The City In the Sky

La Paz Travel Blog

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Taking a Dance Break in El Alto

Having picked up a Bolivian visa at the consulate in Houston in about 15 minutes, I was all set to arrive in La Paz.   Thankfully maybe I'm still in some sort of shape, or my mental preparedness leaked over into the physical, because while I may not have been at marathon condition, the altitude didn't really slow me down.   I walked dozens of miles over the first couple days around La Paz, which is saying a lot since its lowest point is 3400m/11,100ft and tops out at 4100m/13,500ft on the upper plateau of El Alto. And to the displeasure of my legs and lungs, absolutely nothing in that city is either flat or straight.  I walked all over the old town, along the valley rim of El Alto, up to the old cemetery, down to the new town at the bottom and everywhere in between.

The Steep Slopes up to El Alto
  The nights were cold, the days bordering on hot.  The views varied from chaotic labyrinth neighborhoods clinging on the cliff walls to open spaces with snow capped mountains in the distance.    The relatively new teleferic cable cars may not connect all the city (physically nor cost effectively) but it does seem to be one of the best suited public transit models in a place where every square inch is already occupied, roads are narrow and steep, and a subway is not even a remote possibility.  Streets varied from crumbling old facades, to refurbished colonial cobblestones like Calle Jaen.  Plazas ranged from long ramblas-like promenades with college students using their widths to practice choreographed dances, to those filled with protesters squatting for weeks at a time (apparently if it's not the handicapped wanting assistance, it's teachers wanting better pay, or students wanting better teachers, or laborers, or medical staff, etc.
Iglesia San Francisco
), to those like Murillo with only pigeons and no people since they are blocked by military police (to avoid being filled with protestors).

After exploring La Paz, I originally planned to do a day of single track mountain bike riding, but received a message late that they didn't have the minimum group, so settled for a descent down the Yungas Road, aka the 'World's Deadliest Road' or the 'Death Road'.  Maybe in the past years when a lot of vehicle traffic still used it, prior to being widened in sections, I can see why it earned the moniker.  But now that the new paved highway was built as a bypass, the old dirt road is predominately used by mountain bikers.  The van took us to the top of the new highway, where we descended from 4630m/15,190ft for 25km/15.

Meeting Of the Young and Old
5mi.  Then after a brief return to the van, we started again at the top of the old dirt Yungas Road at 3130m/10,270ft. 45km/28mi later we ended at 1190m/3,900ft, for a total of 65km/40.4mi and 3440m/11,286ft elevation drop.  The views were beautiful when the clouds cooperated, the road was quite literally carved out of the cliffs at some places, passing behind/through waterfalls at others.  The only hiccup was a flat tire in a particularly rocky section, but a controlled skid kept me upright around the turn.

simsing says:
Congrats on the feature! Loved the blog photo of Ahu Tongariki!
Posted on: Feb 08, 2017
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Taking a Dance Break in El Alto
Taking a Dance Break in El Alto
The Steep Slopes up to El Alto
The Steep Slopes up to El Alto
Iglesia San Francisco
Iglesia San Francisco
Meeting Of the Young and Old
Meeting Of the Young and Old
Offerings and Tributes
Offerings and Tributes
La Paz Hotels & Accommodations review
Economic Stay, close to everything
Since I had been traveling for about 4 months, I got the point where I needed to watch my budget. Milenio was one of the cheapest that I could find, y… read entire review
La Paz
photo by: wilfredoc2009