Bolivia

15/1/2010

1000

Bolivia is one of those countries where the US dollar circulates in parallel with local Bolivars (or Pesos). Prices may be quoted in either, but gringos get the US price offered first. La Paz is (to me) a most confusing city; I just came back from a walk of a few blocks: 5 minutes expanded to 15 as I got lost. Hilly doesn't begin to describe it: it's built on the side of a mountain, originally in the bottom of a valley. However it has expanded (as cities do), & grown up the hillsides, on anywhere that isn′t dead vertical. I returned to the hotel quite spent: a cup of coca tea (the local remedy) & take it easy for a while, to return to normal. That's the effect of high altitude (4000m). I see on the hotel noticeboard, that they keep oxygen bottles at reception. Not many places need that!

1845

I tried a second walk around this afternoon. La Paz is not a very inviting city (at least around here): the streets are narrow, & made worse by vendors′ stalls set up on every spare bit of ground, at least in this area. The drivers are much more free with their horn than elsewhere in South America. Most of the vehicles seem to be taxis or micros: basically minibuses. There is more of Asia here than I have seen elsewhere, but no beggars.

The Rough Guide mentions that life gets hectic here on Friday nights, there have been continual fireworks this afternoon, & a few minutes ago, a heavy boom, as though a whole case had gone off. Looking out, I see some solid stormclouds heading in.

I have booked on a tour to Tiahuanaco (or Tiwanaku) tomorrow. This (given the limited time I have) looks the best way to see something. To learn to navigate this city would take too long.

16/1/2010

1430

The Tiahuanaco trip started 30 minutes late, due to some of us being misinformed of the starting time.

We quickly moved out of the street-market area, it seems quite limited in extent. Bolivian traffic is chaotic: you just see a gap & run for it, let the others get out of the way. The only traffic sign obeyed seems to be light signals, & there are none of those near the hotel.

The trip started by running up to El Alto, La Paz's “poor relation” on the higher ground. Here, the lower districts are more up-market: as the city grows, it expands up the surrounding slopes.

Once on the Altiplano (the high plain between the East & West Andes), the drive is straight, to Tiahuanaco National Park. The site is ready-made for ritual use: a natural amphitheatre, with Lake Titicaca (long held sacred in indigenous beliefs) on one side.
There is a 3D model of how it is believed to have looked in its prime.

At one point Eduardo,the guide, indicated where the archaeologists have removed about 1m of overburden. Apparently this is the depth of accretion since the 16th century (ie when the Spanish came). Apparently one can dig to that depth almost anywhere here, & turn up something.

Pictures of Tiahuanaco

On the return, we stopped on the edge of El Alto, just above La Paz, for photos.

17/1/2010

1415

Went for a walk this morning, & rapidly reached my limits on these steep roads.

With a series of thunderstorms outside, it seems a good time to get this log up to date!

18/1/2010

1530

What is it with Chilean airports? First at Iquique, then here at Santiago, the airport is half-built, featuring cavernous, empty halls, with no directions? One could easily get lost!

I estimate about 6 hours to boarding call. Check-in opens at 7PM, unless I can do an automatic check-in at the machine (I could not: it found no record of my booking. But the eventual manual check-in worked fine.)


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