South America 4 La Paz


La Paz, Bolivia Days 14-18 April 8-12 2013

We arrived in our second country of the trip Bolivia, early on a crisp bright morning at around 7am. The bus stop was very grand and different from the oversized bus stops in Peru and looked like something from 1920s France or switzerland. This type of look would be a recurring theme in La Paz, outdated, slightly grand buildings at its best and run down dilapidated concrete at it{s worse, all with a tinge of smog and poor maintenance. The journey had been overnight and long and I{d not got much sleep but we had gone past lake Titicaca which was welcome at 5 in the morning as the sun came up. We{d got taking to an older, cockney guy in the queue for immigration to Bolivia, he ran a shaolin monk MMA school back home and had a slightly unhinged nature to him. He told a good story though, mostly about other people messing him around or orgies at ancient Mexican ruins, and was friendly enough so he tagged along with us to our hostel, The Aventure Brew.

The bowl of La Paz

La Paz sits at 4000m above sea level and is the highest capital in the world. It sits in a huge bowl that means the views are amazing as flavellas and parks run all up the sides, it also means it is hell to walk around. The painfully old cars and buses were charming to look at (think Cuba) but spewed thick, black smoke as they struggled up hill with entirely too many people in them. Our hostel was up a steep incline, again, and every time we walked back to it was nackering, with huge dodge buses blasting smog and smoke out alongside, our unhinged friend naturally went for a jog around the city. The hostel was nice enough with good views at the bar 6 stories (!) up, we watched the man city man U game and slept until that evening. We were using La Paz as a base to do other things around Bolivia, the salt flats, Jungle, Sucre, and our volunteering in Coroico, the fact all these things were within a $7 bus journey was one of the many pluses of Bolivia. Peru is essentially one big desert with a bit of rainforest at the northeast and not a lot else geographically speaking. Bolivia is a mountain country with the most biodiverse nature reserve on earth, and the largest saltflats by a huge margin anywhere in the world, the Bolivianos is also 10 to the pound, we had found home for the forseeable future. Bolivia is also the first independent country in South America and is most proud, or even tolerable, of its indigenous communities, quechua, Inca hundreds of tribes. This was immediately evident at the border where everyone changed from modern western style clothes to brightly coloured traditional dresses and scarves complete with ridiculous bowler hats.

Top right Llama fetus

Top right Llama fetus

One of the main attractions in La Paz is the witches market a sort of traditional indigenous market for tourists, so we ate our free pancake breakfast and set off. It wasnt far and was full of the usual tourist tat, these alpacas fleeces everyone was wearing, little nik naks, “fossils” which were clearly carved rocks, and something not so usual, in dead Llama fetus. Id read about these and assumed they{d be crushed into a powder as a weird medicine, they were not, they were in fact fully, and not so fully, formed baby Llamas hung there smelling of formaldehyde. It was worth seeing I guess. The next few nights and days we took advantage of our free nightly homebrewed beer at the hostel and generally went out and got drunk, we met some Argentinian guys killing time until their flight at 7am. So we drank and beat them at table football until their flight. We met 2 english girls and a guy in our room, Charlotte, mike and Hannah as well as a plumber from Chichester, who was travelling with 6 surfboards surfing South America. We hung out with them around La Paz drinking and generally being merry for the next 3 days. Hangovers are brutal in La Paz due to the altitude, you breathe harder for less oxygen and dehydrate quicker, or so a drunk person told me, so we spent a good deal of our days sharing this pain with other travellers. Next we were off to more productive and rewarding Sucre, to meet up with Jimmy and his girlfriend Mariah a week later.
Daily budget $15
Buses $10

Che statue in La Paz


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