La Paz, Bolivia

I’m not sure if it’s because we were in La Paz on election weekend (so a lot of stuff was shut down) or if it’s just not my kind of place, but I wasn’t hugely impressed by La Paz. Before coming out, a couple of mates had said they really enjoyed La Paz, but mainly in the context of partying hard, which we weren’t really up for. But we managed to have a fun few days regardless, huffing and puffing our way around the steep hills of the highest capital city in the world.

Riding the funicular – a great way to see the city

We had a really fun first day, where we packed in most of the sightseeing (as everything was due to shut down on Sunday), so me, Sam and the girls headed out for a full day of walking around town. We went to the witches’ market, which was really cool, and we saw llama foetuses and traditional medicines for sale (to make up a ‘challa’ or blessing, for new houses, business etc.), and also tons of cool clothes (alpaca jumpers, traveller trousers, furry slippers with bright local fabrics). We also went to book our ‘World’s Most Dangerous Road’ trip (which was pretty nerve-wracking, as you’re basically signing away your life!), and then went to find a local veggie cafe that India wanted to try out.

Llama foetuses at the Witches’ Market

It was a pretty cool walk there, as we veered out of town and through some insane markets, selling everything from fruit and veg to fish, meat, potatoes (they have hundreds of varieties in Bolivia), to toiletries, spices, dog jackets… you name it! There were chullitas (indigenous ladies) asleep on their wares or sitting patiently, shouting out prices, people buzzing around everywhere, tons of families picking out fish bones as they ate on the market (I have no idea how there is so much fish in a landlocked country…!)

Local food market, with many potatoes

After a nice meal of soy burger and curry spiced fries and salad (and a rather disappointing burrito!) we took another long stroll through town (aided by a local tourist lady who stopped us from going down a dodgy road we were headed down!) and we took the funicular up to the top of the city, where we got great views across town, from the snow capped mountains on one side, to the verdant green hills on the other. We then scoured the markets (and a supermarket that took us an age to find!) for supplies for the big shutdown on Sunday, and to our distress we found it was illegal to sell booze!! During election time! (These Bolivians really don’t know how to party…!) But luckily we found a dodgy lady in a cornershop that would sell us a few bottles of wine. The coked-up douche of a barman in our ‘party hostel’ said it wasn’t allowed for us to drink our own wine in the hostel bar, but by this point, our determination got the better of us, and we spent the night playing bad pool and sipping from our secret wine cups in the shadows.

The next day we spent chilling in the hostel, which was really nice given our action packed few weeks. We sat in the sunshine, napped, planned out the next bit of our journey, drank beer and chatted. Me and Sam were still feeling pretty ropy so it was nice to have a low-key day. That evening, we’d been building up to a meal at the hostel, but we found out the chef couldn’t get in (!?!) so we had to shlep it through town to another hostel for dinner. Which, in itself was pretty interesting as we saw a CRAY party hostel that was basically like a heaving Dublin pub, and we ended up in a bizarre 90s living room-style hostel kitchen eating burgers and drinking wine. We also saw a ceremony going on in a church en route which was pretty cool, and a main square lit up with all the colours of the indigenous flag.

Awesome indigenous flag decorating ornate buildings on a main plaza

On our last day, we went back to Witches’ Market where I bought a (travel wanker) alpaca jumper and a colourful indigenous throw, then we went to the ‘highest British curry house in the world’ for a bizarre curry-like meal, delicious veggie soup and chocolate cake. It claims it’s a British restaurant, but apart from a picture of the queen above the bar, there was little evidence of this in the food! Oh well. We tried. For the rest of the day, we people watched in plazas, and took a walk down to a different, more monied district called Miraflores where we checked out a couple of cinemas for films showing in English (to no avail) but it was a nice walk, and we saw some really posh buildings and very enticing cake and icecream shops! En route home, we stopped off on a square that was COVERED in pigeons, and India and Hannah bought some seed and the pigeons flocked all over them, with some brilliant photographic consequences!

Curry… apparently!

Pigeons!!

That evening, we wanted to have a nice casual dinner and an early night because of the Death Road the next day. But once again, our plans were thwarted by our rubbish hostel that had ‘run out chips’ so dinner consisted of some crisps from a local kiosko! Despite the (non-stop) banging music and LOUD backpackers in our place, we managed to get some good sleep before the big day!…