Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Arriving on High, literally
Now with this incredible adventure ahead of me, I'm shaking off the shackles of self-scrutiny, and letting you the readers (all 3 of you- ha!) share my journey to La Paz, Bolivia. I'm trying to tie up my loose ends here, and prepare myself for the physical exertion of travel. And physical, it sure will be. I'm an experienced international traveler, but I've never been up so high above sea level before. La Paz's El Alto airport (for non-Spanish speakers, that translates to the tall/high up) is at 13,000 feet above sea level. Arrival literally takes one's breath away. I'm taking the proper prophylaxis to prevent any kind of acute soroche attack (the Bolivians have a name for altitude sickness and it is soroche) but who's not a little afraid of the unknown, right?
The Bolivian folk remedy for soroche is to drink coca leaf tea (mate de coca). Yup, the leaves of the coca leaf plant. Yes coca = the basis (before much processing and additives) of fabled "Bolivian marching powder" and choice substance of abuse for many Bret Easton Ellis characters and glam, fast-lane party people. But coca leaf tea (steeped leaves) will not make automatically you a Lohan or a cast member from Rock of Love. Drinking coca leaf tea does not make you tweak or make you thin enough for sample size dresses (too bad). It does not even show up on drug tests (yes, I've asked, numerous times, I'm such a librarian). Many Bolivians customarily offer newcomers to their land a cup of coca leaf tea, and yes I will drink it. And yes, I will totally think of Nancy Reagan's War on Drugs when I do.