Getting high

We posted our last update while we were still in the Bolivian tropics. Next day, we took a flight to La Paz and that was a bit of a shock… In just over 20 minutes (that’s how long the flight was) everything changed. It felt like in we were magically transported from the lush and green tropics into another world, a much starker and colder one. This was because in this short time we moved from about the sea level to over 4000 meters above it, landing in El Alto, one of the highest airports in the world.

La Paz itself is located slightly lower, at around 3650 meters above the sea level, occupying a canyon below El Alto. We didn’t know too much about the city before we came here so we were quite surprised by its size and thousands of red brick houses spilling along the slopes of the canyon (La Paz itself has close to 1 million inhabitants and over 2 million together with El Alto).

The city is very vibrant and colorful, with many street markets selling everything from food, to cosmetics, to clothes and souvenirs, to magic talismans and charms, including such gruesome items as dried llama foetuses…What definitely adds to its character is hundreds of women dressed in traditional dresses and hats, often carrying something on their back in a colorful bag, be it a baby or some items for sell.

Because of the rapid ascent to almost 4000m, we had some mild symptoms of altitude sickness for the first day or so but are on the mend now and are acclimatizing well. What has been helping us greatly in the process is the local delicacy – the coca leaves, which we have been chewing and drinking in the form of mate (a herbal tea) since we arrived. It doesn´t get you any higher than you already are but it has some relaxing qualities and definitely helps dealing with the altitude.

We like La Paz so much that we decided to stay here longer than originally though (six instead of three days), especially that we found out about some really cool things to do and places to visit around here. But we will tell you all about this in our next update, that should be posted in about three days or so, meanwhile, do enjoy a selection of pictures from our first three days in La Paz.

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A view from the plane when approaching La Paz (the mountain is Mt Illimani
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Women wearing traditional dresses
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Dried llama foetuses and coca leaves are on offer at the so-called Witches´ Market
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Preparing coca leaves for a daily chew
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At a viewpoint we got to today. In the background, Mt Illimani (6462m) towering over the city

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