Thursday, December 29, 2005

Between Hotels

10:08 p.m.

Slept in my sleeping bag last night, as it has been quite chilly and even with three wool blankets on the bed, I haven’t been warm enough. But the bag was toasty!

Another slow start, testing my ribs and leg when I first start moving. Even rolling over in bed is difficult and uncomfortable, but it seems things are slowly mending.

Two days ago, I looked at my nice “Cross” pen and thought it is surprising it has survived this long on the trip. Today, it’s gone. Funny how that works.

I wanted to check messages this morning, but I needed to find some place to hook up. Decided to taxi to the central library, where they’d hopefully have free internet service.

Arriving there, found it was closed for renovations. But all was not lost; right next to it is a tourist information office, so I could at last get a La Paz map. The map cost about 60 cents and was not a whole lot better than what I’ve already seen, but it was a small mission accomplished.

The information officer also told me of an excellent café only a few steps away: “Alexander Coffee Shop”. Sitting there with a chocolate croissant and cappuccino, all was right with my little world. And interestingly, the same “Hotel California” soundtrack was playing in the background. (If I had known about this "lucidcafe" website earlier, I would have found this coffee shop sooner!)

Walking back along the tree-lined Mariscal Santa Cruz, I spotted a “DHL” office and went over to check on the status of the parts shipment from California. They said it should arrive tomorrow, then go to customs. I should call tomorrow to check on the status.

Tried several internet cafés to see if they would allow me to hook up with my laptop, but it has been unanimous: not a single internet café in La Paz (I’ve tried well over a dozen) will allow me to connect. “No es permite,” is the tape heard over and over. Along the Mariscal, with it's office towers, I tried to pick up a wireless connection. Numerous signals were available, but I couldn’t connect to any. Another interesting feature of La Paz. I think the mafia runs internet communications here. It's big business.

Continued walking in the direction of my hotel and soon found myself at the Plaza San Francisco, with its 450-year-old Basilica. There is a Franciscan museum there that I decided to look into. The afternoon was overcast and a light rain was beginning to fall. Perfect weather for a museum visit.

A temporary exhibit from the Anne Frank Museum is on display. It depicts the life of Anne Frank, against the backdrop of the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. An amazing chapter in human history that sends chills through my body every time I encounter it.

A particularly sobering document drafted at the senior Nazi leadership Wannsee Conference in January 1942, shows the estimated distribution of Jews throughout Europe, detailed by country: a total of 11 million. The goal was established to eradicate all of them. By the end of the war, Hitler had “succeeded” in eliminating 6 million Jews.

It is a strange exhibit to run parallel to the story of the Spanish missionaries’ role indoctrinating the indigenous people while the conquistadors ravaged the American continents. Very similar campaigns to “purify” or dominate races.

I wandered through the empty San Francisco Basilica, and down into the “Crypt of the Heroes”, where a half dozen giant metal urns hold the remains of some of Bolivia’s “champions of liberty”.

I was then given a quick guided tour up to the roof and campanile. The young lady declined my request to ring the bells. “Just one?” “No!”

Roamed numerous galleries of religious paintings. I can’t relate to the minds that revered these icons, and I find it impossible to understand the devotion that gave rise to these works. It all seems dark and nightmarish to me.

One area of the cloister I did find interesting, however, was the friar’s winery and distillery where they made wine and pisco, or “moon shine”. I suspect these fellows knew how to party.

The rain came pouring down while I was in the museum, accompanied by lightning and thunder. Followed my visit with a relaxing cup of coffee in their nice coffee shop. So civilized!

Wandered back to “Hotel Rosario” to check on e-mail. I had worn out my welcome last night, but hopefully the staff would be different at this hour.

An e-mail from Jaime said the tire should be in La Paz by 2:00 or 3:00 today and he provided the air cargo carrier’s name.

Back to my hotel. The hotel door is usually chained shut. (Kind of gives you an idea of the type of neighborhood.) The manager said that the owner had come by and told her that the motorcycle must go. She wanted it put in a garage, but I just rolled it back outside. “It’s my problem, not hers,” I said.

Called “Lloyd Aero Boliviana Carga” to find out if they had my tire and how late they’d be open. First reached the international services at the airport, but they directed me to their downtown office. Confirmed it was indeed there, then taxied to their office in the commercial district.

The tire cost a total of $65, shipping from Sucre included! And it looked beautiful: a Pirelli MT 60.

Piled into another taxi, this one a 1980 Nissan. Not much worked in the car. In fact, the engine stopped at every intersection. The driver pointed to the wire under the ignition switch that he grounds to start the car moving again. Windows all fogged from rain, it’s miraculous that people survive here!

Back at the hotel, took a few minutes to just admire the tire!

Over to "Rosario" again. Decided to have a nice dinner tonight, but the restaurant didn’t open until 7:00, so more e-mailing.

Dined at their “Tambo Colonial” restaurant. It was filled with Europeans and Australians, and two Japanese (and one American, me.) It was quite enjoyable. Lasagna, good bread, salad bar, a half bottle of Peruvian red wine from the Tarija region (near Argentina): 2004 Bodegas La Concepcion Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva. Chocolate mousse and cappuccino (I’m pretty sure it was made with “Nescafe” instant!)

The bill was about $12.50 (the wine half that), expensive for La Paz, but in my mind a bargain. This is one of the things that ties me to life back home – good food!

Downloaded music until 10:00 when Abel politely asked us all to “go to bed early tonight”.



Tim,why not tell the internet cafe's you are writing on the road, and that they would do well to allow you to post your latest dispatch. Tell them it would be free publicity for their cafe for future travelers/writers?

timtraveler said...

I think they are all part of a network, where every machine must be a registered user, and thus usage is tracked.

Genevieve said...

A temporary exhibit from the Anne Frank Museum is on display. It depicts the life of Anne Frank, against the backdrop of the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. An amazing chapter in human history that sends chills through my body every time I encounter it.

Plenty of Nazis ended up in South America after World War II. One notable was Klaus Barbie who lived under the name of Klaus Altmann in La Paz. He was arrested in 1983, about a year after our own time of living in Bolivia. We always wondered if we might have seen him when we ate at one particular German restaurant in La Paz, a place where people spoke German rather than Spanish.