Ironically, I don’t like flying and I don’t like airports. I guess I’ve been conditioned to link the two with so much sleeplessness, hunger and waiting time. Not ideal.
But, I have to say, the start of this trip was really great and I guess it set the tone for the rest of it.
I caught the red eye from Miami to Santa Cruz where I had a two-hour layover before heading to La Paz. Of course, I decide to activate one of my main superpowers which is the ability to sleep anywhere at any given time. I wake up from my brief, albeit refreshing, slumber only to find a note and a coffee right next to me. Oh, and let’s not forget that this gate had a butcher shop…Very convenient in case you need to get that last minute raw sirloin before catching your flight!
Back to the note.
It read: “Hello, I noticed that you were traveling by yourself, so I thought that a little welcoming coffee would give you a little strength and good vibes for the rest of your trip. Have fun in Bolivia!”
I look around but cannot make out who the note is from. Odd. But. Nice. Back on the airplane we’re just about to take off when the stewardess tells me that I dropped something. It’s a second note from the same person. This one asked me if I wanted to join in on some La Paz exploration. I’m intrigued but can still not figure out who it’s from. At the baggage claim I notice someone standing behind a pillar writing. With the same colored pen. The guy is a fellow traveler from France. We decide to head to La Paz together on the cheapest airport transfer I’ve ever taken- my bus ticket was 2 bolivianos (about 0.29 USD). He was on a quest to find a motorcycle rental. That did not happen.
I had read up a bit on La Paz and knew I wanted to visit Valle de la Luna (at this point I thought there was only the one, turns out there’s one in Chile too. More on that later). We took a tour bus from Plaza Isabel la Católica to head to the spot. Had I known how easy the place was to get to I would’ve taken a public bus. However, one of the perks of the tour bus is that it features some rather amusing fun facts in its audio guide. These touched a lot on Bolivia’s tumultuous political history. Here are some of my learnings: apparently, this country has once had three presidents at the same time, once it had a president who was only in office for six hours and once it had a president who ended up being charged with a 30-year prison sentence. Very tumultuous indeed.
Getting closer to Valle de la Luna, I’m reminded just how amazing rock formations can be. It’s pretty incredible how mother earth can create these surreal landscapes. It really does feel like you’re making a moon landing. Who would’ve thought that La Paz had such a conveniently located moon access point!
After snapping a good number of photos and making the bus driver slightly annoyed at how long I took, we head back to La Paz. From there, I take a bus to La Ceja only to transfer to El Alto as I was going to my couch surfing host’s apartment. Funny thing is, grabbing a bus from La Paz to Ceja proved easier said than done. A funny thing bus drivers do when their bus is full is just to wave. I got a lot of waves. I should have counted them I realize now. There were a lot of waves.
I finally arrive at my host’s apartment. A one-bedroom with two queen sized beds squished into it (where all 6 of us couch surfing guests end up sleeping) right near the local University. Turns out Franz, my host, owns a karaoke bar close to his apartment. So we all make our way there, eat some good food and help him clean the place up a bit. As I’m scrubbing what looks like a dried piece of beef(?) off the floor I think to myself “How does one get into this situation? My first night in Bolivia and I’m scrubbing floors?” It’s so amazing the type of people couch surfing enables you to meet and the odd experiences you can get out of it- but hey, that’s pretty much a post in itself!
“Cool story, bro. But how much did it cost?”
Airport transfer: 2 Bs
Bus within La Paz: 2 Bs
Tour to Valle de la Luna: 50 Bs
Lunch: 5 Bs
Bus to la Ceja and El Alto: about 7 Bs in total
Total: 66 Bs