"Riots and demonstrations are a part of everyday life"

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May 26th 2009
Published: May 26th 2009
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 Video Playlist:

1: Leaving La Paz 7 secs
Dried lama babyDried lama babyDried lama baby

Found at the witches market. Not sure what they are good for, but it was random.
After 4 flights, 2 long haul segments, I think it is hard to find anyplace that looks that appealing at 2am. Justin and I did get in ontime, did meet each other at the Lima airport as planned, and did have the taxi driver waiting for us as our lodging had promised. On the downside, my bag didn't make it, and LAN airlines couldn't have cared less. And, Justin had to pay a whopping $135 for his visa (my Hungarian passport got me a stamp for free). $135 for a visa, when looking at purchasing power parity, is just insane. Our hostel cost $15 a night for a double, and we had dinner at the best restaurant in the city for $7 each. This is a fairly new change in Bolivian policy: hosing US passport holders. I imagine that US traffic to the country will slow down once the next edition of the Lonely Planet guidebooks (notifying people of this) hits shelves.

Our lodging was the Loki hostel, which was right close to the middle of things. OK place. I had booked a room with two beds in it. Loki had a airport pickup service as an ad on, sounded

good after all the flying. Considering that La Paz is at rather high elevation, we didn't really plan anything of note for the first few days. The first morning, we woke up to a street protest right outside our hostel. Police hq is right across the street, and the police were formed up in riot gear right outside the entrance. Hostel reception brushed it off as part of life in the city. "Just wait a bit".

La Paz is hard to describe. It is like housing flowing down a huge hillside down a valley. From the airport, it is a huge drop to get to the downtown area. The taxi didn't really take a hwy, but rather cut through residential zone after residential zone slicing down the mountainside. Flat space is at a premium. We saw what looked like a lookout area once we started out to go for a walk, and ended up at a little park with a great view. On our walk, we discovered that the best deals for food are indeed the set lunches. For 7 bs ($1) we got a three course lunch.

As far as our contact with the local population, it

was pretty much limited to a tour we did of the St. Francis monastery. Elizabeth, our fantastic tour guide, was a hell of a lot of fun. She gave most of the tour in Spanish with Justin translating, but also gave parts of the tour in English. We enjoyed each others company for the duration of the tour, which lasted about 1.5 hours. At the end, we took photos, she ran to get her camera because she wanted pics as well. As I said, we enjoyed each others company. She said we were way more fun than the "serious boring people" she usually showed around.

We left the church for a little walking tour. It took us up the hill past the witches market. I really didn't have any interest in scouting out said market, but Justin was curious, since it was along the walking tour path. We ended up taking some pics by a booth selling dried lama babies (use of which we did not ascertain). They were kind of weird. Not as weird as the next stop though. I saw a street cart vender selling some kind of local beverage, and wanted to try it. During our

stay in La Paz, I was always scouting our the street food. Justin wasn't so into it. Guess who got the runs? Yeah, the guy who played it safe. Anyway, this lady was selling a local drink that was sugared beaten egg whites mixed with beer. I argue, it was more random than dried lama babies. She was too shy to let us take her picture, but she let us take a pic of the cart. Verdict: not sure I would push for it being added to the menu in places I frequent, but it was interesting.

I should also add that Justin had a bit of a hard time getting used to the altitude. He was taking pills, but we both took it slow for the first few days. Hence, even though we spent three nights in the hostel, we didn't see that much of the city. We hung out at various city squares, and ate at a the best place in town. Vienna is a fantastic Austrian Bolivian fusion. I had the some kind of liver, bacon, onion and apple sauce dish that was amazing. Justin went with the Bolivian flat steak with salsa and an egg

on it. Both were great. As mentioned, $7 a pop for what the guidebook said is the best international restaurant in the city.

By the time we left, American Airlines and LAN Chile were still not able to get my checked bag to me. I had called LAN several times, and went to the American and LAN offices. American sent several urgent e-mails to LAN in Lima asking them to put my bag on the next flight. No luck. LAN never responded. When I went back several hours later, I asked them if, considering LAN had ignored the e-mails, they might be able to resort to using the telephone and asking them the same thing. "No, we couldn't do that. We already sent them the e-mails". So much for my hopes that a business class ticket from Europe to South America via North America might actually be enough to get them to pick up the phone. I will try again in Cusco, Peru.

Additional photos below
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