My first impression of La Paz this time was the same as the first time nine years before. The city is very hectic, which traffic and people everywhere and lots of vendors on the side of the streets. It takes a bit to get used to it, but once you do, you see some order amid all the disorder. For example, certain types of things are sold on certain streets. The minibuses all follow a few fixed routes. Cars do have some respect for pedestrians crossing the streets.
Visually though, La Paz is not very attractive. One of the few nice streets is Calle Jaen, which retains its colonial style buildings.
On the bus ride into La Paz I saw two things I wanted to visit for sure later on. One was a great statue of Che Guevara made of scrap car parts. The other one was the new Teleferico cable car that was officially opened 2 days after I arrived in the city.
To go see the Monumento A El Che in El Alto, I took one of the westbound minibuses from El Prado avenue. The buses that go there have a sign saying ‘Ceja’ and ‘Autopista’ on the windshield. It trip costs 2.50 bolivianos and takes about 25 minutes. This was quite an experience as the traffic is insane. The minibuses usually have someone in addition to the driver collecting fares and yelling the destination non-stop. On the bus I was on, the one doing this job was a 6-year old girl. The statue is located at the intersection of the Autopista La Paz-El Alto (freeway) and Avenida Juan Pablo II. The bus goes on a highway for a while before arriving at an very busy area with an overpass over the freeway. You’ll see peole and vendors everywhere. This is where you need to get off. Take the stairs to cross the overpass and you’ll see the statue on your right. Alternatively, you can take the new Teleferico cable car toward the Estacion 16 de Julio and you’ll find the statue after a 5-10 minute walk.
Speaking of the Teleferico, I took it the following day, a day after it was open to the public. Each trip costs 3 bolivianos. The line was very long (30 minutes) as a lot of locals wanted to check it out for the first time. The trip up to El Alto takes about 10 minutes only. To avoid standing in line on the return trip, it’s best to buy 2 tickets at once. It provides fantastic views of La Paz, especially the cemetery.
I have only done 2-3 hours of sightseeing per day, preferring to spend most of the time in nice cafes reading books and writing for this blog. I felt that I had been moving too fast on this trip so far, so I needed to slow down my pace to avoid burning out. Last night I went to a English pub with Louise, a girl from England I shared dorm room with, and had fun meeting other backpackers.
My idea was to stay in La Paz for a couple of days before moving on to the mining town of Potosi. I have now been here for 5 days. For the last 2 nights I have been trying to board the bus but they have not been leaving due to a roadblock that has been going on for 7 days. I’m going to try again tonight but if the roadblock continues, I’m leaning towards skipping both Potosi and Sucre and go directly to the salt flats of Uyuni.