A girl tapped me on the shoulder and said to me in English, “Can you look at my bag for me for a second?”
“Sure, I’ll watch your bag, no problem.”
While she was gone, I noticed the button on her bag that said “Berkeley”. “Did you go to UC Berkeley?” I asked her when she returned.
Angelica was a fellow solo traveler (originally from Colombia) who had parted from her friends back in Lima after realizing the benefits of solo traveling (“I’m not so rigid that I have to stick to a fixed itinerary”, she told me). We talked for hours about working on progressive social issues, and the life and times of solo traveling in South America. “I love solo traveling, I’ve made friends everywhere!” she told me.
When we arrived to La Paz, I was amazed at how beautiful it was. Houses lined the hills of the valley on all sides, while white capped mountains bordered the city in the distance. It’s such a gorgeous city!
Since Angelica was going to Sucre to meet up with her friends and do some volunteer work, we wished each other well and parted ways after our bus arrived at the terminal terrestre.
My hostal, Hostal Maya, is a fairly nice hotel in the heart of the tourist district of La Paz on la calle Sagarnaga. Since I crashed it, I only had access to a single room with a private bathroom – a bit expensive for my taste, but it was worth it. I was still sick, and needed to recover from my lack of sleep the night before.
The heart of tourist town La Paz – an area called Las Brujas – is covered in brightly colored street vendors hawking amazing looking jewelry, tour companies bragging about mountain bike trips to “the World’s Most Dangerous Road”, and bad tourist food restaurants. I ate dinner at a Middle Eastern food spot up the street (despite the Lonely Planet recommendation, it was just ok) and bought three jackets for $700 bolivianos (about $33 bucks each) at a store selling adventure and climbing gear up on Illampu. I don’t know if they’re real or knock-offs, but if the gear holds up, it will be the best bargain ever!
Later that evening, I got an email from Angelica, saying that “something crazy happened to her” and that she wanted to see if I would be interested in hanging out in La Paz the next day.
I said I was down. The next day, I we met up and explored the city (which, there isn’t too much to see). We went inside the San Francisco Cathedral and walked across town to la calle Jaen where we looked at the outsides of museums (they were all closed due to the siesta break) and took pictures in the pretty alleyway overlooking the city.
Angelica had heard of a place called El Valle De La Luna on the edge of La Paz that looked really gorgeous – it actually reminded me a bit of a mini South Dakota Badlands or a mini Utah Bryce Canyon back in the States. Being much cheaper than me (and being a native Spanish speaker), she helped us find a mini-van bus going in the right direction and got us on board to one of the few tourist attractions in the city.
As we got off near the park, we walked down the road and found the small park of El Valle, surrounded by red mountains and tall piles of dirt. Apparently, once upon a time Neil Armstrong had visited the park and said that it looked just like the surface of the moon – hence it’s name.
Through rain and erosion, the land has created these interesting piles of tan earth and stones, that cover the area like a desolate alien valley. “I’m glad you took us here,” I told Angelica. I had missed seeing the land again.
Later that day, Angelica told me that she was going to make a last minute trip to the Yungas to see the waterfalls in gorgeous Corioco. I was really interested, but due to the late notice, I couldn’t go. So Angelica and I parted ways once again as I went to find dinner and she went to find the next bus out of town. Hope she made it there safely!