Salar de Uyuni is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, it also happens to be where Bolivians love to make a statement by rioting and destroying tourists transportations in and out of the town. Unfortunately for men I was unable to visit the majestic salt flats. Due to the fact that I had altitude sickness in San Pedro Chile, I will skip ahead to focus on La Paz, and my journey to it.
After being stranded in beautiful San Pedro Chile for three days I finally decided to catch a bus to Arica, Chile; the gateway to Peru and Bolivia. After taking an all-night bus I arrived in Arica and bought my $10 ticket to La Paz. If I had done my research I probably would have been informed of how treacherous and dangerous this mountain pass was, but then I would have gone with caution and missed all the beautiful terrain that spans from Chile to Bolivia. What was supposed to be a six hour bus ride turned into about a fourteen hour ride to La Paz, over the Andes. The slightest misstep by the bus driver meant certain death via head on collision with another bus, or a terrible plummeting death to the rocky canyon below. Despite the danger, and the questionable soberness of our bus driver, I saw some awesome mountain views, lagoons filled with pink flamingos, and a few stubborn Alpaca’s that enjoyed standing in the middle of the road. After hours of winding rocky roads and pueblo countryside housing, I finally reached my destination; La Paz.
Arriving in La Paz is a little like arriving in a John Wayne movie. There are old pueblo style houses everywhere with no windows, dirt roads with roaming pack of dogs scavenging for whatever they can find, and people wearing ponchos and guitars on their back. Once you push your way through the bustling, poverty ridden, outskirts of the town, you descend into a city of lights that span as far as your eyes can see. Rural Bolivia gets peeled back and you find yourself in one of the coolest cities in South America. La Paz is La Huge, and has houses built on top of houses starting at 14,000ft that descend downward to 12,000ft. This makes for a Christmas tree like canvas when looking down on the city at night, all while the snowcapped Andes loom off in the distance. The richest of Bolivians live at the bottom near the center of the city, while the poorest live at the top and are farthest away from the town center. It’s cold here, and a bit hard to breathe, but dam it’s beautiful. If you can’t tell, I really liked this city
I stayed at Pirwa hostel with some awesome people. Two of whom were these Australian party animals that, by all odds, should not have even been there. They had somehow partied their way from Mexico to Bolivia, with no money left to get back to Australia. I also met a beautiful French Canadian by the name of Gabriel, who enlightened me on what I should do whence I reached Cuzco, Peru. The best part of this hostel was Omar, the hostel bartender. He got us hammered multiple nights off his homemade limon cello and tequila shots for free. I think I bought two beers the whole time I was in La Paz. We also played some French drinking games with some travelers from France, it was the first time I think I actually understood a drinking a game.
The ladies of La Paz are extremely short, strong, rich, and will beat the crap out of you if you cross them. They have gold teeth, multiple colored skirts they layer on top of each other, and small little top hats that they somehow manage to balance on their head. You can usually find them with a big heavy bag on their back, carrying a baby on their chest with two big sacks of potatoes in their hands, sprinting up the steepest street you’ve ever seen; I’m getting winded just thinking about them. These women (the proper name I cannot remember) are the most desired creatures in Bolivia, which is much different than the beauty obsessed world of the USA, UK, and EU. It makes sense, these women do all the work for the family, have all the money, and still are able to take care of you. Your job as a man is to just give them lots of babies so they can staff their various business ventures. Now that I think about it, the Bolivian men have a pretty good thing going down here.
The street food here is Amazing, if it wasn’t for the Coca de Mate (yes, the same leaves that make cocaine make this tea) I would have surely died from the altitude.
La Paz comes in a distant second to Buenos Aires for me, but I will definitely be returning to experience floating the Amazon Jungle into Brazil, Salar de Uyuni, and the city of Sucre.
Next stop Cuzco, Peru and one of the seven wonders of the world: Machu Piccu.