Every “Casa de Cyclista” here in South America is run differently, but they all are wonderful for the very same reason; they provide a meeting place for the multitude of cyclists throughout South America who are all going in different directions to get together and stay with other like-minded two wheel travelers. This one here in La Paz is run by Christian, a Bolivian cycling fan who inherited an large multi-roomed apartment right downtown which he lets up to eight tourers stay in at a time. Unlike the other Casas which are listed on warmshowers and are therefore free, this one charges 20 bolivianos (three dollars) a night which I feel is a good idea because it allows Christian to keep this place running self-sufficiently. It’s for the cyclists, by the cyclists, so it’s up to us to clean, cook, and keep this place running as if it were our own home. Though I feel like this self-run sort of set up could easily become disastrous, in general, cycle tourists tend to be conscientious people who are willing to put in a bit of effort in order to leave the place nicer than when they found it. And as its been running for years now, it seems like this concept is working!
We have heard about this famous Casa de Cyclista for the last four months, ever since we first arrived in Patagonia, so it was a pleasure to finally arrive after our last 4,800m Bolivian pass which dropped us down into this sprawling city. During our stay we hung out with Edwin, a Colombian who has been traveling for the last year and a half from his home in Bogota with a homemade trailer, his art supplies, and the very best dog in the world. He left with no money and survives off of what we can sell along the way. Though many of the “artist types” down here all make the same things, he is incredibly talented and makes unique (and sometimes bike related) things with whatever he can find. This is a motorcycle he made from wire, and though it’s hard to see from the photo, it’s extremely detailed and accurate.
At the casa there was a New Zealander we had previous met down south, a German couple traveling south from Canada, and a Swiss and French guy traveling north like us. We also hung out almost constantly with John, twenty-five year old American who has been cycling from the States on his way down south to Ushuaia. Though we often all just sat around and reading and talking, we also had two fun nights when he invited three Ecuadorian friends to come over and cook us two delicious meals; a Swiss cheese raclette, and an absolutely delicious meal from Honduras. The three of us also visited the largest market in La Paz, which is quite a sight to see as it goes on for kilometers in every direction with huge sections dedicated to car parts, used clothes, hats, food, tools, toiletries, and anything else you could ever think of.
The city of La Paz is easily one of my favorites, partially because of the beautiful snow covered mountains right next door, and partially because it’s a fun and interesting place to walk around. For those of you who haven’t been here, it’s extremely unique in the fact that the whole city sprawls up and down the huge steep sides of the valley walls around, meaning that no streets here are flat or straight and the houses all look like they are randomly thrown together. Though I remember it being dirty last time I was here four years ago, it seemed completely spotless this time around. Though it could partially because my standards are so low after India, I think that the city had invested time and money into cleaning it up which definitely makes it more enjoyable. In the last year they have also added an extremely interesting public transportation system; gondolas, which for fifty cents each, will take you up and down the extremely steep city. There are currently three lines running, with six more in the making, so pretty soon, you will be able to travel everywhere throughout the city above ground.
The markets and local restaurants serve food throughout the day, along with ladies with large pots of food along the road. Normally you eat on the curb like us, or on little benches that they sometimes provide.
And for those of you who missed them, here are two photos from our climb up Huyana Potosi. Thanks John for the photos of us!
And if you are looking to stay here, Christian has asked that cyclists don’t pass around his address (because if not, chaos tends to ensure), so instead, check out his website which lists his phone number and email (he replies within seconds) as well as what he has in mind for this place.