found the museum--but it was closed! We took a picture anyway to show that we at least had made it there:

The shoeshine boys were everywhere, wearing ski-masks to hide their faces:

Ben in front of the Iglesias de San Francisco, an old church that incorporates some of the indigenous religious symbols into the facade:

A house that shows its history in the stonework at the base:

That evening, we met the rest of the riders in our group and had a delicious dinner together. Here we are, from left to right: Kathy, Ben, Gérald, William, Marc, Olivier and Maurice.

<< 2007 Journeys: Bolivia | Day 2: La Paz, Janko Marca and Sajama >>

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Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
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   World’s Most Dangerous Road

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Costa Rica
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   Proyecto DCR
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   Elondo Village
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   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

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Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin