Oct 3, 2013
La Paz summed up in one word….surprising. La Paz, at 3,600meters/11,811 feet is the world’s highest capital city. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, lunar landscapes and red rock cliffs, the city’s setting could not be more spectacular. It’s quite stunning but I have to confess that I wasn’t fully prepared for the poverty. Most of the city is really run down and the poverty is evident everywhere one looks.
I knew going on this trip that Bolivia is South America’s poorest country and I have been to poorer countries in Asia and Africa, yet something here has caught me by surprise. Maybe having children has made me more sensitive. The energy in this city just feels a little depressed.
A definite upside for the traveler is that travel in Bolivia is pretty cheap. We are staying at the five-star Camino Real Suites, located in a swanky neighborhood of La Paz and our two bedroom/two bathroom plus living room suite costs about a $100. We also had an absolutely gourmet meal in the city’s best restaurant,
founded by a Danish chef who wanted to explore Bolivia’s unique ingredients, for less than a $100 with drinks. Pretty amazing!
I don’t want to paint an unfairly negative picture of La Paz. It’s actually quite beautiful in its own way and very unique. We took a tour of the city today on a double-decker tour bus. As a traveler without kids, I would not be caught dead on one of these but having kids, we have found these tours to be a great way to see cities. The kids love sitting on the top deck of the bus and we get to ride around and see the city without anybody complaining, “How much farther do we have to walk?”
We did get out and stretch our legs a bit and did a spectacularly beautiful 45 minute hike through Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), so named because of the moon-like rock formations at this altitude. I was quite impressed that we could all do the hike at this altitude.
We also got off our tour bus to walk around the Witches’ Market, by far the most interesting thing we have seen in a long time. At the Witches’ Market, you can find lotions and potions for everything from attracting the love of your life to putting a curse on your enemy. You can also find llama fetuses for sale. These are believed to bring good fortune to people constructing a new house and are buried under the foundation before construction begins.
As an aside, today was a real turning point in our lives. We left Jade, our eleven year old, to babysit her sisters at the hotel for a couple of hours and went to dinner, just the two of us! I was kind of nervous to do this in a hotel in a foreign country but this hotel is like my husband’s second home (he travels to Bolivia for work every month) and he assured me that it is very safe and secure. Plus, the girls were very excited to have room service for dinner and…. watch cartoons on TV. (Another benefit of being a no media Waldorf family is we can get a lot of cooperation from our kids with the promise of a little TV).