We arrived in what we had been told was the most dangerous place in all our travels so we kept our wits about us and our passports/credit cards/phones closely guarded. As it turned out the Bolivian people we encountered were very kind and pleasant people.
We stayed in Loki hostel, a converted hotel in the centre of the crater that is La Paz. From the 7th floor sky bar we had panoramic views across the sprawling city.
Our first excursion was the red cap free walking tour that started by taking in the sights of the infamous San Pedro prison (made famous by the book "marching powder"). This prison only has around 10 guards and around 2,000 prisoners. It is essentially a microcosm of the outside world where the more money you have the better accommodation, food and lifestyle you can lead. The prison has hot tubs, restaurants and produces cocaine, even some of the prisoners wives and children live in the prison. We then walked to the witches market where you can buy love dust to make people fancy you, remedies for everything under the sun and also magic potions and ingredients to cast spells on people. We were also told that when building a new house you had to make a sacrifice to pacha mama. This sacrifice usually consists of lots of booze and a dead lama but could sometimes, for a big house, be a human being! We saw the city square where the guides proudly told us that Bolivia has had the most amount of presidents in the shortest time. Including stories of throwing unpopular politicians off the cliff of death road and of the ousted president Guni, who amongst other socially unpopular laws he passed, stole all of Bolivia's money and now lives in the US. Apparently if they ever catch him he won't have a pleasant ending! Their current president is very popular, he comes from an indigenous background and was voted in with one of the highest majorities in the countries history. He has said some silly things in the past like eating chicken makes you gay, drinking coke makes you bald and when asked in a Spanish interview who his favourite football team in Europe he said Real Madrid, then when asked his favourite team in the world he said Barcelona. The tour finished at a 5 star hotel which is still under construction, but on the 17th floor you were able to abseil jump face first out of the window in fancy dress. I went down as bacon.
Our second day was the highlight of our stay in La Paz. Made famous as the most dangerous road in the world with extremely narrow roads in places and also featured in Topgear, Laura and I had to try Death Road! It basically involves getting some heavy duty $3000 bikes from the top of the mountain, descending over 3000m in 4 hours over initially tarmac then bumpy, gravel roads where there are no barriers stopping you from flying off the edge, some drops are 200m down. It was quite simply the biggest thrill of my life. Better than skydiving or bungy jumping, Laura and I both loved it. We descended from a quite cool 6 degrees at the top to a balmy 30 degrees where beers and a superman face first 1.5km zip line was waiting for us. We came the closest to experiencing what flying feels like, soaring through the sky, face down, attached to the zip line. On the way back we stopped off at a very weird monkey sanctuary where gringos were paid to look after monkeys. All I saw were middle aged woman and gimpy looking men in identical uniforms standing around cuddling monkeys. Very odd.
We were staying in Loki hostel which along with wild rover are the party hostels of La Paz. Because of our schedule we weren't able to get involved too much but I did participate in the first round of the beer pong tournament before our early start for death road, bowing out with a 1-0 record.
Our next stop is Rurranbeque, the gateway to the Amazon. We decided to book a 30 minute flight rather than take the 30 hour treacherous bus journey!