26 March 09
La Paz takes your breath away - literally. At some 4,200m above sea level, it's the highest capital city in the world! And boy, can you feel it!
As we descended into La Paz on Monday morning, the first things that struck me were the low-lying clouds and the mountains - with snow on them! I couldn't believe that we were THAT high - it seemed as if Id be able to touch the clouds when I got off the plane (I couldn't).
I really didn't think the altitude would affect me, but the simple task of lifting my backpack off the conveyor belt left me gasping for air and really dizzy. It wasn't much better for Tim, who was nice enough to carry BOTH backpacks to the taxi and then into our hostel, which was conveniently perched on top of a steep, steep hill. You could say he looked a little pale. And puffed.
Even sleeping has been a bit of an issue because the moment I become too relaxed and my breathing slows, I realise Im not getting enough oxygen and need to take a deep breath - which kicks me out of sleep (reminds me of that blonde joke with the earphones..? Dad knows the one J hahaha)
Anyways, within 48 hours of being in La Paz, most of the altitude symptoms had dissipated. BUT, this city is one hilly place. It basically sits at the bottom of a huge canyon and houses spill up the sides. Walking up and down the hills still makes me pretty puffed - haha, useless.
It's a bustling city full of character and very different to what we have seen so far. Its been a nice change. Its busy without the sky rises you see in 'big' cities. It has a charm about it. Cobblestone pathways lead you to an array of stalls selling absolutely anything you could dream of, from alpaca knits to jelly and cream to all sorts of crazy potions and amulets which are meant to ward off evil spirits (including dried alpaca foetus - still confused about this one!).
Speaking of alpaca knits, Tim and I have bought a cosy jumper each! They were a steal at about the equivalent of $20. Tim also bought a scarf. I think we still need to buy some beanies, mittens, socks…our Inca trek starts soon!! It will be freezing!!
The Bolivians have been my favourite people so far, particularly the women. Not because they are super friendly or helpful, (in fact, they wont even smile at you) but because they really are their own people. The older women, who I could watch all day long, wear beautifully colourful mismatched full skirts and shawls and miniature top hats which miraculously stay on their head, even when lugging a sack full of who knows what (sometimes an infant) on their back (the sack, of course, is wonderfully bright). Unfortunately, dental hygiene isn't too big here either, and so most of these woman have rotting teeth, gold teeth (as replacements) or no teeth. But fantastic to watch, nonetheless.
The food here as also been unbelievable and our most favourite (not counting the beef in Argentina). Many restaurants serve set lunches which are generally 25bs (about $5.20) which consist of soup for entrée, meat and vegies for the main meal and then a dessert. And don't let the price fool you - the dishes have been gourmet styles! We haven't been able to get enough…
What am I doing now? Well, I am sitting on our overland bus (which in fact is a truck - very important - its not a bus, it's a TRUCK - the company is anal about drumming this point across) in which we have just crossed the border into Peru. How cool.
Earlier today, we had a guided tour of the Tiwanaku ruins (still in Bolivia). Little did I know that these ruins are in fact much, much older than the Inca ruins and so, it was the ancient Tiwanaku people who shaped the future of the Incas. Its quite incredible, but it is estimated that only 4% of the Tiwanaku ruins have been excavated. There are years and years of discoveries left to make!
Our 6 week tour actually began yesterday, but it was essentially a free day to explore La Paz. So, explore we did AND had another amazing lunch.
The group is a great bunch. Two of Tim's clients are don the tour with us - Amy and Brendan - and we have really hit if off. Plus, a couple of Flight Centre peoples, Brenton and Tabatha, are also doing the tour with us and are heaps of fun!! (let's just say, if last night - our first night of the tour - is anything to go by, we are going to have a GREAT time!! We partied up a storm until 4am and are still feeling the effects. Particularly on this truck which feels every lump and bump in the road! But it was worth it!).
We are almost in Puno, our first stop in Peru. The Peruvian countryside is wonderful to sit back and watch.
Tomorrow we go to Lake Titicaca where we actually stay with the locals in their homes for a night. We are very, very lucky.
We send our love to everyone back home - WE LOVE U AND MISS U!!
P.S. I think I am coming down with something. I am not feeling the best - sore throat, sniffles, sore muscles. Hopefully Ill be good to go within the week when our Inca trek begins (fingers crossed!). Task = learn how to ask for Penicillin in Spanish.