Life Up Hill - Walking Experience in La Paz
by Vimal Menon
(La Paz, Bolivia)
One of the only "flat" areas to walk in La Paz is the Prado.
Coming from the West Coast of India, where uphill means a small incline that will not last for more than probably 200 meters is called a Up Hill Climb! Welcome to La Paz, where up hill climb means up hill CLIMB! From the time I have been in La Paz, I have hardly walked around the city streets much. The reason being:
A. I am not familiar with the cityscape and directions
B. Coming from an altitude of 35 meters above sea level, I would probably get altitude sickness
C. When I get lost, I cant find or ask for directions as I do not speak Spanish and the people wont speak any of the other 8 odd languages I would speak...
The city decided to go on a transport strike during the first week of May. Its during this period that I realised what walking means here. With an ambitious aim to drop my better half to work and to escort her back home for the next 2 odd days, I wore my trainers and decided to take the city with a stride and a smile! Walking downhill was fun, the sun shining, smile on my face cool wind, Illimani in the background and I told myself, this is life walking keeps you healthy.
Reality soon struck me in a real breath taking experience. And I mean Breath Taking experience!!! On my way back, my first incline started post crossing the Americas bridge, i was breathing a bit heavy and was walking slowly up. I had some water and two bars of my favourite Sublime chocs bar. I crossed the first hurdle and stopped at Plaza Avaroa and here is where the challenge stood in front of me. A steeeeeppp climb all the way. I looked around and saw, children, woman, aged folks, all walking up easy. The motivation came when I saw a smoker climb with easy. I told myself his lungs are weak and I dont smoke, here we go. Motivated and another bite of choc for energy I treaded uphill going Boldly where no man from the coast probably has dared to go before!!
Climbing up and hardly 10 minutes into my treck I stopped gasping for air and legs really giving away. I heard some real wheezing breathing and sound and was wondering some poor soul is suffering from Asthma.. and it took me few seconds to realise that poor soul was ME!!! I was breathing heavy!!! I looked around and there my old folks, smokers, kids, dogs and all things that was breathing air and mobile was walking up with easy. That's when I let fly a choicest of the best FRENCH inside my head to the guys who pulled the transport strike and putting me in this Breath Sucking situation. Suddenly when I looked up ahead at the distance I felt my goal was so far away and the steep stairway that cuts the winding streets and takes me to yet another climb loomed over me. That's exactly the moment in time my MP3 decided to play ¨This is the end my only friend the end...¨ Even ol´Jimbo Morrison was laughing his head out at my situation.
Decided the power of Zen will help me so closed my eyes and blacked out my thoughts and looked at the climb and said to my self Let´s do it!! I walked hard and slow and when I reached the next climb the final one I just felt for once Jim Ol´Morrison was RIGHT!! This is the end... If this was an animated movie, I would probably be the Coyote from Roadrunner with his tongue out on the road, eyes popped out and ACME products not working!!! Also, the legs have disappeared as I can´t feel them anymore, Jellyfish ye that is what I felt like ...
When I finally reached my destination and got into my apartment, I was so happy to see the bed that I fell flat on it. But sad to say no sweet dreams as I had to do this all over again as I had promised my better half, 3 days I shall escort you... The famous words kept coming into my head (One small step for me, a Giant leap for Mankind)... Also forgot to mention I felt like the incredible HULK minus the Green Skin as I felt my track pants would rip open with my legs all swelling up with the climb.
Music to listen to while reading this is Survivor Eye of the Tiger!! Phew!!