La Paz and Waltzing Matilda

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If you look to the side of this post or at the comments on the last two posts you’ll see a couple of comments from our friend Annie (A. Has-Been) where she picks up on our slightly down feeling and asks if we are regretting our journey.

It’s true that the last couple of days have been a bit hard, we’ve both had serious reactions to something, a virus, food poisoning, the oppressive heat, climbing up in altitude, the general unwelcoming of Salta and possible side effects of our altitude drugs have probably all in some way contributed.

The label of possible side-effects reads: headaches, diarrhoea, feeling sick, loss of appetite, thirst, a need to pass urine more often than normal, tiredness or irritability, a tingling or numbness in the fingers or toes and feeling over-excited.

I’d had all of these by the time I went to bed last night, save the over excited one but by the time I woke up after sleeping well for the first time in days that one was also kicking in, much to Mark’s dismay as he was still on the irritability one.

So on to the positive attitude for Annie. We left Salta this morning after enjoying a basic breakfast from the poor breakfast buffet (positive in that we’re suppose to eat little meals often whilst adjusting to altitude) and having endured the untimely piano version of Christmas carols in the reception area (positive in that they reminded us of the joyous time we spent with the afor mentioned Annie over Christmas) and fortunately managed to have a comfortable and safe taxi journey to the airport (rather than the no seat belts with a speeding rude rip-off taxi driver that took us the other way when we arrived.)

Soon we are on the plane and approaching La Paz airport in Bolivia, 4061m above sea level. The city from the air is stunning- a vast collection of small buildings climbing through the valleys at the edge of the Andes mountains. These in turn reach up to touch the clouds with their snow topped peaks and crystal blue lakes that are scattered between them. In the distance as we circle La Paz we see Lake Titikaka stretching out into the distance.

As we descend we both notice the air changing and our breathing altering, it’s slightly harder to catch our breaths but on the whole seems  ok. We land and step off the plane. It’s cool, not cold but compared to the oppressive heat of Salta definitely much more comfortable. As everyone makes there way off the plane we walk at a very slow steady pace to the baggage collection. The guide says not to exert yourself when you first arrive in altitude as that’s what makes it worse and it seems that everyone knows this. Our breathing remains a little odd but nothing too concerning.

The bags arrive quickly and efficiently. The customs guys take our cards and welcome us to La Paz in a super polite way. The exit doors slide open and our guide is waiting for us with Mark’s name on a card. He greets us enthusiastically, introduces himself as Pedro and the driver as Rodrigo and we head to the  van.

We descend down into La Paz, through chaotic traffic, full of white vans carrying workers and the thick smell of car fumes and pollution. Cars and vans weave in and out of each other. We sit in traffic jam after traffic jam for about 20 minutes as we make our way to the autopista. We ask Pedro if the traffic is usually this bad- ‘this is really good’ he says ‘it’s usually much worse!’ He too must have read Annie’s comments!

We stop off to take some photos of La Paz which is still 400m below us. It stretches for miles and the view is amazing. Pedro tells us a little about the city but says he will go into more detail when we tour it tomorrow.

We arrive at the hotel, a cross between something out of China or the 1970’s. once again however everyone who greets us is very polite, friendly and only too eager to assist and help. Our room is orange, and has basic MFI style furniture but is clean and spacious with a lovely big bed.

We hit the bar and drink a pot of Mate de Coca- a herbal tea drink that everyone says assists in the altitude translation. It looks and tastes a bit like Jasmine tea, but slightly more bitter with a slight tobacco taste to it.

The hotel also recommends a local restaurant and we cross the road to ‘Vienna’ to eat local Bolivian food whilst sitting in the most bizarre Austrian dining room straight out of ‘the Sound of Music’. Mark has Trucha la Chorrellana (lake Titikaka trout) and I have Satja de Pollo (chicken with a dehydrated potato) along with more Mate de Coca. As we sit we listen to the piano waltz music that is being played by the pianist behind us, first Waltzing Matilda and then Bolero. He then does Celine’s soundtrack to Titanic.

We head back to the hotel to rest and take it easy, conscious that the affects of Altitude Sickness if they are going to hit us will start to be noticeable overnight and develop in around 12 -24 hours time- tomorrow will tell!

Liam, La Paz, Bolivia, 17 January 2017

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3 Responses to La Paz and Waltzing Matilda

  1. Elaine Holman says:

    Boys! So, chicken and dehydrated potato = chicken and smash…??!!! Niiiiiice!!! Is that what you have to eat when adjusting to altitude? The ‘tea’ mate da coca – perhaps that has been one of the other things contributing to your malaise …

  2. Silvia Arnone says:

    Glad to hear you are able to enjoy every nicety that you encounter! However, Bolivian food….hmmm not doing it for me boys! Hope it tasted better than it looked!
    Why only on Sundays I wonder? Besos xx

  3. A. Has-Been says:

    Thank you my darlings, glad you are feeling more positive! Does altitude sickness also make you put your photos upside down? You must be feeling more positive because if I had to listen to ‘first Waltzing Matilda and then Bolero and Celine’s soundtrack to Titanic’ I would slit my wrists!
    lots of love. xxx