La Paz

Trip Start Nov 07, 2008
Trip End Mar 03, 2009

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, November 30, 2008

  Having taken a fantastic bus journey skirting around, and across via a car ferry, Lake Titicaca, I arrived in the highest capital city in the world (and for many this isn't just due to the altitude). It's really two cities in one as you pass through El Alto , a former transient settlement that has become permanent and is one of the fastest growing cities in the world due to migration from rural areas, before reaching La Paz itself. It is in a great setting, in a bowl-shaped canyon surrounded by mountains and a very strange place to put a city. It is fairly similar to any other city in the developing world although it did seem to have a bit more character with numerous street markets selling anything you could possibly imagine or want. The weirdest thing that i've seen on sale is a dried llama foetus which is apparently good luck, although it certainly wasn't for the llama. I went to visit the coca museum all about the coca leaf (from which cocaine is derived) which is Bolivia's main export and the reason why it's at loggerheads with the USA. The upshot of that is that there are very few americans in Bolivia as they get given hell at the border and a hefty visa charge. What I learnt from that trip is that Coca-cola originally contained cocaine until it was criminalised and still does contain coca for flavour, so there you go. I've mostly just been wandering around the breathless streets and practising some more traffic dodging. A lot of people i've met have been to San Pedro prison which is a functioning prison but you can bribe the guards about 25 quid and get a tour around by the inmates as it is almost a small city inside where the families can come and live and they pay rent for their cells. Apparently it's a very democratic system they run but i'm not sure i'm going to risk it. Saying that, I am just about to go and cycle down what is supposedly the world's most dangerous road!
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