BLOG 042: LA PAZ

I spent a little time in La Paz in a month of limbo, moving all around, about visiting friends and family. Before rejoining my route again. To make things easier, I’ll just keep my journey traversing along as a linear line north, combining both visits in a single post.

La Paz is a chaotic city, located at a lofty 3800m. The city is that high, that professional football games cannot be played in the city, due to the altitude. The chaos and dysfunction all strangely add to its charm. Inhabited by a total 2.3 million, the city planning has swollen and broken boundaries as the city grows and grows, and the rat race continues, ever extending its boundaries in all directions. Poverty is rampant on the streets and the suburbs at the base of multi story buildings, and middle class, white collar workers.

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Urban Sprawl
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Colours of the streets. I always feel awkward playing with street photography

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Like many cities in South America, the city’s basic infrastructure is lacking. The total water supply is contaminated, meaning all water needs boiling, filtering both, or the purchasing of plastic bottled water, it’s an easy place to get sick, and stay sick.

Despite being so toxic, La Paz is surrounded by some spectacular natural marvels. Notably Cordillera Real, a spectacular range containing numerous 6000m glaciated peaks, where my route would continue. Additionally, a lesser known marvel, is Valle de las Animas, an underrated jaw dropping geological wonder, containing hundreds of eroded spires, a meagre 10km south of the bustling city which I had all to myself one pleasant afternoon. Thanks for the recommendation Martijn! (espiritu-libre.com)

 

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Monolyth of Las Animas
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20 minutes from the city
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All to myself

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Was wondering why i didn’t bring my bike was much of the time.
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The offical at the gate asked me for $10 Bolivianos, thankfully a family passed by and told me to jump in their car. Free entry.


During my time in La Paz, I was lucky enough to meet a few interesting people. I bumped into Emma and Ziggy @r.ookiemistakes, some of the most memorable smiley faces i’ve been lucky enough to meet. They are selectively traversing this content, riding as many of the best bits as they could in 7 months. Much like myself, they came to this way of travel with very minimal experience, and quickly found themselves delving deeper into the remote gravel exploring beautiful natural landscapes and their people. We shared many smiles and some very good food together.

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Exploring the night markets was exciting. Though, I was always a little on edge
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Streets of flames and food
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Strong youth at Pura Pura


Another fellow I was lucky enough to meet at the Casa de Cyclista was Shanti. A Canadian, who had travelled the last 20 years or so between sporadic work stints back home tree planting. He had travelled mainly by bicycle and motorcycle, toured a good chunk of our planet, sailed sea’s and was eager to continue taking life day by day. 

He was grounded in La Paz, waiting for motorcycle parts for his beast of a KLR, but was nearing the end of his wait, or so he thought.
I liked the way Shanti would let out his stories when asked, but never before. There was no exaltation of feats of the past, no comparing experience, just taking it all for what it was, our own journeys which had suddenly crossed paths.

We spent half a day together checking out a skatepark my brother helped build at Pura Pura Ecological reserve, the birth place of my adventure hat that I’d been wearing the past four years.
A long story short, a team of professional skateboarders partied too hard the night before they left the skatepark build. In their hangovers, they forgot, or were too lazy to clean up their mess, and left it all behind escaping back to the US. My brother, doing them a service looted it all. North face jackets, tents, outdoor clothing, and specifically, adventure hat. I was going to lay adventure hat to rest at its birth place, seeing as it was so haggard, and ready for a new life. But upon arrival, I decided against it.

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Adventure hat, laid to rest for a few moments before reconsidering
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Shanti and his KLR

 

I felt the urge to start moving again, so after organising food for another 5 days, and a few goodbyes, I jumped on the teleferico, La Paz’s amazing transport system that bypasses all traffic. From the edge of the city, I rode a little, and hitched a ride in a Collectivo up to La Cumbre where i rejoined back on the Mama Coca Route.

 

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Emma and Ziggy
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Night time teliferico tour

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preserved Llama and alpaca featus’s are used as offerings when building new buildings. In the witches markets, you’ll find many stalls exhibiting them
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A colourful stall in The Witches Market

 

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