Way Up High (El Alto, Bolivia)

I'm all settled in Bolivia!

After a very long and agonisingly uncomfortable flight we entered the bowl of La Paz, surrounded by grandiose icy monuments of mountains. Our tiny little jet was getting pretty up close and personal with some of them.

After manoeuvring the mountains for a while, the plane closed in on El Alto, where La Paz's airport is situated. El Alto is a gigantic residential city whose population as actually bigger than that of La Paz. It also boasts an altitude of around 4200m above sea level, making it one of the world's highest cities!

El Alto also turns out to be my new home. I was to be living in an El Alto suburb called Ciudad Satelite, which means 'Satellite City'. It's named as such due to the hundreds of towering radio towers and satellite dishes which can be seen for miles around. I know it doesn't sound at all romantic, but I honestly enjoy seeing the little red blinking stars in the night sky.

So how is living in El Alto?


People often say you can experience all four seasons in one day in El Alto, and they are definitely right in saying so. So far I've experienced searing hot sunshine, rain and a snowstorm all in in the same day. It's incredibly cool to see, but equally a pain in arse. You can't go anywhere without dressing in layers, and having your winter coat and umbrella packed with you in case of a sudden weather change.

Living at high altitude has a bunch of cool bonus features. Water boils at around 80°c, objects travel 10% further when thrown, you get drunk faster and chemical reactions occur differently - this is especially important to take note of if you like cooking or baking. Expect disasters.

As an area, El Alto is pretty flat and residential. Parts of it remind me of Gaza city. A lot of houses are half-constructed in order to avoid a whack of tax, but most of the finished ones can be incredibly quirky and colourful.

Also, people are obsessed with dogs! You'll see them everywhere, sometimes stray, but a lot of them are very well groomed and are sometimes dressed up. I saw one last week that was dressed in a purple, sequinned bodysuit and had pigtails. It looked like Britney Spears.

I share a house with a lady called Marina, who was a political activist during the 50's and 60's for the mining community in which she grew up. Today she's a big advocate for women's education in Bolivia, having published books on the subject. Her home is peppered with pictures of miners and books on socialism, economic policy, and marxism. She's a very intelligent but equally humble woman. And a fooking amazing cook. She doesn't speak any English, which has helped me enormously with learning Spanish. Given I spoke virtually no Spanish when I arrived, I've made brilliant progress with the language in only a couple of weeks, with big thanks to my living situation.

I share my home with a Yorkshire gal' called Chelsea. She's the best housemate! We have the same goofy sense of humour, we have the same perverted obsession with food, and she's such a 'Yes' person - she's up for anything!

She never stops, and she kicks me up the arse sometimes and keeps me busy, which I'm incredibly thankful for because I keep daydreaming. She's also very organised and likes to plan things, which is so down my street when it comes to travelling and exploring. I'm very happy to be living with her!

Adjusting to the altitude was difficult. In the first few days, I would be struggling for breath after the simplest of activities - like climbing the stairs, or even lathering myself up in the shower! A few times I woke up in the night thinking I was being strangled. It can be so incredibly cold at night - so much so that I can be sleeping under 6 blankets! I even invested in a woollen poncho to wear around the house.

El Alto sits on a plateau that watches over La Paz. My house is a 5 minute walk from the nearest viewpoint, and it's honestly breathtaking. Me and my housemate Chelsea discovered it by accident when we went for a run.

On one side, you see the bowl of buildings that is La Paz, and on the other side is more of a rural area, with sandy mountains and dotted with a few houses.

We really wanna invite people up for a picnic sometime. S'mores and snacks in the woods, sound good?

My colleagues are also great. We're such a huge, diverse group of people with interesting backgrounds. We've all been through so much in our lives, and we can all bring so much to the table. We also have very similar outlooks on life. I have a feeling I'll be making friends for life here.

Because I work in downtown La Paz, I have to take the newly-erected cable car system - La Teleférico - to work every day from El Alto. The views in the morning are out of this world.

The bustling city is spread all around and beneath you, walled by snowy mountains and roofed with the bluest sky I've ever looked up at.

I really enjoy my daily commute!

Well, I enjoy it all!

So that's El Alto life. I'll bring you more updates about my South American adventure very soon!

Take care for now!

Anthony :) 



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