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  • charlottegrahamspouge

La Paz

If I was to try to quantify the point I’ve reached with travel, it would be summed up in this experience. I arrived in Bolivia with no transport or accommodation plans. I had heard from several sources that Uyuni was not the place to spend the night and so I decided to book a bus out of there sharpish. I chose the route to La Paz largely because it is the longest national journey and would take me nicely up until sunrise. Despite the fact that buses in South America are consistently behind schedule, I arrived early at the terminal. I made the mistake of assuming that there would be an indoor space and so had to hang around the darkening ‘terminal’ watching the agencies yell their fares and destinations acrosss the street.

Protestors rattle bottles filled with rocks and release fireworks to protest new work permits for street stands.

Eventually, the bus struggled around the corner and gasped to a halt. The conductor was not remotely impressed with my e-ticket; he refused to glance at it and sent me off to acquire a proper paper one. The lady in the office, however, simply wrote my first name and seat number on a torn scrap of paper. Chuckling, I thanked her and hurried back to the bus wondering what the conductor would make of this. Thankfully, he did grudgingly accept my passage and so did the second baffled, teenage conductor.

The bus sped down the autopista, arriving in La Paz an hour and a half early. And so it was, that I was unceremoniously turfed out of the bus in this foreign capital at 4:30 am in the pitch black, in my pyjamas. Feeling intensely vulnerable, I set off to discover a hostel. An hour and a half, several locked hostels, some friendly Dutch girls and lots of fruitless map scouring later, the sun had risen and I checked into a hostel. I was shown straight to my bed in a twenty bed dormitory.

Cable car ride down from the altiplano

I spent my time in La Paz squeezing into collectivo buses with uncertain destinations, trekking up steep alleyways, wandering through markets and talking to street sellers to find out what local events were ( a protest against street stand permits). The city is simply bizarre. Houses with corrugated iron rooves are stacked precariously up to the mountain summits and it is possible to look across at permanently snow capped peaks. Struggling across the city, it is easy to see how the people of this strange city have acquired their permanently wearied expressions.

Traditional Bolivian dress: long skirts, plaits, shawls and bowler hats

Valle de la Luna (another one!)

Although all this was unknown and challenging, my heart lifted to see the sky lighten and the surrounding mountains covered in thousands of twinkling lights collapse around me.

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