During our last week of January, Eduardo and I spent five days in La Paz, Bolivia. The highest capital in the world at 3,640 metres above sea level. That must be the average as much of the city is precariously built on the surrounding mountains
Its tumultuous, confusing streets take your breath away, literally and figuratively. Traffic and people mingle in often chaotic ways. We used taxis as buses were just too confusing. We walked a lot too, frequently going around in circles. Especially one evening. We had tickets for a traditional music concert by three of Bolivia’s most well-known artists, and we were looking for a relatively clean place to eat.
Trip Advisor sent us on a wild goose chase. We finally found “the place”, but it had closed down. No wonder! We lost about one hour just trying to locate it. People on the street sent us to a “safe” place although the man said he preferred the food in the market.
Let me assure you: clean is a relative term. Luckily, Eduardo and I have fairly tough digestive systems!
Food-wise we never did eat anything really good. Although I heard later that we should have gone into the richer section of the city for some better fare.
Our Airbnb was located fairly centrally, and the family was very nice. They lived in a modern 10th floor three bedroom apartment.
The father is an architect, and still works on contracts part-time. His wife (both around 60) keeps this room rented plus an apartment on another floor that her son (who lives in the US) owns. Another son who is doing a Masters degree stays with them one week a month, along with his wife who works nearby, and their two year old son. Grandparents take him to and from daycare. They seem to be a very close family who help each other in many different ways.
That’s what I like about Airbnb. You often get to meet and interact with a local family.
During our stay, there was a festival going on called Alasitas. It honours the Aymara god, of abundance, Ekeku. Merchants sell all kinds of miniature objects and money. People buy what they would like to have in the coming year. Or what they want to give to friends and family: cars, houses, money, gold, or other more mundane articles such as cell phones or even university diplomas!
It reminded me of the Chinese custom of buying miniatures for the dead. Things one would need in the next world.
At the concert, the musician even gave out wads of miniature money to the audience. He gave me so much I had lots to share with everyone around me.
Oh, yes, we took a ride up a mountainside on their new “Mi Teleferico”. There are four different lines of cable cars. What would take one hour in a noisy, crowded, dusty, smoky bus takes only ten minutes. But locals told me it costs twice as much as the bus.
So don’t go to La Paz to relax or enjoy fine cuisine. Go for the experience! People watch! Breathe deeply; drinks lots of water; and chew coca leaves.
La Paz is interesting, but it would not be my favourite place to live…
Cusco, on the other hand… but that is for my next blog.