Published: July 31st 2012July 26th 2012
Left Quito 1830. Flights to Lima and then to La Paz. Long flights with TACA. Pretty bumpy to Lima. Short stopover in Lima. Arrived in La Paz at 0230 and the air was noticeably thinner. No wonder given that the airport is at 4000m! Taxi met us and drove us down and down, through quiet, deserted streets to our hotel. As in other places all shops had their security shutters down. Plenty of stray dogs to make it feel occupied. Nonetheless the streets had a certain war-zone look. The Hotel was cosy and welcoming. The air very cold – well below 0 but dry as a bone.
Our first stay in La Paz was brief. Out by 0800 and headed to the bus station. The streets were already crowded and busy. We got into the bus station expecting a 0930 departure for Oruro but quickly realised the departure was to be 0900! Bus touts shouting to get on-board. Beggars regretting the missed opportunity. We got to reserved seats after tripping over luggage in the aisle and banging my (G) head on the low-slung television monitor. The bus belched black diesel smoke as it made its way back up to the
altoplano of 4000m. First stop was near the airport again. We stopped for maybe 20 mins and a succession of touts got on the bus and made public presentations about either the biscuits they were selling, or the new wonder herbal extract. Amazingly some of these extracts can cure cancer as well as arthritis, as well as impotence…not. After the airport the landscape quickly transformed to dry, dusty desert. Little adobe villages with few crops and rusting car bodies.
Lonely Planet describes Oruro as “having a feel of its own”. Wow! This would have to be one of the least attractive places I have seen. Something akin to the towns depicted in old spaghetti westerns. We were surprised to not see tumbleweeds, but apparently that is just because we are travelling in the wrong season. Dusty, dry, diesel soaked. We were just here to transfer to the Uyuni train. Nonetheless we ended up enjoying an excellent lunch of local lamb, and a few creditable Bolivian beers. The local market was interesting and colourful, and Catherine enjoyed here hobby of photographing people. We boarded the train at 1530 heading higher and up to Uyuni.
There are more photos below