Andrew gets a yank from a Cholita who wrestles....

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, December 19, 2010

We got up relatively early this morning, had breakfast in the hostel (bread, jam and coffee) and then went down to the travel agent at the bottom of the street to book a tour to Tiwanaku the pre-Incan ruins and also tickets to Cholitas Wrestling. We were very excited.  We had only found out about this 'attraction' when we were given a flyer on our walking tour of the city and after reading some blogs about it we had instantly decided that we had to go and see what it was all about.  It was totally different from anything that we have done so far this year.  Cholitas are the indigenous women who wear traditional dress which usually consists of a tall bowler hat, tiered mid length skirt (complete with a voluminous underskirt), a checked apron (sometimes) and a fringed shawl.  They also wear their hair in two long plaits down their backs tied together at the end often with knitted tassels.  A lot of these women have street stalls selling fruit, knitted clothing or juices – and the amount that we have seen them carrying on their backs around the streets tied and secured in bright sheets is unbelievable (they also carry their children this way).

Still feeling a bit rank we spent a good few hours in bed in the room (very lazy but just what we needed) watching the episodes of the Apprentice that had finally downloaded (that buffoon Stuart ‘Baggs the Brand’ has to be fired soon) and I caught up on the blog which took me ages as usual.  At 3.15pm Joanna and Will arrived (they were coming with) so we went in to the basement room to play some pool and wait for our bus.  We found some rather strange clothing down there on clothes rails (not sure who it belonged to) so had a fancy dress game of pool Will wore a tail (we couldn’t work out what else this thing could be) and Andrew wore a furry stole.  The bus arrived a bit late and our guide collected us and we boarded a bus full of travellers all eagerly awaiting the evening’s entertainment.  We wound our way up the steep streets towards El Alto (one of the poorest neighbourhoods in La Paz Andrew Edit – Its actually another city to La Paz) and stopped for a photo opportunity at a view point overlooking the whole of La Paz.  The guide had handed out a few wrestlers masks (I immediately asked him where we could buy said masks from) so of course we got pictures of the beautiful view with us obscuring it in bright spandex balaclavas.

Next, back on the bus the guide gave out our tickets, strangely enough along with the vouchers for ‘bus ticket’ and ‘snack and souvenir’ were two ‘bathroom vouchers’ that was a bit strange – and anyway what would happen in all the excitement if you had used the two vouchers and needed to go again hmmm things could get a bit messy.  We arrived at the ‘stadium’ and were the first tourist bus to arrive so had first dibs at the seats (the locals all sit behind in the stands – these were all full of a massive mix of Cholitas, children, men and women) so of course we all got front row seats just behind the metal barrier.  We quickly joined the queue for our free snack and souvenirs – these consisted of a plastic glass of coke (no alcohol is served), a bag of salted popcorn (more for throwing at the wrestlers than eating), and some postcards and a tiny little Cholita doll.  Happy Days.  It was at this stand that I also spied the masks – all glittery and just begging me to buy two.  I caved in and got a couple – there was absolutely no willpower there and for a couple of pounds I wasn’t willing to leave without them in my sweaty mitts.

It wasn’t long before the wrestling got underway and the continuous soundtrack of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ began.  The wrestlers emerged from behind a red curtain that had to be held in the middle by a helper to stop it hanging open spoiling the wrestlers’ big entrance.  The first bout was between what had to be a pensioner and a guy dressed as a demented wolf, very entertaining, and there was no lack of tongue in cheek humour as the referee got involved beating on the pensioner too and then other wrestlers ran in to interfere with planks of ‘2 by 4’.  It was all very entertaining.  We then got to the Cholita who entered the ring after circumnavigating it and nearly ripping off the beards of one Gringo in the front row (It was Andrew), he said that it hurt – what do you expect this girl is a wrestler!  (Andrew Edit – She came over with open arms so i stood up to hug her then she just grabbed my beard and started yanking it as hard as she could, I was screaming loudly much to the amusement of the crowd). She was pitted against a weak looking man in a yellow ensemble and after being bitten by the referee and thrown out of the ring in to the audience (queue get out the fake blood – I  am assuming it was fake) she won.  Yay Cholita!!! 

A few more bouts, including a Cholita tag team match with a guy in a fencing outfit where he got sellotaped to part of the metal barrier.  A few wrestlers actually ended up in the front row on top of spectators and Andrew almost got ejected for throwing popcorn too aggressively at a ‘baddie’ on the floor near our feet.  Another funny point was when a dog and on another occasion a child dodged the barrier and nearly got in the middle of a brawl and had to be removed.  I think the dog was more interested in eating the popcorn and crisps and licking up the coke that now littered the floor and the ring from spectators hurling it over the barrier at the wrestlers.  All in all a very entertaining Sunday evening, I would definitely say a must if you are fortunate enough to be in La Paz on a Sunday – a totally unique experience and possibly the most surreal evening we have spent since our Neighbours evening in Melbourne where Dr Karl Kennedy flexed his funky stuff up on stage and by some stroke of luck we won the quiz.

We arrived back at the hostel and as we hadn’t eaten since breakfast we took advantage of the English speaking receptionist, so to speak, and got her to order a delivery pizza to the room.  We got engrossed in some crap cable TV show about three young real estate agents in Beverly Hills selling properties and getting crazy commissions from them – how much? Before we passed out from all the random craziness and excitement of the evening – what would we be doing back at home?  Probably watching Top Gear and not looking forward to another week at work – I know what I would rather be doing – and a spandex mask to boot – is there really any comparison?
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