In my life I visited so far a fair amount of countries; consequently, I also visited at least one city per country. The more cities you see, the more chances to see something you don’t like grow, but in the end, I have to say I enjoyed almost every places I visited. Of course, there are cities I liked a lot or others I was a bit disappointed with, but sometimes this isn’t related to the place itself but to the expectations in your mind about that. The risk, if I can call it so, is that the more you imagine something beautiful or amazing, the more it’s likely to disappoint you.
In any case in my trips I ran into only one city that, from the first to the last day I spent there, I truly hated visiting: La Paz.
Too many expectations?
Honestly, not. I only knew it was, and still is, the highest capital city in the world and I wanted to spend a couple of days there since it’s was on my way to reach Peru. It was 2010, and I was already in Bolivia since one week, more or less, and I was heading to Lake Titicaca, so a stop in La Paz was due. In retrospect, I should have let it go and saved those days for better places.
I guess my mind erased big chunks of my memory about my stay, or I need a security clearance I have no more to see those facts, but just to start, I don’t remember where I spent the first night and how I reached that place. I only remember I arrived in La Paz late at night. It was about midnight, and the bus left the other people and me on the higher part of the city, in the poorest barrios. Next thing I remember, it was midday, and I was in a big hostel booking my stay… No clues about what’s in the middle.
The hostel was big, modern and well reviewed, but since I’m also grumpy, it was too young. That means parties, loud music until early morning, drunk people (I despise drunk people) and people having sex next to my bed, under an improvised tent made of sheets. Plus someone stole my mobile cover, hoping to find the mobile attached, safely instead in my pocket.
The tour of the city wasn’t any better
Being La Paz on average at 3.600 meters a.s.l., the air is rarefied, and you breathe with difficulty. I was not suffering from soroche, that is altitude sickness, since I was used to heights due to the week I already spent in Bolivia, but in La Paz it was different.
First of all, consider the city as a rollercoaster. It’s a continuous up and down of streets and alleys, requiring you to climb your way up and struggle to reach the top. No matter how you are trained to hike, it’s exhausting. You’ll stop to rest and breathe more times than you’d like, only to realize that you’re inhaling gaseous shit. Vehicle fleet was, and maybe still is, the worst you can find, with cars and vans probably illegal even to keep parked, if you live in a civilized country.
The city was overcrowded with vehicles, from standard cars to taxis and colectivos (cheap shared taxi, with fixed routes), all of them emitting black clouds of dense smoke. VW could have used the city as a test track for their cars, no one would have noticed their issues!
Now sum these two factors, height, and pollution, and this is the conclusion: you desperately want to rest and take a huge breath of fresh air, but the only thing you can have is smelly smoke painting your lungs black. I looked up in the sky so many times with a defiant look, but then I saw the surrounding hills covered with brick houses and I felt depressed.
Every minute there was a minute too many, breathing was painful, and my mood was under my heels. I remember nothing about the city except for the lamas’ fetuses sold in a market (Mercado de Hechiceria, or Witches’ Market) and a musical instrument made with the back of an armadillo, the charango. I didn’t even take a single picture in the city because of how much I was hating that place (thanks to Wikimedia for the images).
Finally, after I don’t know how many nights, I left that inferno to reach Lake Titicaca, promising myself never to come back.
I don’t know if it was just bad luck or it was me, and I can’t know if now the situation related to means of transport is somewhat changed, with less polluting emissions and less vehicle on the streets, but honestly I’m not that curious to give La Paz a second chance.
Have you ever visited a place you promised to yourself to never visit again? Tell me about it in the comment section!
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