Friday, April 13, 2012
The drive from Lake Titicaca to La Paz, Bolivia is one of the most adventurous I’ve ever experienced. Leaving the town of Copacabana, the road winds through thick green hills and along sapphire waters until it reaches a point where there should be a bridge. But there isn’t. There is only a wide stretch of water with no way to get across. So what did I do?
No, this isn’t Oregon Trail. I didn’t ford the river. I didn’t caulk the wagon and float.
I took a boat. And so did my bus.
While I sat in a crammed motorboat for the three-minute crossing, my bus boarded a long wooden raft that looked like it would buckle under the weight of a bicycle. But it didn’t. It floated across the river, bus on board, in a scene so strange that I could hardly believe my eyes.
Not long later I was back in my seat and heading to La Paz, the capital of the 88th country on my 90 under 30 Travel Project list. When the bus pulled into the terminal, I took a cab to my hotel, La Loge. It was located in a pretty neighborhood not far from the historic city center. It was also covered in murals and shaped like a boat. No joke.
The hotel, which was more of a restaurant with apartments on top, had offered me accommodation in La Paz for the night. As soon as I arrived, I was shown up to my flat, a huge two-room space that was big enough to sleep a small army.
But it was just me for the night, and I quickly spread out across the kitchen, living room, desk (complete with a computer, webcam, and the like), bedroom, and bathroom. It was so spacious that I could have stayed inside all night.
But I wanted to see some of La Paz. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time before sunset, so my meandering was limited to the area around my hotel. Thankfully there was a pretty park nearby and I found a couple of fruit and vegetable markets nestled among the historic buildings in the neighborhood.
Back at La Loge, I sat down for dinner in the ground-floor restaurant, La Comedie. I read about the place before I traveled to South America, and everything I perused indicated that it was the best restaurant in La Paz. The food was French, the ambiance golden, and the tables packed with people.
I ordered the gratin dauphionis with bacon, which my host lady in Nice used to cook for dinner when I lived in France. I needed to consume a calorific meal after recovering from the food poisoning I got in Cuzco, and the layers of cheese, creme fraiche, and potatoes hit the spot. That said, the flavors were slightly different from the ones I was used to. Maybe it was because the dish was made from one of the 400+ varieties of potatoes grown in the region. Either way, I was happy.
And sleepy. Thankfully I didn’t have to walk more than two flights up in order to indulge my food coma with a good night’s sleep. I needed it, too, as I woke up at 5am the next day to head to the airport for my trip from Bolivia to Peru.
As my taxi wound its way out of the deep bowl in which La Paz sat, I had spectacular views over a city of which I had seen far too little. But it was the last day of my trip to South America, and Lima beckoned.
While my flight out of La Paz was nowhere near as adventurous as my bus ride (and float) into it had been, the Bolivian mountain and ocean scenery out the window of the plane made it just as beautiful.
And then I arrived in Peru, ready to explore another South American capital. To be continued…