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Published: September 10th 2013
Disembarking the bus at La Paz was the confusing, crazy experience we had been waiting for whilst travelling. Once in the taxi we felt like we were transported into an episode of mario-cart or wacky races, both of us bumping along on the back seat.
We spent the first couple of days in La paz getting our bearings, and mostly getting used to the high altitude! La Paz is at 3,650 metres, which is tres high, and climbing two steps will get you out of breath - did l mention La paz is shaped like a bowl? The skyscrapers are at the bottom with the cheaper, shanty homes climbing up the walls with restuarants, shops etc up and down these roads.... so there are LOTS and LOTS of ups and downs!...
To get our bearings we headed on a free tour of the city run by locals and some gringos, the red hat tour. We met at the infamous San Pedro Prison. For those who havent heard of the prison, there is a book called Marching Powder which will tell you all about it. The prison is said to run just like the outside world with restaurants, bars, cafes,
prostitures and even families living on the grounds. It has the usual occupants of any prison which included dodgy politicians (who live in penthouse aparments with sky tv and xbox), drug traffickers, and the usual murderers and rapists (lovely place) but also a not so usual but famous ´crack cat´ (eeek!). The prison used to let gringos in for tours (welcome to Bolivia) but this has been long stopped by authorities (now that really is getting off the beaten track).
From here we walked (very much out of breath) along the food market and then the witches market. The witches market has your usual saturday morning purchases - dead Llama fetuses, potions to make people fall in love with you and trays of alcohol and sweets to buy and put under a new property as apparently mother earth needs to be blessed before any new buildings are built, and we all know mother earth likes sweets, alcohol and dead Llama fetuses.
We were told about the Bolivian womens traditional fashion and why they wear their skirts at their knee (so potential husbands can see how big their calves are - if they are big, you are a catch
as you will be strong and can work hard in the fields), why big hips are the rage (so you can bear lots of children) and also why they wear bowler hats (HUGE fashion statement- and worn at different angles pre dates facebooks relationship status - to the left -its complicated/ to the right - single/ straight on - married). We ended the tour on the top floor of a very high hotel, where you could (at an additional cost) wear a spiderman/batman outfit and absail forwards down the building with a free fall at the end. This did look tempting, however, safety did not appear paramount here (again welcome to Bolivia) and we gave the opportunity a ´thanks, but no thanks´ and instead hit the pub to see what drinking alcohol at 3,650 metres would do!
We spent a few days here and within this time we saw a dead body on the street, were rear ended in a taxi, saw a bad pile up car crash and my tooth started to hurt quite considerably due to the changes in altitude!... all in all - La Paz can certainly be dangerous to your health! On the other hand,
we really felt away from home, laughed a lot and l ate THE BEST STEAK I HAVE EVER EATEN at a place called ´The steakhouse - a rare steak well done´ AMAZING!
Onwards to Lake Titticaca!
Things we learnt in la Paz
1) Anything is possible in La Paz
2) Get a taxi with a telephone number on the top (to avoid being kidnapped)
3) Look left, look right and left again before crossing the road
4) Look where your walking (there are lots of holes in the ground as well as bodies dead and half alive)
5) Take your time and stop for a breath
6) Buy up lots of alpaca jumpers - they will keep you warm at night- the temperature is up to 20c in the day but 0c at night!
7) The steakhouse is the best steak house we have ever been to!
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