jueves, 21 de enero de 2016

Kateri's Top 4 La Paz Experiences!

So you’ve arrived in La Paz and are wondering what to do with your time.  There is no easy answer to this question, La Paz is an incredible tourist destination and at times can be extremely overwhelming with its plethora of activities and guiding companies welcoming you at every turn.  Sometimes even searching online won’t give you the upfront honest answers you are looking for.  If this is the case for you, I am here to help.  I have had the opportunity to live in this city for the past 6 months and pretty much every weekend has been a different adventure of sorts.  I’m here to tell you about my top 4 experiences so far, both on and off the tourist map.  All of these are within a 45 minute mini bus/taxi ride of the city and are extremely low budget.  If you find yourself in La Paz for only a few days and want to make the most of them, I highly recommend any of the following:  

#1: Paragliding with AndesXtremo
AndesXtremo is a small local company that specializes in extreme sports.  They do everything from paragliding, to trekking to rock climbing.  The guides are incredibly safe, professional and helpful.  I chose to partake in a once in a lifetime opportunity to fly over the Andean mountains on the outskirts of La Paz.  The cost is 450 Bs, which is on the lower end of the usual guided tour prices.  A paragliding trip with AndesXtremo will begin in La Paz, followed by a beautiful drive through the south and then up a steep road that will bring you to the right altitude for takeoff.  The launch point offers you stunning views of Illimani and the surrounding mountains.  After a safety talk and gear check, you will be ready to fly eye to eye with the birds.  These are the best guides in Bolivia and I had the time of my life.  After a thrilling thin air, Andean style paragliding experience they will take you for some popular local food and drink in Mallassa.  Overall a 10/10 experience and I would recommend it to anyone who has an extra day to spare and the taste for a little La Paz Xtreme.  

#2: Hiking the Tuni Condoriri
Tuni Condoriri is a wonderful, high altitude hike achievable in one day if you are short on time, or two days if you would rather take your time and camp among the mountains and glacial lakes at base camp.  This “short” trek takes you through the spectacular, glaciated Andes, and is possible for anyone in good physical condition and well acclimated to the altitude.  No special equipment is required, just good hiking boots, warm, layered clothing, sun, wind and rain protection. The trek starts at an altitude of 4500m and rises slowly to the turquoise Chiar Khota Lake, at the base of massive glaciated peaks.  The summit is at a stunning 5400m viewpoint with views of the Cordillera and Lake Titicaca.  You could use a guiding company for this trek if you like, but it is also possible to organize your own transport to the base of the hike at Janchillani, and (as long as you are well prepared) do the trek on your own!  Transportation takes about 2 hours and will take you through El Alto, the Bolivian Antiplano , and the Cordillera Real.  I did this trek in two days with a group of 6 friends.  We had a fantastic time both hiking and camping.  It is a solid hike with stunning views without too much technicality and preparation necessary.  Definitely a must-do! 

#3:  Rocking Climbing and Hiking La Muela del Diablo
La Muela del Diablo is an iconic feature of the La Paz landscape.  The name means “Devil’s Molar” and refers to the shape of this massive rock feature.  It is visible from all parts of the city -  always reminding you to go check it out! Many people know that it is possible to hike this, but not many people know that you can actually rock climb it as well! There are bolted sport routes hidden in plain sight all over the formation.  Unfortunately, not much is written online about the specific routes, but if you are an experienced climber, know your personal limits and have the right gear, it is well worth a try.  The only website I have found any beta about the type of climbs available is on https://www.mountainproject.com/v/west-tower/110875008. My brother and I did this without using a guide because we are experienced climbers and had brought all our gear with us.  It is possible, however, to find a Bolivian guiding company to “show you the ropes”.  Even if you can’t rock climb La Muela, I highly recommend the 4 hour day hike from La Muela to the town of Jupapina.  You can access La Muela cheaply using the mini bus system, or a taxi service.  A taxi would cost around 80 bolivianos, but if you take a mini bus it will only be 3bs! Take the mini bus to Los Pinos as far as it will go and then just hike up through the town and you will find your way to La Muela.  Definitely worth checking out and it is only about 30 minutes away from the city center!

#4: Colibri Camping night out with friends 
Finally, if you are feeling city cramped and needing a quick escape into nature and silence, I recommend a trip to Colibri Camping Eco Lodge.  This is a beautiful camping facility with tents, teepees, cabins, a fully equipped outdoor kitchen, hot showers, hammocks, firepits and more! The best part is that it is an easy minibus ride from La Paz to Jupapina, it´ll only cost you 3bs!  I would recommend combining a day hike from La Muela del Diablo with a night camping at Colibri for an extremely full day and night of outdoor fun.  The owners of the camping facility would be more than happy to organize transport and tell you everything you need to know to make this adventure a success. It is amazing how wonderful it feels to find silence and stars no more than 40 minutes away from the hustle bustle of La Paz city center. If you are looking for a break from it all, this is the place to go! 

These are only a handful of the wonderful activities La Paz has to offer.  I hope this has inspired you to find yourself on an epic adventure, even if you only have a day or two and under 100 dollars to spare.  Good Luck and Happy Trails!

- Kateri Raglow