We have been warned against flying to La Paz but as it goes we didn’t really have a choice. La Paz has the highest airport in the world at 4,061.5 metres or 13,325 ft. We’ve heard stories of people arriving and collapsing after landing because their body couldn’t handle the altitude. But even though La Paz has a higher elevation than Cusco, we weren’t really too worried seeing as though we both managed to spend 4 days hiking on the Inca Trail and apart from the Colca Canyon incident, we’ve both managed to acclimatise okay. Surely there can’t e that much of a difference in altitude between the two places?
We arrived at Cusco’s airport pretty early and had to wait around for a bit before we could check in. Security seemed a little lax, and we were able to bring through a 1.5 litre bottle of water through with us. There were a lot of other backpackers on the place, especially British tourists. The plane journey flew by (excuse the pun) taking around 45 minutes. As soon as we took off, we were given a number of immigration/visa forms to fill out. After that they started serving us some food. It was only a small carrier but they started from the front to the back. We were sat in the middle. We were given (surprise, surprise) ham and cheese sandwiches. I don’t know why, but ham and cheese sandwiches seem to be the no.1 choice sandwich everywhere in Peru and maybe Bolivia too. The flight attendants were about two-thirds of the way through serving when we then heard the captain announce that they were about to land so the flight attendants had to strap back in. So the back third of the plane never got their food. Unlucky!!! I could hear some faint British grumbles and secretly thought how annoyed I would be too if I didn’t get my food, even if it was just ham and cheese sandwiches!
Once we got through customs, trying to take it slowly, all the backpackers appeared to huddle together. We hung around and then they asked us if we wanted to share their minivan. It was going to cost us 3 bolivianos each. In the van, we found at that one other girl was staying in Loki, the hostel that we had booked so that was quite lucky and everyone else had planned to stay nearby so it all worked out quite well. As the van was driving down towards the city, you got an amazing view of the city which was built at the bottom of a valley surrounded by rugged mountains. I looked over at John and he had a slightly worried look on his face…he just said he was feeling tired. The driver took us into the city and then kicked us out in the town saying that all the hostels were nearby. One girl (the girl who was staying at Loki with us) tried to pay with a 100 boliviano note as she didn’t have just 3 bolivianos. They took it and only gave her 40 bolivianos change. When she kicked up a fuss he said that she was paying for all of us and then drove off! Because there was only 10 of us, he had doubled the price so it was 6 bolivianos each (only 60p but every little counts!) and we all had to pay the girl. Conned!!!
It was lucky that the girl we were with had stayed at Loki before so she knew the way as we hadn’t got a clue where we had been dropped off. We walked for around 15 minutes and we finally arrived at Loki. By now, I could tell that something was wrong with John. He was quiet and looked a bit pasty. After checking in, luck would have it that our dorm was on the top floor so we had to carry our bags up three flights of stairs! When we got to our beds, John simply collapsed face down on the bed and complained that he wasn’t feeling well. Two minutes later he was rushing to the toilet. Yes, the altitude sickness has reappeared.
On the up side, the beds in the dorm were very comfortable, large and had proper duvets! The bathrooms were clean and the showers were proper power showers – a luxury for sure! We were in a 12 bed dorm. We met an Irish guy in our room and he said that he had altitude sickness when we first arrived in La Paz and all he could stomach for a week was ice cream! At this rate, I don’t think John can stomach anything. He was going to the toilet every 20 minutes or so.
In the evening I just ate at the hostel in the bar. I ate meatballs and rice. I also bumped into the girl in the van and we ate together in the end. There was also a guy behind the bar who was from Birmingham. It’s always great to meet someone from your neck of the woods on your travels. After a couple of hours chatting to the girl, I returned upstairs to check on John. He was still throwing up and I have no idea where it was all coming from. We ended up having an early night and I think John stopped throwing up around midnight.