The sad part about La Paz was that it was the end of our organised tour and the good friends we made over the last 5 weeks headed off in different directions to continue their journeys around the world (and our tour “leader” crawled back under his Peruvian stone) – Buenos Viajes guys. Our travel stabilizers had been fully removed and we were ready to make our own way around South America
Our first decision was to take an easy peasey trip to the jungle – just turn up at the airport, hop on a flight to Rurrenabaque, and enjoy 4 blissful days in pristine rainforest.
Big planes can’t land at La Paz airport (El Alto) due to the altitude and the runway is extra long to allow for the 4000m of no air. We were a little surprised that the check in didn’t ask us if we wanted window or aisle but retired to a “O2” coffee house (they pump in O2 to help you enjoy the coffee and something we had missed after 4 weeks at altitude) to wait for our flight.
The lack of seating requirements became clear when we got on our plane – it resembled a tube of toothpaste with only 20 seats and just enough room to crawl along the plane to your seat. Ignoring the claustrophobia, we took our seats and we flew off with spectacular views over La Paz and the surrounding snow covered mountains.
It got a bit cloudier, then much more cloudy, then it started to rain and then we hit full zero visibility. 35 minutes after leaving La Paz the captain announced the imminent landing and we started our descent with the rain lashing the windscreen (which we could clearly see as the pilots were in full view).
Warning bells went off, the rain lashed, the plane bounced, I could see the river and the trees and then we shot back into a steep climb…. sorry said the pilot, too much rain, we have to go back to La Paz.
I think at this point most of the plane had been praying to various gods, and the thought of another 35 minutes back to where we had started, really didn’t sit well. That and the regular drops and climbs you get from bad weather and the people at the back of the plane reached for the sick bags.
We limped back into La Paz airport and waited for the weather to clear before we tried again. Just after 2pm about 75% of us got back on the plane for an uneventful flight to our destination. I guess those other 5 people couldn’t face the thought of another try (Wusses!).
After 35 minutes we landed on a tropical runway, surrounded by horses and parrots, with a ground crew of 2 men in a 4×4, 1 man on a motor bike and a bus which was our lift into town and contained the passengers for the return journey. We watched our little toothpaste tube sour back into the air, and hopped on the bus into town.