After a long overnight bus from Cusco, Peru across the Bolivian border, Antoine and I arrived in rainy La Paz the morning of Friday, April 18. After a short shopping jaunt followed by a final lunch, I bid adieu to my travel companion, the Belgian Barbarian, as he flew back to Europe and I continued my trip. I was exhausted from the previous few weeks’ plethora of hard-core activities and adventures, so I crashed into bed in my special treat private room around 3:00pm that day for a power nap that didn’t see me wake up until 9:00am the next morning.
The next two days I took advantage of my private room and the nonstop downpour to catch up on sleep and my blog. That Sunday evening, I joined a couple from my hostel to a small indoor arena atop a mountain in a seedier side of the city for the weekly entertainment spectacle of “Cholita Wrestling”.
Cholitas are indigenous Bolivian women identifiable by their long braided hair, bowler hats, and multilayered skirts. Every Sunday, a choice few of these women gather in a wrestling ring in caked-on makeup and shimmering costume versions of their everyday clothes, and in over-the-top dramatics, fake kick each others’ asses. It was painful to watch, particularly when men ie fat sweaty referee and hulking male wrestler in a Nacho Libre-esque mask would tag-team a Cholita and through a series of fake bitch slaps and crate smashing, would fake kick her ass. The local audience was going wild, throwing popcorn, soda bottles, etc into the rink. I’m no feminist, and as so-stupidly-fake-it’s-not-funny as it was, I definitely found myself squirming uncomfortably in my cold metal bleacher seat. I could not get out of there fast enough.
The following two days in La Paz were not unlike the previous two (except for the lack of a woman-beating event): rain, sleep, blog, eat. I managed to catch up on five blog posts, some skype calls, and even had lunch with my old pal John (the guy I met my first week of traveling in Guatemala in July and then coincidentally ran into later in a hostel in Arequipa some eight months later). Finally, on my fifth and last day in La Paz, I forced myself out of the warm and dry confines of my hostel and off to join a free walking tour of the city.
The tour began outside of the infamous San Pedro Prison, from “Marching Powder” lore (and unfortunately, tours inside the prison are virtually impossible nowadays). The tour wound through much of the city center, through the witches’ market and food stalls, the presidential palace, and to the top of the city’s tallest hotel to allow us to absorb the city sights from below.
That evening, feeling tired and mentally drained, I filled my belly with falafel and hummus before climbing into my bed for one final night of uninterrupted sleep that can only happen in a private room.
The next morning I took a taxi to a muddy bus terminal, where I squeezed into a minivan for the harrowing 3-hour ride along one seriously scary road through the mountains. Actually, this road was a fairly new replacement for what has been named the World’s Most Dangerous road, the “Death Road”, which was estimated to kill 300 people a year during its heyday.
Nowadays, the original death road is only used for adrenaline-junkies on bicycles (Of course, despite its danger rating, if I could ride a bicycle–something I haven’t actually tried since my injury–I would without a doubt have chosen that option instead of a van). Regardless, the hairline turns and sheer drops ensured that the road my van took (which is considered the second most dangerous road in the world) was dotted with hundreds of crosses, flowers, and memorials along every hairpin curve.
I finally arrived in the beautiful hillside village of Coroico that afternoon, thinking it would be a great place to chill out for a few days. However, the hostel was empty and I was immediately bored, especially after my five relatively hermit-like days in La Paz. I realized I needed people, action, and a change of scenery. Therefore, after two nights, I hopped back on a van for the treacherous ride back to La Paz.
I was done with Bolivia. Next stop: Peru (again)!