May 17, 2009

La Paz in four days

Friday 8 May, 2009

Breakfast: Jam on rolls – Lunch: Toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches – Dinner: Indian curry

Bleary eyed and annoyed that we arrived in La Paz two hours earlier than expected (arriving in the dark at 6am was not the plan), we jumped in a taxi and headed for our hostel (Wild Rover), hoping for a hot shower and a comfy bed – instead, we got a seven-hour wait for our beds. Oh, joy. To pass the time we hung around in the bar, and then headed to the TV room to watch Spanglish with the other bed waiters. Once we had beds and showers at our disposal, we decided to go and check out La Paz.

The steets were chaotic (mini vans galore cruising the streets, the drivers hanging out the window yelling out the destination over and over and over) and hilly (with La Paz's altitude at 3660m, we were huffing and puffing our way through the city). We loitered around San Pedro prison for a while, hoping to bribe our way inside the famous penitentiary, where the inmates run the show, living with their families and running a successful cocaine-producing business. I can't say I was too dissapointed when we were shooed away by the prison guards, I'd heard stories of people having to pay insane amounts in bribes to be let out once they were let in – I really hadn't factored 'bribes' into our budget.

After accepting our San Pedro defeat, it was time for a battle of a different kind – Craig vs Curry. Craig decided to throw himself in the ring and accept the challenge of eating the 'World's Most Dangerous Curry' at La Paz's Star of India restaurant. The stakes were high (a free T-shirt) and Craig was confident... stay tuned for the next blog post to watch video of Craig taking on the curry, and find out who came out victorious.

Saturday 9 May, 2009

Breakfast: Jam on rolls – Lunch: Fried chicken and chips – Dinner: Cajun chicken sandwiches and chips

We hit the streets again and we hit them hard, this time we headed for the witches markets (which, weren't very 'witchy', and thus dissapointing. You call a couple of llama fetuses impressive? Where are the 'eyes of newt' and 'puppy-dog tails'?), and the 'black' market, which, surprise, surprise, isn't actually a black market at all.

Marketed out, we escaped the claustrophobic stalls and spruikers to enjoy Bolivia's favourite dish – fried chicken and chips. We made like the locals and covered our chips in tomato sauce and mayonnaise, washed it down with Coke (boy, do they love their soft drink) and enjoyed the $AU2.65 price tag.

Craig, who hadn't been feeling well all day (couldn't hack the altitude...) napped the afternoon away, before Hannah and Rich of salt flat fame came around to our hostel for a night of comfort food, beers and free shots.

Sunday 10 May, 2009

Breakfast: Jam on rolls (gotta love those hostel breakfasts, day after day) – Lunch: Cajun chicken sandwiches and chips – Dinner: Roast chicken dinner.

Manchester United vs Manchester City. With Craig's team poised to take home this year's Premier League trophy, there was no way we were gonna miss the live screening from the hostel bar. The morning was spent checking emails and Facebook, and when 12 o'clock rolled around, it was game on. Man U came through with the goods, which meant Craig was in a good mood for the evening's entertainment – Cholita wrestling!

What we were promised were midgets and Cholitas (traditonally dressed Bolivian women) battling it out, tooth and nail, for pride and glory. What we got was the worst imitation of WWF wrestling you could ever possibly imagine. The novelty wore off after about five minutes, and for the next two hours and 45 minutes we were subjected to shocking costumes, pathetic acting and midgets who, instead of getting involved in the action, merely stood around in the ring. While the Bolivians loved it, cheering for their favourite 'wrestlers' and throwing oranges at the 'bad guys', we were well and truly unimpressed. The only redeeming feature of the whole experience was that the views on the way there were spectacular.

To make up for our anti-climax evening, we comforted ourselves the only way we know how – by stuffing ourselves. So it was back to the hostel for the traditional Sunday roast.

Monday 11 May, 2009

Breakfast: Jam on rolls – Lunch: Almuerzo (set lunch) – Dinner: Cajun chicken sandwiches and chips (spotting a pattern yet?)

Oh yeah, baby, check us out (Lisa on left, Craig on right). We were totally born to be wild! After blindly jumping in a local mini van and hoping it would take us to the town of Mallasa, we arrived at our destination and negotiated to pay $AU30 each for two hours of quad biking around the Valley of the Moon with our own private guide (man we love the prices in Bolivia!).

Not only was it cheap, it was also awesome! We rode through some amazing landscape, some random villages and navigated some wild terrain. Our guide was great, leading us around, taking snaps for us and trying his best to explain things to us in Spanish. We had such a great time, we tipped him a whole 20 Bolivianos ($AU4, a fortune in Bolivia).

Dusty and elated, we contorted ourselves into a packed mini van and made our way back into the centre of La Paz, where we enjoyed the bargain of the century. For a mere $AU1.60 we got a lunch of chicken soup, chicken and mashed potato and fruit for dessert.

I spent the afternoon running errands (blogging, getting photos burnt onto CDs) and when I came back, Craig had managed to become besties with half the hostel's staff and guests, all over a few beers and a couple of games of pool.

Unable to drag Craig away from the bar and his new-found friends, we altered our pizza plans with Hannah and Rich and spent the night drinking beer and playing trivia back at the hostel.

Of course, no stay at a hostel would be complete without a strip show... Yep, it was a guest's birthday so the bar staff decided to chip in and buy him a Columbian stripper for his birthday. All fears that she wasn't going to go further than her bra and undies were quickly quashed when not only did she get fully naked, but so did the birthday boy!

A naked Columbian humping a hairy Canadian, I can't think of a better way to end our stay in La Paz!