La La La Paz

Returning to the bustling, diesel-fumed city of La Paz after being first in the Yungas and then in the jungle is a bit of a shock to the system. There are people rushing about every which way. The traffic is unbearable (often, the streets are two-way, but without any noticeable dividing lines. i.e. cars traveling in both directions within the same lane). The weather varies from hot and sunny in the day to fairly brisk at night and the altitude makes sustaining any amount of physical activity for a long period of time near impossible. But as expressed in our previous La Paz post, there’s an energy here that revs up the system and we’ve thusly enjoyed our second trip back while learning to deal with how much we miss the jungle.

While stopping to take photos was a bit of a challenge and one we often chose not to undertake (imagine stopping on the corner of 34th and 6th or Broadway between Prince and Spring to snap a few photos in-midst rush-hour foot-traffic), here are a few highlights from La Paz (for a broad view of La Paz, click here):

A typical street in La Paz. This was taken in the tourist district, where we stayed the first time around. There are a lot of trinket shops here, selling everything from woven pants and bags to drums, tour excursions, and English-language books. Much of the merchandise is bulk-manufactured instead of handmade and the prices are much higher than a La Paz resident would normally pay. There is also a “witch’s market” nearby, where indigenous women sell herbal remedies of all sorts and baby llama skeletons (yes, indeed), as well as a “black market” where second-hand clothes and shoes are sold in sidewalk booths for cheap. Fun to walk around for a bit, but if you want to get an authentic feel for La Paz, it’s best to go elsewhere to one of the many other neighborhoods in this sprawling metropolis.

The open-air market.One of our favorite things to do, I say again, is to shop in the market. Now that we have our trusty camping stove, shopping for food has become that much more fun. The main market in La Paz stretches for many streets, and like in other major cities, there are sections delegated for each category of food: meat (drippy, bloody), vegetables and fruit (colorful, lively), dried goods (pasta, rice, spices), etc. You never know what you’re going to find and sometimes, if you’re particularly curious about what something is that you’ve never seen before, they’ll hand you a taste.

Take this fruit, for instance. It’s called a cherimoya and is incredibly delicious when eaten raw or blended with milk or water in a juice. As you can see in the photo, there are large seeds that are easily separated (or spit out) before eating the rest of the fruit (aside from the skin). Taste-wise, it’s pretty much the sweetest fruit I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying. I loved it (of course), but Mark thought it was a bit on the sugary side.

In addition to strolling the streets for hours, we checked out the National Museum of Art. Although photos aren’t allowed inside the museum, this one was taken from the interior courtyard. The museum was created in 1960, with a public collection existing since 1935, and contains Vicegral, Republican, and Contemporary Bolivian Art. The building itself is an 18th century palace that once belonged to Francisco Tadeo Diez de Medina y Vidangos who twice held the mayoral office in La Paz. While we breezed through the floors containing religious art (well, it’s true), some of the post-modern pieces were quite captivating.

What with all the thousands of people one passes while walking the streets of La Paz each day, there are bound to be countless opportunities to catch one or two of them doing something interesting. This snap was taken right off the square and I love the contrast. There are shoeshine boys and men all over town, anchoring for a job. Sitting straddle-legged on the ground and wearing woolen masks over their faces, these guys are pros and can polish a shoe in 3-minutes flat.

This one is of a boy who seemed to be taking on the weight of the world. As I watched, he tried as hard as he could to sweep his portion of the street clean. Like many of the wee ones all over Bolivia, this little guy learned early-on how integral hard work is to daily living.

Lastly, an inside shot of the transportation system in La Paz. In addition to taxis (costing anywhere from 15 to 25 Bs for the typical ride), there are buses and vans called “micros” (costing 1 to 2 Bs) that people take all over town. As you can see, people are crammed in until there is basically no air left, and when a person has to get out (wherever they are in the car), everyone piles out and back in before heading on to their final destination. There are little signs in the windshield of each van and the only other way one can distinguish where one micro is going as opposed to the next is by the slur of words yelled out the window by the guy taking your fare. It’s quite a trip.

Alas, tomorrow, we’re heading back to Chile before blitzing up through Peru and into Ecuador.  I’m a bit torn about leaving Bolivia. I had no idea the country and its people would capture my heart like it did. But hopefully there will be opportunities to come back again someday.


About andesnotthemint

Alexis, Mark, 2 seasons, 1 continent, a very long mountain range.
This entry was posted in Bolivia, Food, La Paz, Lex, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to La La La Paz

  1. mom wyman says:

    Hi Guys:
    Lex, after your yummy description, send home some
    The Market Place did sound like a lot of fun.
    Enjoy your next stop
    love, mom w.

  2. Herbert M Wyman MD says:

    Amazing how you can go from the pristine jungle to the crowded city in one leap and a bound! Quite a country. btw I got hold of a copy of Hotel Bolivia, had not realized any of this history till your reports. Love, Dad W

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