Friday, December 26, 2008

And then she was in La Paz

If it weren't for the bleary eyes from too much time on the salar (salt lake), even with my fancy shmancy alpinist sunglasses and a hat, and also for the fact that the connectivity in Uyuni was dreadful, to say the least, I would already have written from Bolivia.

A quick cross in from Chile across 3 days of desert punctuated by unreal pastel-colored lagunas replete with flamingoes and the occasional ribbon-festooned llama and a long flat drive across what appears to be the parched skin of the very earth found me and my five jeepmates in Uyuni, Bolivia. From here I had plans, most of which were strangely and unpredictably foiled. You see, they hung Lake Titicaca as a possibility before my eyes, and Lake Titicaca is on my long long list of places I've been meaning to go since I knew I could go anywhere. And this explains the five hours of mega vibrating bus with a special pimped-out clutch that wheezed everytime it was engaged, plus 7.5 more hours of smoother riding (same bus, better surface) and a bus bathroom whose door had to be held shut even while you were hitching up your pants. Not to mention waking up to a man dressed in camoflauge from stem to stern patting my blanket into place from where it had fallen off of me and onto the floor.

So now here I am in La Paz, a city I hadn't necessarily planned on being in, but which reminds me a teeny bit of Cuenca, Ecuador, with wide-skirted stovepipe-hatted cholas (indigenous women) with their long braids and colorful papoosed cargo or babies, depending on the woman, and the altitude that kind of makes you wonder where you've left your other lung, except that at 3700 meters, we're significantly lower than where we've been for days, including the night we spent sleeping in a rustic refugio at 4600 meters, and also at the hotel made of salt, where I just wished they'd hand me a rake and I could make my own zen garden out of the crushed salt that was the floor.

There a squadrillions more details to write, but for now I'm just absorbing this crazy thing that is deciding to come to Bolivia on a lark (visa processes notwithstanding), and then coming up here to La Paz with little forethought, and my Bolivia guidebook safely ensconced in my bookshelf in my apartment in Santiago. Remind me to tell you the story about the pannetone we carried around for a couple of days before finally digging into it this morning. And how if I don't get some coffee in the next 20 minutes or so, I'm just going to fall in a heap on the sidewalk, which, here in La Paz will not necessarily prevent me from getting run over by a bus.

More soon!

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