South America Living

A Personal Account of Adventure in La Paz, Bolivia

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Celina Bledowska.

I’ve always had a soft spot for La Paz. This is probably due to a letter received by my father from one of his friends (back in the 1950s) who seriously asked how he could blow up the cathedral (in La Paz) in order to obtain the gold that was allegedly buried underneath the building.   Travel Guide to La Paz

The City of La Paz with Illimani in the Background

I hasten to add that such an explosion never did take place but it did alert me to the adventures that might be in store for those willing to explore this city, such as myself.

Fun and Games in La Paz

La Paz is one of those places where imagination plays a strong part in trying to navigate; navigate as in not only the city, but also in trying to come to grips with Bolivian culture.

The city is also the best place to build up supplies before heading on out to other more isolated areas such as the Amazon jungle or Salar de Uyuni.

There are small tiendas (shops in English) on every street corner selling basic goods, plus a few mega grocery stores such as Hipermaxi found in the Sopocachi and Zona Sur areas. Need a bunch of stuff and don’t have a bunch of cash? Visit the Hipermaxi.

Even though the cost of living is much cheaper than what you pay to live in the United States or Europe, it’s important to take healthcare expenses into consideration as well. You want to ensure that you have sufficient funds to embark on any treks or boat trips as well as travel insurance in case of any misadventure (misfortune as in accident) that may happen along the way. Quality healthcare can be difficult to obtain in some remote areas, and emergency flights are outrageously expensive.

A good tip from someone who has traveled La Paz extensively (like me…) is to remember to always expect the unexpected. One of my first tasks was to check out car hire comparison so that I could, at least, be independent and not have to rely on sweet talkng, over-charging (at times…) cabbies.

Many backpackers claim that La Paz can be boring. I strongly disagree.
Bolivianos adore any excuse to unwind and throw a fiesta (party in English) – with the city of La Paz no exception to this rule. The music might not be up to the minute hip-hop but it does, at the very least, encompasses the joy of those present who are living in the moment, that moment.

The Wonders of Lake Titicaca

Even though I suspected that my father’s old RAF friend was no longer with us I left La Paz in pursuit of his trail. While driving I played the Bueno Vista Social Club CD, real frontier music.   Lake Titicaca Travel Information

Yes, I know it’s from Cuba but some of the tracks really seemed to match the splendid backdrop and landscape as well as my daydreams. The spectacular scenery when you reach Lake Titicaca defies the wildest of imaginations; this truly is the place where heaven meets earth.

For those who have been trying to find the ultimate Bolivian experience, then Lake Titicaca might well fit the bill. This huge watery mass high up in the Andes can at times appear as if the elements are waging a continuous war against humanity with the harsh mountain winds, and then all is well again with the wonderful parties held by the local people, known as the ‘Campesinas’.

Anyone who wants to enjoy a truly Andean rural experience must spend some time unwinding with the locals. After a while spoken language ceases to present a barrier, Puno is the best point of embarkation to travel around the lake, and this former silver mine outpost is today a superb starting point for your Andean adventure.

I never did find my father’s friend but I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure inspired by his letters. Bolivia is a harsh country but it is also a place for dreamers. I hope you venture within its borders to chase your own.

Sincerely, Celina Bledowska daughter of Wladyslaw Bledowski MC.

Photograph by Mark Goble

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