Bolivia's Hatchery (by MAPG)

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Feb 19, 2010

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, October 4, 2009

Exhausted about another 12 hours in a high-end Bolivian bus, which had about the same average speed as the Indians had on their horses, we arrived in La Paz. Situated at around 3650 m, the highest capital in the world is actually located in a valley, the airport itself lying some 400 m further above, making it, you guessed it, the highest airport in the world. We did not have the pleasure of landing there, but arriving from the hills surrounding the city, and watching the first rays invading the valley was also unforgettable. The valley itself was nowhere to be recognized behind the thin layer (mostly 2-3 stories houses) of buildings. No square meter had escaped the rush of moving to the capital. Only some big rocks remained without inhabitants, phenomenon best observed at night when the latter became black holes on a shiny carpet.

Whether it was the spirit of conserving the original reddish colour of the hills (I doubt that people that throw PETs out of every window posses such a characteristic), or maybe a material reason, fact is that most houses, new or old, had unpainted exteriors.

Our hostel was located in the heart of one of the most bizarre markets, the one for witchcraft. Beside the huge array of herbs, the offer even included born dead llamas. Don't imagine many people buying them. We belonged to the few that did, so dear parents, don’t be scared when you open the package from Bolivia, the llamas keep the bad spirits away…just kidding.

We were lucky to arrive on a Sunday, day dedicated entirely to Bolivians. For this purpose, La Paz’s main boulevard, El Prado, transformed itself into a huge street market, hence resembling the rest of the city. Beside handicraft artist that made out half of the surface, exhibitors included local bands or indigenous dance groups, and even educational facilities or even army divisions posing next to the latest technology. Call it the influence of socialism (the newly elected president, Evo Morales – the first indigenous president – is a convinced communist), fact is that everybody was proud of being a Bolivian, even we were as tourists.         

Most of northern La Paz is a market that offers everything. It is actually formed of many different, specialized markets, covering every surface available and even crowding the vehicles. You can get 3 DVD for € 1 containing everything from National Geographic to the latest Hollywood series.

At night life on the streets becomes even more intense. The valley fills up with light, phenomenon best observed from the mirador in the central park (watch out, closes at 7 PM).

Visitors of La Paz should carry big bags and take advantage of the great handicraft that suffocates the narrow streets around the Cathedral. La Paz was the missing part of the Bolivian puzzle. Big, crowded, and the dream come true of the ultimate Mercado.
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