After Neil left, I contemplated my options as they related to Chile and in the end decided just to get out of there. I don’t want to say that any country is boring, but I just felt like I had done it here. It was too much like Argentina to hold my interest, and neither the food nor the culture were enough to maintain my interest. I explored going to Easter Island, but all the flights were booked so I just left for Bolivia. I made a last stop at McDonald’s, since my research showed that there were none to be had in Bolivia. I was pleased to see that Big Mac Madness was over, and that I could get my triple con queso.
Getting there took me on a tour of four new airports, as my last minute booking was anything but direct. Santiago’s was alright, then I went up to Chile’s northernmost city of Arica. I landed with 15 minutes before my next flight, so I was fretting. I rushed off the plane, back through security, only to realize I was reboarding the same craft that I had just deplaned. From there was a thirty minute flight to Iquique, which had an incredibly red and precipitous coastline.
Finally, from there I flew into La Paz where I gathered up a few other travelers to split a cab into the city. We stopped along the way to appreciate the beauty of this lofty city, nestled into a valley. At 3640 meters, it reminded me a lot of Quito.
I checked into my hostel, a sprawling complex of lively backpackers called the Wild Rover. After that, I just relaxed and took it all in. The plan in place was for me to meet my dad and brother here in a week, so my coming early meant that I had time to burn. I was excited about being here though as it was far more indigenous, meaning good food and adventure akin to what I’ve found in Asia. The clothing of the women was especially unique, though no one really knows where the bowler hat fashion came from.
On my second day in the city, I joined a Brazilian for one of those walking tours I’m so fond of. I learned several things about the city and history of the country. Mostly though, the guides weren’t that good at presenting information but I still valued the education session. We started at the San Pedro Prison, which as a den of corruption does not operate like most others in the world. The flow of money within the prison dictates everything, and has a lot to do with why it fails on 60% of the UN’s prison code. It’s just an average looking pinkish building, so instead I give you the succulent street food that was, most importantly, not fries.
One of our next stops was the witch’s market, where they sell some unique odds and ends. The dried llama fetuses were probably the strangest things to look at, but there were also serums to cure every imaginable sexual ineptitude. Our guide bought some Vigoron for us so I gave it a whirl.
We continued over to the main square where the majority of the governmental buildings are located. Bolivia holds the impressive record for most coups and coup attmepts within some amount of years, even occurring recent times. The number is definitely over twenty, and most of them took place right in this square. I went back at night to admire the illuminated façades.
That night I joined that Brazilian girl from before for dinner with some of her coworkers. This was a very authentic experience at the Bolivian equivalent of Applebee’s. At 100 Bolivianos it was a bit more than I would normally spend on dinner, but it was good company and an excellent opportunity to get out of tourist sanctum. I got a big, red burger with which I was very pleased. The lighting wasn’t great, but this was the crew.
Beyond these things, I did little else in La Paz this time around. There were some big ticket items that I had to save for when my companions arrived, so I decided to get out of the cold air and headache inducing elevation and vamos a la jungle! The chance to catch up on all the writing I didn’t do while Neil was around was nice, and also just to walk around the city a bit too. The San Francisco church had an interesting exterior unlike any other churches I had seen, since it was carved by the indigenous population.