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First night in Bolivia

Written on: Sunday July 29th, 2007

A journal entry from: Bolivia, Peru, and the Galapagos!

I arrived in La Paz, Bolivia last night at about 8pm. Although it is in the Eastern time zone (so no resetting of clocks), it was already pitch black because its "winter" down here. The temperature was also 43F. Brrrr. This is typical for La Paz year-round because of its altitude (somewhere around 13,000 ft). Just lifting my backpack onto my shoulders was enough to render me out of breath (granted, it weighs 40 pounds, but still!)

After going through customs, I spotted my driver holding my name plaquard almost immediately and we went straight to his taxi and headed into town. The airport is on the outskirts of town in El Alto, the high plain that overlooks La Paz which is located at the bottom of a canyon. The roads were terrible in El Alto and mostly constructed out of bricks. There were stray dogs everywhere (probably 1 per block). Trash was piled in heaps and there were a few campfires burning in vacant lots. At one point, the driver drove right through the middle of a night market, stopping to move some blankets that a woman was selling out of our way. Finally, we crossed a dirt lot and arrived on a real paved road, shortly thereafter we reached the canyon edge, and by peering through the gaps between the houses, I could see La Paz at the bottom. As we weaved our way down the canyon wall at a fairly good clip, the stray dogs disappeared and the dwellings became nicer. Eventually we reached the bottom and also encountered traffic. There were people everywhere, including wandering through the streets and in and out of the traffic, which wasn´t much of a worry, because at this point we were traveling at about 5 mph. Mini buses clogged the streets and spewed diesel fumes. Yum!

The people we saw as we drove through down were of all varities, but I didn´t see a single gringo. I guess they were all tucked in their hotels by this time. The most interesting people I saw were the "cholas", which are the women that where the traditional dress that the Spanish imposed on them half a century ago. I will probably have pictures of these women later, but here´s a quick description of them. They have colorful, ankle-length, fluffy, pleated skirts, a blouse covered with a sweater, and then they top it off with a shawl. Most wear a colorful blanket that they craft into a backpack. And, to top it off, they wear a bowler cap. Yes, a bowler. Its an interesting outfit. The richer ladies (e.g. the ones on TV) have velvet and jewels on their caps.

Eventually we reached my hotel, Hotel Azul Diamante. The hotel is clean and modern (and seems to be only a year or two old). I went straight to my room, climbed into bed, then flipped through the TV channels quickly before dozing off (they have the exact TV stations that I´m used to in Boston, except with spanish subtitles).

This morning I awoke at 6am and it was still dark. I had a massive headache, which was most likely caused by the altitude. I wanted some water, but I was skeptical about drinking it straight from the tap and was not motivated to fish out my fancy filtration water bottle. I continued to lay there until the sun rose around 7am and then I witnessed the most magnificent view from my room. I´m on the fifth floor of the hotel, which seems to be higher than most buildings in La Paz. I looked out over the city and up onto the canyon walls. The morning fog slowly lifted as the sun rose higher. I took some pictures, but I don´t know how to upload them on the hotel computer (and I don´t have wireless access yet for my laptop.... they switched my hotel two days ago, and that one had a wireless. sigh)

Its now 9:30am and I just wrapped up my complimentary breakfast at the hotel. I´m about to head out on a walking tour of La Paz, guided by my Lonely Planet book. Lots of pictures to come!!!


From Jen & Ryan on Jul 31st, 2007

Greetings from Delaware :) We're enjoying reading about your exciting adventures! Ryan says the best cure for a headache in Bolivia is chewing on a coca leaf. At least that's what his ma told him... hmmm... We return to NYC today. Such excitement. Miss you!