For anyone who’s never been travelling, I can’t stress enough how it’s a totally different mindset from ‘holiday’. On a holiday, most things are already planned, or there’s nothing to plan; you can largely try to forget about real-life mundanities like washing and paying bills, and you generally have some sort of consistent company. Here, you’re trying to optimise your time and experience while keeping all your ‘life’ plates spinning – emails, having enough cash, laundry that may or may not be ready in time, keeping your stuff safe in new circumstances, suddenly remembering that you haven’t checked your bank balance in a while, constantly needing to make decisions, or at the drop of a hat needing to re-pack in yet another inventive way to be ready for the 5-day trip you just booked that has a space and weight limit!
Yes, there is the odd day that just works and you can relax and really enjoy stuff, but not as many as you’d think. Perhaps I’m at some sort of inevitable ‘can I keep doing this’ juncture!
With a random 10 minute boat journey in the dark in the middle of the tourist bus service from Copacabana to La Paz, where as usual no-one really had a clue what was going on, I arrived pretty late at night in the highest capital city in the world, and nearly forgot to collect my big rucksack from under the bus…
The approach to the city is, counter-intuitively, from above, and I found myself drawing a comparison with the pretty lit-up white(ish) calm wide streets in a night winter scene in a disney movie. Ironic, because in daylight, at first glance, La Paz is one of the ugliest cities I’ve ever seen! Incongruous with its natural surroundings. There is very busy traffic at all times of day and night, and I know that the water sources are very polluted due to heavy industry up-river and a lack of regulation.
An afternoon’s searching of poor alternative ‘hostels’ with a vaguely like-minded (but hungover…) guy from the dreaded party hostel led me firmly to the conclusion that in fact I should stay put. Moved rooms though: sharing an 8-bed dorm with a group of 7 Brazilian friends who don’t speak English is STILL not going to remove the loneliness!! Then I booked some tours and hoped that there would be nice people on them and that something would happen to lift my mood if I threw myself into things.
This is the ruins, still very much being excavated, of the centre of this civilisation that spanned roughly 3,500 years, before the Incas. UNESCO had halted work because different local people were taking different approaches, but now they’re all working together to continue uncovering the ruins. Before excavation began, the locals were just growing potatoes in the field referred to as having ‘standing stones’: the tops of parts of the huge walls. The stand-alone sun gate was planned to be carted off to Europe by an Englishman, but the second world war distracted him…
The faces made in white stone are theorised to be aliens!