Refuge in The King's Palace

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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Andean Adventure

Refuge in The King's Palace
September 17, 1997

"Por favor, senor," the porter said, reaching for my pack. It was obviously not the custom for guests to carry their own bags. He hefted my dusty pack onto his shoulder, my climbing helmet swinging dangerously close to an ornamental lamp in the lobby. The other hand clutching Nan's battered pannier, he led us toward the golden-doored elevators.

Our bags aside, we were not regular hotel clientele. But for us this was no ordinary day. This was August 31 — our first wedding anniversary — so something special was in order. The King Palace Hotel would be tonight's home.

Nan and I had talked for months about where we should go for our first anniversary. La Paz presents an abundance of options: Copacabana and the islands of Lake Titicaca to the west, to the north Sorata and the refuge of the mountains, to the east the cloud forests of the Yungas and the idyllic town of Coroico. The later had stuck in our minds. Especially the promise of a hotel amid tropical jungle with a swimming pool and a fantastic restaurant. What's more, from the outskirts of La Paz it's 75 kilometers downhill to Coroico, descending 10,000 feet through the hairpin turns of Bolivia's most beautiful and precarious highway.

Alas, after spending the five previous days climbing in the mountains of Condoriri we decided that we were short on both the time and energy to make it to our sanctuary in Coroico. So back to La Paz. Not exactly the city that comes to mind when envisioning a relaxing atmosphere. We wanted peace, tranquility and isolation. We needed a luxury hotel.

After our check-in at the Hotel El Rey Palace, we disappeared into our suite for two days. At first we felt uncomfortable treading on the freshly vacuumed carpet or even sitting on the fancy new sofa. But we soon adjusted. With telephone in one hand and TV remote in the other we had room service and minibar snacks feed our stomachs and cable TV our minds. After, we had the Jacuzzi tub our bodies. They say the first year is "paper." For us it was 99 channels of cable and bed sheets you could sleep between instead of using the sleeping bag.

At the end of our stay we emerged from our cocoon back into the chaos and traffic of La Paz. The doorman began to hail a cab, but we waved him off. Instead we forged into the maelstrom and hopped into the next cruising minivan.

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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