Is it, or isn´t it the capital of Bolivia? well, it´s the de facto capital of Bolivia. Sucre is it´s official capital. La Paz was quite impressive though. It´s situated in a mountain valley. The richest live down below, and as the city grew, people started to build houses on the mountain slopes,The whole valley is just city, which is quite impressive to see! There´s a snow-capped mountain on one side of the city called Illimani.
public transport in La Paz is the teleférico, gondolas!
As soon as we arrived in La paz, we got a hostel tip from some other tourist on our gringo bus and were soon nicely settled. It was a good choice! I don´t think we´ve had a softer bed or met with a thicker dovey yet. La Paz is a booming city, everything mixes here. People, cars and food everywhere. It was quite a change from slow-paced Copacabana. It was a shock finding out how cheap food is here. For example, a hamburger with chips would only cost you about 70 eurocents. We decided to splurge a bit on our first evening in La Paz. We´de found out there was an English owned curry house in the city (it promotes itself as the highest curry house in the world) and were determined to visit it. Although quite expensive (for our budget) we enjoyed our first evening with a veggie aloo panoor and a Lama curry. Sipping a long longed for glass of red wine.
The second day we chilled out in our hostel, watched the wolf of wall street (good film) and enjoyed our cheap street food. There´s a dutch owned Holland house; Sol y Luna which Sander was determined to visit for one reason: Bitterballen. A dutch meaty bar snack wich he absolutely loves.
for me there was a veggie reastaurant which served an enormous almuerzo (lunch) for 1 euro 40. I wasn´t able to chomp my way through this 3 course meal but did do my best! I do wonder at the amount of food people here are able to eat in one go.
The people in La Paz really like to go on strike. We were there for three or four days and saw two protest marches. It´s very hard for the government to push through changes because of the strikes. I´m talking roadblocks and fireworks strikes. As soon as a group doesn´t agree: Strike!
A highlight in La Paz was the free city tour we did, organized by redcap. We started of at La Paz´s notorious prison San Pedro. Which is a society in itself, where inmates pay rent for a cell (the richest have quite a lot of liberty, with a private entrance for women of fornication). If your husband gets convicted and sent to San Pedro, you and the kids move in. Inmates earn a living by producing cocaine and selling it to tourists. Apparently every once in a while, you can see a window in the prisonwall open, a guy look out and throw a white ball out of the prison A pickup will soon scoop it up and whisk it away. The prison got famous because of British inmate Thomas McFadden. As the story goes, he and one of the guards went out dancing in a dicotheque one night and when the guard had drunk too much and fell asleep, Mcfadden didn´t make a run for it, but asked the Isreali girl he was dancing with if she wanted to come back to his ´place´. Whether she knew he lived in a prison, I don´t kow, but she went with him and got a tour of the complex. She thought it was really cool and bribed a guard to let her friends in. And thus a business started. Prisontours were apparently quite the hype for a while. Inmates gave tours and sold the secret white stuff to tourists. Mcfadden lead the whole business, which collapsed after he got out. It´s now extremely dangerous to visit the prison (inmates want to and will make money off of you). Although a short while ago, a group of friends did bluff themselves in by dressing up as missionaries.
After hearing about the prison (and all the warnings never to go in, even if offered) we set off through the city. In La Paz, one street generally sells one kind of item. for example: there´s a street that´s just filled with sportshops, another one with furniture. The same with the vegetable market. So how do you choose where to go? Well, sy you´re new in La paz and want to get some veggies, you´d go to the vegetable market.There´s line after line of women selling nearly the same produce, but they´ll try to catch your eye and smile at you. You´ll pick the one you like the most and that will be your veggie lady. You´ll stick with her and no other. The same principle works for fruit enz. You ofcourse get rewarded for sticking with her by getting ´yappa´or extra´s. Tourist often make the mistake of trying to buy at different stalls which is insulting. ´Whats wrong with the apples in my stall, you´ve bought them somewhere else, of you think they´re bad go somewhere else´. I do think they´re a bit more lenient towards us gringos though!
There´s a witches street in La Paz too. (If you try to take a picture if them, they´ll think you´re trying to steal their soul and jinx you) You can buy anything on the witches market, curses, spells and dried lama fetusus. Why on earth would anyone want a dried lama fetus? well…. f you want to build anything in Bolivia (and certainly near La Paz) you have to make an offering to pacha mama (mother earth). You´re using her after all. There are special witches and sjamaans ( to be a certain level sjamaan, you have to be hit by lightning) who give ceremonies on building sites. (mainly done for the very supersticious workers) The bigger the building, the higher the price that needs to be paid. With some skyscrapers in La Paz it is said that the sjamaan and his two helpers even went to ´drunk street´. Got someone with no connections totally knock out wasted and then used him in the ceremony. (the guy has to be buried alive in the foundations.) A bit gruesome no? ( the joke, don´t fall asleep on the street quickly ensued)
The indeginous women (cholitas) here are famous for wearing bowler hats and many layers of wide skirts. The skirts are a leftover from Spanish colonial times, where slaves and workers would get the ladies hand me downs. Ofcourse, being quite a short population, they had to roll up the skirts at the waste to be able to wear them and since then it´s been the fashion to try and create as wide a hips as possible with these skirts. there´s a funny story behind the bowler hats. If you look closely it´s way too small to have a function. It just sits on top of their heads. Only the women wear them though. When bowler hats were the thing in Europe, a savvy spanish importer tried to bring the market to South America. He ordered over 2000 hats to be made and imported, but didn´t give any sizes. In europe people thought the South Americans were tiny and must have small heads. And thus made the hats extremely small. When the shipment arrived no man in South America was going to wear it. So they got a fashionable cholita women, put her in front of the mirror and said it looked good on her. Cholita women are apparently quite jealous (as our guide says) and soon everyone had to have one. A tradition which still lives on these days. Because the hat just sits on their heads, the women here all have great posture. They also keep a plastic bag inside the hat, so they can wrap it up if it rains. A cholita lives by three rules, one of which is don´t be lazy. So you can see the rich working right next to the poor here. It´s very hard to tell who has a lot of money and who hasn´t. A cholita with a baby strapped to het back, walking up a hill with two bags of rice in her arms is considered the most sexy thing here! Women are strong! There´s even Cholita wrestling on sundays (unfortunately we´de just missed it). Once given a barbiedoll to acces, they exclaimed, this women cannot even carry a bag of rice, how is she suppose to carry half a child. This is no women!
Bolivia has had the most amount of presidents n the world. A lot of them came to power after a military coupe. There was one who apparently strapped the english foreign minister to a donkey and paraded him down the square. (Queen Victoria declared war on Boliva after this and swore to erase Bolivia off of the map. If you look back at old English maps of South America, Bolivia isn´t there). The president at the moment, Evo Morales is quite power high too. He doesn´t like anything Northern American. He kicked the US embassy out after they commented on his election campaign. Has tried to get Coca Cola out of the country, because it apparently makes you bold and gay. ( he has since apologized to the gay community and realised that Coca Cola employes about 7% of the population. He also loves football and has made himself part of the National football team (by law!). Although Evo has already done two terms as president of Bolivia ( maximum two is allowed), he´s now doing his third. How? Well he acknowledged all 25 indeginous cultures in Bolivia and decided to change Bolivia´s name from The Republic of Bolivia to The plurinational state of Bolivia. He´s hadn´t done two terms in office in the Plurinational state of Bolivia yet, so he still holds power.
From La Paz, we travelled to Oruro. Where we catched a train all the way south to the border with Argentina! (more in our nex post)
Very big kiss from us!
p.s. pictures will be added soon! Bolivian internet is really slow!