A rest in La Paz

From Sucre, I took the night bus to La Paz. I stayed here for nearly a week as my altitude sickness was fairly strong and I needed some time to recuperate. I stayed at an upmarket hostel not too far from the city centre, run by an enthusiastic local man who took a lot of pride in his recently opened lodgings, particularly the artisanal breakfast (it was good, but it wasn’t all that). Once again, I share some photo favourites.

La Paz as viewed from the neighbouring city of El Alto above during late evening. The low sunlight across the mountains was stunning. A budding network of modern cable cars makes it easy to get to high ground.
Empanadas constitute a typical paceño lunch. On the advice of the friendly hostel owner, I visited a local joint that makes them in the authentic manner. The stew contained within was very runny and to avoid making a mess I observed how other locals ate them before starting mine. The method is to hold the empanada vertically, take a bite off the end, then scoop out the insides with the spoon. Certainly this was unique compared to the way I’ve seen empanadas eaten in other South American countries.
Somehow this photo made the cut onto my blog! What a silly (but also adorable) dog. It was poking its head out from under the gate of its owner’s house. Just playing about, I think.
The main bus terminal, housed behind a very grand façade.
Inside the bus terminal
Basílica de San Francisco

My next stop was to Lake Titicaca, which I’ll follow up with in the next post.


Uyuni and further upwards

I confess that it’s been a while since my last blog entry here. Actually, nearly two months have passed since I concluded my travels in South America and returned to England. I’ve so far documented the highlights of my seven weeks in Argentina from start to finish, but haven’t yet broached the latter six weeks spent in Bolivia and Peru. Rest assured I’m determined to finish my story, as a) I don’t like leaving projects half-way and b) I still have plenty of impressive photos and stories to share.

I ventured north from Salta to a small and dusty border town called La Quiaca, where I spent a single night before crossing on foot into Bolivia. From the other side of the frontier I would make my way up to Uyuni, a small city and gateway to the country’s fabled salt flats. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I would be going there by train: there is a narrow-gauge railway network that connects what I presume are the key mining towns of Bolivia together. Originally built to carry mineral exports to the Pacific coast via Chile, there are currently a handful of passenger trains each week.

A brief word about altitude sickness. Since Salta, I’d ascended from a modest 1,150 metres above sea level to 3,700m in Uyuni, and I would be ascending to a staggering 5,000m+ for a brief period during the salt flats expedition. The NHS website states:

Altitude sickness is a common condition that can occur when you climb to a high altitude too quickly. The decrease in atmospheric pressure makes breathing difficult because you aren’t able to take in as much oxygen. Most cases are mild, with symptoms that can include: headache; nausea; dizziness; exhaustion.

Proper acclimatisation to altitudes of about 2,500m (just over 8,200 feet) or more is the best way to prevent altitude sickness. It usually takes a few days for the body to get used to a change in altitude.

I was lucky enough not to experience any headaches, nausea or dizziness whatsoever. However, I did suffer from fairly extreme exhaustion for quite a few days as well as breathlessness when exerting myself physically.

After resting for a few days, I embarked on the Salar de Uyuni three-day expedition, in which you get taken to see the famous salt flats, and then up into the surrounding mountains. It is a breathtaking tour and is more or less the sole tourist draw to the city. Below are a selection of photos from the trip, which the iPad version of the WordPress website has arranged into a very nice mosaic-style grid.