Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Valle de la Luna and El Alto

We had a weekend of adventure. We went to a place called the Valley of the Moon. They didn’t mince words when they named that place. It was a valley and it was moony. And we also ventured to the top of the world to a market (and city) called El Alto.

Now, you might consider any sort of outing in a foreign country to be an adventure, but add to that an inability to communicate (other then hand gestures), a toddler, and public transit, and you’ve got yourself a full-blown Bolivian escapade! There are mini vans here that are privately owned but have a specific route that they have worked out with the city to take, and so for mere dimes and nickels we are able to travel all over the city and surrounding area (come on Saskatoon…jump on board). They have little placards in the front window that tell you where they are going, which only prove to be useful if you know where that place is. They cram as many people in these little vans as humanly possible and the driver takes a mental note of where everyone gets on and gets off so as to get the right fare. We have fully embraced said transit. And so for the Valle de la Luna outing we climbed aboard a little mini bus for a 40-minute drive through some of the craziest topography I’ve ever seen.

Not having any clue where we are going, and not really knowing how to tell the driver where we want to get off makes for an interesting ride, but we succeeded and found ourselves in what felt like the desert with all sorts of jutty, spiky rock formations. Valle de la Luna was a beautiful and confounding place.

Now, El Alto deserves a bit of explanation. It used to be a part of La Paz. It was where much of the city’s poor lived (and still live), and consequently where most of the indigenous people reside. Over time it grew and is now bigger than La Paz, and is considered a city of its own. Here is where they house one of the world’s biggest open-air markets…it is said that it would take you seven full days of exploring to see the entire market. I believe it. If I weren’t with Bolivians I might never have come out of El Alto. People of La Paz go there because they can get absolutely anything they want for very little money. Things are crazy cheap. We went because, as Duane said in the previous post, we are currently setting up the clinic and are purchasing tools to make Centro de Miembros functional.

This trip proved to be profitable, as they bought almost all of the tools needed to get the clinic running again and we had one of the best views of the city we’ve ever had. Sitting at nearly 4000 meters, El Alto lent us a spectacular look at our temporary home. The only casualty was one cell phone nicked from the pocket of our Bolivian friend. Sneaky little pickpocket.


  1. Great pic's! and you are such a good writer Jess...thank-you so much for giving us glimpses into your days.