La Paz Bolivia. The Canyon City, and a little bit of Altitude

After an 18 hour plane ride from Toronto to La Paz including a plane change and 3 hour layover in Miami, we finally arrived at 4:00am. Tired and experiencing an altitude of 4,100m from the sea level of Miami, we hopped into our transfer who was waiting for us in the airport. We took a wild ride down the canyon. Let’s just say our driver thought he was a race car driver. We noticed unfinished homes along the way even at that speed. Why? Well, due to the fact that property owners do not have to pay taxes on unfinished construction in La Paz, Bolivia, many people do not finish building sections of their homes so that they can live cheaper. We arrived at our hotel by 5am as the sky was lightening and headed straight to our room for a couple hours nap.

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Not feeling the effects of the altitude to any great extent, Mom, Dad and I were ready to go exploring later that morning. We took our first of many walks through the witches market staring in awe at the dried llamas, and llama fetus’s hanging from the shops. A first attempt to talk to a “witch” like vendor was a complete fail due to my lack of Spanish. After enjoying a lunch near the San Francisco Plaza, we had to take an immediate turn back to the hotel for my mom who was seemingly suffering the effects of altitude. A major headache and nausea left her sleeping at the hotel the rest of the day while Dad and I walked around the town, wandering in and out of the shops, enjoying the markets and indulging in some coffees. (Regular coffee is not readily available) When we returned to the hotel, Mom was still looking pretty ill, not even cocoa tea could save her. Thankfully, Dad and I seemed to dodge the whole altitude issue.

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The next morning, Mom was still feeling quite sick, so Dad and I went for another walk through the city to dosome shopping. The key is, we really like shopping, and things are cheap. That afternoon we re
turned to the hotel to pick up Mom who said she was recovering and took her for a walk to Plaza Murillo. Here we enjoyed the art gallery and the colonial architecture of the Plaza, we could also see a celebration being prepared for later that day. After admiring some colonial architecture, we walked down the street to grab a Submarino (Hot milk with a chocolate bar melted in it) at Alexander’s Coffee. (La Paz’s answer to Starbucks and the best wi-fi in town) We also watched some of the Marathoners come in from the La Paz Marathon, which by the way, as a runner myself I would never run. God that would be hard, altitude and climbing does not make for an easy 42 kms.IMG_0068That day, as we walked home, we were able to experience a little of the cultural fun that is La Paz. A non-stop parade of Cholitas wearing colourful costumes dancing to live marching bands filled the streets. Group after group of cheerful dancers wearing big skirts and singing continued throughout the afternoon. From our hotel window, the parade continued, from here we could see the big multi-layered skirts spin open, and Bolivian men with beer cases passing out drinks to fellow dancers. What a treat, can’t beat the Latin Americans for celebrations.

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After the parade we made an executive decision to grab a cab out to Valley de La Luna. We had learned from a fellow traveler that it was cheaper to grab a cab from the street, take it to the park and back, they were right. We arranged for a cab and for 150 Bolivianos we were off to the Valley De La Luna. Now here isone of those examples of the warm heartedness of the Bolivian people. Our cab driver knew we were over excited Canadian tourists, so he took us on a surprise tour. Up and up through the canyon he drove, stopping at his favorite lookouts and offering us the opportunity to get out of the cab and take pictures. When we arrived at the moon valley, he waited for us patiently in his cab outside the park. The moon valley was very cool. We meandered about the rock formations, up and down the paths for about an hour looking at rocks which mimicked formations you would see on the moon, only to arrive back to our faithful cabby. On the way home, he decided to show us just a little bit more of La Paz, and he took us for a surprise stop to Mirador Killi Killi. This is the ultimate lookout of La Paz and in my opinion provides the best view of the canyon city. Up the stairs we walked to a park having a 360 degree panoramic view of the massive city in the canyon. It was very picturesque so…we took some pics. After our visit to Killi Killi, we hopped back into the cab and were driven back home.

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We spent the next day in La Paz shopping for friends and family; alpaca hats for everyone. We bought some artwork, earrings and a purse or two for the girls. If you have ever met me, you would know that I can shop all day. A couple Bolivianos later, encumbered with a few sweaters, hats and other Bolivian items we headed back to the hotel to meet our G adventures group who we were going to be with for the next 15 days.

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