Ok, before I forget a last bit about Sucre. Jill as you may know likes fashion and clothes design. So she was keen to go to the textile museum in Sucre. Me? Well why not? Off we set and soon found it. We went to the ticket office (£1) to be confronted by the ticket lady sat on the floor breast feeding. She clearly wasn't expecting company. No big deal for us but she quickly sorted herself and sold us two tickets. We were then passed over to our guide. A funny chap dressed in a traditional costume. He spoke no English. He ushered us around the 6 or so rooms that comprised the museum. In each he would rattle away in Spanish then take a hat and put it on our heads or take down an instrument and strum it. He clearly couldn't play. Sometimes he would do a little dance. This went on for about 30 minutes and was bizarre. Eventually we reached a room with a TV. He sat us down switched it on and then asked for his tip. We duly obliged and he duly disappeared. We had also noticed lots of shops with the name 'Abogada' outside. Also men sat on street corners with typewriters and lots of photocopying shops. We asked Rene and he explained. In Bolivia you can't do official documents yourself. You have to use a lawyer (Abogada). He said most made no money and it was just a status occupation. The typists like the photocopiers were used by students and others. They couldn't afford books so they loaned them and had them copied by one or the other.
As it turned out the flight to La Paz was pretty good. A modern jet and not the turbo prop that had been sat on the airport apron. It was two half hour flights with a two hour wait in between. No sooner was the plane in the air than it was time to land again.
The second of the two flights was superb. The air gives you a whole different view of the landscape. As we approached La Paz it was a scene of mountain peaks as far as the eye could see. The peaks were criss crossed with tracks and roads and occasional small settlements.
As we approached La Paz it got quite turbulent. I could see the runway below and thought this is going to be a tight turn to come back and land. And it was. The plane felt as though it was flying on its side as it banked over to line up. On the plus side it gave us a great view of La Paz. The city looked huge. It sits in a basin. A large flat plain surrounded by mountains. The buildings have spread all over the plain and now encroach up the mountain sides and on to the plain on top. This has formed a second city within La Paz. 1.5 million people live here.
Fortunately our rucksacks came off the carousel. They only have one....bless. We had arranged a car to collect us and take us to the hotel. La Paz is back at altitude. The drive from the airport seemed like we started on a mountain and drove downhill all the way. We arrived safely at the hotel. It is on five floors and in the old part of the city. The room is a little like the one we had in Buenos Aries in that it has hand painted murals on the walls. One of which is a slightly scary face looking down at us.
It was mid afternoon so we ventured out to get our bearings. The buildings are old, the streets narrow and filled with cars and the footpaths lined with sellers. It was a little over powering after Sucre. We wandered for a while.
Later that evening we went out in search of food. Our target was an Indian restaurant that had been recommended. While we were having a swift beer in a local bar before dinner we bumped into an Aussie couple that we had met in Tupiza. The 'Gringo trail' strikes again. We had a game of pool then we all went for a curry. Very nice it was too.
Next morning and poor Jill is feeling a little poorly. I think she's picked up a little bug but hopefully it will clear. Last few weeks have been one ailment after another. I've tweaked my hamstring. Damn that bloody manoeuvre off the top of the wardrobe!!!
Still we went outside after a cuppa to find a carnival parade outside. Lots of locals dressed in costumes and three bands. It was fabulous. Just like we had expected Rio carnival to be. Of course in typical Bolivian fashion it was only part thought through. No one was stopping the traffic. So there is a parade 100 strong with people dancing and bands with big drums marching down the street into oncoming traffic. Seeing is believing.
It caused total gridlock. Even more than normal.
Today Jill is feeling better so we've been for a long wander around the old part of the city. Shopping is a venture into big holes in the wall stuffed to the gunnels with just about everything. It's very noticeable that the shop owners and street sellers who are mostly women dress traditionally. Younger people, men and more well off people dress in a more western style. It has become a little thing for me to peek inside the shawls that the women use to carry things in. Today one was full of cabbages. Yesterday I saw one full of blankets. Ok nothing so odd I thought. Then I saw a babies hand emerge from under them all. I'm surprised the little thing didn't suffocate. We went to the 'witches market' today. Here is where you buy your herbs, potions, lucky charms and sun dried dead Llama foetus. I know, what would you do with a lucky charm? Next we visited the Coca museum. A small concern detailing the history of coca in the Bolivian society. No multi lingual headsets here. Just a book in English to explain everything. It was really interesting. The Bolivians chew coca leaves. They believe it gives them energy. At one time it was banned then someone said it helped people work, so the mine owners made it compulsory. Traces of coca have been found in mummies from 4500 years ago so it's pretty ingrained in the culture. It was only when westerners got hold of the leaves that they started to produce cocaine. One of the biggest exploiters was the Coca Cola corporation. And it still is. Cola doesn't contain cocaine anymore but they do still add coca leaves for flavour. Fifty percent of the world's cocaine is consumed in the USA.
Overall La Paz is crowded, polluted, noisy and at times a bit smelly but still vibrant and so different. Tomorrow we are off to see some Inca ruins.
Ok it's tomorrow. The Bolivians are poor. They have a rich culture and some fantastic heritage sites particularly when they were conquered by the Incas. This site was no exception. It is an archaeological gem. Unfortunately when you have no money, no expertise and probably no interest what should be a gem ends up a pile of rubble. Enough said.
Tomorrow we leave La Paz and head to Lake Titicaca.