Hocus pocus and high jinks

Trip Start Apr 24, 2006
Trip End Apr 20, 2007

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, March 19, 2007

The end of our tour took us to La Paz which is the defacto capital of Bolivia and at 3660m above sea level is the world's highest capital city. The city has a population of 1.5 million people but it felt like much more. On approaching the city you hit the urban sprawl which seems to stretch for miles. It quickly became clear that there was more poverty here than any of the places I had visited in Peru or even the rest of south America, especially in the suburbs where a few hundred people queuing to get their gas canisters filled seemed to be a normal occurance.

The traffic is totally chaotic and the pollution gave me a sore throat for the first day or so. I'd heard a few stories about the city being one of the worst in South America for scams, with backpackers being the prime targets. Protest marches and demonstrations are held regularly in La Paz and a few weeks previous miners had marched through the streets carrying dynamite. I was glad I'd missed that! The police are notoriously corrupt too. Luckily I didn't have any bad experiences.

On the positive side, and there were quite a few positives, Bolivia was amazingly cheap and we had some delicious meals from as little as a pound. It wasn't the most picturesque of cities but I enjoyed walking through the narrow alleys and taking in the sights. Most of the ladies dress in their traditional Bolivian outfits - long skirts with numerous petticoats, shawls and often bowler hats. Shopping was also cheap and La Paz seems to have a market for everything - clothes, shoes, food, meat, fish etc etc... We stayed near the 'Witches Market' which sold all manner of touristy things as well as some seriously creepy items including animal carcasses which were pretty gross.

On our second day we took a trip to some ruins at Tiwanaka, which were an hour outside the city. The ruins weren't quite as impressive as some of the others that we had seen as they had been quite badly damaged. But I think we had seen so many ruins in the previous two weeks that we had reached saturation point!

On the third day we finished the tour and I was sad to be saying goodbye to a really nice bunch of people who had been great to travel with. That evening we had a night out on the town to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and also Ireland's near win in the rugby (any excuse really!). The match had been shown at 9am that morning and most of the Irish people that we met had been drinking since then so it was a little messy!

After a day to recover I set off at 4am the following day to catch my flight to Brazil. I was quite excited about reaching Rio de Janeiro so was totally fecked off when the flight was first delayed and then cancelled. At the time I didn't know whether to laugh, cry or get violent with the airline representatives... I soon realised (after getting a few hours sleep) that it wasn't the end of the world and I made it to Brazil the following day in one piece. The moral of the story is to NEVER fly with Bolivian airlines!! But I suppose its all part of the travelling experience...
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