La Paz

La Paz is not a world heritage site, but I do try to ‘do’ capitals and it is also the nearest city to my next site. I arrived on an overnight bus from Santa Cruz, where I had changed back into cold weather clothes in the bus station in preparation for the return to altitude. Santa Cruz was also where I discovered my latest favourite street food, or in this case drink, while waiting for the bus: freshly squeezed pomelo juice.

La Paz

La Paz

La Paz is not massively picturesque but it does have some Baroque churches and a reasonable number of museums. I visited the church and associated museum of San Francisco and also the Coca Museum. The latter extols the traditional uses and cultural importance in the Andes of the coca leaf whilst arguing against the international campaign to eradicate it and frankly, I was convinced. And not just because I have enough of it in my backpack to cause all kinds of legal problems in most countries. It seems unfair to penalise the Andeans for the addictions of others to something Europeans first synthesised from their plant.

La Paz - church of San Francisco

La Paz - church of San Francisco

I also visited an area known as the Witches Market. It is actually part of a network of narrow streets selling wall to wall souvenirs (bright stripey fabric things, knitwear and all manner of llama related items) and adventure travel agencies. These stalls and shops sell charms, herbs and suchlike alongside some knick-knacks. I was very tempted by the packets (of tea?) offering to help you acquire money, love and other desirables but despite my ghoulish nature I was not at all interested in buying a llama fetus. These come in a wide range of sizes, from a few inches to a couple of feet long, some with fur.

La Paz - witches market

La Paz - witches market, llama fetuses top right

The other thing I didn’t do was accept the many travel agency offers of a pushbike trip down the infamous Death Road (as driven down on Top Gear!) They all promoted the high quality of their equipment (and one the medical qualifications of their founder), but the best helmet in the world is not going to help as you plunge of the side of the road down a long steep cliff.

La Paz - market in outskirts

La Paz - market in outskirts

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