The City of Epic Fails

Despite what I may say in the next few paragraphs, you should know that we really did have fun in La Paz.  It’s a great, energetic, delicious city full of the friendliest people we’ve met in South America.

Having said that, La Paz will now be known in the Abercrombie household at the City of Epic Fails.  We had more than a few cock-ups in La Paz.  In fact, some days it felt like we did nothing but deal with issues and sit in hospital waiting rooms.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Epic Fail #1:
We arrived in La Paz and checked into our hotel.  We were due to meet our friends James and Briony for dinner in less than an hour, so we had time to drop off our luggage and check our emails.  And there, lurking in Andy’s inbox, was the first bomb.  An email from Travelocity to tell us that our flight out of La Paz and into Santiago had never been confirmed and the airline had cancelled our reservation.

What, what?!  Apparently Travelocity doesn’t ACTUALLY confirm or book seats with the airline we were using.  They just… take your money?  I don’t know.  So we freaked and fretted and had to spend a morning finding the local airline office, speaking in broken Spanish and re-booking our flight.  Ugh!

Epic Fail #2:
On our second morning in La Paz I woke up with a curiously sore toe.  Like, limping and wincing and serious pain.  But, I didn’t really want to spend the day dealing with a toe (boring!) so I popped my feet into my Converse and we hit the streets.

We did a lot of walking that morning and by lunch time (saltenas!  yum!) I really couldn’t ignore the pain in my toe any longer.  So we went to a nearby clinic and I showed my now-really-rather-swollen toe to the doctor there… who spoke no English.  With a mix of Andy’s Spanish skills, sign language and several “OWWWW’s!” from me, we determined that the toe was inflamed (no shit) and I needed an injection.

Well, that was not a popular idea.  Who wants an injection (in the arse, no less!) in Bolivia???  The doctor said that I could either have the injection and the swelling would go down in about 3 hours, or I could take some pills that would reduce the swelling in 4 days.  After much sighing and freaking out I had the injection.  We took a cab back to our hotel, I took a 2 hour nap and when I woke up, my toe was about 80% better.  Miracle arse-shot, I reckon.

Epic Fail #3:
We finally went shopping.  We’d been travelling for more than 2 months and hadn’t yet bought any souvenirs or gifts.  So, we took advantage of the market right on our doorstep and we went on a mini shopping spree.

In fact, we really didn’t buy very much (several fun hats, a scarf, some pieces of material) and we planned to ship what we bought back to the States.  So we packed up our loot and went to the post office, where they weigh your box and charge based on the weight.

All well and good, but the nice post office lady had a machine that weighed boxes in pounds.  But she charged us the shipping costs in kilos.  So, the machine said that our box weighed 1.35lbs.  And we were charged for 1.35kilos.  That’s a big difference.  We spent about 30 minutes in the shop trying to explain that, in fact, our box weighed less than 1/2 what we were paying for, but she could not grasp that there were two different scales of measurement in the world.  It was all very friendly and smiley (Bolivians are almost agressively kind and nice and easy to get along with… wonderful people) but she was not going to budge.

In the end, we had to give in and pay the greatly inflated price to ship our things home… which still came to less than US$20.  So… not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things.

Epic Fail #4:
And, finally.  The Epic Fail that almost gave us heart attacks.  Our final morning in Bolivia was also the day of their national election for judges.  To prepare for the election alcohol sales were banned throughout the country (apparently political parties in Bolivia used to bribe people with booze before an election, so now it’s not available to anyone.)  This wasn’t a huge deal and our livers were probably very happy to have a few days of rest.

However, what was a big deal was that, in addition to the ban on booze, there was a ban on all public transport during the election.  I think the idea behind this is to make sure everyone stays home and goes to their local polling place.  Voting is mandatory in Bolivia and you get in big trouble if you don’t vote.

We had no idea.  So, at 9.30pm on the night before our flight out of La Paz we asked the front desk at our hotel to book us a taxi for our flight the next morning… only to be told that there wouldn’t be any taxis… or buses, or vans, or donkeys or any other form of transport.  The airport is about 15 kilometers up a huge hill on the outskirt of the city, so walking there with our luggage wasn’t really an option either.

We freaked.  We needed to be on time for our flight because we had another flight to catch in Santiago.  No one really had any suggestions for us.  We started researching hotels near the airport so we could walk in the morning, but there are no hotels near the airport in La Paz.  We thought about moving to a big, international hotel chain so we could use their airport shuttle in the morning, but none of them were running their airport shuttles.  Finally Andy managed to speak to a woman at the Radisson on the phone and she said that one taxi company was being given special permission to drive the following day.  So he called that company and booked us in.

In the end, it was all fine.  The taxi showed up, the roads were completely empty (except for all the police checking to make sure our taxi was really one of the permitted taxis) so we got to the airport early and it didn’t even cost us any more than a regular cab ride.

So, despite being the City of Epic Fails, all turned out well for us in La Paz.  But we weren’t TOO sad to leave.  Here’s hoping we’re more successful in Santiago!

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