“A re-occurring theme for my travels was the fact that I had found many capital cities along the way lacking in character – yes, they had history, art galleries and museums, but that’s all the stuff straight out of a textbook. The majority of them are the administrative capitals and not a whole lot more. Santiago, Chile was okay, but my time there was enhanced by my friends, Pablo and Vicky. Havana, Cuba, had been the last capital city which I really enjoyed – Until now.“
Yes like Santiago, Lima, Bogota etc. It has all the commercial and administrative bollocks. It’s importance to Bolivia cannot be overlooked though. The city generates 30% of Bolivia’s GDP.
Asides from these sorts of things however, it’s primarily a place filled with adrenaline and excitement. In truth, the biggest complement I can give it right now, is that I haven’t experienced a city quite like it; I found it unique.
The intensity of La Paz is immediate. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a taxi from the airport, or an overnight bus; either-way your vehicle finds itself labouring, struggling, essentially crawling to a precipice prior to arrival. Imagine being at a massive theme park where you have your big roller-coasters where before the sensation of your insides being jolted by the 200ft drop, you experience the never-ending climb accompanied by the clunking sounds of the nuts and bolts.
“It’s like an age. A lapse in time. Anticipation builds.“
But just like a big roller-coaster, the climb is worth the wait. The spectacular sight of the city is like a punch to the stomach, there you are at 3,640meters above sea-level, staring out across the highest capital in the world gasping for air. Magnificent.
Skyscrapers and clusters of church towers act as the heart of the city, surrounded by a sea of red bricks. From a distance, it appears as though it’s all made of tradition Lego. Reds, blues and whites.
To the South-East, La Paz is guarded by the daunting, yet intriguing Mount Illimani, part of the magnificent Cordillera Real.
When walking around, such is the effect of the altitude, you feel as though you’ve had one too many with your mates. Simultaneously fascinating but yet a total blur. The city is loud, there’s hustling and bustling and energy is literally bursting at the seams.
Everything is in fast forward, but its not overwhelming, nothing nauseating. Street food in Bolivia, especially here La Paz, was a genuine surprise, in a good sense too.
Your soups, llama’s, chorizo’s and what have you, all tickled your taste buds with a higher quality and superiority than they had done everywhere else.
In addition to the craziness of day time hours, the nightlight life too was in a league of its own. From the local bars, to the traveller tales of Route 36. Nothing fancy about any of it. Just a distinctive attitude of nothing trying to be something it wasn’t. None of this Regaton shite, proper music was everywhere. Salsa, guitars, piano’s. All genuine. Nothing commercial. Originality and purity at it’s finest.
A true South American ‘must visit’.