Tuesday, September 18, 2012

we climb to 14,000 feet

well not exactly...LOL- but we do get there by flying.  the group assembled in Miami for the most part with the exception of one west coast guy who we met in Lima when we transferred to a La Paz flight.  While the day was long because of the number of flights - it wasn't hard because the longest flight was Miami to Lima (under 6 hours)

so by Lima all fourteen of us were there.  Our flight to La Paz arrived at 1 AM.  Passport control was on the slow side but my visa on arrival was no problem (I actually went into a different line and made it through before all the luggage was there for the group- I had carry on only because the flights were Star Alliance on TACA and I knew I could get bin space with my gold level pre-boarding privileges.

so we left baggage claim and found Williams Pedro Flores our guide for the next six days.  The group consists of three couple who are traveling together (old friends and traveling companions for many prior trips) two couples who have joined the group as a couple and four singles - three women and one man... in the airport upon arrival we were learning what names people go by i.e. Catherine from the list goes by Karen... and I found out James went by Kimo to his family and close friends... he ended up being my travel bud for this trip...

all our luggage finally rounded up and everyone finally through the passport control we headed toward the bus for a short drive into the city center, the location of our hotel.  by now it was after 2 AM and since we were all tired Pedro kept his remarks to mostly matters involving non essential issues- in other words- don't try to give tourists important logistical information at that hour...LOL - so what we learned was 1. he needed our passports until we saw him later in the afternoon- 2. he had already checked us into our rooms so we could go there immediately 3. he would always have lots of water for us and there was coca tea in the lobby 24/7  4. we meet at 3 PM in the lobby for a short orientation walk. GOODNIGHT!

the room on the 8th floor was fine- just got a few things out of my luggage- knew I would be skipping the breakfast (until 10 AM) and I fell asleep pretty quickly -

was actually up shortly after 10AM and began feeling the effects of 14K-  roughly half the level of oxygen we get at sea level... everything is much more of a physical effort.  I went to the lobby and began drinking coca tea - LOL- can't hurt right?

the thing I really noticed was how dehydrated I was- and I wasn't really  hungry so when lunch time came I asked if I could skip the buffet and just order soup which they were nice enough to allow.  The soup was very tasty chicken with vegetables and I invited one of my fellow single travelers (Marcia) to join me when she came into the restaurant.  She was in the same shape- dull headache, dehydration driven no doubt and listless feeling.

at 3 PM as scheduled we gathered in the lobby for our walk- Pedro assured us (those who weren't felled already from altitude sickness) that we would go slowly.  LOL- he meant we would go SLLLLOOOOOWWWWLLLYYY.... LOL good guy- he knew having led other groups of sea level folks around how much of an effort everything was for us - so we left the hotel, five minutes later we were about a half a block away...

here is the write up from our materials about the day:

In the early afternoon, we’ll begin our walking explorations of downtown La Paz on a guided tour, starting out with the neighborhood of El Prado Avenue, Murillo Plaza, and San Francisco Church. While Sucre is the official capital city of Bolivia, La Paz is the country’s second-largest city, and is often considered its de facto capital. We’ll learn more about its current status and get an introduction to its history as we stroll past buildings that range from colonial cathedrals to the skyscrapers of the present day. And we’ll also take in some of the city’s striking settings as we walk, catching glimpses of the surrounding Andes Mountains, including the three snowcapped peaks of towering Illimani, the name of which comes from the indigenous Aymara people who lived here before the Incas, and whose descendants still dwell in Bolivia.

and so, for about two and a half hours we walked around the downtown area to some of the sights.  we learned about the flag that represents the various indigenous tribe populations (a beautiful rainbow checkerboard) and the current mayor (well liked) the current president (believed a buffoon by the citizens) the traffic controls of LaPaz (zebras- LOL) local transportation methods and were to get dinner near the hotel for when we were on our own. 

we came back around 5:30PM  and were scheduled for a dinner on the top floor restaurant at 6:30 - Pedro had taken our dinner orders earlier- chicken beef or cannelloni... all very well prepared and we started with a wonderful cream of mushroom soup.  a dessert selection rounded out the meal.

here are a few photos from day one:

Bolivia has the "highest" everything and the other thing they are famous for is they have the most forms- we found this out when we entered the country with our no less than six forms for passport control and visas... here men help others fill out forms as a way to make a living. A smart guy with a typewriter can go a long way here! We saw at least eight of these "street help for form work" guys.

above- local traffic control - the zebras who teach people- both pedestrians and drivers-  about cross walk etiquette and below a lady dressed as many many did- in local garb:

next up - a full day of touring in and around La Paz.... the dull headache stays but we get better at exertion as we acclimate.

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