Group meeting and orientation walk of La Paz
Jul 22, 2017
|Beautiful weather in the low 60s in the dead of winter! The hotel's internet sucks, which seems to be the case in all of South America so far, just saying.
We awoke at 8:30 to quickly splash some water on our faces, brush our teeth, and dress in yesterday's clothes to catch the free breakfast before they closed. It was a decent sized buffet - breads, fruit, eggs, sausage, pastries, etc. At breakfast, we met Bruce and Marilou from North Carolina. Nice couple.
After breakfast we returned to the room & put out the do not disturb sign, shed yesterday's clothes and hopped back into bed for some more sleep. We did not have to be to the orientation meeting until 2:00, and boy did we need the rest while acclimating to the altitude and lack of sleep. Jean got up at 12:45 to shower and dress and I soon followed to shower and shave and dress in clean clothes. Ahhh!
Ready to face the world, we proceeded down to the lobby, where we met Bruce and Marilou and the other four on the pre-trip. Our guide, Wendy met us and escorted us upstairs to a conference room where we had our orientation meeting. Wendy had Jean start the self introductions. The other people on the trip are Bruce (retired from R.J.Reynolds) and Marilou (retired math teacher) from North Carolina; Richard (retired) and Margie from Texas; and Kippy (retired librarian) and Lily (retired medical technician); and Wendy, our guide, has lived in La Paz all of her life and is married to another tour guide and has two teens, an 18-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter.
Wendy went over the geography of Bolivia (620,000+ square miles, population 10.5 million people) which has three regions - the Amazon region (60%) which supplies oil & beef; lush tropic valleys (10%) which supplies coffee; and the High Plateau along the Andes Mountains (30%) which is the region we will be in while here in Bolivia and which supplies minerals such as lithium, silver, wolfram, and many others.
Wendy told us that most of the cars and buses are second-hand from Chile. Many do not have a/c or heat. If one gets cold on the bus, the driver has blankets. She was preparing us for the bus we would use.
Wendy then went over the rules for the trip - rotate on the bus every day; be on time; no American politics; the people of Bolivia are shy, so don't take a picture unless you ask; be careful of your processions in the street; etc. She then gave us a piece of paper to write down what choices, as she read from the menu, we wanted for our welcome dinner. Then we were given 10 minutes to grab what we needed, and meet in the lobby for the orientation walk of La Paz. Now, in La Paz, you either go uphill or downhill, it is not a flat city. We were going uphill, so we grabbed a local bus just outside the hotel. It was crowed, especially with the 9 of us onboard. I was sitting next to Bruce, talking about visiting Hard Rock Cafes around the world. He collects Hard Rock pins also, and he does ball park visits. As we were gabbing, I noticed locals turning around to look at us.
We disembarked and found ourselves after a brief walk up an alley with many street vendors, at the main plaza which was surrounded by the presidential palace, a large church, and other government buildings. The park itself was filled with people feeding the hundreds of pigeons. We then walked around the city on the way back down to our hotel.
Along the way, Wendy would point out restaurants, shops, etc. We made one stop for everyone to exchange money. Along the way, in one open plaza, were 10+ dance groups practicing. We returned to the hotel about 5:30, and the park across from the hotel had a marching band that was practicing, and at the other end was another dance group practicing.
We had until 6:30 for dinner on the top 15th floor of the hotel to see the city at night. We used the time to organize our clothes for the next day and rest. We then met everyone upstairs for dinner. We sat with Kippy and Lily with whom we had pleasant conversations. Jean and I shared the soup/salad, then I had the chicken entree and Jean enjoyed the beef entrée. Wendy at the end of dinner, set the meeting time in the morning at 8:30 to go to the cable car system they use for mass transit.
After dinner, I wrote up my blog and Jean had the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) movie on after she had finished washing out her underwear.