Well we´ve had an interesting five days. Tuesday was a very busy day which started with free pancakes at the hostel, nice change from bread and ham. We then puffed our way up the hill, it´s surprising what altitude sickness does to you, to the colonial Calle Jaen, the oldest part of La Paz. From there we popped into the beautiful San Domingo Church to lit a candle and onto Plaza Murillo (main square) which is surrounded by lots of impressive building including Palacio Legislativo (see picture), Palacio Presidencial and the 1835 Catedral. We sat and chilled in the square for a bit to catch our breath and watched the other people sitting in the sun, eating ice-cream or feeding the pigeons. We saw one girl accidently drop her bag of oats all over herself and all the pigeons clung onto her trying to peck at the food. The locals seem to love pigeons and don´t mind them flying on their shoulders or eating out of their hands. There was also lots of shoe shiner boys in the square, who cover up their face because they are ashamed of their job. One of them kept on asking me if I wanted my trainers polished - I´d love to say yes to see what they´d look like! After our rest we walked to the mirador (lookout) in the tranquil Parque Laikakota which overlooks the whole of La Paz. The walk to the top nearly killed us but the views made it all worthwhile, especially since we got to see snow capped Mount Illamani (6402m) in the distance.
On our way back to the centro we passed many sights including someone dressed up as a zebra seeing people safely across a zebra crossing, another was a man making keys on the street and when we passed a local bank we saw people sitting at desks outside with typewriters giving people advice so they didn´t have to go inside. We also passed lots of different street stalls selling teddy bears, books, stationary or household products, much of which reminded me of Vietnam. We had another cheap almuerzo at a restaurant filled with locals. It was nice but the meat in the salad and soup looked very suspicious so we decided to avoid it just to be on the safe side! From there we browsed round the many wonderful stalls on Calle Sagarnaga and visited the nearby Witches Market (Mercado de Hechiceria) which sells magical potions and llama fetuses, which locals bury under the porches of their new homes for luck and good fortune. I also saw lots of stalls selling a funny looking drink with a fetus inside - yuk!! There was a funny smell in the market, probably due to the shrivelled and stuff llamas hanging all over the place. By the time we got back to the hostel we were both shattered and later on that night I started to suffer with sunstroke/altitude sickness so started taking Sorojchi pills which we should have probably started taking before we arrived in La Paz!
After a terrible nights sleep we had to check out and move a bit further down the street to Arthy´s Guesthouse, which is cheaper (5 pound for a double), more chilled and has an amazing DVD collection - great for someone who´s ill!!! To try and get a bit of air we bought some souvenirs at the market, sent them home and thankfully discovered kombi minibuses which for 11p takes you all over the place and there´s no need to walk - yipee!!!
For lunch we grabbed a salteña (cornish pasty with a burnt seal), similar to an empanada, which costs 15p. I had cheese which was pretty disgusting and Jem had a meat one which was nice. We then went on a tour around San Pedro Prison. This was a very weird experience and one we´ll hopefully never do again! Our guide for the day was an inmate called Angelo from Dom Rep who was in for 8yrs and caught with 15kg of cocaine in his suitcase. He showed us round the different cells, the church, the gym and explained to us that the inmates have to buy their way in. Most start on the other side of the prison, which isn´t seen by the public, and has 1800 inmates compared to the 80 on this side. The big guy of the prison is George who´s cell is a three storey flat! Everyone has everything they want, including their families who can live with them, the only thing they don´t have is their freedom and we were glad to get ours when we walked out of the place that´s for sure!!! We headed straight to a bar (sol y Luna) to calm our nerves with a stiff drink!
That night I (and Jem poor thing) was up all night with a bad case of food poisoning, I thinking cheese empanada is the culprit! At 6am I finally stopped throwing up and the lovely lady at the hostel made me a nice cup of calamine tea to settle my stomach. I spent most of yesterday, the day we´d planned to leave, in bed, only getting up for a bit of Jem´s homemade veg soup (delicious) and to watch Atonement and today I feel a bit better but am still a bit delicate. I won´t be eating them again in a hurry!! Jem´s been eating for both of us and has been munching on a delicious English brekkie with real black pudding and lancashire sausages (the owner Oli gets them sent to La Paz by his Mum!) from Olivers Travels. I enjoyed a nice big pint of English Breakfast tea which went down treat!
Tomorrow we´re catching the 7pm bus down south to Uyuni were we´ll be going on a 3 or 4 day tour of the salt plains so I´ll be in touch sometime next week, big kisses from us xxxxx