Journey to La Paz

We returned to Cuzco for one night and after a final brekkie of flat mountain bread and then boarded the train for Puno. Ten hours later we arrived. To be honest, we should have listened to the guidebook and taken the six-hour bus trip. The train-ride’s scenery was unvaried and not as remarkable as that to Machu Picchu and the seats were uncomfortable. The Peruvian musicians that joined us on the way were a little hard to listen to, as well.

When we arrived, within 10 minutes we managed to find a travel agent that teed us up with a taxi ride to the Bolivian border-town of Desaguadero, which shall now and forever be known as ‘Funky Town’ thanks to our driver’s choice in music. We indulged in a good rousing chorus of that and “Hands up, put your hands up, Gimme your heart, gimme gimme your love, gimme gimme.”

As we left Puno he stopped at a street corner on the outskirts to fill up with petrol. No bowsers, no jerry cans, just plastic buckets and jugs full of fuel being decanted and poured into fuel tanks by hand. We desperately wanted to photograph this bordel but didn’t want to risk a spark.

We stayed in a border hotel that was anything but funky, or in the other sense, way too funky. Less said the better, but we rose early to make the crossing. We each were individually grilled by some serious Peruvian cops in Spanish and searched for drugs but I think our Aussie charm melted their gruff bravado and it was painless.

Once across the border, we hailed another taxi for La Paz and were stopped a few kms in to visit the Bolivian checkpoint (there’d be no sense having the two together now, would there?). A few hours with a grumpy driver and we had reached the end of his territory and were being dropped off in Alto La Paz, a poor favella type area which is apparently the fastest growing city in South America.

Finally, another taxi ride in and we’d arrived at our hotel. Cable TV and luxury for US$36 per room. After exhausting our search for a large bag to pack our rugs in, we persuaded MariCarmen to ask a woman in a ritzy mobile phone store if we could purchase her own big Chinese bag. Deal done.

There wasn’t much to do in La Paz. I certainly didn’t discover the hedonism Tim Elliot did in his tale of working at The Bolivian Times. The Sopocachi district did seem to have some nice bars, but I think we were too exhausted from the mammoth commute to actively seek pleasure.

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  • Airstream Family  On 25 March, 2013 at 12:42

    Are you still there? I love La Paz! Climb Huayna Potosi or walk from La Cumbre to Coroico – much nicer than the Machu Pichu trail! And eat at El Lobo if you’re still there – seriously yum Israeli food. And go to the witches market if it still exists. It’s been about 10 years since I was there. I hope you’re having an amazing trip. Sonia x

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