Bolivia: Rough country with (too) big differences
La Paz and Santa Cruz, Bolivia`s two largest cities, are completely different. Just walk their streets and see the imbalance between them, as well as within the eternally restless Bolivia.Beautifully decorated, well-organized, comfortable Santa Cruz looks European, as well as its residents. Because of the similarity of the city, stay there was even a bit boring - as if we have not moved from Europe. Situated in the valley, Santa Cruz is greatly planned and street layout is almost schoolar - all the streets intersect at right angles, and are connect to a large concentric rings which spread from the center. In the center is a beautiful square, dominated by high palm trees. There is the imposing cathedral and several museums.
Shock in La Paz
As we sat on the bus and drove to the capital of Bolivia, La Paz, we have experienced a shock. Disorganized, congested traffic, noisy and anarchic La Paz is the antithesis of Santa Cruz. Although this is the highest capital city in the world, and is situated at the highest altitude, road leading to it is going - down. Alto Plano, vast plateau in the midst of the Andes, is collapsing into a notch and creates a place where the city is situated. As the city could not spread any more, the extension was built on the plateau. Due to the physical separation, these are actually two million cities - La Paz and El Alto. While you are at the incredible height, La Paz is still surrounded on all sides by steep mountains and high mountain peaks. How is this possible? Simple - mountains rise to 6,400 meters and La Paz is placed "only" on 3,600 meters above sea level. Because of its position, that part of Bolivia is isolated from the rest of the world, including its residents, which seam as if they were from another time and space. Widely worn traditional clothing that is particularly striking among women due to the unusual hats. Unlike La Paz, villages in this part of the country are terribly poor. People live from livestock in dilapidated hovels, often without running water or electricity. In the center of the village are unusually modest church buildings, with poor and tiny houses which surround them.
Politically troubled country
Croatian newspaper recently wrote about the riots and killings in Bolivia, because the eastern part of the country, with Santa Cruz as the center, wants to stand out. That part of country borders with Brazil, and it is trying to run and catch a train to the future. And when you climb a mountain, you go back in time, in a long-forgotten world where people live very slowly. All this is fascinating and exotic, but under one condition - that you never have to live in such poverty.
Coca against altitude sickness
How do you react when you suddenly rises to almost 4,000 meters high? You`ll never know until you try. Everyone reacts differently - some feel ill, and some do not even feel it, everything is down to individual. We did not like it. Feeling faint as if you have a high fever, trouble with breathing and heart beating fast bothered us on every step ... And worst of all is unbearable headaches. Local prescription for anti-altitude sickness is - coca tea. It is not, of course, cocaine, but plain, tasty tea. Coca would be "quite decent" plant, like mint, if it would not be diverted to the production of dangerous drugs. In the rest of the world its cultivation is illegal, and Bolivia is in infamy as the world`s largest exporter of the plant.