La Paz

La Paz Travel Blog

 › entry 27 of 48 › view all entries

With the blockades to La Paz lifted, it was time to go to the highest capital in the world (only it isn´t, as we found out that they´d changed the capital to Sucre a month earlier !).  3 hour journey straight forward contradicting word of mouth that the bus journeys in Bolivia are horrendous.  1st views of La Paz are impressive with the city in a bowl surrounded by steep hills.  However houses climb out of the city on all sides to the top. Our 1st choice hostel fully booked so went to Chad´s suggestion of Adventure Brewers with its own microbrewery that included a free drink every night.

  Lovely hostel but back in dorms.  The group went out for a stroll around La Paz which although frenetic has a very pretty centre and has a very friendly atmosphere. 

Neils top destination was the infamous San Pedro prison. Made famous after a scouser who had spent 4 years inside wrote a book about it.  Cells have to be bought otherwise you sleep in the corridors.  Guards do not work on the ground and only look down from control towers giving mob rule to the upper hierarchy and cocaine is openly manufactured within the prison and supplies most of Bolivia.  Unfortunately (or maybe furtunately), Interpol have banned tours within the prison meaning Neil (and he recruited me to try and speak a little Spanish to the guards) to try and negotiate our way in !!  We didn´t succeed but we did have a very surreal conversation with a Dutch guy who had been sentenced to 2 and a half years inside, through the bars.

He advised not to come in as it was dangerous - which was enough convincing for me !!

Went on to tour companies to book a mountain bike ride down the Death Road.  However we didn´t have unanimity within the group so left it until tomorrow. Returned to the hostel to try out the microbewery. 5 home brews of which I had 4 before deciding a favourite and Neil and I started on jugs of a continental style lager.  With the help of a new recruit (Kingsley from Nottingham), won a pop quiz to gain another jug.  A little tipsy by bed. 

Up earlier than ideal and a little hungover to meet Neil (I´d agreed when tipsy to try to get in the prison again).  Hung around the entrance for a while and hinted at paying the guards to get in without open bribary (which is acknowledged to work and other tourists in La Paz confirmed they had been in), but failed again.

  Returned to hostal to meet others and walk around the famous witches market. En route walked past a protest march with more hand held fireworks that brought the San Francisco plaza to a stand still.  Protest marches occur in La Paz on most days, but fortunately (unlike normal), it didn´t end in tear gas from the police.  

The witches market was exactly as advertised with an array of unusual and disturbing wares.  Some of the more frequent items were statuettes of Pacha Mama - a god worshipped all over South America that when planted in the ground in a ritual will bring good luck, llama foetuses (also for good luck) and the infamous halluconegenic San Pedro drug (in both raw cactus form and processed green jelly).  Interested by concept but decided against purchasing !

Walked passed the San Pedro jail en route to book Death Road mountain biking and half heartedly tried a 3rd time to get in.

  This time, our Dutch friend passed us his phone details and the guards decided to let Neil and I inside.  Suddenly faced with the choice to actually go in (and seeing no other tourists inside), I lost my bottle and decided against risking my life to go in.  Neil wouldn´t go in on his own so we left.  Booked our Death road mountain biking with a little overpriced but recommended outfit (Downhill Madness) worrying what we were getting ourselves in to.  Dave, Chad, Donna and Kingsley booked a boat trip to the jungle (Rurrenebaque) which I decided against (running out of time for my priorities in Argentina and Chile), officially giving 2 days before Dave and I would start travelling solo - Aaaah!! Went to English style curry house "The Star of India" as recommended by Kingsley and had the Chicken Tikka Masala.  Proper English curry and savoured every mouthful.  Avoided beer in preparation for the Death Road tomorrow and had early night.

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La Paz
photo by: wilfredoc2009