La Paz


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South America » Bolivia » La Paz Department » La Paz
June 5th 2014
Published: June 5th 2014
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My journey to La Paz was an eventful one, but finally I arrived...without my only two jumpers as I left them in the taxi!! A sad moment as I knew La Paz was going to be cold at night!

At my hostel, I was explaining my journey and a girl behind me , Maddy, that was also checking in said the same had happened to her! We got chatting and decided we needed to go straight for something to eat after our 20 hours of travelling! We went to the market as its the cheapest place and got chicken and rice. Was so good! We then went in search for a jumper for myself and Maddy's mum. I found one for 85 Bolivianos, not bad. Kept me very warm though. I had a look around the market stalls and promised myself I would go back to do all my present shopping as there was so many amazing things on offer..for so cheap!

The next day, I went on a walking tour of La Paz. I had been told that it was a great walking tour and it didn't disappoint. We met outside the San Pedro prison, the largest prison in La Paz that also acts as a small community. Prisoners there have to rent or buy their cells. This means they usually have to move their families (including children) in also. At one point, the prison was a major tourist attraction where people actually went around the prison. The prison is most famous, however, for its cocaine production!! How this is able to go on -with laboratories- is beyond me! We were also told that 85% of the inmates are actually awaiting trial which could take more than 5 years! Sounds like a corrupt system to me.

We were then brought around the markets and our guides explained the mating ritual between men and woman there! The women's traditional clothing covers the lady up from head to toe. If she is attracted to man she lifts up her skirt, only to reveal her calf! If her calf is big and muscular this means that she is a strong woman and would make a perfect match (the women seem to do a lot of the work in bolivia so if they are strong and big they are even more attractive). They also pointed out their small bowler hats they wore on their heads. Apparantly, when spanish settlers came over to Bolivia they were all wearing bowler hats. The bolivian men thought that this must be the latest fashion in the western world so ordered hundreds. The Bolivian people and small but that doesn't mean their heads are small! When the delivery of hats arrived, the hats just looked funny on the heads of these men. They didn't want all the hats go to waste so they convinced the women that it was the latest fashion! A fashion that seems to have lasted with the traditional women!

Next stop was the witches market. I had read about this market so was fascinated what it would look like! It wasn't as bad as I thought, apart from the dead llama fetuses hanging from shop rails. Apparently, the babies are born dead so none are killed. I hope this is true. When someone in Bolivia wants to build a house they need to get it blessed by a witch doctor. They will bury this fetus under their house in a ritual as an offering to pachamama (mother earth) so to inspire good luck on the household. There is also a legend that human blood is also needed for under the house!

After the tour of the city, I walked around in search of presents. Along the way, I met Sarah, a girl I had met in Cusco in Peru and we found out we were staying in the same hostel in La Paz too! I got some money out from the bank to do a bit more shopping as i had seen a lovely bag I wanted. I went to get the bag and realised I didn't get enough money out as the bank only lets you get out small amounts at the same time. Sarah loaned me some money to buy the bag and I went back to cash machine.

Where was my card, where was my card, WHERE WAS MY CARD???????? In the excitement of buying a new bag, I actually left the card in the machine as I had intended to get more money out but, instead, left the ATM. As I hadn't taken my card, the ATM sucked it back in! I now had zero money on me and no card. I didn't know what on earth I was going to do as I had no other card on me or at the hostel!

I went back to the hostel and explained to them and asked if they could ring the bank to ask them if they could get my card back out from the machine. The lady at the hostel rang the bank and they told her I would have to ring my bank in England and order a new card! I was leaving by plane the following day. This thought struck me and I began to cry. She looked at me not knowing what to do and then asked could I delay my flight! I then explained I will be back in England before my card could get there and carried on crying. I think they were a bit weirded out that I was crying so much, normal people usually bring a credit card with them too! Another person at the hostel rang the ATM people and then told me I would have to go to the bank and ask them to take it out. I explained that I don't speak Spanish. They wrote me a note with what I needed to ask but it was too late as the bank was about to shut. I messaged Stuart when he was in bed panicking and he told me he would forward me some money visa western union. He tried and tried but his bank wouldn't process the payment. I then got in contact with my entire family hoping they could help. Thankfully, my sister was awake as she was about to do a night shift and wired me some money. My life saver! i then felt a lot better that I had money to at least pay for food and taxi to the airport tomorrow! As I couldn't get the money that night, a girl I shared a room with offered to buy me pizza. I've met so many kind people! I was supposed to meet two Irish ladies, Trisha and Nina that night that I had met in Uyuni so emailed them explaining my situation and apologised that I couldn't meet them. The next morning, I woke up to an email they had sent me to say they were leaving La Paz but they had left me money at their hotel as they were worried about me!! Without all of these beautiful people I have met, I don't know what I would've done. Nina was returning back to the hostel in a few days so she said she could pick up the money if I didn't collect it. I explained that my sister had now sent me money but was so grateful to them.

The next day, I went to the bank who said it would take 7 days to get my card out. Great, no card until I get back to England!! I then went to Western Union and withdrew my cash. A girl from the hostel came with me as she spoke spanish. She told me that she was actually robbed the week before. She was approached by men on the street that showed her a police ID. They asked her to show them her identification. She told them no and, within seconds, they had bundled her in the back of a car! They went through her bag taking everything. She had just got money out from the bank so they must have been watching her...all her money was gone! She had been to Western Union a few days earlier so she knew what to do. I was thankful for her being there as I was upset again that I didn't have a card and would have to ask someone to send me more money in Brazil! So, my day of shopping had been ruined and now I didn't have enough money to spend anything now, never mind presents. Made me sad as my next two stops before home would be really expensive so there was no way I could buy any presents anymore 😞

I made my way to the airport, grateful in a way that I was leaving Bolivia. It was fun but too much stress! Onwards to Rio, Brazil!!!!!!!

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