6 reasons to love La Paz

After a month, we left Samaipata bound for La Paz, a city we had heard very mixed reviews about.

After 24 hours travelling, we arrived in bustling, busy, polluted but very cool La Paz. We found a ridiculously good value double room (70 Bs night) in Hostel Austria and set out to explore the city and its surrounding area.

La Paz is the highest capital city in the world. At 3600m to 4000m above sea level, the city sprawls across spectacular cliff faces and mountain ranges. It’s steeped in history, political chaos, has a colourful culture and a wide gap between the rich and poor; this city is a real marmite place, you either love it or hate it. We think you should love it for all it offers both in the city, and the surrounding area!

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La Paz at Sunrise

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Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

It was decision time. Were we going to do the notorious 9 day trek in Torres Del Paine (TDP) National Park; or not? This had always been on our ‘to-do’ list and I would go as far as saying that it sat comfortably on Max’s bucket list of things to do before he died! However, we had spoken to a lot of travellers on this trip and although no one had regrets about doing TDP, they warned us that it had become overcrowded to the point where you had to queue to ascend the remaining steps that enable you to get up close with the notorious spiky peaks that make up Torres Del Paine.  Did we really want to travel 5 hours back into Chile? To add to this, my knee was still giving me a lot of grief, Maxs walking boots had given in and the buses were full for 3 days. Unbelievable really considering this was the beginning of March, which is very much the shoulder season. Patagonia was well and truly testing us. Not to mention the cost of everything. Patagonia is one of the most expensive places to travel in South America, El Calafate particularly . I think we just wanted to ‘sit still’ for a moment, to stop hemoraging money and live the Patagonian dream whilst not racing through our savings; this is exactly what we would do at the Estancia and we could have been picked up on that day and started work at the farm.

However, fate came into play. The next day whilst still debating what we should do, we bumped into some french cyclists who we had met on the Carretera Austral. They had just booked their bus tickets for TDP and told us that one company had added a bus for that day at 4pm. So that was it, a sign.

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The Villa O’Higgins – El Chalten Crossing

It was again with heavy hearts that we waved ‘cheerio’ to Pepino, our local host for our unique night in the sleepy village of Villa O’Higgins. Being with him, his animals and our fellow Carretera Austral wanderers, was refreshingly humbling, as I witnessed a way of life that had long disappeared in our modern and aseptic Western societies.

Pepino was an incredibly generous human being  with a heart of gold. Not only did he offer us a place in his garden for our tent, the use of his stove, but he fed us home made empanadas and assisted Lottie in making “the best hot chocolate” she has ever had. EVER. Indeed the milk used in the process was milked that morning and heated on the wood fire oven. Proper rustic, and we love rustic!

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Detailed map of the crossing.

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Huerquehue National Park & Chiloé

After munching my way through that delicious mushy sandwich I quickly passed out. Through a haze of semi-consciousness I realised our bus had pulled over into a service station and thought maybe the driver needed to stretch his legs. I dozed back off and woke up 30 minutes later to find Max not by my side but walking towards me saying, “You’ll never guess what? We have broken down!”.

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