Actually, Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia but La Paz is its administrative centre. La Paz sits in a ‘bowl’ nestled amongst the mountains as parts of the city climb up the slopes. The brick is predominantly terracotta-coloured although there are some painted buildings, and the houses are packed in so tightly together. Bolivia’s population is over 60% indigenous (some sources say more) and there are many cholitas walking around with their little hats, swirly skirts, and brightly coloured shawls that could be equally carrying potatoes or a small child.
We finally ventured outside after 2 days of moping and were relieved to take our first gulps of (oxygen depleted) fresh air! I had been given the impression from various sources that La Paz would be chaotic and stressful, but I actually found it to be rather a calm city. Of course it is busy, but after thinking about it for a while I decided the effect was because everyone was quietly getting on with their own business or just sitting peacefully by their street stalls; the complete opposite to Cartagena where people were always shouting, moving their carts around, approaching you, making excessive (and leery) eye contact, wolf-whistling. It felt good to be anonymous again.
We took our time wandering around, mainly out of necessity. Senad wasn’t feeling too hot so I soon steered him toward the tourist attraction of his choice, the Museo de Coca. It didn’t look promising from the outside, or the inside, or when the cashier handed us a large binder each with the English translations. To be honest, there wasn’t much to the display besides some old photos, but once we started reading the information was truly fascinating! Senad also took this opportunity to try chewing some coca leaves mixed with banana charcoal which helped with his nausea.
Saturday afternoon was our flight to Rurrenebaque so we went out in the morning to collect some “100% alpaca wool” (in the loosest sense of the term) necessities (not for the Amazon) and find the bus station to book tickets to Arica. We decided to deviate from our plan to fly to Uyuni next week to visit the salt flats as the upcoming Bolivian election was making travel complicated. Instead we were to take the bus to Arica, Chile, and head south as far as San Pedro de Atacama which is also a jump-off point for Salar de Uyuni tours.
Hasta luego x