The journey from the Cochabamba Valley at 2548 m (8360 ft) to La Paz, Bolivia at 4061.5 m (13325 ft) is a trek of a mere 240 Km (149 miles). Doesn´t sound like a great distance but when you consider the less than optimal single lane roads, rest stops and the climb to altitude, the passage requires approximately 8 hours to complete. But fortunately there´s a couple of Bollywood or Jackie Chan films to enjoy on the overheads and my favorite part being the long siesta en route to my destination. Oh, there´s the odd entertainment of babies crawling up the aisle as mothers snooze or the forever on-going unsolved conundrum of fellow passengers gathering their bundles to make good their escape into the expanse of the Altiplano, no pueblo or gathering of souls to be seen anywhere on the horizon. None, not one, nothing. They get out and move on...
The panoramic vistas are nothing less than stunning all along the way. My trip began with the scruffily overgrown Cochabamba and onto the village of Capinota where two rivers entice amazing amounts of verdant green from the countryside. There the climb begins to wend upward to the Altiplano where scrub vegetation grows sparse and gives way to barren rocks and tufts of scraggy grasses that feed alpacas and llamas. Eventually, you arrive at El Alto, a tenuous huddle of a million people (cum city) sprawling on the edge of La Paz situated in the canyons below. This is one of the few places in the world where the wealthy live at elevations lower than the poor. Why? At these heights the lower the altitude the more oxygen, higher temperatures and the better the gardens grow.
It makes for a long trip but it is more lesson in culture and topography and an opportunity to chat with people I´d never meet otherwise. I don't often travel by bus in Bolivia but when I do I enjoy the experience of slow travel and all it has to offer, including the luxury of not having to drive in an untamed land.
Copyright © Mick Huerta 2011. All Rights Reserved.
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