4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

La Paz, Bolivia: At the Top of the World

The highest capital in the world, La Paz, Bolivia, sits at roughly 11,975 feet above sea level.
The highest capital in the world, La Paz, Bolivia, sits at roughly 11,975 feet above sea level.

In the fast-moving modern times of the travel business, how does one decide between, say, the Bahamas or Singapore? One brochure boasts luxury in Honolulu and another calls you to Paris. One hotel has a pool, the other free brunch until noon, the other free HBO. This is all tricky business. That is, unless you’re equipped with a sheer inquisitiveness for world culture at a primitive level: in which the local peoples shell out displays of inter-connected culture, customs of language, food, traditional rituals and fashion, and of course, themselves.

I happen to come across such pockets of culture in the thin air and wispy clouds of La Paz, Bolivia. Apparently the consensus is that La Paz is the highest administrative and de facto capital city in the world. Seemingly enough, much of your lack of punctual decision making can be attributed to the lack of oxygen in your brain at such altitudes. Hooray for cognitive functioning at an altitude!

Imagine taking a local bus into town with wafting aromas of chicken feathers and earthy spices. Roads wind down into the valley. Mountains topped with white snow stand in the distance. Ah, the mystical city of La Paz.

The city is a colorful crooked crag, enveloping a valley at the base of a chain of mountains. Veins of earth cut their way downward into the high-elevation valley that is La Paz. It smells of smoking mystic herbs, exhaust and dust-filled, high-elevation, dry Andean air. Bring a few extra red blood cells along with extra layers (the nights get pretty darn cold) and undiminished perception for a third-world culture quite untouched by the Western world. Welcome to the Wild West of South America.

For a taste of local Bolivian reality, view the sidewalk cluttered with a bewilderment of shuffling feet angst-stacked in unorganized lines outside many of La Paz's banks. Today, utility bills are due for many of the poorer locals. Surprisingly enough, they wait outside of the local banks to pay their utility bills. They do this process once a month. No PayPal account. No online banking. No stamp, mailbox and lick of an envelope. You wait outside the bank, cash in hand, hoping you'll have enough Bolivianos to pay your monthly utility bills.

For shopping, people watching or simply sheer shock, check out the “Witches Market" at the upper end of downtown. Lines of temporary propped clothed tents sit adjacent to a lengthy winding street just above the downtown financial district. One vendor's store sells sewn llama feet for mystical superstition, just in case a bad omen comes your way, and another sells hand-woven socks. Bead-clad demon monster masks are among the atypical items hanging from the low ceilings of the tent. To settle your anxieties: this is the cheapest Latino-style swap meet you’ll ever encounter, so buy a gift for a friend.

And then it’s the belly-filling food. Hot flavors emitting from large stew pots enthrall your senses. Grab a spot in line behind one of the many local Bolivians for a taste of some aji de lengua (cow tongue sauced with a concoction of beef broth, native herbs, spices and veggies over potatoes). And put out the fire with chicha (a milky-white sour alcohol made from corn).

If strolling through the city isn't enough, expose yourself to cutting-edge adventure – teetering on the edge of possible lunacy – by climbing a 6,000 meter peak. After all, the longest mountain chain in the world, the Andes, forms the spine of sequenced snow-capped beasts jutting through the middle of the country. There are two snow-capped peaks just outside of La Paz suitable for an array of mountaineering styles.

One, Huayna Potosi, is 19,974 feet and is known as one of the easiest 6,000-meter peaks in the world. Partly due to the fact that the peak can be climbed in two days and "no actual mountaineering experience is required," cajoles the chuckling Bolivian head salesmen for one of the many mountaineering companies (70 U.S. dollars gets you to the top along with guides, food, crampons, ice axe, rope and headlamps). Breathtaking, mind-elating and soul-shaking views can be had from the summit, including Lake Titicaca. If you’re oxygen-deprived enough, you may even see a feather-clad shaman.

The other peak, Illimani, sits at 21,122 feet and can be done in four days.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Hello granny flats, adios trees

City rule is now to add one 24-inch box tree
The highest capital in the world, La Paz, Bolivia, sits at roughly 11,975 feet above sea level.
The highest capital in the world, La Paz, Bolivia, sits at roughly 11,975 feet above sea level.

In the fast-moving modern times of the travel business, how does one decide between, say, the Bahamas or Singapore? One brochure boasts luxury in Honolulu and another calls you to Paris. One hotel has a pool, the other free brunch until noon, the other free HBO. This is all tricky business. That is, unless you’re equipped with a sheer inquisitiveness for world culture at a primitive level: in which the local peoples shell out displays of inter-connected culture, customs of language, food, traditional rituals and fashion, and of course, themselves.

I happen to come across such pockets of culture in the thin air and wispy clouds of La Paz, Bolivia. Apparently the consensus is that La Paz is the highest administrative and de facto capital city in the world. Seemingly enough, much of your lack of punctual decision making can be attributed to the lack of oxygen in your brain at such altitudes. Hooray for cognitive functioning at an altitude!

Imagine taking a local bus into town with wafting aromas of chicken feathers and earthy spices. Roads wind down into the valley. Mountains topped with white snow stand in the distance. Ah, the mystical city of La Paz.

The city is a colorful crooked crag, enveloping a valley at the base of a chain of mountains. Veins of earth cut their way downward into the high-elevation valley that is La Paz. It smells of smoking mystic herbs, exhaust and dust-filled, high-elevation, dry Andean air. Bring a few extra red blood cells along with extra layers (the nights get pretty darn cold) and undiminished perception for a third-world culture quite untouched by the Western world. Welcome to the Wild West of South America.

For a taste of local Bolivian reality, view the sidewalk cluttered with a bewilderment of shuffling feet angst-stacked in unorganized lines outside many of La Paz's banks. Today, utility bills are due for many of the poorer locals. Surprisingly enough, they wait outside of the local banks to pay their utility bills. They do this process once a month. No PayPal account. No online banking. No stamp, mailbox and lick of an envelope. You wait outside the bank, cash in hand, hoping you'll have enough Bolivianos to pay your monthly utility bills.

For shopping, people watching or simply sheer shock, check out the “Witches Market" at the upper end of downtown. Lines of temporary propped clothed tents sit adjacent to a lengthy winding street just above the downtown financial district. One vendor's store sells sewn llama feet for mystical superstition, just in case a bad omen comes your way, and another sells hand-woven socks. Bead-clad demon monster masks are among the atypical items hanging from the low ceilings of the tent. To settle your anxieties: this is the cheapest Latino-style swap meet you’ll ever encounter, so buy a gift for a friend.

And then it’s the belly-filling food. Hot flavors emitting from large stew pots enthrall your senses. Grab a spot in line behind one of the many local Bolivians for a taste of some aji de lengua (cow tongue sauced with a concoction of beef broth, native herbs, spices and veggies over potatoes). And put out the fire with chicha (a milky-white sour alcohol made from corn).

If strolling through the city isn't enough, expose yourself to cutting-edge adventure – teetering on the edge of possible lunacy – by climbing a 6,000 meter peak. After all, the longest mountain chain in the world, the Andes, forms the spine of sequenced snow-capped beasts jutting through the middle of the country. There are two snow-capped peaks just outside of La Paz suitable for an array of mountaineering styles.

One, Huayna Potosi, is 19,974 feet and is known as one of the easiest 6,000-meter peaks in the world. Partly due to the fact that the peak can be climbed in two days and "no actual mountaineering experience is required," cajoles the chuckling Bolivian head salesmen for one of the many mountaineering companies (70 U.S. dollars gets you to the top along with guides, food, crampons, ice axe, rope and headlamps). Breathtaking, mind-elating and soul-shaking views can be had from the summit, including Lake Titicaca. If you’re oxygen-deprived enough, you may even see a feather-clad shaman.

The other peak, Illimani, sits at 21,122 feet and can be done in four days.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

A People’s Cuban Christmas Tale, Hirie and Tribal Theory, Snow N Glow Holiday Festival

Events December 2-December 4, 2021
Next Article

Mira Mesa First Assembly of God Church: a life transformed

Keeping the world out of the church and getting the church into the world
Comments
2

You made a very good description of La Paz and surroundings. I live in La Paz and I am always amazed of new things to see and to live. People are eager to share their views and know visitors, so in addition, if you visit La Paz, try to learn about the people and talk to them; you will be surprised about their view of life. I work with Indigenous people in the countryside, and it is a different and wonderful experience too. http://proartesania.webs.com/

March 6, 2011

Exceptional real life information regarding La Paz Kip--KUDOS once again for a very great article !! Keep'um coming.

Sharing from Redlands, CA

March 29, 2011

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close