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October 23, 2004

La Paz in Brief

From Copacabana, I took a boat to Isla del Sol, the place the Incas considered the birthplace of the sun, which was really cool. I hiked a lot and stayed overnight in a small town there--more on that later, hopefully. I spent another night in Copacabana after that so I could relax for a while and sleep in for once--I always seem to be getting up early for something or other.

Today, I traveled from Copacabana to La Paz with a cool couple from Florida that I met on the boat to the floating islands, and we've been wandering La Paz together tonight. We decided to stay at the hostel the bus dropped us off at because we were feeling too lazy to look elsewhere. It's pretty cheap, but a little funky--it's on the top floors of a shopping center and all the rooms have big plate-glass windows like they were meant to be shops, but there are big curtains across them. The place is supposed to close down around 10, though, and then it should be pretty quiet, I imagine, since we're not right on the main street.

After a few days in small towns and on islands, it's quite a shock to be in a huge city with over a million inhabitants. The traffic in the center of town was crushing this afternoon, and so many people flooded the narrow sidewalks. Quite a switch from Copacabana, where there was hardly any traffic at all, and everyone just sauntered down the middle of the street!

I had been planning on spending a day or two in La Paz, but it seems like it would take longer than that to get a sense of this place, it's just so huge. But, it turns out I'll be spending less than 24 hours in La Paz--I'm leaving tomorrow morning and continuing south. I want to go to the Salar de Uyuni, a huge area of salt flats, funky-colored lagoons, and volcanoes that's supposed to be just other-worldly. And, apparently there's a festival happening in Uyuni, the jumping-off point for tours to the Salar, and I got the sense from a few agencies that if I don't leave tomorrow, it might be hard to get there within the next week, and I don't want to spend that long here. I realize now that this means very little time in Bolivia altogether, with very little time to get a sense of the country, but that's okay, I guess--I wasn't planning to come here at all originally!

But I met the woman who will be running my tour in the Salar, and she seems really cool, and she's taking the bus and train with me tomorrow to Uyuni, where we'll meet the rest of our group. It's a 3-day tour, and then we end up in the town of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. I've decided to cut out northwestern Argentina, as I was feeling tight on time, the scenery sounds similar to other areas I've already seen (canyons and desert), and I want more time further south in the Lake District and Patagonia.

I'm really glad I relaxed in Copacabana for a while; it makes this plan seem a little less crazy. I could have left on Monday instead, but that would have required a 12-hour overnight bus ride, and I would have arrived in the early morning and started the tour the same day, which just sounded miserable.

I wanted to upload pix from La Paz since Internet is really cheap here, but I'm tired and don't want to be up all night. I might have a chance to check in from Uyuni before I head out to the Salar. Otherwise, expect tons of pictures and updates once I'm in Chile later this week!

Posted by Amy on October 23, 2004 08:19 PM
Category: Bolivia
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