The Bowl and The Sink

La Paz Travel Blog

 › entry 21 of 115 › view all entries
There´s only so long you can handle places like Loki, a somewhat infamous chain of hostels in Peru and Bolivia that appear to exist solely to profit from getting backpackers hammered. You know exactly what you´re going to get; basically a huge party from start to finish. I spent 6 nights there which was way too much, it was only supposed to be two to check it out but I decided to shelve my original plan to hot foot it down to Argentina and instead head to Oruro - a town reputed to be one of the best places to spend Carnaval time after Rio.

So, whilst waiting for Carnaval to come around, I endured six La Pazian nights of very noisy dorm room action Loki style. This included couples indulging in a spot of quiet legover fun - actually, sex is never quiet when it´s happening in a bed less than 6 feet away from you. It´s even less quiet when it´s performed with the girl perched on a fragile bathroom sink which subsequently crashes to the floor in a heap of porcelain shards. Not that this happened when I was at Loki of course. Oh no - definitely not - that would be ludicrous right? Other highlights included 3AM wake ups from randoms (Aussies mainly) coming in messed up and rambling incoherently etc. etc.  I guess maybe at 28 I´m already past it in terms of partying: I need my sleep. I did a couple of all nighters myself and they both left me needing decades of slumber to recover.

In the end it felt damn good to get out of Loki, if not La Paz. The city (3,500 metres above sea level - that´s bloody high if you´ve never experienced similar altitude) has a genuine dollop of old school Latin American character and its setting, similar to Quito, is absolutely stunning. When you arrive or leave, you are treated to a spectacular view over the enormous bowl of the city. There´s 500 metres from the main part of the city at the bottom of the bowl to the rim and outlying areas (including the slums) above. The hustle and bustle of the packed streets with vendors noisily flogging everything from sink plugs to sausages from street side stalls left me feeling like I was witnessing a life totally at odds to that trapped within the alcoholic bubble of Loki.

La Paz must also be credited with supplying my first proper curry in South America, at an English-owned place called the Star of India. I can heartily recommend it if you get the chance - it´s funny how rice and chicken becomes infinitely more exciting when it´s accompanied by a proper curry sauce. Experiencing local cuisine is all very well, but sometimes a taste of home is more than welcome.      

I´ve been amazed at how many gringos there are in Bolivia as a whole; it seems to be a bit of a bottleneck for people going north from Argentina and South from Peru. This makes the whole experience a little artificial - I expected it in Southern Peru but thought that Bolivia would be a more raw and genuine experience - similar to Ecuador. However it seems that tourism has well and truly found this country and unless you tread well off the beaten track (difficult because the roads are so bad and everyone has time limits) you can expect to meet as many backpackers as locals.

This is not good for learning Spanish and my progress has definitely suffered because of it - although I can pretty much get by without the phrasebook now which is satisfying. Anyway I don`t wish to carp too much becuase I´m obviously a gringo too and add to the whole problem by my own presence here. And on that hypocritical point I´ll sign off - ciao for now amigos!  
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La Paz
photo by: wilfredoc2009