It was a chilly nights ride on the bus to the world’s highest capital city of La Paz. We arrived early morning at our hostel and they let us check in early, which was a bonus, as having to hang around when you arrive early sucks. We slept until about 1pm, as we hadn’t got a great nights sleep on the bus. It was pretty much hunger that got us out of bed… We went to cafe del mundo and Kumu had the trout salad which she was rating pretty highly. She has a thing for fish, especially when it comes as the whole thing!
We then moved to an Australian cafe called Higher Ground for some coffee and drinks and cocktails. They did a particularly good gin which we chucked up on Insta, because that’s what you do when you have a nice looking glass of alcohol sat in front of you.. We did also do some planning here, but mainly had cocktails… Dinner that night was at a steakhouse filled with youth! The food was ok but overpriced for what it was. It was a day of eating and drinking for us, with a little bit of planning what we were going to in La Paz thrown in.
La Paz day 2 was another day where we stayed in bed till lunch… I think by this point of the trip we were pretty tired. Usually we would be up and going early, but for some reason we had hit an energy wall. This unfortunately meant we couldn’t do what I had planned for us. After peeling ourselves out of bed, we managed to get out for some lunch at Berlusca where they served a pretty good pasta as part of their menu del dia. I had scrambled together a plan B for the rest of the day and had sorted a route on the teleferico (cable cars).
First we got on an orange one right till the end before we switched the white line which has only been open for a month, and it goes between the buildings as opposed to the orange one where we climbed the steep hillside over the roofs of all the houses. The government is planning to build more cable cars over the next couple of years and the cost is cheaper than one of their mini bus taxis, so they seem pretty popular. Also all the stations are really well kept and people were so polite as they got on, actually saying hello to each other with a smile; something we rarely saw in London (but that is part of the London ‘charm’). Once we got out of the white line, the area we were in was so nice, the locals live here and the big bonus was that the streets didn’t smell. Yes, La Paz is another city that has a piss smell problem… I found a little park for us to have a walk up to, which looked like it had a pretty good view of the city, and it did! The view really showed how dense La Paz is and how it is crammed into the contours of the landscape. La Paz is very brown but it has its own beauty about it with the snow capped mountain in the background.
Then we headed down to get the cable car when we stumbled upon an electronic store where I bought some new headphones, as i’d managed to break my second set already… Turns out they were not that great down the line, but what do you expect for 10 quid! Then we saw this little coffee shop and we stopped for a coffee with a side of donut filled dulce leche! Kumu of course lost her shiz over the dulce leche. We decided to have dinner around the area since it was nice and went for Asian affair. It didn’t disappoint, but the portion was huge and Kumu actually felt sick after eating it! I on the other hand was delighted at how big the portions were. We caught the cable car back, and at night time it was nice with the whole city lit up.
Now, since the last couple of days we managed to lose our morning by being duvet sloths, we promised to not waste this morning and woke up for breakfast at 8.30 (an early one for us at this stage…). We heading to the streets near the witch market for llama sweater shopping! We went to a few and decided to go for high quality baby alpaca sweater which would set us back 300 bobs each (about 30 british pounds). One question we kept asking ourselves was how do you even know it is real baby alpaca?! Kumu read up on the store we had decided to get ours from, and it seemed legit, as it was quoted on culture trip. We bought two fairly similar ones, so we are now a bit matchy matchy if we wear them at the same time (this was not intentional)… We went back to cafe del mundo for a coffee after our garment gauntlet and Kumu did some Spanish homework from school. Lunch was some tasty Bolivian cuisine with a contemporary twist and it was amazing, especially for 50 bobs per person.
After lunch we set off to the starting point of our walking tour which was plaza San Pedro (right next to the uber dangerous and corrupt prison). When we got there, an ex inmate in the plaza was telling his experience pretty vividly to a few gringos. As we walked passed the entrance to the prison, we saw women and kids entering the prison, as families of prisoners are allowed to live inside! We had two tour guides on this walking tour and it worked really well. They told us the history behind the prison which kumu had read about in the book, Marching powder. She says it was a recommended read. Then we walked to Mercado Rodriguez where they explained why the Bolivian cholitas wore the Charlie Chaplin hat and depending on how they wear the hat it tells you if they are single/widowed or married. They also explained how locals always go to the same cholitas in the market for each type of produce. This is so that after a while the relationship is built (just like your trusty Tesco club card) and they would get free stuff when they are doing their shopping.
They also talked about the outfit the Cholitas wear, and because the calves are the most attractive part of the body for the men, the Cholitas wear long skirts to cover them up and keep those goodies private. None of this trainer socks and shorts nonsense, that is giving far to much away! The cholitas also layer up their skirts to make their hips look bigger so it sends a signal to the eagle eyed men that they have child bearing hips! And in a culture where they like to keep the business in the family (and these families have a lot of businesses on the go), the more children the better; so the the temptation of child bearing hips is a big one.
Next up, the witches market, and saw the dead baby llamas, llamas fetus and all the different magical potions. We were told that you can only be a witch doctor if you have been struck by lightning and brought back to life (two pretty tricky things to tick off at the same time by any standards).
One area we didn’t expect the witches to be involved with was building construction… Because they are digging into the earth and using materials from the earth and nature, an offering to pachamama (pacha meaning earth, and mama meaning mother) is made. For your average 2 bed semi, pachamama would be offered a dead baby llama that died of natural causes. However, if its a whopper of a building, the offering needs to be something a little more substantial. They told us the old wives tale where they pick someone of the street that has no family or friends, get them drunk and bury them alive before the building goes up! He said foreigners are worth more so don’t go out, get drunk and pass out! You might not make it back for your free hostel breakfast the next morning. I’ve definitely had a few nights out when I was at university where my head felt like I had been secretly buried in a hole…
They also explained all the different magic powders (not that one!) they had at the market to help with all your life’s woes. I think the favourite was the one you threw on the back of the person you wanted to love you and then when they turn round they fall in love with you. Such a romantic non creepy tactic to get you that special someone…
For the rest of the tour we visited San Francisco church, another Mercado and finally to a pub where they could speak freely about their current president. They said it was a bit risky speaking with a not so rosey opinion of the president right outside the house of parliament. The current president is the first indigenous president but has had no further education than primary school. He has done a few good things such as put in place a non-discrimination law so that cholitas can go to school and eat at restaurants, subsidising school for kids if they have good attendance, buying them shoes for the next year so they can keep attending, bought back the companies that were sold off by corrupt previous presidents, changed the name of the country, and the most important one, changed the way the clock numbers went… Yes that was an actual thing a president did.
A couple of odd ones he did were trying to charge tax for girls above 18 that didn’t have babies yet, and announcing that men should stop eating chicken and drinking coke. A little bit niche and a bit hypocritical when he was pictured stuffing his face with chicken and coke the following day.
The walking tour was great and it ended with them giving us a shot of singani and orange juice. We then stayed and had another drink whilst Kumu did some more homework. Homework in a pub… such a keeno! After, we stumbled a little treat of an English pub and stopped in for some food and a few pints. It was a damn good effort but of course not quite the same; and I’m talking a proper pub, not Wetherspoons!
So final day in La Paz, and we slipped back into an old habit and woke up a bit late, so headed for brunch at a vegan cafe! It was actually really good food, not just a bland wet lettuce with some air sprinkled on top. For the rest of the afternoon we went on a bit of a wonder to mirador Kili Kili and found a cracker of a coffee shop where they made me a coffee at the table like it was something out of breaking bad. The staff here we ace too!
Before the coffee shop though, we had found a barber for my untamed wilderness of a beard. The chap who did it seemed like he hadn’t done a beard before, as it took him an hour. Yes an entire hour for a beard trim. Kumu was sat in the chair in disbelief that this guy could actually be taking so long! That night it was early to bed, as we had an early start to head to….. The Amazon rain forest! So that is where we will pick up the next part of the blog.