Rio to La Paz in 28 days
19.3.10 19 °C
So i’m looking out the window of my hotel room and i see lights, colour, hustle and bustle on the streets; i hear people talking, music, church bells and taxi horns ; and I smell the unmistakable smells of traffic, roadside food and meat markets, urine, smoke and people. Ahhhh La Paz loved by many, hated by others and me...well i’m still undecided.
You see La Paz isn’t known for it’s architecture or beautiful plazas. It’s known for it’s humming vibe, it’s colour and women in bowler hats. The streets start pumping at 7am and don’t let up until 10pm at the earliest. The clubs start at 11pm and the taxi horns go all night long.
If you want a three course meal for the equivalent of U$ 1.25, cocaine for a pittance, a hand knitted pure alpaca jumper for 70U$ a llama foetus to hang in your new house for good luck or a toothbrush for .45c then La Paz is the place to get it.
So how did I end up in La Paz again? My last trip ran from Rio to La Paz. It went down the coast of Brazil before cutting across to the amazing Iguazu Falls where we then crossed into Argentina to visit the towns of San Ignacio and Salta. From here we headed into Bolivia where we visited Tupiza (for one more day then planned due to a protest shutting down the roads), Potosi, Uyuni, Rurrenebaque and finally La Paz.
A fitting place to end our tour. The colourfulness, sounds and smells of La Paz all remind me of the last 28 days where I made 11 new friends who all in the unique ways, had their own set of ‘colourfulness’. But then what can you expect from a tour with 10 Aussies and 1 Irishman? The fact that there was 8 men, 6 of who were single contributed to the smells, the long, booze filled drives contributed to the sounds (although I must say two of the blokes had amazing voices and the rest weren’t too bad either) and the girls, and the Sydney boys contributed to the colourfulness.
So instead of boring you with a blow-by-blow account of the past trip I will again, as has become my custom, list only the highlights (Let’s face it; it keeps you slightly interested and it means I don’t have to remember too much).
- Our first night in Paraty. Some mean Caprioskas courtesy of some vodka that the last pax left on the truck, followed by the raising of the Australian flag in the truck (now that both crew are Aussies it seemed only fitting) and a rousing rendition of Waltzing Matilda and an Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Oih, Oih, Oih chant set the mood of the trip. It was at this point that I knew we had an awesome bunch of pax. The night could have taken a turn for the worst when a crazy storm of Brisbane summer afternoon standards flooded our campsite saturating our pax bedding and causing me to run up the road through puddles to my favourite hostel of all time, Seria Do Mar, to beg for beds. Luckily they were able to put us up for the night and all was well. The pax didn’t seem to mind where they slept; I think the Caprioskas helped their state of mind.
- Without dwelling on Paraty too much (although I’m sure you all know by now that I love the place) my second highlight was on the second day when we headed out on an old schooner boat to have a boat party. A chance for the pax to get to know each other and for them to let their hair down a little. The hair letting down was helped along by the live band and free caprihinias (cachasa, a Brazillian rum is the base in this baby) all day. Yehar!
- Iguazu Falls is always amazing and this time was no disappointment. The boat trip under the falls had us all laughing hard and soaking wet. For those of you reading this who are planning to come to South America, your trip will not be complete without visiting these falls.
- Salta was a new town for me and guess what...I got to visit another hospital. Four trips and four hospital visits, that has to be a new overlanding record. We were whitewater rafting out here when the earthquake hit in Chile. Some pax felt it and were quite excited when i later told them the cause. Here is where we also flew 400m across a canyon while hanging roughly 200m in the air attached to a steel cable
- Salta also saw us celebrate a birthday by heading out to some clubs and watching a crazy arse Argentinean death metal band before heading across the road to dance our booties off in a techno club. Two extremes I know but what the hell.
- Horseriding in Tupiza was truly incredible. Meandering your way through countryside that felt like the wild west and where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid had spent their final months before being killed in a shootout 100km west of where we were, was unbelievable (to use one of our pax favourite expressions). The colours in the landscape and the rock formations were what movie sets are made of.
- The sunset on the salt flats near Uyuni was not only a highlight of this trip but of my time over here this year. Three hours spent with some fun people watching the reflections of the sunset on the flats, that at the moment are covered with water, only made it more intense. The fact that the boys also got our guide drunk on Absinthe also made it memorable.
- Swimming with pink dolphins in the pampas near Rurrenebaque was quite an experience. A word of warning for those doing this in the future, these dolphins are very playful and like to nibble (just gently) on feet, legs and even butt cheeks. This wouldn’t be half as scary if you could actually see them coming at you, but the fact that you can’t see your hands 3 inches below the water, makes this impossible.
I could keep going with memories of nights out dancing till the sweat was literally pouring off us or side splitting comments about how many times I saw these men in the jocks while trying to drag them out of bed 10 minutes before leaving time on a drive day (luckily they were all extremely easy on the eye). And then there are my memories of trying to get me and them on the plane to Rurrenebaque when we were fairly inebriated and had literally come out of the nightclub 1 hour before hopping in the taxi.
But then this wouldn’t be a blog but rather a short novel.
So from here I have said ciao to some great people. I’ve wished them safe travels and we’ve plans to keep in touch Good thing is I’ve stocked up enough hugs to last me until my next trip starts in four weeks time – Santiago to Lima, via La Paz.
Maybe next time i’ll understand this strange city a little bit more.
P.S. Ths time round the only tears I shed were when I was saying goodbye to them all.