la paz & lake titicaca
After finally learning that the strike was over and we were free to leave Uyuni (we were stuck there for an extra 36 hours because some miners had blocked the only road), we jumped at the chance to make our way to La Paz. Problem is, the only way was a night bus. And not a very good one. And the strike wasn't as over as we thought. The freeways in this part of Bolivia are essentially gravel roads, and the bus must have been built in the 1970s, with all original suspension. After a couple hours, the bus suddenly came to a stop, and there we sat. We eventually learned that some miners had rolled some big boulders into the road and people were still working to clear them away. Hours passed. Late at night, we started crawling forward again... and we were free! Never was I so happy to try and get a full night's sleep on a 13 hour bus ride while the bus consistently tried to buck my head into the ceiling.
Ok, so Bolivia is not the most organized place on Earth. But it's worth it. After the surreal and gorgeous landscapes of Uyuni, we felt like La Paz and Titicaca would have to be let downs. This was not the case. La Paz is like no other city I've ever seen-- and perhaps no other city on earth. The elevation of the airport is equivalent to many of the very highest peaks of the Rocky mountains. If Denver is the mile high city, La Paz is the 2.5 mile high city. It is built into the steep valleys under a vast plateau, and property prices increase as altitude decreases. The hillside neighborhoods look like orange waves cresting over cliff edges, and from these homes you can look down on the high rises at the valley's bottom.
We have to give a very special thanks to Sandra, Eduardo and Nicola for taking us in. These amazing La Paz locals are the family of one of our friends in New York, and they volunteered to not only let us stay in their home, but to drive us around and show us the city from a local's point of view. They also taught us about saltenyas-- the most beautiful thing that has barely made it outside of Bolivia. Think Argentine empanadas but bigger and with a sweet / savory, almost stew-like filling.
After a couple days of wandering the fascinating streets of La Paz, we made our way to Lake Titicaca. This mountain lake is surrounded by ancient layered farms on steep hillsides with stunning snowcaps in the background. We took a boat to a small, sparsely inhabited island in the middle of the lake. It may be the most relaxing place on earth. Here, you are off the grid. But there are fresh lake fish. And there is beer. And, wow, are there sunsets.
Just go to Bolivia. I don't want to hear it. Go to Bolivia.