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mistybleu La Paz - A travel report by Amanda
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La Paz,  Bolivia - flag Bolivia -  La Paz
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mistybleu's travel reports

A pit stop in Boliva

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There is a distinct difference between the have's and have-not’s in Bolivia, the poorest South American nation - where the economy is sustained through agriculture; extending to the growth Coca.


La Paz, Scenic view
La Paz, Scenic view
Bolivia’s origins seemed to be based in greed, deceit, poverty and imposition. From the 1500s when silver was found in the hills of Potosi, where over 16 million kilograms of the ore was shipped to Spain; to tin being found and mined in the same area, benefiting only a few; to Christianity be forced upon the local campesinos (aka farmers), to it being decreed that women must wear layered skirts, which can still be seen today.

Bolivia has two capitals, Sucre (the official capital) on the flat and La Paz high in the Andean plateau (at approx. 12,000 feet); La Paz is famed for being the highest capital city in the world and its views are dominated by the snow-capped mountain of Mount Illimani.

In the city centre, the rundown high-rise buildings line wide streets, some of which are still cobbled and can be quite slippery (as my fellow traveller found out). The streets are very busy; with traffic manoeuvring seemingly without any controls, everyone blowing their horns, scores of people hanging around and vendors selling everything under the sun including herbs, nuts, the ever popular coca leaves and tiny flat black shoes which all the local woman was wearing.

We travelled from Puno in Peru, down to Copacabana by bus and had to arrive before 3pm to ensure we met immigration open. At the border, there is a subtle difference from Peru; it’s pretty hard to put your finger on, just sensed. We disembark and had to walk across the border which was a bit of formality. There is another crossing called ‘Desaguadero’ and I was told, it’s a bit of a desperate location, but is considered a ‘soft’ border, before continuing on to La Paz.

Favourite spots:
Celebrating the Dark Virgin of the Lake
Celebrating the Dark Virgin of the Lake
Copacabana is a small town located on the southern peninsula of Lake Titicaca the highest navigable lake in the world and is a must if travelling through Bolivia. It is a nice place to spend the day, strolling through the streets or walking along the shore of Lake – there you can take a tour to Moon or Sun Island, or rent a paddle boat and explore the shore line.

Copacabana is famed for its celebrations of the Dark Virgin of the Lake, the patron saint of Bolivia. The celebration happens, in May, from the 17th Cathedral high on the hill, then the procession travels down to the lake. Here the people parade through the streets dancing, playing music and drinking lots of alcohol, until they can no longer stand, which can be quite funny to see especially since some of the people had to cross the lake to get home. We crossed the Lake at Tiquina to San Pablo and just a few drunken revellers unsteadily entered our boat.




What's really great:
Uros Island, Lake Titicaca
Uros Island, Lake Titicaca
When you visit Lake Titicaca, it is amazing seeing the different way of life. The islands are made completely from reeds, which are dried, then piled in top each other until the water no longer gets through, it is then anchored to the bed, to stop it from floating way. When you jump off the boat it is surprisingly springy that it shocks you.

The locals do everything with the reeds; from constructing buildings, to even eating it; it tastes a bit like celery.

I went to a few of the islands on the Peruvian side of the Lake. One of the funny things is that, I saw the reed houses, with them cooking with a clay oven but yet I could also see a solar panel; a small snippet of modernisation.

On the Bolivian side, Island of the Sun is popular as it is considered the birthplace of the Incas and I’ve been told it is a must to see.

Sights:
San Francisco Church
San Francisco Church
The main CATHEDRAL in La Paz was built in 1835; it is located in Plaza Murillo and is very pretty, inside there a statue of Christ with a fluorescent blue halo. Strange!

The PRESIDENTIAL PALACE, is also known as the burnt palace, because the number of fires that occurred there. It is also located in Plaza Murillo next to cathedral.

CASA DE PEDRO DOMINGO MURILLO displays a collection of colonial art, textiles and furniture of Pedro Domingo Murillo, who became a martyr following the independence revolution of 1809. Ironically he was hanged in the Plaza Murillo.

CLUB DE LAS PAZ, is located on the corner of Avenidas Camacho and Colon is a cultural landmark.

The SAN FRANCISCO CHURCH is located in Plaza San Francisco, also of some interest is Santo Domingo Church.

Finally, the WITCHES' MARKET (MERCADO DE BRUJAS), from here you can buy ingredients, herbs and remedies which are in Aymara traditions.


Accommodations:
Hostel Colonial
Hostel Colonial
The Lonely Planet has a large list of hotels which are very cost effective in La Paz. So we highlighted a few for closer inspection; some were not really nice, but we did find a hotel for about $6 a night. However, the only good thing was it was clean, the beds we bow-shaped they where so old, but I suppose you pay for what you get.

At the end of our bus ride from Copacabana, our bus conductor pitched Hotel Galleria. At first we thought ‘oh yeah’, but it cost $10 a night and seemed to be a pleasant hotel; I would say a 2/3* at best, but it was clean and well kept. After we viewed some of the other hostels this didn’t seem so bad.

Located in the main square, where the buses from Puno and La Paz pick up and drop off is HOSTEL COLONIAL. This hostel was recommended for Copacabana; but we didn’t stay there, we just sat in the gardens to have a drink and waited for our bus to La Paz and that was nice.



Nightlife:
St Francisco Square, at dusk
St Francisco Square, at dusk
I didn’t spend much time in Bolivia, as I wasn’t even meant to be there; but it made sense to continue the journey from Puno to La Paz instead of return to Cusco.

Standing on the mountain, looking down below at La Paz, made all the driving was worthwhile. La Paz is a phenomenal city. I’m not sure if this an contradiction, but I found Bolivians very friendly, when I looked confused of which way to turn, someone would always come up to me and point me in the right direction. Yet I nearly had my pockets picked while taking pictures outside San Francisco church. Hey, it was probably my fault for not being vigilant. But like I said there is distinct difference between the rich and the poor.

Restaurants:
Mirrors Restaurant
Mirrors Restaurant
In Copacabana was the first time that I saw Bolivian tourists and it was nice. I saw three little kids playing fuseball, it seemed just like a scene from ‘Friends’ and an ice-cream sellers on the lakefront. The funny thing was the ice-cream cones were on display for ten/twenty minutes and they never melted. I wasn’t sure whether it was the altitude or maybe the day was really cold, but I thought that was strange.

Along the Lake front is rugged, a little dusty and a bit un-kept, but it’s nice to spend a day in the area. There are many fish restaurants along the shores and a lot of them offer alfresco dining. We had lunch in a small restaurant, I can’t quite remember its name, but the area is dominated by Mirrors restaurant and hotel.



Other recommendations:
La Paz
La Paz
Seven miles outside La Paz in the desert is VALLEY OF THE MOON; the hillside is eroded with pinnacles and canyons almost looking futuristic.

There is a ski resort (CHACALTAYA) only 1 ½ drive from La Paz; however owing to the elevation it can be quite daunting to breathe and ski at the same time.

TIAHUANACO is located on the southern tip of Lake Titicaca; it has become an important Incan site. There you can found chambers cut from the stone with faces staring from the walls.

There are also a few museums in the area including: MUSEO NACIONAL DE ETNOGRAFIA Y FOLKLORE, MUSEO MURILLO, MUSEO NACIONAL DE ARTE, MUSEO DE LITORAL.

For all those adrenaline junkies, I came across a company offering the ultimate mountain bike tour down the world’s most dangerous road – COROICO HIGHWAY (www.gravitybolivia.com), which I’ve been told is death-defining.

Further information can be found at www.Bolivia.co.uk or www.boliviaweb.com.

Published on Thursday February 10th, 2005


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Thu, May 17 2007 - 08:11 AM rating by joe_schmidt

Hi Amanda, I was pleased to read your report beause it is beautiful and useful and gives the idea for a visit.

Thu, Sep 28 2006 - 12:40 PM rating by mrscanada

Amanda this was a fabulous report.

Sun, Oct 23 2005 - 07:40 PM rating by toribio

You write very good. Informacion is very useful and your english perfect

Sat, Sep 03 2005 - 05:22 PM rating by horourke

I love the degree to which you do get around. Maybe Ballooning over Titicaca next time?

Wed, Feb 16 2005 - 05:10 PM rating by jelloo

Hey Amanda, really enjoyed your report. It's one of those destinations I've always wanted to see. It's great to read so info on it. Great pics!

Wed, Feb 16 2005 - 12:27 AM rating by downundergal

It sounds like we did nearly the same trip! Is there still 6 strikes a day in La Paz, unbelievable?
I found the withces market really interesting.
Great report.
Cheers,
Kerrie

Sat, Feb 12 2005 - 03:01 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

excellent report

Fri, Feb 11 2005 - 02:40 PM rating by davidx

This is simply a great report. Keep them coming like this.
David

Fri, Feb 11 2005 - 02:15 PM rating by alpxroland

I read the Bolivian Diary from Che Guevara during the last days.
There are a lot of depictions about the mountains and the landscape. Now I´m very happy to see this with my own eyes at globosapiens.

Fri, Feb 11 2005 - 12:23 PM rating by bear495

Another great report. Thank you for everything.

Russ

Fri, Feb 11 2005 - 10:37 AM rating by magsalex

Certainly looks worth a visit. Informative and interesting.

Fri, Feb 11 2005 - 08:42 AM rating by britman

You have done it again - brilliant! Congratulations *****

Fri, Feb 11 2005 - 02:36 AM rating by fieryfox

Wow this is an awesome report on La Paz. Thanks!
Cheers.
Farizan

Thu, Feb 10 2005 - 05:42 PM rating by johnnye00

Fantastic report.

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