Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Back in the big smoke....

La Paz “the peace” – well perhaps not the peace of the jungle and mountains, but maybe the mayhem of a big city Latin American style.

After absolutely enjoying 2 weeks relaxing and studying Spanish in a warm, beautiful Sucre (I'm going back so will write more about it later) we've changed modes to take a week out from paradise and hit the jungle. We took an overnight bus from Sucre - for the second time on my trip I travelled in luxury – cama – or bed style. Pity about the fact that my stomach was a little queasy, and the motion of twisting around curves rising in altitude and being at the back of the bus… well perhaps that may have contributed to it a bit.

As we arrived in La Paz it was magical… The city is nestled in a large valley with snow capped Andes sitting majestically watching over it. As we winded our way down one of the ridges we were treated with a plethora of views - ridges of houses stacked on each other with the morning sun making them glow and the glass sparkle. Then turning a corner to see big faces of knobbly rock and scrubby trees, then turning the corner again as we got lower and lower into the traffic of the capital of Bolivia. Overpasses, underpasses, big old brightly coloured dodge busses, minivans shared taxis with people hanging out, lots of tooting at intersections, police in dark green uniforms 2 up on motorcycles.  A very impressionate experience that made our early morning arrival well justified.

After finding our agreed hotel we left our bags and went off walking through the city. On the way we stopped for a very tasty baked cheesecake… with sultanas!! My favourite. Not quite the same as mum’s recipe, but actually pretty good. The other great thing is the coffee… AND for the first time in South America,… a soy latte!!! Well not quite as good as in Australia or Ginger and White (damn don’t make me think about that) but still a nice treat happen upon.

Continuing our walk we came across a large feria – after speculating what it could be for we found out it was a weekly Sunday festival put on my the department for culture - what was great was the row of games for children - blocks of coloured wood for them to build structures with, origami, recycled bottles, paper and glue to construct things, painting, skipping ropes – all games that they could do together; making things and enjoying being out and about. It was a bit early still so not so many children, but we did join a group of children from about 5 to 15 years old with a skipping rope and played for a while.
We then moved onto another form of entertainment - with a number of Harry Potter fans in the group AND 3D cinemas, we watched the final harry potter film with some very classy glasses. The cinema was in a new complex and there was a moment of realization where I thought of the difference in location we had experienced that day - earlier in the bus station where you had bottles of water to flush the toilets, to the pristine white bathrooms in the cinema complex with automatic sensing flushing toilets. As tourists I suppose you move through these very different environments with ease; but in actuality you are moving through different class levels and cultural sub-groups of a people and country.

After a bit more walking around we headed to see the Israeli guy that was going to organize our trek. He was interesting - obviously very much catering to Israeli’s but having lived here for 9 years also very much comfortable here I suppose. He took a bit of warming up but was very helpful in the end.  A little low on enthusiasm, but then I suppose that’s what the tourists provide! His office was like his front living room and a bit disorganized, but he obviously knew his stuff. And he knew where to buz pluma jackets… very important!  For the treks he talks about using locals as guides so I’m looking forward to going canyoning and rafting with people who have grown up exploring these areas.

Other things that happened? Well there was a bit of a cafuffle in the hotel - they gave our room away and so after a bit of an altercation we changed hotels. But we were rewarded with a nice dinner - I had sushi, tofu, and good rice. And culi in osu, shio and goma. And beans in mirin. And makisushi. Oh happiness!
Second day now in La Paz - it is a big chaotic city, not sure how long I will last and already I’m thinking back with fondness to our lovely hostel in Sucre with the bougainvillea, sunshine, kitchen and market and colonial architecture. (Although La Paz also has beautiful architecture as well – even more of an interesting mix between Colonial and Latin).

Today we decide on our actual trek, I get to indulge in some shopping and already it’s a great morning of sitting writing, doing a bit of study, enjoying coffee and watching the capital of Bolivia with all it’s crazy buses, businessmen in suits and women in billowing skirts and top hats wake up and attack their Monday morning!

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