Making Peace With La Paz


This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, January 07, 2004 was originally posted on January 09, 2004.

DAY 81:  From what I’ve gathered, my initial reaction to La Paz is similar to many other travelers, that it’s just a big crowded city with no vibe or coolness factor.  However, things started looking up when I left my hostel in the middle of dark alley to a new one in a livlier part of town, which had some amenities that the other one didn’t: hot water, toilets that flushed all the time and the absence of some guy who would sing loud opera tunes early in the morning.

LA PAZ, THE BOLIVIAN METROPOLIS, is so big that its layout is divided into three full page maps in my Lonely Planet guide.  I had only seen the crowded sections of the city center with its many vending stalls and shoe shine boys dressed up in ski masks, making them look more like bank robbers.  Feeling better from the antibiotics and the bottles of vitamin C-enriched Tampico citrus punches I had been taking,  I went to explore the other page of La Paz’s maps.  Down and up the big central Parque Raul Salmon de la Barra, with its views of the Lower Prado and Sopacachi neighborhoods, I made my way to the less dense, residential city neighborhood of Miraflores.  Centered around the Temple Semisubterraneo, Miraflores had a laid back feel to it, with its middle class people walking up and down the San Francisco-like hills or through the Plaza San Martin.  Walking down the hill with the views of the canyon city around me, I felt that La Paz may not be the depressing city that I, in my sick state, had once thought.

La Paz was really starting to grow on me when I crossed the Puente de las Americas — with its northwesterly views of the big city park and southeasterly views of the nearby mountain range — and into the neighborhood of Sopacachi.  I must admit that my pre-conception of La Paz was the same of what many media-fed Americans probably had, a crowded, poor city tormented by recent protests and civil disputes.  Sopacachi changed that image completely, being an affluent neighborhood of beautiful plazas and parks, fancy hotels and cafes.  Sopacachi emitted a vibe that perhaps came from being a former bohemian/artists enclave, overridden by yuppies — the coolness still remained.

I walked up and down the cobblestone streets of Sopacachi, first to the Plaza Isabel la Catolica to the plaza named after Eduardo Abaroa, the “defender of Bolivian literature” — Eduardo didn’t seem very heroic with a bird on top of his head.  I eventually made my way up the hill to the Plaza Monticulo (picture above), which overlooked the mountains and suburbs of the south.  I felt at peace with La Paz at this park and sat on a bench with a book until it started to rain.

BACK IN MY ROOM in my central La Paz hostel, two new roommates filled up the two other beds:  Gilbert, from Holland, on holiday in Bolivia for a second time, and Tim, a 33-year-old surfer from western Australia continuing his way down south from San Francisco, USA.  We chatted about our travels until there was a knock on the door from the girl Tim had split a cab with.  The door opened and revealed a familiar face:  Lara, whom I had tracked down in Cusco for Christmas, had tracked me down in La Paz.  I thought it might have been pretty bad ass to say “Well, well, well…Ms. Croft, we meet again…” but after an 11-day hiatus,  it was just “Hey!“s and hugs.

I gathered my two new roommates and Lara gathered her one, an English girl named Christy whom she met at (the Copa,) Copacabana.  We were joined by a Dutch guy and girl for dinner and drinks.  “There’s a Chinese food place across the street,” I said.

“Chaufa de pollo?” Lara replied.  The chicken fried rice-loving Tomb Raider was back.

AFTER DINNER, WE WENT OUT bar hopping, from a bar with a no show from the three Texas Lara met at (the Copa,) Copacabana and invited, to an overly romantic bar with sleepy piano music that made us all want to slit our wrists, to Sol y Luna, a decent bar that served, amongst many drinks, Bolivian mojitos — mojitos with crushed coca leaves instead of mint.  Lara and I caught up on our adventures — she too had lived with a Titicacan family on Isla Amantani.  She figured I got sick from my host family’s less-than-stellar kitchen; hers was immaculate — well, as immaculate as you can get for a mud hut.

We all had rounds after rounds of drinks and conversation until we called it a night sometime in the early morning.  It was a great night out after waking up to a dreary day, but I suppose when you’re in a city at the bottom of a canyon, you can only go up from there.

Next entry: Journey to the Moon and the Zoo and Brazil Three Times

Previous entry: Jackie Chan to the Rescue

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Comments for “Making Peace With La Paz”

  • Erik - glad you are feeling better! smile Sounds like La Paz is looking up!

    Posted by Liz  on  01/09  at  02:42 PM

  • I thought i will be first. you beat me ,liz…
    Son, we are glad that you are feeling better. Take it easy for a while. The pics are awesome.  take us there, the temp here is 1 degree with windchill factor of -9, how do you like that?
    take care &God; bless…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/09  at  04:19 PM

  • Yes, frigid temps here in Jersey. I hope as you travel the world you travel WITH the warm weather.

    La Paz is so huge and modern. I’ve learned alot from all your pics how SA really looks, and that its big cities are beautifully engineered with parks and quite modern, and life looks much like it does here. Yet the farther you get from those cities the more ‘traditional’—and what I percieved as typical—the country and it’s people live. You’ve opened my eyes. Thanks, and keep those pics coming.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/09  at  07:10 PM

  • Great stories, dude.. 
    Markyt, love the snowball fight game, addictive!!  Got to Level 9/657 pts on the fourth try..  maybe I have an inside scoop on snowball fights living in Alberta, Canada??! smile
    Erik: take a pic of your bags as you’re packed for a relocation, I’m interested in seeing how “light” you packed yourself.. and lastly..
    Is it generally understood that travellers don’t steal from each other?  I mean, you’re not carrying your laptop with you EVERY second.. no fear of theft?
    My wife and I (former travellers) wish you all the best..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/09  at  07:37 PM

  • great pics erik. looking fwd to rio. see you in about a month.
    take care.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/10  at  01:30 AM

  • woohoo! lara’s back in the picture. and now you are making me want chaufa de pollo. =P

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/10  at  03:42 AM

  • Wow, day 81. Only like, what, 400 more to go? (bad at math)
    I’m glad that you and Lara finally met back up and that La Paz is getting better.
    Thanks for keeping up with the journal, and for all the pics you post.  It’s better than an episode of globe trekker(unedited and almost live).

    Posted by Alyson  on  01/10  at  03:54 AM

  • Hi bud,
    Don’t you miss my sotanghon soup with lots of ginger & garlic? or my arroz caldo?  ummm…. I made a pot
    of arroz on new year’s day. aimee & cookie loved it.. want me to send you some?
    we’re off to church. temp is 7 degwindchill factor of -3. we’ll meet the gang the the ramsey buffet for lunch, tita nene’ b-day.
    God love you, my son.. take care

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/10  at  12:49 PM

  • ALL:  Thanks for the comments guys…sorry I’m behind… I’m sort of a part of a big travelling group now, which translates to less internet time…will catch up though!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/10  at  03:09 PM

  • ALYSON:  Yeah, I’m the interactive virtual Ian Wright!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/10  at  03:11 PM

  • DARCY:  Generally the vibe I get from travelers in the dorms is that they are more worried about you stealing their stuff than them trying to steal yours.  I haven’t had any problems yet, knock on wood.

    Pacsafe makes wiremesh nets that fit over a bag,  making it hard to cut through…however, it also attracts a lot of unnecessary attention.  Luckily they also make an internal pouch version with the wiremesh, which is where I keep my laptop…  I never bring it out in a shared room, it’s always locked up and padlocked via cable to the bed frame…  All my cameras are locked to the cable as well.

    I’ll take a photo of my bag and post it when I pack up for whereever I go next—I haven’t decided yet.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/10  at  03:15 PM

  • Hola Erik,
    Como estas? Todo bien again? Been doning catch-up on the blog again (yours and mine). Am now in Argentina, in Buenos Aires. If you like big cities with a vibe to them, you should definitely come down here. Been staying here for two weeks, since newyears eve and this place rocks! About time I moved on again though, so tomorrow I’m off to Uruguay for a couple of days. After that back into Argentina again, south to Patagonia. What are your plans?

    Posted by Pepe  on  01/10  at  06:29 PM

  • PEPE:  Hey man!  Glad to hear from you…  I’ve been to BA before… yeah, it’s great.  Filling up on steaks and beer I hope?  I’ll be working south through Bolivia, and from there I don’t know… I’m trying to be in Rio the week before Carnivale, but I’m also trying to see the Pantanal as well.  Not sure what path I’ll take yet…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/10  at  07:51 PM

  • I love Ian Wright!

    I’m glad everyting is on the up&up; Erik!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/10  at  08:30 PM

  • Mojitos with coca leaves instead of mint?  hmmm….  that’s interesting…..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/11  at  12:30 PM

  • DARCY: I’m glad u enjoyed the game…. more links to come when available….

    ERIK: i guess you got better and got me sick…bastardo….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/12  at  02:48 PM

  • Hi Erik,

    Name is Fernando, Leah’s friend.  I’m originally from Bolivia.  I’m glad its looking up for you, hope you are still there when you get this.  Few pointers.  You need to get to the south of La Paz, San Miguel.  There you will find many cool places to go.  Capostraste is a very cool bar, there is also Recknika Fuks (I think that is how you spell it) its a beer bar lots of beer from all over the world.  You also need to get to the Rock House, very cool bar.  Also try to get out and see one of the many folkloric groups out there.  Some play at the Rock House on Saturdays, ideally you should try and catch K’achas or Wayna Wila, they are the best.  Finally, Eduardo Abaroa, he is probably one of our gratests martirs but not for literature but for the territory called LITORAL that gave Bolivia passage way to the Pacific Ocean.  We lost it to Chile.  Just thought I would clarify.  Have fun, and please let me know if you need any other info.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/26  at  06:28 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Journey to the Moon and the Zoo and Brazil Three Times

Previous entry:
Jackie Chan to the Rescue


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