I awoke with a bit of a headache, not because I drank so much but just because I had forgotten to drink any water all night. But it was a beautiful day with clear skies and brilliant sunlight and I decided to go to Tiahaunaco, the pre-Incan site near the shore of Lake Titicaca
. I took a bus up to the cemetery area of La Paz
where there is a small terminal for buses going west. By the time I got there I had changed my plan. I didn’t want to go to the site not feeling so great, especially since the combi van took an hour to get from Zona Sur to the Cemetery, and it would take another hour to get to Tiahuanaco
Cholita by Niches
I decided to put it off for another day when I had more time and when I felt in better shape. The day wasn’t a waste though since I had read about the cemetery and how many interesting and historic tombs and monuments it contained and also I thought I might wander through the vast market lining the streets that the combi had passed through on the way up.
There was a good map of the cemetery that I noticed at the entrance but it wasn’t available in reproduction so I took a picture of it with my camera and zoomed in on my visit through the cemetery so that I wouldn’t get lost and also so that I wouldn’t miss the most important things to see. In fact, there was much to see but I was just as fascinated by the living presence there, of the families visiting their loved ones’ niches, of workers, of people passing through, and of the great views through and past the cemetery to the jumble of houses piled precipitously one on top of the other on the near hillsides.
Herbs & Spices
It seemed to me that I was in a city of the dead very much smack dab in the center of a thriving beehive of a city of the living. Even the cemetery itself didn’t feel somber and quiet as ours so often do. There was abundant movement and activity and life inside of it which lessened the sadness. It was nice to see some many people honoring the deceased with prayers and flowers.
I came out and continued down the street, pausing to inspect the vast array of wares for sale on both sides of the street. Everything under the sun seemed to be for sale and it was like a carnival atmosphere with the vibrant cries of the hawkers, the honks of the traffic trying to squeeze through the throngs, the smell of lamb stew, of ripe fruit, of garbage too. Vivid colors abounded and it was a dizzying scene, but I’m by now well used to life in Latin America and it excited rather than tired me.
I had no fear of getting robbed, assaulted, or whatever. The guidebooks issue dire threats of going into the middle of these areas but I’ve never felt unsafe there. You just take sensible precautions and no one bothers you. I smiled and stopped and talked and asked questions and bought some necessities. I didn’t have breakfast and the streetside eateries were enticing me with their aromas so I stopped and asked for some soup. I could smell the meat and broth and I just didn’t seem to be able to take one more step without getting something to eat. But the women manning the huge pots didn’t pay me any attention. I tried to insist but they seemed completely disinterested in me. So I kept going and stifled my hunger until I passed something else and a place that would actually feed me. I bought some things to make a dinner (by now it was late afternoon), a pounded beef filet breaded like a Milanese, some potatoes and some salad. After finishing shopping, browsing and taking pictures, I came back to make myself a scrumptious dinner. It was worth the wait!