After a restless nights sleep on the coldest night bus in the history of man, I arrived at La Paz – the capital of a Bolivia and where I was meeting Phil. I avoided being ripped off by taxi drivers trying to charge me 5x the going rate, and rocked up at our hotel, (La Brisas) situated next to the witch’s market. Feeling exhausted, I had a power nap and went in search of snacks before exploring the weird and wonderful market. Here you can find llama foetuses and dried frogs used for rituals and bizarre aphrodisiac concoctions. Apparantly the llama foetuses are always buried in the foundations of new buildings and offered as a gift to the goddess Pachamama in order to protect the construction workers from accidents and bring luck. Surprisingly, I left empty handed and headed back to the hotel to welcome Phil to the crazy world of Bolivia!
The following morning, after the usual dice with death attempting to cross the roads, we explored the area surrounding our hotel before heading to mi teleferico – a cable car connecting the south side of the city to El Alto high up in a mountain. Apparantly it is one of the highest and longest in the world and gives an amazing view over the city! La Paz is surrounded by huge mountains- providing a beautiful backdrop to the concrete jungle of the city. We had a brief explore at the top, but the presence of a man with a one metre long machete in hand walking behind us along the street put us off and we returned to the madness of the city.
We arranged an excursion to the Valle de la Luna, a bizarre moon like landscape situated outside the city. Geologically it is pretty amazing – the mountain is comprised mainly of clay, and erosion has created tall spires of rocks, but it isn’t a must see attraction and urbanisation has somewhat spoilt some of the surrounding views.
We were only in La Paz for two days, but I didn’t fall in love with the city. It is extremely busy, built up, touristy and even the parks consist of concrete. Perhaps I needed more time to explore. It is an interesting place and home to the San Pedro prison – a prison run by the inmates. Here prisoners have jobs within the prison community and must rent their accommodation and buy their food. Inmates often bring their families with them into the prison, so there an entirely seperate society exists within the prison walls. The main income is the sale of cocaine – believe it or not huge laboratories exist within the walls! The prison guards simply stop inmates from getting out, but can be bribed to let tourists in for tours of the prison community. We value our lives too highly, so instead of spending an afternoon with criminals we opted for a Mexican feast!
Before leaving La Paz we met up with our tour group who we were to spend the next twenty days with – a group of eighteen twenty to thirty something English, Irish, Canadian, Austrian and French/German people….and so the trip into Peru began….