La Paz - Salt and Peper
As it was described to us, looks like someone shook salt and peper down the valley.
When you leave the big barren plains of the altiplano and drop over the rim of the canyon that La Paz inhabits, you canÂ´t help but be in awe at the sight unveiled before you. Take a city of just under three million people and drop them into a huge canyon 5 kms across and voila, you have La Paz! It is a crazy city that some people love and some hate. Fortunately, we found that this big city of chaos and confusion started to grow on the two of us.
La Paz is a town of sprawl, and is one of the fast growing cities in South America. Most of the usable real estate has been taken up in the canyon, so the city has just spread up both walls and now stretches long and far out on the flat altiplano above the rim of the canyon. The city hussles and bussles non stop and during our time there we learned first hand that BolivianÂ´s are not exactly happy about the way their country is being run and make it known with a protest or rally pretty much everyday. Oftentimes we would head out only to find that
They haggle everyone, they even asked Ben if they could clean his Crocks!
the roads were blocked and the buses were not running their regular route because of this. And they love their firecrackers to go with protests. If you didnÂ´t know any better, you would think that you were in the middle of a huge gunfight going on all day throughout the city! On one adventure of ours, we were riding in a minibus when it got stopped by a wall of protesters. We got out and started walking though the people, as it didnÂ´t look like we were going anywhere anytime soon. Ten minutes later we look back from an overpass and see the police tear gassing the crowd trying to disperse it. We were glad we didnÂ´t wait it out in that bus!
Everthing you look at in La Paz seems a little out of place the first time, and then it starts to grow on you. Examples:
-Hundreds of shoe shiners ply the city wearing ski masks and at first glance look that they are going to mug you and leave you for the dogs - turns out they are doing it for a career to support their families and donÂ´t like the social status it puts them
They bury a lama fetus at the corner of there house for good luck. Rich people can afford a full size lama... sick!
so they try to hide their identity
- Not one one flat road in the whole canyon, good for those with no sense of direction, but annoying when huffing and puffing at 4000m on a one way street with uphill traffic clogged full of dirty, fume spewing relics of buses struggling (it doesnÂ´t help its all leaded gas here too...)
- Policeman manually running the traffic signals at intersections
- Trying to get the nerve up to follow a local across 6 lanes of moving buses....
- A street vendor on everycorner, everybody is selling something!
- There are lots more but I think you are getting the point by now...
Nas and I decided to split up for some various excursions out of La Paz for a day or two. Nas biked the Â´death roadÂ´, the wordÂ´s most dangerous. The road was completed in 1935 and since then 200 people die per year. This road is a single dirt track road (for the most part) that is on a steep mountain side (has drops of over 1000m) and that drops 3345m in 64km! There has been a new road that is safer so the death road is mainly
If you could see, you would see the death road valley...
a biking aventure now... however the new road is 20km longer than the death road so some BolivianÂ´s still use it to save on gas! Nas had bad weather on her day (hence the lack of photos) but says she could tell how crazy it could be, especially at night and drunk...not the type of travel we fancy. Apparently, the last casulty was a week ago from a biker. There is a saying that says the only road signs here consist of crosses that mark the fatal spots of the past. I canÂ´t argue with that, its true and its the only signs they seem to invest in.
While Nas was off on that trip, Ben decided to try to get above 6000m under his own steam. The mountain of Huana Potosi sits at 6088m over-looking La Paz and makes a formidable challenge to get to the top of. Unfortunately I was defeated, although I have to say it was due to weather and not to any pysical constraints. There was a freak snowstorm the night we tried to summit and got delayed 6 hours to start our climb. We also got bogged down in a foot and a
Potosi - Glacier
A group of locals are learning how to guide up the glacier.
half of fresh snow on what is usually a hard-pack glacier, which slowed our accesent considerable. at 5750m we had to turn around, a mere 300m from the top due to weather and time constraints. Too bad but it was still was a great experience and interesting to see how the body performed at that altitude (it is damn hard work trying to climb up there!)
So with that we decide to high tail it to the jungle and get back in touch with our wild side...
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