July 31, 2012 by t4li
La Paz is Bolivia’s capital city. It is dirty, busy, steep, smoggy, and crowded. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s completely lovely. We didn’t get a lot of pictures of La Paz, due to its somewhat hectic and unsafe nature, so I’ll just have to paint you a mind-picture.
Here we go: La Paz is at 3660 meters above sea level, give or take a hundred. That is about 12,000 feet. It’s constructed in the valley of a mountain range and spreads all the way up the surrounding mountains, like a fungus that’s grown all the way up the walls of a basin. The high altitude, extremely steep streets, and constant miasma of smog due to its only public transportation consisting of exhaust-spewing micro buses makes it a, let’s say, difficult city to stroll around in. There are shoe-shine boys everywhere, wearing bank-robber ski masks. There is a lovely mix of people wearing western clothing and Bolivian women wearing the traditional costume of full skirt, sandals, colorful shawls, and tiny little bowler hat. You’re either walking, slowly, up a huge hill, panting and red-faced, or your traveling quicker than you’d like down a steep incline of unsafe cobblestones. There are many, many kiosks and peddlers selling things your heart may desire – street meat, huge Inca popcorn, used clothing, items that definitely fell off the back of a truck – all on the street for pedestrians to peruse. And the PEDESTRIANS; it feels like the entire population of the city is on the sidewalks, or crossing the street unsafely in front of cabs that don’t slow down for even a second. The word for La Paz is BUSTLING. I loved it. Leah, not as much.
Our favorite thing, by far, was the CEJA market. Held every Sunday and Thursday in the suburb of El Alto, you can see the entire city at your feet as you climb the staircase into the market chaos. We couldn’t take pictures because of the extreme warnings we were given to not bring anything to the market you may regret getting stolen, but I recommend checking this out. Wow, right? Not even our favorite part. That was the part where you could buy literally anything at this market. I am so serious. Clothes, shoes, food, fresh-squeezed orange juice, car parts, entire cars, woven cloth, plastic bags, underwear, electronics, ripped DVDs, tools, I am forgetting more but I can assure you it was ALL OF THE THINGS. I supplemented my meager winter wardrobe with an excellent raccoon sweatshirt, an Ethan old man sweater with flowers on it, and a scarf; Leah added to her burgeoning traditional woven cloth collection. And don’t let’s forget all the food we ate – ice cream, meatballs with rice, OJ, and fruit salad. All this and we probably spent a total of $8 each.
La Paz also afforded us some excellent traveler stories. Like when the second night we were in the hostel our Argentinian roommate woke me at 4 in the morning with some seiouslt sustained vomiting into the trashcan. Or when a drunk girl wandered into the unlocked room and tapped me, mistaking our room for hers and me for her friend. Or, the dooziest of all doozies: the first night, we´re staying in an 8 bed mixed gender dorm, and I´m on the bottom bunk near the wall. I awake in the middle of the night to the sound of running water, and turned over to see our male German roommate PEEING on the wall next to my bed and all over the stuff Leah and I had left on the chest next to us. Still foggy from sleep, I was unable to really comprehend the situation. I was like, “Is this real life?” Then he stopped, and I was like, OK cool, it´s over. Then he STARTED AGAIN, at which point I reared up, punched him in the side and screamed, “What the fuck are you doing?? GO TO THE BATHROOM!!!” He stumbled around and shuffled out of the room, at which point Leah turned on the light. When he got back, still pantsless and the only one out of bed, he refused to admit he had been the pee-petrator until we VERY STRONGLY assured him he had been; then he drunkenly cleaned up the piss all over the floor with his towel while still denying his culpability in German-accented broken English. This morning he was still in bed when we left. HOSTELS!!!!
Our party hostel afforded us some perks, though. Such as, on Friday night we had a handy dandy bar right in our place of residence, and a free beer to boot. This led to behavior such as bartop-dancing, sliding down railings, and having vodka poured into our mouths by the bartender. I’m 25, not dead, OK???? SOMETIMES THINGS HAPPEN WHEN I HEAR LMFAO.
So, that’s pretty much La Paz. Sweet flea market deals, lots of breathless walks, wacky hostel adventures. And Valle de la Luna, where we were, once again, Whalers on the Moon. Hey, we still think it’s funny.