Three Notebook Sketches from La Paz

14 July 2023

Sunflowers La Paz, Bolivia Jeremy Bassetti
Sunflowers in La Paz


This month, I pull from my Bolivia notebook three quick sketches written in La Paz. My journal is littered with notes like these. They don’t amount to much, nor do they spin any coherent yarn. But, with the exception of the final note—I don’t even remember writing it—, they transport me back to Bolivia as I finish The Hill of the Skull.

The book is nearly done, apart from a fine-toothed edit. For some reason, I’ve been bothering myself with a few last-minute, radical considerations. Why? Fear that what I have now isn’t good enough. Fear that I am missing something. Fear that the book could be better. This needs to stop at some point. And it will on August 1, my self-imposed deadline and the 1-year anniversary of 30 Day in the Andes, my pop-up newsletter that sparked the book.

Day 19

Early A.M. Mournful songs from a man playing a charango (?) drift into my hotel room, with some cold air. A market sets up in the street below. No headache. Pigeon.

“All this month we make offerings to Pachamama and offerings to the land. To work the land in the coming season, we ask permission. The first sip goes to the land, to Pachamama. The second one, we take. We let Pachamama drink first so she takes care of us when we get drunk.”

Clouds thread off the snow-capped peaks of Illimani and Huyana Potosí. Ruddy brown buildings settle in the valley and on the lesser mountains. Teleféricos—obsidian—glide over the city. Up here, the sound of wind and the city’s brown noise. Sharp barks and tinny motors are the only sounds to cut through it all. My vision seems overexposed. Calm. ~13,000 ft.