February 25: Santiago - LaPaz

Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

Because of haze and dust, the view from Santiago Airport gives only a vague hint of the high Andes nearby.
Once above the inversion layer (about 5000 meters or 16,000 feet judging from this picture) we got a clear view of the Andes.
As we got further north the high peaks got further east and the scenery got less dramatic.
Sunset over the Pacific

We landed about an hour after sunset at La Paz. The pilot informed us that El Alto was the highest commercial airport in the world - 14,000 feet above sea level. The terminal was pretty modest but the security people seemed pretty businesslike. We grabbed a cab and headed off into total darkness. El Alto is up on the Altiplano but La Paz is in a deep valley off the eastern edge. You can't see the city at all from the airport. When we did drop over the rim, it was unlike any other city I've seen before or since. Every other city, seen from above, has some kind of order - La Paz was a totally random sprinkling of lights. Topography has a lot to do with it, I saw once we had a look around in daylight.

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Created 15 February 2000, Last Update