La Paz, Bolivia – I can’t lie. I was beginning to feel a bit lonely in Coroico it was time for La Paz. I had my bag packed and was ready to go but some angry, protesting Bolivians had other ideas. Frustrated with unemployment and the inability of the government to do anything effectively they [...]
La Paz, Bolivia –
I can’t lie. I was beginning to feel a bit lonely in Coroico it was time for La Paz. I had my bag packed and was ready to go but some angry, protesting Bolivians had other ideas. Frustrated with unemployment and the inability of the government to do anything effectively they took action and created a blockade outside of a refining plant causing a gasoline shortage causing limited transport out of Coroico. It wasn’t impossible to leave and after an hour of hounding the ticket agent at one of the bus companies I procured my ticket.
In the past the road from Coroico to La Paz had been the infamous ‘Death Road’ making for an all-day 160 kilometer trip in which you might not make it to your destination. The road has since been closed and replaced by a wider, paved road turning the trip into three hours. Bolivian drivers will still give you a scare even if the road won’t. I felt death knocking when we passed a truck going up-hill during a bend in a road while in a tunnel or when he drove on the other side of the road while passing through a cloud that created near zero visibility just feet from the side of a cliff.
Heart-jumping episodes aside I made it into La Paz in one piece and bee-lined it to a microbrewery hostel that an Irish couple had told me about in Coroico. Still no ales but no fizzy lagers either and the roof-top bar is my go to spot at night. The added bonus is that the hostel is down the street from the Bolivian National Brewery so malted barley wafts through the air as I enjoy a decent beer. The city view isn’t too shabby either.
Wanting a spot a little more lively La Paz doesn’t disappoint on that front. Sitting in a large valley the city sprawls in every direction. Hills haven’t been an impediment to building as houses cling precariously to side of the valley cliffs and no matter where I’m at I am either walking up or down a hill. Surrounded by walls of houses I get the feeling that I’m just living in large fishbowl designed for humanity.
The fish bowl bustles and is lively but maybe a little too much for me. Maybe it’s the constantly busy streets, blaring horns, smoginess or maybe the constant need to watch your pockets. Since I’ve been here I’ve had a constant barrage of locals tell me to be careful with my pockets, seen one pickpocket in action and subsequently get caught as well as had Stefan (a friend from Sucre who left five weeks ago for Rio de Janiero and who I ran into while walking the streets of La Paz) tell me he had his wallet nicked from his front pocket while here. So far so good for me so maybe I’ll make it out of this city with all of my things – knock on wood. Then again, I’m only here for four days.
Strolling through the streets of La Paz I came across a street corner with several stores selling dead, dried Llama babies. I had to do a double take. Who is buying dead Llama babies and what are they using them for?
I was happy to hear that people don’t eat them but use them as gifts to Pachamama. Pachamama, or Mother Earth, is an indigenous goddess of the Quechua and Aymara people of the Andes. Although most are now Christian they still hold her dear to their hearts, thus, the selling of dead, baby Llamas. The Llamas are offered as a gift to Pachamama for safe travel along with a small bottle of wine, candies, and some other random items placed in a pile.
As tempting as it was to buy a Llama and offer it as a gift for my safe passage out of La Paz I decided to buy a small figurine of the goddess instead. Looking like a Chimaera that Hercules would slay I had to have the symbolism of this thing explained to me.
The Turtle represents long life
The Serpent – Protection
The Heart – Happy Love
The Toad – Good Fortune
The Fish Head – Good Health
Chimaera Heads – The three stages of womanhood; Baby, Adolescence and Woman
I think I’ll strap this onto my pack for some superstitious good luck, although, a dead Llama wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
Photos of La Paz:
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