Trip Start Sep 19, 2005
Trip End Mar 19, 2006

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, January 24, 2006

La Paz is high - very high! And very hilly, which does not help the general breathlessness and lack of oxygen I am experiencing since I arrived on Friday! It could be worse I suppose - I think some people get headaches and all sorts from the altitude but all I have is a bit of panting and a longing for the coast!

I can't wait to see some water, having been in landlocked Bolivia for almost two months now. (Incidentally we saw a couple of Bolivian navy officers earlier which was very funny). Tomorrow I am heading to Lake Titicaca with Tom and Emma, two of the Sucre Christmas crowd I was very happy to see when I arrived in La Paz, so that should quell the water cravings until I make it down to the coast of Peru.

After Sucre, which was a really beautiful, relaxed city, La Paz is kind of disappointing -there's no pretty gardens or squares, and there's not a lot to do beyond shopping and sitting in the pub. Which isn't altogether a bad thing, but not what you really want from a capital city. Plus, it has rained every day since I have arrived which is horrible!

The exciting thing this week has been the inauguration of Evo Morales, the new president. He's the first president in Bolivia from an indigenous background, and the celebrations here were done in earnest.

The lady in the laundry said things would kick of at 10 on Sunday, and the paper said 12, so once I had met up with Tom and Emma and another couple of Brits and an Aussie, we trooped (mercifully downhill) to the square at about 10.30, where loads of people had gathered with their Bolivia flags and symbols of the indigenous tribes. We stood around for a bit and watched the crowd and the head-dress wearing dancers, listening to some truly awful music from the stage. There was a really happy atmosphere and people were obviously very excited about Evo becoming president. I can't quite imagine such a joyous crowd to welcome Tony Blair! Anyway, we bought little Bolivian flags so we blended right in with the crowd (not! - redheads don't really have a hope of that!) and stood around getting burnt in the sunshine for a while.

A while later it occurred to us that we should find out when Evo was coming to address the crowd after his official inauguration in the Congress building. The policeman I asked said about 4pm so we decided to take a little break and go and get some lunch! Later we wandered back to the square but by about 5.30 Evo still hadn't turned up, so we decided we had got the general idea of the crowd, and 4 hours of standing around was really quite enough, and headed back to the bar!

Still, it was a really interesting and exciting day, with all kinds of Socialist groups arriving, with any number of symbols - Che, Castro, Chavez (of Venezuela) and 'Yankee go home' t-shirts- you name it, they were there!) I was also quite pleased that the police presence was fairly low key, and all fairly calm, with no tear gas and only a few bangers going off.

There was also a lot of coca symbols all over the place, and I went to the coca museum the other day to have a look around. The general Bolivian message (and the one that Evo promotes - he used to president of the coca growers' union) is that coca is not a drug if chewed in the traditional Andean way, or the leaves made into tea. Its when its processed into cocaine that the problems start, it naturally its all the fault of the US (which is probably fairly true to be fair). The US paid for the election campaign of Evo's rival for the presidency, and are constantly demanding that coca leaf crop be destroyed. Its pretty hypocritical when you think that most of the demand for cocaine comes from the US.

Anyhow, tomorrow we are heading to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca, (NOT the hottest spot north of Havana - more a tiny village!) so I can have a brief trip out to the Isla del Sol, and then I think we will all travel together to Arequipa in Peru. I've done loads of shopping here in La Paz and am going back in a bit to try to do some more bargaining before sending another big parcel back home as the beast is getting far too heavy to carry!

So, hope everyone is well and having fun, will write again soon!

Sarah xx

P.S can't believe it is less than 8 weeks til I have to come back!!!
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