La Paz, Bolivia Sept 20, 2015
I've just finished my fifth day since arrival in La Paz, Bolivia and all is starting to go well. I was really nervous about all the possible hurdles I'd have to overcome to get into the country, questions of yellow fever vaccinations, etc. On top of that I was really nervous how I'd adapt to the 13,000 feet above sea level altitude. To be honest, it wasn't easy. Headaches, exhaustion, and gastrointestinal discomfort.
The hostel I'd picked was a popular party hostel, and I knew it'd likely be loud but I thought as long as I kept away from the bar area I'd be fine. What I hadn't counted on was all those drunk backpackers were going to spill out into the dorms as soon as the bar closed. I'll spare you the details but there was an Australian girl who couldn't hold her liquor and her huge Aussie boyfriend who was pissed he had to clean up the mess at 3AM.
I was also starting to get loopy from the altitude because I thought I'd been at the hostel for 3 nights when I had only been 2. The second night was even worse. The Aussies were gone by the morning, but a gang of Irish guys took their place. They were all very cool during the afternoon. Friendly and such. Then they hit the bar and all Hell broke loose. All night they were coming and going, snoring like lumberjacks, sneaking in drunk girls, yelling in their sleep, and one was even playing games on his smart phone at 4 in the morning. I'd had enough and moved to a different hostel as soon as the sun came up. I don't think I even got a solid 2 hours of sleep that night.
Took a city walking tour that was ok. Good info and I felt better wandering around on my own afterward, but they kept hitting us up for other tour booking. Learned about the San Pedro prison here in La Paz where they are said to produce the purest cocaine in all of Bolivia. The prisoners even have their families living with them in the prison and it's believed that most of the cocaine gets smuggled out by the families and children. They also lob dirty diapers over the fence that also have cocaine embedded within. We learned all kinds of interesting details like this. And how much the current Bolivian president hates America and Americans. He instructs Bolivians to not drink Coca-Cola because it's the dark liquid of the evil American imperialists. Oh, and he also instructs Bolivians to not eat chicken because they're all pumped up with female hormones and will make you turn gay. Evidently this chap can't read or write either. They say he only got elected because he's indigenous and all the indians voted him in. Could also be that he was the head of some coca growing cartel as well. It's a very strange country. I could go on and on about all the precious nuggets I'm learning, but I'll save some for later.
Coca growing is almost sacred here. No, I'd say it is sacred and goes back to pre-Incan cultures. They've even got some Incan god chewing coca leaves right on one of the columns in front of the main church. Coca leaf chewing is like taking communion I think, only to Pachamama (Mother Earth) instead.
The scenery surrounding La Paz is incredible. I didn't count them, but I think there are at least 4 majestic Andean mountain peaks topped with snow. I'm not sure how high they are, but I read it's over 21k above sea level. Planning on taking a day tour up to one of them, so I'll find out for sure.
I haven't been to the Tiwanaku ruins yet, as the elections sort of put a stop to everything with all public transportation shut down and most of the stores closed. Trying to decide if I'll knock the mountain tour, Vally of the Moon, and Tiwanaku/Puma Punku ruins before I leave La Paz, or save them for when I circle back after seeing more of the country. It's all up in the air right now, but I'm definitely heading toward the Salar de Uyuni salt plains and red lagoons with flamingos tour next. I'm going to do a longer one that starts in a place called Tupiza that's near the Chilean border. Then heading toward Potosi, Sucre, and Santa Cruz. After that I don't know, but will likely carry on East into the Pantanal and near the border with Paraguay.
That's it for now. I'm sure I've left something out, but my mind is going a thousand miles a second taking it all in. I get the impression that I won't have wifi much after I leave La Paz, so the updates may be pretty scattered. For this reason, I went ahead and edited a few images and uploaded them for print. They're part of the experimental promotion I'm doing on this trip where I pick a few nice images along the way, edit and upload them for print with pricing that's about 70% less than my normal pricing. I even turned all all the products in case anyone might prefer one of my images on a bag or shower curtain. :)
The pricing will remain low for just the images on this trip for the duration of the trip. As soon as I get home and settled in, I'll pick the very best images and covert those to limited edition only and the rest will go back up to my usual print pricing. So, if you see something you like while I'm traveling, now is the time to grab one or a few. I've also got a heavy Instagram feed going with lots more images.
I don't have time to edit them all, but if you see something you really want and I haven't uploaded it to the print site, just let me know in the comments or drop me a note. When I get wifi and the time, I'll be happy to accommodate.
You can find the special gallery of the Bolivia and Peru images HERE
Check back every now and then. I'll be adding more images as I get the time and opportunity.
Here's an audio recording I made this morning while trying to get to the La Paz cemetery. I'd stopped off for a couple Bolivian Saltenas for breakfast and thought I'd get a little atmosphereic sound and thoughts. The whole city is shut down for elections, including all businesses, government offices and public transportation. I figured at least the cemetery would be open, but it was even closed. There were some street vendors and a rare cafe who where obviously ignoring the mandate, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to enjoy those tasty Saltenas. :)
Ok, that's it for now. Stay tuned, the adventure is just getting started!
~ Skip Hunt