La ruta de Sucre a Oruro estuvo bastante bien, excepto por un pequeño incidente con un policía que a pesar de estar en el puesto de peaje y ver pasar miles de autos, no sabía cuánto costaba el peaje, y nos decía que teníamos que pagar más. Durante la charla con el policía un colectivo nos rozó el auto pero sin producir demasiado daño. Seguimos tranquilos a Potosí aunque con lluvia y de ahí a Oruro. Oruro es la principal ciudad donde se festejan los carnavales, estaban preparando las gradas para los desfiles, y la ciudad era un caos. Encontramos el hotel recomendado, que no era tan recomendado, y salimos a cenar. La noche no fue muy buena con los ruidos de la calle, y después del desayuno salimos despavoridos para La Paz. Llegamos bastante rápido, y nos fuimos directo a un taller Toyota para hacer el cambio de aceite al auto. El taller quedaba en El Alto, cerca del aeropuerto de La Paz, y estaba todo cortado porque justo se festejaba el día del Alto. Las calles estaban llenísimas de gente, la mayoría cholas, con sus almuerzos y chiquitos. Estuvimos en el taller casi toda la tarde, hasta que cerca de las 6 pm salimos hacia La Paz en busca de nuestro hotel. El tránsito caótico, es poco. Autos, colectivos, camiones, gente, todos por todos lados, sin respetar señal alguna, de contramano, en rojo, atravesados. Todos atascados y a menos de 5 cm unos de los otros. Claustrofóbico. Pasamos por varias calles repletas de ferias ambulantes y gente y autos claro. Después de 2 hs llegamos al hotel, también en un barrio lleno de autos y puestos ambulantes. Mi cumpleaños hasta acá no había sido de lo mejor, pero por suerte el hotel era muy lindo y con un restaurante que resultó delicioso, asique disfrutamos de una rica cena. Al día siguiente, paseamos por La Paz, la calle de artesanías, un parque con juegos para los chicos. Mañana partimos hacia Coroico, el principio de las Yungas.
Oruro and La Paz, Bolivia
March 1, 2 and 3, 2011
After leaving Sucre we backtracked to Potosí and then headed North to La Paz. We spent a night in Oruro because it was getting late and made it to La Paz the following day. Oruro was being readied for the weekend celebrations of Carnaval the coming weekend. Oruro holds the biggest celebrations in Bolivia and the city is completely transformed and overcrowded. We were there on Tuesday and streets were already blocked to traffic in preparation. We stayed at what we had written down as the best hotel and ate at the best restaurant in town. I can’t imagine what other places were like. We left early for La Paz.
La Paz is at almost 4000 m and is built on mountainsides so it gets tiring very fast to walk around the city. We utilized the taxi up the hill, walk down the hill technique and did quite well. Taxis cost at the most US$ 1.50 within the city. We spent all morning at a park with games for the kids and stayed away from the crowds. We were a bit short on oil after the oil change so in the afternoon E went to get more oil and tools for the next oil change while the rest rested at the hotel. La Paz was lively with hundreds of school children throwing water and foam at each other. Markets and small shops multiplied all over the city apparently selling the same items: cheap chinese plastics, street-made food and ‘micro-markets’. It’s interesting to visit for a few days but gets tiring fast.
When we arrived in La Paz from Oruro we headed directly to a Toyota mechanic (Toyosa S.A.) to service the car for the first time. We mostly wanted an oil and oil filter change, tire rotation and inspection of the fuel filter and lubrication. It didn’t go very well. E had to buy oil himself since we wanted to keep using synthetic oil. Luckily we had brought several oil filters but our oil filter wrench was just a tiny bit small and because they didn’t have one it took a while to take the filter out. Including the stop for lunch it took about 7 hours for the oil change and tire rotation and we didn’t do the other stuff. When we left the shop there was traffic chaos, similar to what we had experienced in Sucre but complicated by the fact that there now were traffic lights and intersections. Vehicles coming from every direction tangled in impossible ways, every car within a few inches of the others. It sometimes took twenty minutes to cross an intersection only to get stuck at the next one. It took us over two hours to get to our hotel that was about three miles away. MELT doubts it can get worse than this. Today was L’s birthday and she wasn’t quite happy with how it was going. Thankfully we ended up in a nice hotel and had delicious dinner.
In Sucre we had reluctantly decided to scrap our plans to visit Coroico, the entrypoint to the Yungas (the beginning of the Amazon), after hearing about the heavy rains that were causing mud and rock slides that blocked off roads. We checked with three travel agencies in Sucre and all recommended against going. In La Paz we mentioned this to a taxi driver and he said the roads were fine. We then checked with four travel agencies in La Paz and they all said there were no problems. So we reverted to our original plan and headed into the Yungas.