When Zeke turned eight he proposed that we walk 1,000 miles as a family that year. We decided that these miles should be all together but that once a week one of us could be missing if that person got the mileage on foot on their own. We also decided that one mile was the minimum we would count. Differing schedules, soccer seasons, and the desire to do other things all together kept us from reaching 1,000 miles in a year, but we have kept logging family walking miles. We have been at this two and a half years now.
Yesterday we woke knowing that we had 10 miles left to reach 1,000. At breakfast we committed to getting those miles in this weekend. After a slow morning we headed out the door a bit after 10 with the plan of heading up towards El Alto and then south seeing where Avenida Buenos Aires would take us. (Paul had already seen that it continues south beyond the bluffs behind the soccer field at the end of the world.) Gradually we went up, past the closest plaza which has a small farmer’s market on Saturdays. After 15 minutes or so we crossed into territory I have not walked much and the rest of the family was really excited to go up a long stair street with a zebra painted on it. I was not particularly enthusiastic but agreed on the condition that they could not run. On my own I will usually choose a longer less steep route for going up. Following these steps, crossing at least one street and continuing up more steps we reached Buenos Aires. Paul declared that we had finished the hardest mile of the day, and I voiced my skepticism. We walked on relatively flat ground past little restaurants, stores, and car repair shops. There were breaks in the buildings where we could see the drop to our left and views across the city. We were tempted to go up more steps to El Alto, but stuck with our initial exploration plan. The main road headed up and we continued on the level through a break in the bluff on a quieter road. There was more city on the other side. As we approached what appeared to be a less commercial neighborhood we stopped for tucumanas – empanadas with potatoes, egg, meat, and in this case parsley. We used the bathroom at the market and then at what looked like the last store we bought a bottle of water and were gifted a little coca for our journey. We continued up and found ourselves in a neighborhood where bricks are made. We saw bricks drying, and huge furnaces firing and being loaded and unloaded. There were also backhoes digging clay as well as piles of warped and broken bricks. I found the whole thing fascinating. It makes sense that bricks are made nearby, with all the building in the city. I assume this neighborhood has a good source of water as well as clay.
We came around another set of bluffs and were out of the city. We had been told that this road goes to the town of Achocallo and that we could get transportation back to La Paz from there, but that it was far. We were curious but not committed to getting there. We were told by someone else that the road no longer went through and was blocked by a river, but he was also teasing us about not exploring with the teleferico and about buying a young boy who was at his feet. This led to a good conversation about how unreliable information from any one person can be. We continued down and around past the smell of pigs at a house. Past the next set of bluffs found ourselves at Nuevo Jardin – the city dump, which seemed to be getting planted with trees as it was covered. Here it was confirmed that we could not get past the river which was out of sight way below us, so we turned around. Once we were back in the brick area we decided to head down through neighborhood we haven’t explored aiming to take the teleferico home. We were told there was a way out but part way down it seemed that a canyon might prevent us from getting back into true city. Noticing taxis were headed down the road we were on, we continued on dirt and cobblestone streets. We crossed the gorge and soon found ourselves on a paved road with public transportation going up and down. This took long switchbacks as it went down and down and down and a couple places we cut between these on a steeper street. Eventually we could see the teleferico station and then we went through a cemetery region. As we neared our destination we went along a highway cloverleaf and over a river and finished our thousandth mile together since Zeke turned 8. We stopped in celebration and took a family picture. Almost immediately, as we continued walking, Anna and Zeke were asking if we could walk 1,000 miles together during this year in South America. Paul was skeptical, and mathematical arguments were made. I think we will continue to keep track of family miles and see where the next 1,000 miles lands us. We continued down and then up to the teleferico station and were happy to sit and be carried back up towards home. We celebrated with hummus and babaganoush and then ice cream before walking the last half mile home.
This morning at breakfast I asked what everyone wanted from the day and one kid said “lets walk more” and the other said “yeah”. So mid morning we headed out again, took a bus for a bit then walked up and up. We put in another 8 mile day where we were rewarded with another beautiful edge of town and a parade. Some youngster said, as we got near home, “See, all we have to do is walk 20 miles every weekend and we will have walked 1,000 miles together this year.” We will see. I learned on the first 1,000 miles to hold these aspirations lightly.