Published: August 26th 2011August 26th 2011
La Paz is a city that appears to have been poured haphazardly into a vast valley. Houses and shops and churches and parks and palaces and stadiums and hotels and cafes and bars all leaning against each other creating a city like no other.
Your correspondent was not looking forward too much to his visit here. Apart from not being able to breathe ( a minor inconvenience I am sure you agree), there had been reports of petty crime and a general squalor about the place. What I found dear readers, was a colourful and vibrant city. Certainly you had to be careful with your belongings and W did stop a friend’s camera being taken from rucksack, but most capital cities carry such a risk. Just be careful is my message.
Any city that has zebras stopping traffic in order to allow pedestrians to cross cannot be all bad. This is true. I saw it with my own eyes. Ok, they may have been teenagers dressed up in zebra suits but they were very effective. Even the mad drivers in this city would happily stop while a zebra danced in front of them while the lights were red !!!
Football – as with anywhere in South America – plays a huge part here. There are 3 main teams, Club Bolivar, La Paz and The Strongest, and I went with my friend Neil to watch The Strongest play a team from Paraguay. It was fantastic, and in a moment of sheer brilliance I forgot to take the camera to record it all. Sadly, the lack of camera also meant I could not show you where Neil and I ended up after I dragged him on to the wrong bus back to the centre of the city – IT DIDN’T GO TO THE CENTRE OF THE CITY !!! Instead it went to the roughest part of the city. A place so rough that even really rough types won’t go.
I could tell you stories of the fights we got in, how we had to get rescued by a police helicopter but I won’t as that didn’t happen. In reality, we got off the bus, jumped in a taxi and returned back to the city centre for a pizza with the girls.
The next night we went out to a curryhouse with friends Neil and Nilla. It was opened
by an English guy and makes a fortune from gringos. While Neil and W stayed safe with their choice of mild curries, Nilla and your correspondent were drawn to a vindaloo special, which promised a t-shirt if you finished it. “That is the one for me “ I thought. When the waiter took our menu, he warned us that it is really, actually, very hot indeed. We scoffed. It contains 40 ( yes forty) crushed chillies he warned. Bring it on we scoffed.
Sitting near us were two English lads who had also ordered the dish. I watched them as they turned redder and redder and started to melt in front of us. I ventured over to enquire if the curry was really, actually, very hot indeed ??? I didn’t get an answer as one couldn’t breathe and the other was writing a will. “mmmm” I mmmmmed. “Could this really, actually be very hot indeed?
It was a slight concern for us, which was exacerbated when the food arrived. Before I started , one of the English admitted that he had only managed 12 spoonfuls. An amateur I thought. I took my first mouthful and announced all was
well and it did not seem to bad. I took my second mouthful and swore so loudly and profusely that I emptied the restaurant and demanded that that a handy fire extinguisher was emptied in to my mouth. I tell you dear readers, it was like eating a nuclear meltdown.
I find no dishonour in admitting I managed no more than the English guys. Nilla on the other hand, steadily took small mouthfuls every minute or so, and , although she said she couldn’t feel her tongue, finished the whole plateful !!!! totally amazing. She wears her t-shirt with pride.
To get over the night before we ventured to an Incan site about an hour away. It was the first organised tourist trip we had been on since arriving in SA and we both felt a bit uncomfortable. Tiwanaku was a society much bigger and much earlier than the more famous Inca and this was the remains of their city. I found it fascinating but W and history get on as well as my stomach and the curry from the night before – she couldn’t wait to get out.
My mind did panic slightly when I was
taken towards the sacrifice table, but thankfully, in situations like these I always carry a small puppy or kitten as a suitable replacement, thus avoiding any personal risk.
We great week or so here, and W has many photographs for you to enjoy, including Witches’ Market where the foetus of llamas are up for sale !!!!
There are more photos below