Friday, July 1, 2016

[LA PAZ] It's the Climb

Don’t be sad if you can’t find the cable car stations. It’s not the end of the world. Given the hilly topography of La Paz, you are bound to end up somewhere high enough for you to appreciate a panoramic view of the city. At least this is what happened to me after I braved a few uphill climbs here and there until I reached the top of Mirador Killi-Killi. My only suggestion is that you do this before you check out so your baggage won’t weigh you down. I know mine did, and it was just a backpack!

The first agenda of the day was to find Plaza Murillo because that’s where all the government buildings are, in short, selfie central. Checking out from my Airbnb place, I wondered if I should steal one of the owner’s maps as a form of revenge for the complicated hot water system his bathroom had me suffer during my stay. But I didn’t need one. What I did was simply follow the roads going downhill. After half an hour or so, I found myself it the capital’s main artery. Suddenly, everything was lively.

Plaza Murillo was on the other side, which meant climbing uphill again. My legs rebelled and took me to this Mexican resto bar called La Cueva instead. Touché, legs. Those albóndigas were worth it. And then I had to find the office of Altitude Travels so I can book a last minute Uyuni Salt Flats tour. I booked the RT bus tickets eons ago but it’s only now that I realized that those tickets are just for transportation. Hey, at least I realized it before it was too late. Anyway, that area had narrow streets and some colonial buildings.

The Witches’ Market is also just a block or two away from the office. I know the name sounds exciting AF and in my head there were images of witches and wizards Avada Kedavra-ing each other in that street. It'd have been a nice party to crash, except that there was really none of that. What you see instead are old ladies selling herbs and spices to gullible tourists. They seemed kind at first glance, although I’d bet their sons-in-law have a different opinion.

I had to cross a few more blocks to take a photo of the hills in the background, except my stupid Samsung Galaxy S4 was already begging for euthanasia and resisted taking a good shot. Sometimes you just wish your phone’s camera were as potent as your eyes. Most of the time, they just aren’t. And so I started walking the other way and ended up at a plaza with a big church, a big crowd, and a big Samsung billboard. A few more photos were taken before I was walking again, uphill, towards the plaza I was looking for.

I had to go inside a mall to pee. The guard told me that the men’s room was on the sixth floor and the escalators were not working. Why does everything in this city have to be a fucking climb? Is this a bad Miley Cyrus joke? Because if it is, then my bladder is not laughing. My bladder and I survived but my legs were so grumpy at this point they just wanted to kick my face. Finally, we entered a gated area full of police officers. There was a huge strike that day and some locals were in the streets protesting.

But nothing bad happened. I still got my cityscape shots and lived to tell the tale. Plaza Murillo is worth the hike. There is a small plaza, a church, and at least three government buildings worth the selfie. There were also locals just chilling there, some of them chasing pigeons, some being chased by pigeons. It was like a less brutal Latin American version of Hitchcock’s The Birds. At least it was all sunny and the sky was blue. One can appreciate even the little heat that brings on a chilly day.

How I ended up at Mirador Killi-Killi, I had no idea. All I know was that I was climbing again when a guy who caught my lost gaze told me that the mirador was another 10 to 15-minute climb. Ooh, was he psychic? Nah, I was obviously a tourist, and where else will I go, right? Like, doh, how predictable could I be. I arrived at the gate of the viewing deck the same time two Caucasian tourists got off their taxi. Now that’s a bright idea, why didn’t I think of that? Sorry, my brain must be malfunctioning in this altitude.

The views from the mirador are spectacular to say the least. This does not seem to be La Paz’s highest vantage point but it does provide you with a good 360 panoramic view of the city. There is no entrance fee so enjoy your freedom. I suppose it’s free because they thought tourists might go berserk after enduring that climb and having to pay when they get there. Well, kudos, Bolivian government.

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