La Paz: Walking Slow and The Valley of the Moon

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A girl tapped me on the shoulder and said to me in English, “Can you look at my bag for me for a second?”

“Sure, I’ll watch your bag, no problem.”

While she was gone, I noticed the button on her bag that said “Berkeley”. “Did you go to Berkeley?” I asked her when she returned.

Angelica was a fellow solo traveler (originally from Colombia) who had parted from her boyfriend and friends back in Lima after realizing the benefits of solo traveling (“I’m not so rigid that I have to stick to a fixed itinerary”, she told me). At 22 years old, she was an undergrad student at Berkeley studying Law who was taking a travel break. We talked for hours about social issues and progressive politics, and the life and times of solo traveling in South America. She loved it because she hated sticking to an itinerary, and wherever she went she met friends. She showed me a photo of herself and a couple from Columbia (I wish I could say the same thing…).

When we arrived to La Paz, I was amazed at how beautiful it was. Terra cotta block houses lined the hills of the valley on all sides, while white capped mountains bordered the city in the distance. It’s such a gorgeous city! I heard very poor reviews about La Paz, so I had pretty low expectations before I arrived.

la paz

Since Angelica was going to Sucre to meet up with her friends and do some volunteer work, we wished each other well and parted ways after our bus arrived at the terminal terrestre.

My hostal, Hostal Maya, is a fairly hotel in the heart of the tourist district of La Paz on la calle Sagarnaga. Since I crashed it, I only had access to a single room with a private bathroom – a bit expensive for my taste, but it was worth it. I was still sick, and needed to recover from my lack of sleep the night before.

las brujas

The heart of tourist town La Paz – an area called Las Brujas – is covered in brightly colored street vendors hawking amazing looking jewelry, tour companies bragging about mountain bike trips to “the World’s Most Dangerous Road”, and bad tourist food restaurants. I ate dinner at a Middle Eastern food spot up the street (despite the Lonely Planet recommendation, it was just ok) and bought three jackets for $700 bolivianos (about $33 bucks each) at a store selling adventure and climbing gear up on Illampu. I don’t know if they’re real or knock-offs, but if the gear holds up, it will be the best bargain ever!

Later that evening, I got an email from Angelica, saying that “something crazy happened to her” and that she wanted to see if I would be interested in hanging out in La Paz the next day. I said I was down. The next day, I met up with Angelica and explored the city (we both knew that there wasn’t much to see). We went inside the San Francisco Cathedral and went across town to la calle Jaen, where we looked at the outsides of museums (they were all closed due to the siesta break from 12 -3 pm each day) and took pictures in the pretty alleyway overlooking the city.

alley jaen

 Angelica had heard of a place called El Valle De La Luna on the edge of La Paz that looked really gorgeous – it actually reminded me a bit of the Badlands or Bryce Canyon back in the States. Being much cheaper than me (and being a native Spanish speaker), she helped us find a bus going in the right direction and got us on board to one of the few tourist attractions in the city.

valle de la luna

As we got off near the park, we walked down the road and found the small park of El Valle, surrounded by red mountains and tall piles of dirt. Apparently, once upon a time Neil Armstrong had visited the park and said that it looked just like the surface of the moon – hence it’s name.

valle angelica

There’s not much to the park, it’s just really pretty. Through rain and erosion, the land has created these interesting piles of tan earth and stones, that cover the area like a desolate alien valley. “I’m glad you took us here!” I told Angelica. I missed seeing the land again.

Later that day, Angelica told me that she was trying to make a trip to the Yungas to see the waterfalls in Corioco. I was really interested, but due to the late notice, I wasn’t sure if I could get out of another night’s hotel stay back at Hostal Maya. When we arrived back in town, we went earring shopping, ran errands, and went back to my hotel to see if I could leave. Of course they said I couldn’t get a refund, so Angelica and I parted ways once again as I went to find dinner and she went to find the next bus to Coroico. Hope she made it there safely – the road to Coroico is apparently pretty treacherous. Even the locals are scared to travel there!


Posted: February 3, 2013

Author: Tiffany

Category: Americas, Blog, Bolivia

Tags: , , , , , , ,


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