South America on a shoestring

Travel time: June - December 2004  |  by Rob W.

Losing it in La Paz (my wallet)

La Paz, June 25 - 27

Now I´d only heard bad things about Puno, and only heard great things about La Paz. As such when I found myself sitting on the Arequipa - Puno bus next to a Dutch girl planning on getting all the way to La Paz that day I decided to go along with her. We got to Puno on a comfortable Cruz del Sur bus and headed for the local bus terminal to get a colectivo to the Bolivian border. Within 20 minutes we were on a local bus to Desaguadero, and as always it was packed and smelled a lot. 2 hours later we were at the border, and it was pretty chaotic. It reminded me of the Poipet border between Thailand and Cambodia as it was really just a big market, and it wasn´t immediately obvious where the fuck we were actually meant to go. Once stamped into Bolivia we headed towards the La Paz bound minibuses which looked packed and uncomfy. However after picking up a random English bloke at the border we decided to take a taxi between the 3 of us for Bs100, around GBP3.50 each! Pour quoi pas. 12 hours total journey from Arequipa to La Paz was pretty good going. Upon arrival we stayed at the Hotel Solario which was cheap. That´s about the only good thing about the place though. It´s packed with clique-ey Israelis, the hot showers aren´t hot and the staff are downright rude. There aren´t enough bathrooms and those that are there are not massively clean. In case it´s not obvious, I wouldn´t recommend the place!

La Paz itself was chaotic, dirty and packed with people, making it the sort of city I usually find fascinating. However while trying to find a travel agency on the first day there I was pickpocketed which soured my view of the place somewhat. Someone poured something onto the back of my neck and I instantly thought back to a story I´d been told by another traveller and reached down for my wallet which was in a zipped pocket on my thigh. It was already gone but I´d felt the guy brush against me so confronted him in Spanish. He denied it of course, and I even offered him more money if he gave me the wallet back with my driving license, student cards, credit card etc but the bastard got aggressive and I had to leave it. Not before calling him the ´c´word though of course. After cancelling my cards and calming down a bit I decided I´d had enough of La Paz already and went to book a flight up to Rurrenabaque in the Bolivian jungle. With time then to kill I went to Cafe Ciudad (fantastic steak!) with a Dutch girl I´d met to watch Holland win their first ever penalty shootout against Sweden in the Euro´s. A few beers later I was more philosophical about my bad luck that day, after all it´s the first time I´ve ever had any serious hassle on any of my trips and after hearing some people´s horror stories I can´t really complain! I did resolve however to always wear my money belt from now on! With a flight from El Alto airport to catch at 6.45 am the following day I decided not to try out La Paz´nightlife just yet and had an early night in the freezing cold El Solario!

La Paz - the good

  • Steak and football at Cafe Ciudad

  • It's setting in the valley

  • Cafe El Sol y la Luna selling draft beer and tuna sandwiches! (Calle Murillo)

  • That´s about it!

La Paz - the bad

  • The thieving bastard!

  • Absolutely freezing cold nights

  • Generally unfriendly people

  • El Solario

  • Altitude and hills.... a bad combination!

  • Bloody ugly

  • The lack of change anywhere. Try and change a B100 note and you´ll understand!

© Rob W., 2004
You are here : Overview The Americas Bolivia Losing it in La Paz (my wallet)
The trip
Backpacking in South America then 5 months at uni in Brazil, despite the fact I don't yet speak Portuguese. Bum.
Start of journey: Jun 12, 2004
Duration: 6 months
End of journey: Dec 24, 2004
Travelled countries: Peru
The Author
Rob W. is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 17 years.