Posted by: jimndianne | December 29, 2009

Nightmare Journey to La Paz!

22 – 23 December 2009 Ecuador to Bolivia

Our next adventure began early on 22nd December when we arrived at 6.45am at the Quito Airport via hotel shuttle. Once in front of the check-in counter for Lan Chile airlines, we were soon told that our allowance for travel was only one 23kg bag per person and not two at 23kg as we had been previously advised. We hastily presented our itineraries, showing that we were on around-the-world tickets, only to be told that the rules had changed in September and we could now only have two bags between us. Thus we would have to pay excess baggage. After we pleaded with her, however, she relented somewhat and made a call to her supervisor, who quickly turned up, glanced over our tickets and itineraries and told the check-in girl it was o.k., we could check in our three bags at no cost.

By 8.45am, when our flight was due to depart for Lima, Peru, en route to La Paz, Bolivia, the aeroplane had not even arrived in Quito due to heavy fog all around the area. As time went by we realised that by leaving late we would miss our connection to La Paz. The plane finally arrived and we  departed Quito at 10.30am, wondering

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how we were now going to get to La Paz. Upon arrival in Lima, however, at midday, all passengers were shunted together and given passes to one of the VIP lounges,

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where we whiled away nine hours eating and using our computers until 9pm when we were told we would now be going to Santiago, Chile, 3 1/2 hrs south (!). Crazy!! Those passengers whose destination was actually Chile were very happy but the rest of us thought the whole thing was becoming a nightmare!

We finally arrived in Santiago at 2.30am, (including 2 hrs time change) were told we’d be taken to a hotel but that it was quite far away. The idea was quite insane considering we’d need to return to the airport by 4am for the 6a.m. flight north again to La Paz, via another stop at Iquique! Although we tried lying down on the hard seats, sleep was impossible for most of the around twenty stranded passengers. We had managed, luckily, to send an email to our friends in La Paz informing them of our plight and  they’d told us to just catch a taxi to their Embassy upon leaving the airport.

Our bags had fortunately managed to travel with us (although the newly purchased suitcase had its lock damaged). Driving from the airport through El Alto came as rather a shock as the area was extremely poor with unfinished roads, many roving packs of wild dogs and now and then the sight of a dirty bundle, someone lying beside the road sleeping. However, as we drove out of El Alto (an elevation of 4050m), suddenly the road dropped over the edge of a very steep hillside and we were greeted with the most amazing  sight of a huge urban and city sprawl for as far

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and as wide as we could see, some 1000m below us.. The entire city area was within a vast gorge totally ringed by mountains, whose pinnacles of rock were in numerous colours of red, pink, brown and black! It was truly the most astounding sight we had ever seen in our lives!

We arrived at the Embassy, where Gaby and Gerd met us very warmly and Gaby bundled us into their car for the 20 minute drive to their home, high up in the hills on the opposite side of the city. Once there, we realised just how exhausted we were and although it was then about 10.30am we just tumbled into bed for a well-needed sleep!

It was 23rd December and the Embassy was closing early so our friends arrived back home early afternoon. After a few hours of sleep we felt refreshed and were able to get up and have a good conversation with them, our first face to face for seven years! We had lost a day of our time with them due to the delays etc but we still had nearly two weeks ahead of us here in La Paz, Bolivia, time to explore this incredibly unusual landscape.


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