by Jerome au Perou
Mon Aug 20th, 2012 at 08:21:28 PM EST
Friday we flew back from Uyuni, and had a nice view of the city just before landing (the airport is on the high plateau on the left side of the picture):
We had a good walk around town on the same day. It's hard to described the city, as it's a mix of old and new, Spanish and Indian and other, modern and decrepit, etc... One thing is certain: there is not a single flat street in the whole city (except in El Alto, the huge shanty town built on the plateau above the city, around the airport and beyond):
Traffic is a mess, but it consists mostly of public transport, ie minibuses (on more or less fixed itineraries) stopping semi-randomly on the curb to pick up or drop passengers, plus a few old buses (as below) and some private cars. There's not so many cars compared to a Western city, but it's easily jammed - and above all, it's horribly polluting. Most vehicle are 20 years old or more, and the steep streets do not help (do no stand behind a bus climbing up a narrow street and belching their black fumes). We've forgotten how cars stank 20-30 years ago...
Here's the statue of Christopher Colombus:
And one of the strangest sights: llama embryos, naturally aborted, for sale in stores. These are stores in the tourist areas, so we really wondered what this was about, but it's apparently the locals who buy it in conjunction with indian customs - there's a big celebration around 15 August and the foetuses are buried as a gift to "Mama Terra"
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The next day, we went down the infamous "ruta de la muerte" (death road) which joins La Paz to the Amazonian basin. You need to go up a pass at 4,700m altitude and then go down to 1,100m.
Here's the plateau just before the pass on the La Paz side, and the view from the pass:
The road has actually been modernized, and the excursion "cheats" to some extent, as we take the new road for a while - the old road is visible on the other side of the valley:
After crossing a couple high perched villages (staying on the new road), we finally move to the embranchment to the "old road":
And here we go:
After about 10km like this, we get to see our destination (it's still another 15km to get there, but the road is less spectacular)
After lunch and some rest, we go back up the modern road, which has been built on the other side of the mountain (in the first picture, viewed from the old road):
As shown above, the new road gets regularly damaged by landslides and several parts were under repair. But it works fine - it took us about 2 hours to go back up from 1,100m to 4,700m (over 70km) despite the significant truck traffic (they go really, really slowly, in both directions..). As you can see, the clouds had been climbing up the mountains, and we did the last part of the climb under snow.
Altogether a(nother) long drive, but some rather spectacular views!
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The next day, we went to visit Tiawanaco, the largest archeological site in Bolivia (near lake Titicaca, on our way back to Peru). We had snow on the way there (the limit being just around 4,000m):
The site itself was not very spectacular, as it's been largely destroyed by the the colonial power and church, but it demonstrates the mastery of astronomy of the local population, long before the Spaniards or the Incas, with the temple perfectly aligned on NS/EW basis and the corners exactly aligned with equinoxes and solstices, among other neat tricks. Construction quality (the fit and alignment of the stones, for instance) is rather impressive. Below, a monolith, and the puerta del sol.
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Next installment: some train blogging!