La Paz – A festive Lake Crossing and Introduction to the Sprawling City

After completing a three day trek of Arequipa’s Colca Canyon (the deepest canyon in the world) we returned exhausted to our hostel only to find that the owner had forgotten to reserve us a room for the night. After realising that the bus to La Paz – our next stop – left that evening at midnight, we decided to leave that night.

Unfortunately the water supply to the whole city had been turned off meaning having a wash was not an option. Lovely. Shattered and thoroughly unclean we headed for the bus station.

The journey to La Paz took a total of 18 hours and included a boat trip across Lake Titicaca mid-journey. At some point in the morning we were woken by the driver shouting in that we understood only as: “Get off the bus… get a boat across the lake… meet you the other side…” And we were off.

The town by the lake was mayhem. We later found out that it was a festival that day so all the locals were out celebrating. It took about an hour to work out where the boat was and to wait in line.

As we made our way across the water we saw a coach also being dragged across. The coaches, it turned out, were transported across on barges which were basically made up of a few wooden planks precariously nailed together.

When we reached the other side of the lake the chaos continued. Cars were choking every street, while tourists milled around in abstract confusion. We eventually established that our bus had not come across the lake yet so found solace in the nearest bar overlooking the lake. We sat here for the next couple of hours until we eventually saw our coach making its nervous way across the lake. We thought this was bad until we later spoke to the guys we’d been waiting in the bar with and heard that they’d waiting six hours for their boat to come across.

We arrived in La Paz late in the evening and caught a taxi straight to the hostel. We spent the following day exploring La Paz. The first thing that hits you in La Paz is the altitude. The city, situated 3660 metres above sea level, quite literally takes your breath away. The sprawling buildings cling to a towering mountain that dips into the nearest valley, taking the masses of buildings along with it. In the distance snow-peaked mountains poke their tips into view. Every winding street is a hill; the Cathedral’s foundations push out of the ground, towering about your head as you pass by, in a desperate attempt to create a flat surface on which to build the structure. Indeed, the main entrance to the Cathedral is 12 metres higher than its base at the other end of the building.

We spent our first day discovering the infamous ‘Witches Market’. Llama foetuses litter the stalls, creating a deeply unpleasant stench as you passed by. We also used our time in the city centre to book up one activity we were both keep to undertake: Death Road.

3 comments

  1. Are you still persisting with this? God.

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  2. 18 Aug ’10 at 2:38 am

    Accurate description

    “The sprawling buildings cling to a towering mountain that dips into the nearest valley, taking the masses of buildings along with it. In the distance snow-peaked mountains poke their tips into view.”

    Accurate description of La Paz. I was there last year and from above it really does look like the city is clinging on to the mountain. Your description of the journey across the Lake really takes me back to when I was there. Interesting blog.

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  3. 26 Dec ’12 at 4:51 pm

    Loki Loves you

    Loki Loki Loki Oi Oi Oi!

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