La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz, Bolivia is breathtaking for several reasons. First, the view on entering the canyon, which spans 5 kms and drops to 4,100 meters at its lowest point, is spectacular. Second, the city’s altitude is 3660m and walking anywhere especially uphill (which is a given if you’re staying in the city centre) is a physical challenge. Third, Mount Illamani makes an imposing backdrop for the city and great photo opportunities at sunset.
One of La Paz’s many attractions is its golf course which is the highest in the world. Now at an altitude where walking 20 steps uphill has one gasping for breath and heading for the nearest coffee shop, completing this course without being admitted into hospital would be a real achievement for golf enthusiasts. So of course we decided to play it. After checking out the internet we obtained information on days and times the public were allowed to play and after a little searching, the location and address of the La Paz Golf Association. Hailing a taxi we gave the address, asked a price, hailed another taxi, negotiated a better price and jumped in. Ten minutes into the journey it was clear from the questions that our driver was asking us that: -
- he thought we were heading to a hotel
- had never heard of golf
- did not know where he was going.
Showing him the written address again, demonstrating golf moves (I have no idea why we thought this would help) and talking in halting Spanish we seemed to resolve the problem and sped off into the suburbs. There followed a hair-raising drive involving emergency stops, last minute turns, screeching tyres and trips up unmade and pot holed roads. Directions from locals turned out to be useless as they had never heard of golf either. Concerned about the car’s suspension and an almost empty fuel tank, we stopped in a landscape reminiscent of the moon and flagged down passing vehicles to ask for directions. No one had a clue until a biker knew of the course and gave us accurate directions. By this time we had bonded with the driver and all of us were finding the whole situation hilarious.
One hour after we set off we found the entrance to the club - high fives all around. Unfortunately, they had recently changed the days that the general public could play and had not updated the website. So we had arrived on a day that was advertised as open to the general public but was in fact now a member’s only day. Dejected we turned the car around and headed back to the city. Another traumatic ride followed. Stopping the car on a road we had driven down earlier the driver asked us if we thought it was one way (despite the fact there were cars following us). Being low on petrol he floored the accelerator in order to get to a town before we ran out. Nearing our hotel we told him to stop and let us out but he ignored us and within minutes had driven into the side of a land rover in front of a policeman. Not wishing to get involved we threw his money on the front seat, wished him luck and legged it. From his response I’m pretty sure he will never pick up another gringo again!