Spanish, Tear Gas and New Years Eve in La Paz

Trip Start Nov 17, 2010
Trip End Feb 27, 2011

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Where I stayed
Le Sefcotel Hotel Tignes
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, December 27, 2010

27/12/2010 - Monday
We checked out of Estrella Andina in the morning to move to our new hostel, Loki Backpackers.  The walk from Estrella Andina to Loki was quite tiring, although we had now recovered from any altitude sickness.

We had heard many good things about Loki hostel, as a matter of fact it was what most travellers had recommended to us as we made our way up north.  From what we had heard it was a loud party hostel, something that we had yet to experience.

Originally we had booked for 3 nights at Loki, then we had 3 nights booked at Adventure Brew, another hostel in La Paz due to no availabilities over New Years Eve at Loki, but when we checked in we asked about staying over NYE and there were enough free spaces, which made things much easier.

We stayed in an 8 man dorm, on the second floor and quite close to the bar... but that wasn't too much of a problem.  The beds were large and for once long enough for us, since we are both over 6 ft tall, we had had some problems fitting into the shorter beds in some hostels.  It was also a very large spacious room, with lockers and a bathroom, all for 50 bolivianos a night.

There is also a bar on the second floor of the hostel, a full kitchen as well as TVs with sports and movies.  Downstairs is a quiet area for reading, snoozing on bean bags, listening to music etc.  Upstairs there is an oxygen lounge (The highest in the world, apparently) as well as an outdoor roof area.

At night we walked a few blocks towards a plaza, and found a 'chifa' to eat - a Chinese restaurant.  Chifa is derived from the mandarin phrase "chi fan", meaning to "eat food".  I had pork and rice, which was quite tasty and somewhat 'authentic' tasting.

Back at the Loki bar a trivia competition was about to start, so we teamed up with some girls from England.  We didn't win (I think we came 4th out of 6 teams) but it was still fun.  Afterwards we had a few drinks in Loki bar until it closed, moved down the road to Wild Rover, Loki's "rival" hostel, and after that we went to a gringo nightclub called Blue House, where the drinks were expensive and music was terrible.  But a fun time was had by all.

28/12/2010 - Tuesday
Woke up feeling a bit hungover, but had to get up to attend the Loki vs Wild Rover football (soccer) match.  We had signed up the previous day, and didn't want to let the team down.  We met up with the Wild Rover folks and walked for a while until we reached a 6 a side pitch with artificial turf and nets.

The Loki team had about twice the number of Wild Rover, so we dominated the game and won by quite a few goals.  Because of the thin air and high altitude, it didn't take long at all to get tired and puffed out.  Now I know why Argentina came here and lost 7-0 to Bolivia.

29/12/2010 - Wednesday
We walked through the Witches Market (Mercado de Brujas), gawking at all the llama foetuses and other weird and wonderful items on display.  After buying some small Bolivia flag pins, we were allowed to take some photos in front of the stalls.  The whole market was down two small streets, and the place smelled of incense.

After lunch we went to find out about Spanish lessons with Liron, an Israeli that we met back in Bariloche, and Stacey, one of the girls that was in our trivia team.  We ended up all booking lessons at a place called Pico Verde, on Sagarnaga Street.  While the other guys were having their lesson I went to find a place to watch the Liverpool premier league match, and ended up at a place coincidentally called "Oliver's Travel Pub".  Unfortunately it wasn't shown on TV.

I had my first spanish lesson with Adriana, which was mostly revision, since I had learnt some spanish already by using  My aim was to improve vocabulary and speaking/listening skills.

30/12/2010 - Thursday
Oliver had an early morning spanish lesson, so I slept in until 11am and then left the hostel to make my way to my lesson which started at 12.  As soon as I stepped out two motorbikes with policemen carrying what looked like grenade launchers rode past me.  I had heard that there was a strike going on that day because the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, had doubled the price of petrol.  At first I didn't think much of it, except that there weren't many cars on the roads at all.

When I ducked into a bank to withdraw money, I was greeted by two policemen armed with large shotguns, which was a bit surprising.

Once I made my way to the main road, Avenida 16 de Julio, I noticed that there were absolutely no cars on it at all, and instead the sidewalks were filled with people, some with placards all walking around shouting chants and slogans.

I arrived at spanish lessons safely, and during the lesson I could hear what sounded like gunshots, but one of the teachers said it was like a firework, set off by riot police to warn the rioters.

While Stacey was still having her lesson, I went back to the markets with Oliver and Liron to do some shopping.  We were in a shop looking at ponchos when suddenly everyone on the street began yelling and screaming.  The shop owners pushed and dragged us into the store, and then began carrying throwing all their merchandise inside, so we also helped take in some of the items that were hanging off the doors.  We of course had no idea what was going on, but it was all rather exciting.  After standing around inside the locked shop for a few minutes, they decided it was safe to go out again. What happened was they weren't supposed to have their shops open during the day of the strike, and police were coming down the street.

After the shop ordeal, Oliver bought a poncho, I had a new alpaca jumper (sweater) and we went to pick up Stacey from spanish lessons and head back to the hostel.  After crossing Avenida16 de Julio, I could feel a funny taste in my mouth and nose, and my eyes were stinging too.  The others all felt the same, and then we realised it was from the tear gas fired by the riot police.  All along the way we could see burn marks on the road, and there was a lot of new graffiti on buildings.

When we arrived back at the hostel, the door guard scolded us for walking around outside.  Apparently everyone was told to stay in the hostel that day because it was unsafe with all the rioters going around!  Oops.

There was a new person back in our room, who had apparently been dropped off outside of La Paz and had to walk for 5 hours into the city, because the bus companies also went on strike.  He then got picked up by a small minivan taxi, which got pelted with rocks and stones and almost tipped over by the rioters.  I guess we were really lucky we made it to La Paz before the bus companies began striking.

31/12/2010 - Friday
The four of us, Liron, Oliver, Stacey & I all had more spanish lessons (with homework!), then went for a walk to the markets and bought champagne, as well as some grapes, which was apparently a Bolivian tradition.  While out we saw many shops and stalls selling different coloured underwear: red if you want to find love, yellow for happiness and money

We began the night in the Loki bar, but later in the night we snuck up onto the rooftop area and had our champagne there. It was like our own private party, and we even got treated to a fireworks show.

We were told that you had to stand on a chair and eat 12 grapes, which brings good luck in the new year.  Some other Bolivian traditions we heard about was to walk up and down a
stairs with a suitcase if you wish to travel, and baking coins into
cakes, but we only completed the grape one.

Somehow we ended up back at Blue House again after Loki, but it was a fun night and quite different to spending New Years Eve in Sydney.

01/01/2011 - Saturday
Woke up feeling pretty average, we left the hostel in search of "fricasť", a traditional Bolivian meal usually eaten on the first day of the new year.  It is a kind of stew dish, with a large piece of pork, mushrooms and pork crackling in a spicy stew.  After failing to find anywhere that sold it, we finally found a place called Dumbo's which had the dish on the menu.  It was very delicious and not a bad hangover cure.

The rest of the day was spent just hanging around the hostel, and unsurprisingly everybody was in bed by midnight.

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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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