Category Archives: Bolivia

Leaving La Paz

My flight out of La Paz, Bolivia, finally arrived not a moment too soon, and within an hour I was in the beautiful capital city of Sucre. With no plan other than to enjoy a Bolivian city that wasn’t La Paz, I soon bumped into a tour group made up of English, Canadian, Australian and Swiss people. We spent two days together wandering around the beautiful city, watching a parade and drinking a lot of hot chocolate in Chocolate Para Ti, an awesome chocolate café. I also spent the time enjoying Bolivian prices before my upcoming trip to Chile and Argentina.

Just two nights in Sucre and I was off to Uyuni, a small, dusty town where the salt flat tours kick off. My first morning there I met a German brother and sister Julia and Paul, an English guy Jeff and an Australian couple, Sarah and Patrick. None of us was booked on a tour, and the Jeeps seat six, so we were happy to all go together knowing who we were going to be spending the next three days with, squished up very close and personal for many hours in a car. Squished is definitely the word for our in-car situation, especially in the back seat – we were all practically married by the time we said goodbye.

The salt flats tour was amazing, and had the best scenery I’ve seen in all my life. First we went to the salt flats and took the obligatory perspective-skewing photos, which I’ve always wondered about – it turns out you don’t need to be very far from the camera at all to get an awesome photo of the group being stamped on or eaten or held in someone’s hand. Also, looking at others’ photos before, it appeared that they had the salt flats all to themselves, which was very far from the case!

After playing with perspective and licking the ground we went to the train cemetery where you can see cool rusty old trains, then on to a red lagoon full of flamingos, several other beautiful lagoons, a natural hot spring (aka Gringo Soup), a big rock that looks like a tree and that was made famous by Salvador Dali, and past hours of endlessly jaw-dropping landscapes. In just one view you can see snow-topped mountains, multicoloured rolling hills of red, pink, brown and orange, volcanoes, desert, lagoons, salt flats, sand dunes and arid land dotted with tiny scrubs, all at once.

On the first night we stayed in a salt hotel, where everything but the toilet was made of salt – the beds, the tables and chairs, the floor and the walls. The second night we stayed in a smelly, cold concrete block hostel in the middle of the desert and slept with sleeping bags, blankets, hats and gloves (we were at almost 5,000m altitude). The whole trip cost only £85 and was absolutely spectacular.

Then it was straight on to Chile!

La Paz, Bolivia – no me gusta…

The days following Death Road I spent wandering around La Paz. I’m not taken by the city. It’s busy, fumey from the buses, smells of wee and the altitude is so high I can’t breathe. Plus it’s all uphill, which doesn’t help with the inability to breathe. I have a flight to Sucre, Bolivia’s capital, on Sunday, so until then I’m just killing time.

It is here that my observation that all travellers do drugs has been confirmed. There’s not a single person here who doesn’t do cocaine. Call me naïve, but to me cocaine has always been a big deal and something I would never even consider doing, so seeing how much it’s used is quite a culture shock for me. Comments like “I’ve spent all my money this week on coke” kinda shock me a bit. Considering what it has done to people – put them in jail, and worse, got them killed, I’m just surprised it’s used with such a blasé attitude here.

It’s also a very strange place. This made it interesting though, if a little creepy. One of the first things I did was check out the witches’ market. A street lined with stalls all selling the same things: good luck trinkets, stuffed toads covered in glitter with gold balls in their eye sockets, and llama fetuses.

After being convinced to buy a necklace with good fortune, good health and love ornaments hanging from it, I checked out the coca museum with a couple of girls I’d met in Peru, who happened to be in La Paz at the same time. It was thoroughly boring, so I sat upstairs eating a coca cookie and drinking coca tea while Catherine, Malin, Hannah and Maurizio wandered around the tiny museum so slowly you’d think they were actually interested in all the boring reams of text that were printed on the cardboard panels.

I soon gave up waiting and went off to a tourist café to write some postcards. Anything to avoid going back to my hostel, which had no internet, bedroom windows that didn’t lock looking in on the communal areas and a clientele that thought staying in all day watching TV and staying in all night getting hammered was fun.

Everything I eat in La Paz is giving me the trots. I am spending too much of my time running back to the hostel.

Anyway, I don’t love La Paz. I’m looking forward to Sucre, where it’s clean, quiet and pretty – the opposite of La Paz. I only have just under five weeks left of my trip now, so I’ve planned out what I’m gonna do and where I’m gonna go – something I didn’t do before, but it’s quite exciting looking forward to things. I’m also ready to go home. I’ve heard the same thing from people who have been travelling for four months. I’m ready to sleep in my own bed, drink out of the tap, not live out of a backpack and have friendships that last longer than three hours. I’m sick of asking and being asked “how long have you been travelling for?” and hearing hundreds of travel itineraries that I’ll forget five minutes later. I’m also tired – not the kind of tired that a good night’s sleep cures, I’m exhausted and lacking enthusiasm for things in a way that wasn’t even on my radar at the beginning of the trip. Of course I’m looking forward to seeing the Bolivian salt flats, Chile’s northern desert, northwest Argentina’s red rocks, Iguazu Falls and all the rest, but will be glad to be home I think. Bring on the flappy blanket.