SA 18: La Paz

This is a crazy city!

La Paz may not be the best “crash course” for those experiencing South America for the first time, as the traffic is crazy, what little sidewalks there are are crowded and the hills… my goodness, there are a lot of hills!  It definitely does have a rugged sort of beauty, though.

Now, before the day begins, travel update.  The Uyuni Salt Flats are definitely out, as we could do the tour but would be unable to go into Chile from that border, which means $1400 worth of flights to get to Santiago, which is WAY out of the budget.  As of right now, the plan is to take a bus to Arica, Chile on Friday, fly from there to Santiago for significantly less and continue with business as scheduled.  However, it’s a holiday weekend and the bus company may not run that bus on Friday if the ticket sales are low, so we shall have to see what happens.

South American travel does make one resourceful.

Add to that the fact that Daina has a pretty nice sinus cold and Bolivia is grinding things to a bit of a halt.  Still, Santiago or bust, as that’s the only way to hit Easter Island.

Anyways, enough of that.  On to our day.

First off was San Francisco Square (which was under construction) and the San Francisco Church (which wasn’t).  There was an obligatory tour guide who took us around (a lot of stuff is locked, so you need to have one), but it was okay because she was maybe the most ADORABLE tour guide ever.  Lots of cute chuckles, attempts to speak French, descriptions in English that she ONLY started studying seven weeks ago (she was doing great) and a really cool smile.  Wonderful girl, I wish more guides were like that at sites, I’d use more of them.

Church was beautiful, too, with gold artefacts, beautiful cloisters, a courtyard with every type of flower imaginable from as close as Peru and as far away as Spain.  Also a crazy claustrophobic climb to the top which Daina enjoyed way more than I did.  However, it resulted in a great, red-eyed “Daina is stoned” picture which I will not post now out of respect… but maybe another time.

Now, from La Paz’s best church to the complete opposite of a church, we wandered to the Witches’ Market.  Overall, I was expecting more witchery, as the place seemed pretty touristy and there were more souvenir shops along the street than witchcraft stalls.  However, there was one thing that made it pretty distinct.

Dried llama fetuses.

Yup.  Dried llama fetuses.

Apparently if you bury them at the front of your house, it brings you luck.  I’m not bringing one home, though I would love to see the look at customs.  I did pick up a neat little stone turtle talisman.  Daina got an owl statue, plus a couple of souvenirs for other people.

Love you mom, here’s your llama.  =0)

We did a little bit of walking through the “Black Market”, which isn’t actually a black market, more just everybody selling everything you could imagine, before we had to take a break at the hostel.  It was getting relatively hot for a day that started off at -5 Celsius and I was way over layered.  Plus, with Daina’s sinus cold, it seemed like a good idea to rest up a little bit, considering the altitude of the city and the ungodly number of hills we had to deal with.  40 minutes later, we were off again, wandering the streets until we came to the next major church in La Paz,

No real stories about this one, except that it’s considered the “big one and is right next to the parliament building and the Presidential Palace.  All three of these building still have remnants of bullet holes in them, from the many, many, MANY coups that have happened in Bolivia.  Daina said something like 200 governments over 280 years and while I’m not going to bother to check that statistic, it sounds legitimate enough and awesome enough to keep in here.
Parliament, plus bullet holes.

Final stop of the day before double timing it back to miss the rain was at the Central Park, where there was supposed to be a viewing area where you could see the whole city.  However, it appeared to be closed.  That being said, there was a MASSIVE windy bridge that went right over the main highway that we could walk down.  We got some great views of a city that’s go some modernity but looks like it was designed at the height of the eighties.  Good on ya, La Paz.

The current plan is a little bit of recovery before heading to a pizzeria that smells too good not to be good.  Tomorrow is Tiwanaku, which is the major archeological site in Bolivia, fairly freshly unearthed and just a bit pre-Inca.  I’m told it’s not going to hold up to Machu Picchu, but don’t know what will.

Wish us luck, health and good bus schedules!

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