It was the third leg of our South American trip; having done Brazil and Argentina, we were northbound to the beautiful country of Bolivia.
Flying over the amazon jungle and seeing the majestic silhouette of the Amazon River did not distract us from getting anxious. Anxiety, that roots back a couple of months ago when we were still on the planning stage of our South American trip. (Related Article: Land Border Crossing in South America)
La Paz, Bolivia was originally nowhere our original travel plan. The itinerary was just Brazil and Argentina for 10 days. It was me who pushed the envelope to include La Paz in our trip. Why? You may ask. Well, here’s why.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in La Paz.
A road less travelled, Bolivia itself is a country we rarely hear of when it comes to tourist attractions compared to the famous Machu Piccu of Peru and the Galapagos Island of Ecuador. I have always been fascinated with La Paz, even way back my high school days. Mainly because, it is the other half of the two capital cities that Bolivia has established along with Sucre. It has always baffled me of why do they have two capital cities.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Machu Picchu.
Seated along the Andes mountain range, La Paz is by fact the highest capital city in the world at 11, +++ feet above sea level. That’s like Mt. Apo, on top of Mt. Apo, on top of Mt. Apo and one more Mt. Apo. Now, isn’t that interesting? And I don’t even want to start with Lake Titicaca and Salar de Uyuni.
Anyhow, after presenting these grounds to my travel buddies, I insisted that we have to do it! We may not be the first Filipinos to visit there, but how often do we get to meet someone who did. And so, we have all concurred. My friend, who was in-charge of the logistics, was able to squeeze 3 days for it in our itinerary. We will arrive late night in La Paz, have one full day and will be flying out the next day. Bravo!
(Related Article: Cheap Flight Routes from Manila to South America)
Then voila! Hello shady visa requirements and hello altitude sickness. The visa requirement part was actually the easy one to solve. Yes we can attest now that Filipino passports are visa-free in this part of the world. Now to the next one: ALTITUDE SICKNESS!
Like hearing the sound track of Star Wars playing in my ears, our anxiety began to sink in. If you Google it, you get lines like “Dangerous”, “May kill you” and “Death”. It didn’t even help reading blogs about it. The worst I read was that it mentioned that the German Embassy in La Paz is now providing mortuary refrigerators for their citizens who have visited the city and died due to yes you guessed it right! Altitude Sickness!
We were on the verge of scrapping out the whole idea. But something in me, held on. I did some more research about it, and I found out that Pope Francis visited La Paz last July 8 of this year. So, I told my travel buddies, if he can do it and the rest of the tourists who went there that came back fine can do it, then why can’t we? Plus, I discovered “Diamox” and coca tea. It definitely took some persuasion to get them convinced.
Going back to my anxiety in the plane, a lot of things were actually running in my mind, like worst case scenarios playing in a loop. One of us was so anxious that he kept singing “Flashlight” from the movie Pitch Perfect 2. To which we sang in duets and then triplets. Sorry to those seated beside us.
It was already dark when we’re above the skies of La Paz. It was interesting to see the movement of the streetlights from a very bright cluster in the middle moving upwards in a dimming pattern. The moment the captain announced that the plane was about to land, my heart beat faster.
After a smooth landing, I was continuously telling myself “everything’s going to be fine”. As we exited the plane going to the baggage claim area. We were constantly asking each other if we are okay. Honesty, I felt normal. It was cold that night we arrived. Their beautiful airport “El Alto” was situated higher from the center of the city. My first impression as we were navigating the city heading to our hotel was that it looked and felt like Baguio. We were so tired that we dozed off the moment we saw our beds. (Related Article: Best Hostels and Hotels in South America)
After a good night sleep, we woke up early that next day. It was chilling. Our hotel doesn’t even have one air-conditioning unit in it, so we figured that the temperature was usually low the whole year, and it wasn’t even winter yet. After a quick breakfast, we headed to Plaza Murillo.
Located in this Plaza is the Presidential Palace which stands out amongst the equally stunning nearby buildings that are obviously inspired by the Spanish Colonial Era. The size of the city and the proximity of the tourist sights make La Paz ideal for walking tours. From Plaza Murillo, we went to an old church named San Francisco, bought some trinkets from the street vendors on our way to the Witch’s Market where you get to see dead baby “Llamas” hanged everywhere. We had lunch there as well, and so we tried Llama meat; which I think tastes like a hybrid of chevon and pork.
But the best part of all was the “Teleferico”. This cable car system is a testament that despite the city’s old traditional charms it has its modern twist. The view from above definitely gives you a different perspective. In daylight, you get to appreciate the uniformity of the color and the structure of most of the buildings. It’s a lush sea of orangey brick walls that covers the valley-like landscape of the city. It was breathtaking especially with the higher points of the Andes mountain range serves as a backdrop to the city below. The contrast of the blue sky, the white snow-capped mountain tops and the orange city is truly inspiring for a unique color scheme.
Therefore, all our fears about altitude sickness were worth conquering! Although, we were not spared of the symptoms like light headedness, palpitations, and losing of breath even in short walks and etc. What we saw and experienced outweighed all of these. It may sound a cliché but sometimes we need to take risks because we never know what we’ll get.
If you ask me if I am going to do another high altitude challenge? Yes, but next time in Cusco, Peru. 🙂
P.S. Pope Francis stayed only for four hours in La Paz due to the fear of the effects of high altitude to his health. I omitted this fact from my travel buddies when I was persuading them. Hahaha
About the Writer:
Raffy is a nurse by profession who is currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He loves watching movies and TV series during his spare time. He loves to read stuff that has something to do with geography and science. He loves to meet people, learn new cultures and languages. He is a daydreamer.
THIS IS AN ENTRY FOR THE 1ST YEAR ANNIVERSARY TRAVEL WRITING CONTEST FOR TWO MONKEYS TRAVEL GROUP