Andean Adventure: Return to La Paz

The story so far: 42-year old male currently domiciled in Sucre, Bolivia, decides that it would be fun to climb some mountains and trek through the beautiful valleys and over the mountain passes of the Cordillera Real.

In what scientists may one day identify as a moment of mid-life crisis, this proves to be at best foolhardy, and at times terrifying and very, very cold. For three weeks, said 42-year old male departs the warm and pleasant climate of Sucre and heads for the mountains and a life under tent canvass…leaving him at times wondering if buying a sports car or dating an 18-year old with the IQ of a lemon wouldn’t be a more sensible mid-life crisis to be having.

He even buys a mid-life crisis mountain hat…

On the slopes before Vulcan Parinacota, Bolivia
On the slopes before Vulcan Parinacota, Bolivia


…after three weeks in the mountains I returned to La Paz and civilisation, desiring nothing more than a shower (preferably hot), a cold beer and the world’s most enormous steak.

As ambitions go, these seemed manageable, but this is Bolivia where “everything is possible, nothing is certain”. As we approached La Paz word reached us that the city was currently being engulfed by riots, there were blockades and there was rumour of the army being deployed to the streets.

I asked the driver why the army was being deployed. The answer, “It is the police who are rioting.” Of course they are, why wouldn’t the police be rioting?

Turns out that police demands for higher wages (and their general animosity towards the government) had tipped over into a strike and eventually riots, all gleefully reported in the media…

Trouble in paradise, La Paz, Bolivia
Trouble in paradise, La Paz, Bolivia
Trouble in paradise, La Paz, Bolivia
Trouble in paradise, La Paz, Bolivia

The police had attacked one of their own buildings in La Paz, smashed computers, burned files and other paperwork, started a bonfire with office furniture and fired their guns in the air. If you’re going to have a riot, you may as well have the professionals do it, so much more effective than just a few hoodies from the local estate smashing up a Boots on the high street.

Yet this is the same police force that likes to portray itself as a cuddly dog. Only a few blocks from the scene of the riots, this painting adorns the wall of a police compound…oh, the irony.

Trouble in paradise, La Paz, Bolivia
Trouble in paradise, La Paz, Bolivia

Mercifully, the police had limited their riot to a reasonably small area of the city, and I was able to reach my hotel, get a hot shower…you cannot imagine the simple pleasure of a hot shower under such circumstances…and a cold beer. All in time to watch England go out of Euro 2012 with a whimper.

More on what I’ve been doing for the last three weeks to come…

2 thoughts on “Andean Adventure: Return to La Paz

  1. Hi Paul, you are either very brave or fool-hardy, what an experience. Lovely views, will there be snow about when we come.? Hope you both are ok, x

    1. No snow in Sucre, but there’s bound to be some in the mountains near La Paz. You arrive in the summer, and it is likely to be a bit wetter then as well, but no need for the wellies. All good here, thanks. Hope all’s well there?

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