Sunday, November 18, 2012

(Gasp! Gasp!) Bolivia!

La Paz is a city unlike any other I've ever seen. I don't think the mental, oxygen-deprived fog that I first saw it through influenced my appreciation of its varied charms, but it was, and continues to be, quite the fog (excuse my less-than-perfect writing--the fog, the fog).
We've only been here a couple hours; the first 1 1/2 spent going through customs and retrieving 2 of our 5 bags. What's surprising about this is that any of or bags made it at all, as our itinerary to get here was Iguacu-Sao Paolo-Lima-La Paz, with about ten hours over night in Lima. In Iguacu we were told to pick up our bags in Lima (I assume because we were transiting through Peru from Brazil, and would need to go through customs). In the event, our bags were checked through to, in teeny print, LPB, and they did not appear in Lima. We had not received boarding passes through to La Paz. This morning in Lima we checked in, only to be told our reservations had been canceled (yes, midway through our flight). The agent was able to get us seats (4 middles and an aisle), and she stuck one each of our baggage claim tags, which Marsh was carrying all in a bunch, on our boarding passes. Not necessarily the passes that belonged with the bags, although the passes DID belong with the tags. Confusing traveling with five.
Time went by.
We landed in La Paz at a higher elevation than airplane cabins are pressurized to, so my half-drunk water bottle let air out when I opened it instead of in, and I realized I felt pretty woozy, a feeling familiar from 2008 when my lungs were half full of cancer. And then I got pneumonia.
This altitude stuff had me worried from the start, and I was quite anxious last night from Sao Paolo to Lima, and I was not at all surprised, when I pulled out my handy oximeter while waiting for bags to be located at the La Paz airport,We that my blood oxygen level was around 82%. That's pretty low, folks.
Anyway, I was able to appreciate the sights from our taxi: dirty and cobbled roads, women wearing traditional Andean skirts and bowler hats, and lots of busy-looking short-legged dogs. And then our taxi driver arrived at the ridge above the actual city, and it was spectacular, with two snowy peaks guarding the cram-packed valley. Steep neighborhoods of brick homes with football pitches carved out of hillsides march down to a colorful center of high rises. And all the way down, women still appeared in traditional garb.
I'm sorry we don't have time to acclimate here; we're getting on a catamaran across Lake Titikaka tomorrow morning super early, but I would love to come back some time.
While I've been writing this Ian got a call from the luggage agent that the three missing bags--his, Marsh's, and A's--had been found in Lima and will be here by 7 pm tonight. And I've found, maybe with the assistance of the coca tea served on arrival at the Radisson here, maybe just from lying down, maybe from the anti-altitude sickness meds, that my oxygen levels are doing better. Up to 93% if all I'm doing is breathing and staring at my oximeter.
Phew! Nap time!
one-fingered on my phone

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