Thursday, January 10, 2008

Road trip at 14,000 ft above sea level

I returned last saturday from the highest road trip I´ve ever taken! One of my fellow missionaries here in Cochabamba, Amy, convinced me to go with her and spend a few days exploring La Paz. And what an experience that turned out to be! First a few facts about La Paz that make it different then Coch. La Paz is the largest city in Bolivia and also the capital. It sits at about 14,000 ft (Coch is at 8,000). It has the highest airport in the world and also one of the highest peeks in all of South America. La Paz is very much a cone shape with the richer folks living lower down where it is warmer and the poorer folks living up on the edges of the city. Also, La Paz is a Aymara city whereas Coch is a Quechua. Those are the names of the two largest indiginous groups in Bolivia. They are similar yet completely different. So on we go with the road trip.
This is the bus, called a Flota, that we rode for 8 hours to get to La Paz. It was 100 times more comfortable then the buses I take in Coch daily.

It was quite literally all uphill and we almost immedietly felt the affects of the higher altitude. We were however treated to some amazing views of the mountians. Pictures could never do it justice but we tired. By the way, combined, we took over 200 pictures in 2 1/2 days! I´ve picked out some of the best for you.

Our rest stop was my first real experience of the trip. This, believe it or not is a toliet. No I didn´t fall in!

We were more then happy to finally get to our hotel and have a good nights sleep. It was also very important at the rest stop to have some Coca Tea. Coca is the only reason the US cares anything about Bolivia. Coca is the main ingrediant in cocaine and they monitar how much coca is being grown. However, it is also a natural way of counteracting altitude sickness and has been used in the fashion for as long as people have been living in the highlands. They either put the leaves in hot water or chew the leaves themselves. We opted for the tea. I commented that someone could make a lot of money if they can figure out a way of putting the coca into a gum. They did it with nicotine so why not coca? Anyway, I drank A LOT of tea in La Paz. The altitude really does a number on your digestion, the tea helps with this, it also helps you breath easier. There is just less air up there. Most of Chicago land is somewhere around 700 ft above sea level. Just to put that into perspective for you. Here is some pictures of me enjoying my tea.

We had a grand old time acting like tourists! Here in Coch I try my hardest to NOT look like a tourist and I enjoy laughing at the tourists we do have. Anyway, we tourist shopped and took a lot of pictures. We didn´t really have a schedule so we did whatever we wanted to. We ate at different resturants every meal, walked probably 100 miles in 2 days (kidding, but we did walk a lot), saw a lot of the city, and created a lot of memories. My favorite place was the main plaza. And this picture says why.

La Paz is also the center for a lot of political turmoil. These policemen are quite literally keeping the peace.
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We also visited Old La Paz which was nice since there was hardly anyone there. So of course we took some silly pictures. This is how La Paz used to look.

And this is La Paz today, this is the view from our hotel room window.

We had 2 days of cold and rain and 1 day of gorgous sunshine. Of course I got sunburned! But after the 70 or 80 degree average in Coch, the cold was quite a shock to my system. I bought a scarf and Amy bought a hat and scarves. And here we are!

I was ready to come home by the third day. I enjoyed my vacaction but I missed being in a familar place. So we got back on a bus and 8 hours later we arrived at home sweet home cochabamba. But not without another experience along the way. This was the bathroom at rest stop number 2.

So thats La Paz in a nutshell, there are a ton of stories to tell and more pictures but that is good enough for right now. Normal weekly blog coming soon... I promise!


RubySlypper said...

I enjoyed the ride to LaPaz. Thanks. I just remembered reading your last entry that I got my Rosetta Stone trial CD in the mail this past week. I need to learn some Spanish as well. should be interesting. I'll let you know how it goes.

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