Thursday, August 19, 2004

Bueno Cosas about LaPaz

1.  You can get a shoeshine every three feet for the equivalent of about 13 cents, no excuses for bad looking shoes here.
2.  Saltena's!  These are little pastry turnovers who's shells seem to be made out of some type of gourd paste or pumpkin with either chicken, beef or vegetable's inside.  They're deep fried, so the chances of getting sick are minimal and they are also available about every three feet for 13 cents.  Nice when you are out wandering and get a little snacky.

3.  Blue skies.  Everyday I'm amazed at the color and clarity of the sky.  It's beautiful.
Everything here is built on a hill, it's either walking up or down.  How can there be nothing flat?

4.  Walking slow.  I'm so used to walking fast, but here it's not only a necessity to walk slow (due to the lack of oxygen, for anyone who just tuned in), but actually quite interesting to see and hear all the sights and sounds of La Paz.

Just a short list of a few things I can think of right now.  This weekend we are planning a trip to Cochabamba, the second largest city in Bolivia.  It's a 35 minute plane ride (and get this, we're flying first class - figured we might as well, as it's about the only first class flight we can afford).  A couple of the guys are going with us, as they have girlyfriends there.

I went to the black market to shop on Wednesday, that was a very overwhelming experience.  I have been to many black markets before, but never at a 60 degree incline.  Best to start at the top of the hill!  You could buy ANYTHING here, from toilet bowls and urinals to Frosted Flakes to laptop computers.  All the prices are in American dollars, and they don't really bargain.  Most of the goods are shipped in illegally from Chile, and seemed quite reasonable.  This market just goes on and on and on, though.  I think I only covered about half of it before giving up and going home.  Not exactly the best place for souvenirs, but I did find a few things I just "couldn't live without".

Shopping companion Gary.  If you know him, I know some people looking for him.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Valley of the Moon

Today we took the double decker site-seeing bus through the southern zone of La Paz and out to the valley of the moon.  The mountains are just incredible, not only in size, but variation of color, foliage, and the erosion from the wind and the rain.  There just phenomenal.  Some of the pictures I took don't even look real!  This is a cool place, kids!

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Off the Mountain to Cochabamba

I officially recommend they move the Embassy (all government officials take note!) to Cochabamba.  Just a quick 28 minute plane ride down the mountain to this town of about 600,000 people.  

View of the Alto Plano from the LaPaz Airport

Saturday morning our friends Daniela and Inez took FM and I up to the reservoir/dam for a picturesque view of the mountains and Lake Eden.  We stopped on the way at a roadside stand to have empanadas from some Bolivian Indians.  A staple food here, they are like the Bolivian version of a grilled cheese sandwich.  Very filling.

Lake Eden

Damn(ed) River

The rest of the day was spent go-kart racing (a nice display of male testosterone and bumper banging), bowling and imbibing large amounts of the local beer.

Sunday FM and I grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and a cab to the Teleferico, which is the ski lift/gondola contraption that takes you to the top of the mountain where the Christo de Concordia is. This is the largest statue of Jesus in the world. Yes, even larger than in Rio at Sugar Loaf, just not quite as an impressive of a location. But, the view was lovely and the sun very warm. 

We had the option of climbing up the mountain to the Christo de Concordia, about 900+ steps, so of course we w

ent with the "teleferico" tram ride up the hill.  Lazy Americans.

The stairs not taken. . . 
Jesus Christo!
Views were the very best part

Our best estimate was that Jesus was around 6-7 stories high.  Pretty impressive except for all the holes in Him . . . must be to make Him wind resistant?

Returned to LaPaz Sunday night. The taxi ride down the mountain from the airport in La Paz is not so fun in the dark. I think I am getting more chicken as I age. Had the death grip on FM's knee most of the way. Someone should teach the Bolivians about guardrails! Anyway, arrived safe and sound, got a good nights sleep, and back to biz as usual. 

Saturday, August 7, 2004

Welcome to 12,000 Feet in the Air

La Paz has been quite a treat so far.  We have discovered many nice restaurants very close to our apartment, a cool pool hall with a dart board, and a British Pub. 
Today FM and I jumped in a cab and went to the Witch's market and artisan fair, saw San Francisco church, the main square, a semisubterranean temple and them climbed up a big hill to get a wonderful view of the city and the mountains in the distance.  It was nice to get out and around a little bit, get a feel for the town and our relation to everything. 
Llama fetuses at the witch's market.  Bury them under your threshold for good luck.  Okay, then.
San Francisco Church

Chilling Bolivian 
Cuties at the lookout
The money here is called Bolivianos, and the exchange is about 8 to 1.  They have 16 BS stores, which is a crack up.  Haven't been yet, but you know I will!  Local beer that we like the best is called Huari, and is 4.5% alcohol.  They do have another beer called Bock that has 7% (I didn't know that when I bought it, I think we'll stick with the Huari!).
Like mountains everywhere, they are beautiful, but hard to capture in a photo. The whole city sit in a bowl, with the mountains all around.  The elevation varies from about 13000 feet (at the airport) to 11000 feet, where we are, to 9000 feet, which is about a 20 minute cab ride down the mountain.  I sure hope they have some kind of monitoring system in place for these taxis that make them get new brakes and such every certain amount of miles!  These are some steep hills.  Nothing in the whole city feels very flat.  I think of those wooden sleds we rode down the street in Madiera and what a wonderful tourist attraction that would make here.  You could do it on every street!
Haven't had much problem with the altitude, nor FM, so we feel lucky about that.  Just get a bit winded walking up hills, makes us walk slower.  The Bolivians have a saying on how to adjust to the altitude.  "Eat lightly, walk slowly, and sleep alone."  So far so good. . . heehee.