Tres mercados negros

Trip Start Jul 12, 2006
Trip End Aug 23, 2006

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Saturday, August 12, 2006

I'm in La Paz, Bolivia now after an arduous 19-hour hus ride (they told me it would be 16 and I'd only have to change buses once, as opposed to the three times we actually did). It's crowded here but I like the atmosphere and the prices (i.e. everything's really cheap).

I've been reminded to write about my activities for the rest of the day after my last post. After I finished writing/uploading pictures, I met Natalie to go to Cuzco's very own El Molino--more on this in a second. Writing/uploading took longer than planned and I was about 20 minutes late (Natalie, correct me if I'm wrong) for the meeting. When I got to the meeting spot, Natalie was surrounded by (sometimes over-) friendly Peruvian children including one named Sylvester (obviulsy a very Peruvian name) who, as she puts it, ''delights in putting his grubby little paws up the back of my t-shirt whilst simultaneously wiping his nose on the front in several fluid movements.'' Good times for everybody.

After disentangling Natalie from countless arms (and faces) we headed for El Molino. El Molino is a market where you can buy pretty much anything you want for very cheap prices. The very cheap prices may or may not be a result of one or more of the following: 1) theft of the item for sale from previous owner; 2) imitation products bearing the official logos and designs of popular american/british companies--I'm still not sure if the Quiksilver t-shirt I bought for $5 is authentic or not. I know the Patagonia down vest I got for $10 for when I'm in the freezing temperatures of southwestern Bolivia is not authentic--but it's warm; 3) some other method(s) of acquiring things cheaply enough to sell them in El Molino which are beyond my area of knowledge. The items on sale here include exact copies of DVDs of popular films for around $1. I'll just say that my movie collection has grown a little from my visit to El Molino. My apologies to anyone in the movie industry--Tom Harrits, that means you, even though you probably don't read this. Anyway, the cramped aisles of El Molino were a welcome change to the usual sights in Cuzco--nobody in El Molino even acknowledged your presence until you asked a question, whereas you can't walk three steps in Cuzco without being told that you want a massage, a movie, a tour, a picture of ''the famous rock, it's even more famous than me.'' In fact, there were a number of vendors asleep in their stalls. Additionally, I think there were only three other non-Peruvians there besides Natalie and me. The only problem I had with the whole thing were the frighteningly non-Peruvian, non-human looking manequins on which clothes were displayed (Natalie can back me up on this). But we seemed to be the only ones who were frightened, as the girl in a baby clothes stall gave me an icy look when I made a joke about the manequin there scaring me. The look was almost as scary so we moved on quickly.

After about an hour and a half of wandering and occasionally buying something in El Molino, we decided to go back to touristy Cuzco and get an early dinner (early because there was another pub quiz run by Natalie's group at 7:30--early enough for me to get in a few rounds before hopping on the bus). Apparently it's required that you eat alpaca (if you're not a vegetarian, or as South Americans put it, ''eres normal'') when you visit Peru, and as it was my last night in Peru I had to eat alpaca. I had an alpaca sirloin steak with steamed veggies. It was by far the best meal I've had this trip, and rivals anything I've eaten in the States. It even left a good taste in my mouth for a good hour--I challenge you to find a steak that does that. I think Molly would even like it, but she would definitely think about the little sunglasses-wearing alpacas that hang out with their owners in Huaraz and in Cuzco.

Anyhow, as the title of this post implies, I visited three black markets. El Molino was the first. The second was a black market of a different kind: black as in black magic. The Witches Market in La Paz is a block and a half away from my hostel. There are lots of herbs and spices and strange looking cures for various things. The strangest--and most famous--are the llama fetuses which (I think) newlyweds are supposed to bury under their houses for good luck. I know of two weddings I'll be attending when I get home... Anyway, I'll post some pictures of that when I get a chance.

The third black market is actually called 'El Mercado Negro' in La Paz, but it wasn't was good as El Molino and I got lost a lot. The market finally spit me out a lot further north than I was expecting, and it took me a good five minutes to figure out where I was. I didn't make any major purchases--just a few more movies.

I spent most of today walking around the city seeing what I could see, and hiring a guide to climb Huayna Potosi, a 6000+m mountain near La Paz. I'm leaving at 9 am tomorrow and if all goes well, I will return on Sunday around noon. Wish me luck. With that, I'm off to bed to get some sleep for the climb.
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