I feel like this is going to be a hard post to write. Normally I try to give details about what a city is like but somehow, La Paz is almost like an indescribable city. I could write as many adjectives as a thesaurus can provide me or I could add as many pictures as WordPress will allow me and I still don’t think I could do this city justice.
We arrived quite early in the morning after our luxurious night bus. I slept most of it (apart from when they stopped to smuggle people on and at 2:30 when they yelled that they were stopping for 15 minutes and turned all the lights on!) but I still felt pretty ill which was so annoying. Ammun, the two German girls and I checked into the one room that was ready in our hotel while everyone else went and rode bikes at Death Road. As we drove up to the hotel we noticed that the streets were filled with street markets. As we went past, most were selling coats and a couple of times a day, the stock will change and everyone will sell kids toys for example. 60% of Bolivia’s money comes from street markets however, the women who work here (men have other jobs) don’t pay any taxes which is why Bolivia is so poor.
Gitte and Franci, the two German girls, found a cafe called Café del Mundo which is the number 1 place on tripadvisor for breakfast and it was AMAZING! It was set up in September 2011 by a Swedish globetrotter and has such a cool yet cosy vibe about it. For approximately £3.80 I had pancakes with syrup, fresh fruit, a glass of pineapple juice, a mug of tea and bread and butter! Needless to say, I didn’t finish it but I left with a very happy tummy.
After a midday siesta, we headed out again to the Witches Market. They sell such a wide variety of things both usual and unusual. We saw alpaca wool jumpers, hats, blankets etc, pens and magnets and key rings and everything else you would imagine a tourist might want. We also saw weird herbs, dodgy looking ‘medicines’ and miscarried llamas and alpacas. Yeah, really. If a llama or alpaca is pregnant, the temperature has to be just right as if it gets too hot or too cold, the baby will die. The people in the fields pick up these foetuses and offer them as sacrifices. Their legs are tied together and then they are hung from nearly every shop entrance. Some are still fluffy and some are practically skeletons. I know it means a lot to these people so I didn’t want to turn my nose up but it was a little bit gross. I bought myself a nice alpaca wool jumper and a llama pen that I’ll whip out when I go back to uni in September.
That evening was our last night with Kike and 4 members of our group so we went for another traditional meal. But not traditional Bolivian, traditional English. As they got back from Death Road so late, we went to the nearest restaurant which was called The English Pub. I was quite impressed buy the English look (complete with football on the TV) and the English menu but my food was disappointing. We waited so long that once my food had finally arrived I ate it so fast just so that I could take some night nurse and go to bed.
The next morning was weird. My heart was pounding like I’d just ran a race and my body was shaking like there was an earthquake. Ammun had gone out the night before so I snuck out to get breakfast without waking her and just about managed a slice of toast and glass of juice. I came back expecting to find a hungover Ammun still asleep but found out that a few minutes after arriving in the club, someone had kicked a broken bottle into her foot and she had gone to A&E to get a stitch. I went upstairs to get her some breakfast and came down with Penny as well from our group who is a nurse and she cleaned up her foot a bit more and assured Ammun that the hospital had done a good job. We stayed in bed recovering until about 3pm with friends from our group regularly popping in to see how we were. As we were feeling quite sorry for ourselves, we went for lunch again at Café Del Mundo as we knew we could trust it and if we could get the sofas, Ammun could rest her foot.
After our very late lunch, we went to the cable cars called Mi Teleférico and took the red line up to the top of the hill. The view from the pod was incredible. La Paz is built in a valley and you can see houses for people of all walks of life. Among the houses you can see small slums and it’s mad how wide the gap is between rich and poor. We went over the Ajayuni cemetery and it made me sad to think that some dead people have more luxuries than people who are still living. I also noticed that in a city full of flats, some people have still found a way to build houses; they go on top of the blocks of flats! They will always match the bricks and tiles from the rest of the building although occasionally, the flats were unfinished and the house was!
At the top of the hill was a small market that was preparing for a festival called Alasitas at the end of January. I found out about this festival at the witches market as many shops sell figures of a man who is holding money and cigars and a toy house and car etc. A shop owner told me he was called Ekeko and at this festival, everyone buys the things that the would like in the future for example houses and cars. As we walked around this market we saw all of these things being sold so I took some sneaky pictures.
At 7pm we had a meeting with Dennis, our new tour guide and we heard about the itinerary for the next 21 days. We also got to meet the 7 new people who are joining for this leg of the tour and the all seem very nice. None of them are British and now that Emma has left, it’s just me and Ammun repping the homeland. By this point it was dark and a group of us decided to go on the cable car again to see the city at night and it was beautiful. (This is when I really struggle to describe La Paz). We covered the light inside the pod to try and get the best pictures possible and we played tunes there and back. If only we had had some wine….. On the way up there was a local man in the car with us who just seemed very confused by the whole scenario.
After a few drinks back in The English Pub, we headed home and packed up our lives once again before an early morning trip to Puno, Peru!