2 Weeks in La Paz, Bolivia


Route Oruro, Bolivia – La Paz, Bolivia (RN1)
Distance 180Km
Travel Time 6 hours
Road Conditions Tarmac, in places heavily grooved
Weather Clear, Cold
Terrain Altiplano, mostly flat
Food and Petrol Frequent
Accommodation Residencial Sucre, La Paz

Oruro to La Paz is a rather dull ride, with minimal change in the monotone landscape. The thing that’ll keep you awake though is maneuvering the dips and deep grooves in the tarmac.


Approaching La Paz itself is more interesting though: once you have piloted through the higher-lying part of the city build on the flat alpine plane, named El Alto, you then steeply descend into a crevice many kilometres across; a large,deep bowl rimmed with dramatic, beautiful, quedebras and ice-capped mountains, containing the city of La Paz. Spectacular!




The ride into La Paz itself is mind boggling: the traffic is incredible, human and vehicular pushing its way through narrow, stall-lined streets and alleys throughout the town. With a heavily loaded bike this is a riding adventure indeed!



We stay at the Residencial Sucre (Calle Colombia 340) and later, the Inti Karka, the latter is slightly cheaper and has a kitchen, but both are good and have bike parking inside. Both are also within walking distance of the tools and mechanical repuestos (spares) area, which is located 2 blocks West of Plaza de San Pedro, on Zolio Flores, which is very convenient, as well as in the vicinity of plenty of dining options and food markets.



La Paz is buzzing! Everywhere’s a hive of activity and chaos beyond belief. Streets are awash with intense colour and clutter, established shops selling everything you may need from bathroom plumbing and cement, restaurants and laundry services to alpaca pullovers and other delicate handicrafts of all descriptions; on the pavements in front of them are endless arrays of stalls selling everything else you may want to imagine, from super glue and screw drivers to safety pins, dog leashes, batteries and chewing gum; and of course, food! Nuts, char-grilled bits and pieces you may or may not want to identify, cheese, spices – you name it.



And of course to round it all off, people clambering over it all to find what they’re wanting, get where they’re going. And wherever they may be going, one fact persists: it’s either a steep uphill or downhill from where they currently are, guaranteeing a (literally) breathtaking journey in this 3500m-plus altitude.



Interesting things to see in this city are, particularly, the Witches Market (around Av Santa Cruz), as well as the huge market just North of Av Santa Cruz, where you will be able to get lost and find just about anything you are looking for. In fact this whole area is like one big market. Cluttered with shops and stalls selling everything you can imagine, from dried lama embryos to sewing kits to light bulbs and used liquidizer jugs and (unused) underwear. I do love the way people re-sell used stuff that others may need, unlike in our “1st world” societies where we just dump everything half-broken in the rubbish bin.



Yes, markets are definitely the highlight of this city there are plenty to see, just walking the streets. At the Witches Market we find plenty of essential oils and finally we can replenish our stock of skin-revitalizer-insect-repellent and the abundant camping stores finally provide us with the camping gas we’ve been searching for for months. (Sadly, however, a camera service is not on the cards for Ebru despite the size of the city: though we do find one guy that is supposedly in the position to do it, a short conversation with him convinces us that he hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about and we give it a rain check.)


We also (and this is the part I enjoy the most) get my other boot fixed, which took some damage returning from our day excursion on the Death Road (Carretera de la Muerte).


We spend nearly two weeks in La Paz. We get some bits and pieces we need for the trip and I do an oil change on the moto and of course we do a bit of sight seeing as well.


On Av Murillo we find a great little pub called Oliver’s English Pub & Restaurant (http://www.bolivia-online.net/en/la-paz/136/olivers-travel-bar-la-paz-bolivia). The great atmosphere, wifi connection and food, such as massive BLT Sandwiches and Bangers & Mash, and of course the Full English Breakfast, bring us back to this place almost daily. We meet Todge, an Ozzie miner who’s travelling the continent, and working there (filling up vulnerable visitors with cheap local spirit), and we get on splendidly.


Entries for the Crazy Sex Position Competition in Olivers…

Our initial leaving date to Copacabana is delayed after several travellers at Oliver’s tell us they didn’t find it “all that”, and so we stay to spend my birthday in La Paz. (Which I’m glad about, because later, Copacabana doesn’t turn out to be “all that”.)


On my birthday Ebru treats me to a lovely meal (I mean a fine-dine meal like we haven’t experienced since deep, rural, Aimogasta in Argentina) at the Sol y Luna restaurant just next to Oliver’s. It’s fantastic and afterwards we spend the rest of the night partying it up with the folks in Olivers, meeting interesting characters and having many interesting conversations into the wee hours.


All in all, we like La Paz! It’s crazy, it’s hectic, it can be a bit challenging to deal with at times, but it’s very rich in character, culture, things to do and things to see. Miss it at your peril!