April 08, 2010

La Paz

 El Alto
La Paz is only 'tres hora' (3 hours) from Copacabana. When you ask somebody in Bolivia how far away somewhere is, you always get an answer in time, few can tell you the distancia.  Tres hora works out to about 150 km.  The area around Copacabana is very beautiful but as you approach La Paz it gets flatter and bleaker.  Soon you are in the middle of El Alto, a chaotic zone of ugly buildings, unbelievably heavy traffic, people everywhere, and no signs or directions.  Then like coming upon the Drumheller valley in the middle of the bald prairie, La Paz appears far below.
La Paz
La Paz is as modern appearing a city as can be found anywhere.  There are some differences from what I am used to, there does not appear to be any form of public transit, but, just about all the traffic you will see is privately owned buses and taxis. Todo Privado as my taxi driver told me.


Interspersed with the typical modern urbanite are the Indigeno ladies in their bowler hats and traditional dress.  Many Indigenos still speak their own language, Espanol is a second language for them.  They dominate the street vendor stalls which are everywhere, but not as concentrated as they are in the other places I have been in Bolivia, in El Alto they crowd just about everything else out.

The 'Traditionals' do not seem overly friendly and do not respond to a smile or a buenas dias, they are everywhere, but not really there, it is almost as if they are waiting for everybody to go away, so they can get back to living their lives undisturbed.  Most everyone in Bolivia is Indigeno or  mixed, but most are moderns,  I guess it is similar to other areas where a group have decided to remove themselves from mainstream culture, like the Amish in the US or the Hutterites in Alberta. At least part of the answer is that it seems many speak little Spanish.

The day before I had taken a tour boat to the Islas Del Sol, and visited an Inca ruin.   There I saw the ground littered with small pieces of ceramic pottery that could be thousands of years old.  The island has no cars, motos, trucks, or even bicycles.  They do have electricity and telephone, and are visited by motorized tour boats, but their own water craft is powered by paddle and sail.

My guide informed that there are no doctors, and that the inhabitants use only traditional medicine obtained from the plants that grow on the island.  He also claimed that people on the island live to be over a hundred years.  That certainly fits in with my prejudices concerning modern medicine.  Most people die in hospitals under medical care :-)  No hospitals no doctors, nobody dies.  I like it.  Isla del Sol looks a bit  like paradise, great weather, self sufficient, no health problems, rustic and beautiful, I just know that if I had to live there I would go right out of my mind :-)


More La Paz
More Ilsa Del Sol

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