Festivals and Football

Trip Start Dec 01, 2009
Trip End Aug 01, 2010

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, June 21, 2010

pengs: The journey back to La Paz was long and very dusty and the bus wound its way up into the mountains for 20 bone-shaking hours! We arrived in La Paz at 6am in the morning, tired and sore but determined to make it to the New Year celebrations at the ruins just outside of the city. At the winter solstice every year, the Aymara celebrate their New Year by partying all night long, with the peak of the celebrations being at sunrise. These parties are held at traditional sites all over the country, the most important being Tiwanaku, the largest and most important of Bolivia's pre-Colombian ruins. We knew we had missed most of the party, but we set off for the ruins anyway, hoping to find something happening. We were not disappointed!

nadya: We took a quick look at the ruins which were empty by that stage, but the ceremonial fire was still smouldering - the people make offerings to the gods, usually of coca leaves, cigarettes and 96% proof alcohol, all of which seem to be consumed in large quantities by the locals too! Everywhere you go in Bolivia, people have chipmunk-cheeks full of coca leaves, and the almost-pure alcohol seems to be the favoured drink too...

pengs: Then we headed for the main plaza in the town alongside. There was still plenty of dancing and drinking going on, with people dressed for the occasion in lots of colourful and interesting outfits. We joined in a traditional procession at the insistence of the locals and I also suddenly found myself being interviewed (in Spanish of course!). I mumbled about how lovely Bolivia was (muy linda!!!) to whatever question they asked me and tried to get away as soon as possible. We also ate some of the potatoes that were on offer to everyone there and then headed back to La Paz, all the while trying to get rid of a 60 year old dentist who was convinced he was going to get lucky with one of us (as if!).

nadya: La Paz is an interesting place: it is the highest capital city in the world (at 3700m), overlooked by snow-capped peaks, and although the surrounding hillsides are covered with small box-like houses, the centre has some beautiful historical buildings. Most of the people dress in traditional clothing (with the women wearing the classic bowler hat perched on top of their heads), and despite the city's seemingly chaotic appearance, with loads of street stalls selling all sorts of snacks and produce, and crowds of people everywhere, it's still got a surprisingly mellow vibe. There is a big emphasis on traditional healing, with all sorts of leaves and herbal remedies available, as well as other weird things like llama foetuses! Fortune-telling is also big, with shamans using all manner of things for readings, such as cards, ribbons and even molten silver. 

We shamefully spent most of our time in La Paz in an English pub watching the World Cup, which was in full swing by this stage. Everyone, tourists and locals alike, were wondering how we could be crazy enough not to be at home!
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