We decided as our bus drove into La Paz that we were staying more than 1 night. It is an amazing city, built on the steep cliffs of a valley, the lowest point of the city being about 3600m above sea level. Most of the time you are walking on a steep up or downhill and the first few days see you being out of puff almost constantly.
Because we had been travelling nonstop for 2 days to get from the Pantanal to La Paz, we decided that the 1st day was one in which to relax and do absolutely nothing. The next couple turned out much the same as we went for short walks around, went to a few bars, went to the witches market (where the llama foetuses are sold - good luck to buy one and bury it under your front door step!!!) and so on.
We decided to "do" the worlds most dangerous road. This is a downhill cycle that most tourists in La Paz try out and takes you down 3600 m in altitude on roads that have, at times huge precipices on their sides. Its not exactly "the worlds most dangerous road" since they have built another tar drag which all the crazy Bolivian buses use - the name comes from the days when the buses used to race up and down the road and regularly go off the side. Howeverm there are some hairy bits and the adrenaline dows pump. It turned out to be one of our best days on the tour so far, we went with a great company, had vey good bikes and it was brilliant to freewheel for 68 km!
After the bike ride we took another day to relax and then set off on a mountain trek - to the base camp of Huanya Potosi which is a 6000m high mountain just outside of La Paz.
The 1st night was pretty good and comfortable as we were in a well sheltered spot. However when we woke up, we were both feeling a touch groggy - early signs of altitude sickness. We pressed on with the Hike and by lunchtime, Lindy was in a bad way, feeling nauseous, a massive headache and struggling to walk. We decided to abandon the hike and told the guide we wanted out - but unfortunately there was not too much option - walking back would have been just as hard as going on to the next campsite and there was no option of being picked up anywhere. So Lindy had to soldier on and it was a very tough 6 hour trek to our campsite that night. Luckily, once we were there, she picked up and started to feel (a bit) better - however, I started to go downhill and overnight picked up a hacking cough and was in a similar state to Lindy was the previous night! Anyway to cut an incredibly long story short, we got to our pick up point at 2 the next aftertnoon, "cured" of high altitude climbing for a while.
A view of La Paz
When we got back to La Paz we read up on altitude sickness on the web and realised that the rule of thumb is not to go up more than 1000 m a day, once over 3000m. We had gone from 3600 to 5300 and thats probably why it hit us so badly - we definitely won´t be making that mistake again!
We spent the next few days in la Paz recovering, unfortunately having to cancel a few other tours we had planned on to the forest and salt plains and eventually set off on the bus again towards Cuzco to meet up with Dave and Lynn for our long awaited Machu Pichu - Inca trail