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    South by South America Tour – Bolivia Part 17

    Thursday, October 3, 2019
    Sucre to La Paz, Bolivia

    A Trans Copacabana bus station in La Paz, Bolivia.
    A Trans Copacabana bus station in La Paz, Bolivia.

    A distressed wall in La Paz, Bolivia.
    A distressed wall in La Paz, Bolivia.

    Around 7:30 am, I woke up for good on the bus from Sucre to La Paz, Bolivia. Throughout the night, I had occasionally awakened slightly to change positions, but the full cama (bed) seat that reclined really far back was pretty comfy. As the bus pulled into the packed and snarling traffic of the greater La Paz area, it let people off at several small stops, then proceeded onto a road that closely resembled a freeway. Suddenly, we got a panoramic view of the city from a rim that forms a semi-circle around the valley below. I was astonished at how far up the side of the mountains the red brick sprawl had advanced. I’ve never seen a city built that far up before. It’s like an entire mountain range and valley was invaded by a hive mind, hell bent on domination, regardless of topography.

    Jesus Christ wears a cape at the Catedral Basílica de Nossa Senhora da Paz in La Paz, Bolivia.
    Jesus Christ wears a cape at the Catedral Basílica de Nossa Senhora da Paz in La Paz, Bolivia.

    The Virgin Mary wears a crown at the Catedral Basílica de Nossa Senhora da Paz in La Paz, Bolivia.
    The Virgin Mary wears a crown at the Catedral Basílica de Nossa Senhora da Paz in La Paz, Bolivia.

    Down in the center of the valley, I spotted several groups of skyscrapers and other such large, hulking constructions. Winding on down the “freeway” into the valley, we finally pulled into the main Terminal de Buses, where I threw on my big backpack and hoofed it a mile or so down to the Hospedaje Milenio, a homey little hostel with antiques in the common area that is set within a run down Casco Viejo neighborhood. It was no easy feat finding the place, what with the lack of street signs on many corners. After checking in, I was shown to a room with two beds, where I promptly fell asleep for the usual three or four hours. Upon waking, I was annoyed by the lock on the door of my room that was nearly impossible to open and close. So, the maid was nice enough to let me move into another room.

    Pole position with refuse in La Paz, Bolivia.
    Pole position with refuse in La Paz, Bolivia.

    Colorful buildings abound in La Paz, Bolivia.
    Colorful buildings abound in La Paz, Bolivia.

    Another minus about this hostel is that the kitchen is for the staff only, and there are no lockers, except for one behind the front desk that only the staff has a key to. So, I had to lock up my valuables inside the mesh net lock that fits around my backpack. Luckily, the new room I moved into had actual bed frames to lock it to, which the first room didn’t. Too bad the new room was out in front overlooking the street, though, which of course means noise. Oh, well! I spent the rest of the afternoon squeezing my way around the narrow sidewalks and streets of central La Paz, soaking in all of the myriad sights and sounds, shooting photos of cathedrals, markets, walls and street scenes.

    Shredded flyers in La Paz, Bolivia.
    Shredded flyers in La Paz, Bolivia.

    A statue in the Parroquia San Sebastian in La Paz, Bolivia.
    A statue in the Parroquia San Sebastian in La Paz, Bolivia.

    “La Paz is the seat of government and the de facto national capital of the Plurinational State of Bolivia (the constitutional capital of Bolivia is Sucre). With an estimated 789,541 residents as of 2015, La Paz is the third-most populous city in Bolivia (after Santa Cruz de la Sierra and El Alto). Its metropolitan area, which is formed by La Paz, El Alto and Viacha, makes up the most populous urban area in Bolivia, with a population of 2.3 million. It is also the capital of the La Paz Department.

    “The city, located in west-central Bolivia, 42 miles southeast of Lake Titicaca, is set in a canyon created by the Choqueyapu River. It is located in a bowl-like depression surrounded by the high mountains of the Altiplano. Overlooking the city is the towering, triple-peaked Illimani. Its peaks are always snow-covered and can be seen from many parts of the city. At an elevation of roughly 11,975 feet above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world. Due to its altitude, La Paz has an unusual subtropical highland climate, with rainy summers and dry winters.

    Shattered glass and miles between us. The Basílica de San Francisco in La Paz, Bolivia.
    Shattered glass and miles between us. The Basílica de San Francisco in La Paz, Bolivia.

    The calm in the eye of the storm in La Paz, Bolivia.
    The calm in the eye of the storm in La Paz, Bolivia.

    “La Paz was founded on October 20, 1548 by the Spanish conquistador Captain Alonso de Mendoza at the site of the Inca settlement of Laja as a connecting point between the commercial routes that led from Potosí and Oruro to Lima; the full name of the city was originally Nuestra Señora de La Paz (meaning Our Lady of Peace) in commemoration of the restoration of peace following the insurrection of Gonzalo Pizarro and fellow conquistadors against the first viceroy of Peru. The city was later moved to its present location in the valley of Chuquiago Marka.

    I got battered by a battery of fonts in La Paz, Bolivia.
    I got battered by a battery of fonts in La Paz, Bolivia.

    The old green bus is always on time in La Paz, Bolivia.
    The old green bus is always on time in La Paz, Bolivia.

    “As the seat of the government of Bolivia, La Paz is the site of the Palacio Quemado, the presidential palace. It is also the seat of the Bolivian legislature, the Plurinational Legislative Assembly, and numerous government departments and agencies. The constitutional capital of Bolivia, Sucre, retains the judicial power. La Paz hosts all the foreign embassies as well as international missions in the country. La Paz is an important political, administrative, economic, and sports center of Bolivia; it generates 24% of Bolivia’s Gross Domestic Product and serves as the headquarters for numerous Bolivian companies and industries.

    Layered flyers in La Paz, Bolivia.
    Layered flyers in La Paz, Bolivia.

    A bread vendor in La Paz, Bolivia.
    A bread vendor in La Paz, Bolivia.

    “La Paz is also an important cultural center of Latin America, as it hosts several landmarks belonging to the colonial times, such as the San Francisco Church, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Plaza Murillo and the Jaén Street. The city is renowned for its unique markets, particularly the Witches’ Market, and for its vibrant nightlife. Its unusual topography offers unique views of the city and the surrounding mountains of the Cordillera Real from numerous natural viewing points. La Paz is also home to the largest urban cable car network in the world.”—Wikipedia

    Words and photos ©2019 Arcane Candy.

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