Through immigration and customs in less than 10 minutes, and had to find my way out of the airport, which was easier said than done due to lack of signage. Fortunately, I found an ATM on the way, so I could stock up on cash for the next few days. Got a taxi for 80 bolivianos (which I now know is a ripoff – 60 is the “real” price) – but getting ripped off by $3 on day number one in a country is nothing to get too upset about. Now, the fact he drove 140kph on the switchbacks down the mountain, that’s another story. Checked into my hotel the Radisson by 3:15, and was out cold by 3:30. Woke up the next morning to a fantastic view of La Paz out my window:
After about an hour to get moving and adjusted to the thin air, decided to start on a walk. I seriously don’t know what we did before google maps. I decided to slowly head down to the main tourist area, and was stopping every 2 blocks or so to catch my breath. 13,000+ feet above sea level kinda hits you hard. Along the walk, I saw a restaurant with a name that sounded familiar. Checked TripAdvisor, and sure enough I’d seen it there, advertising great breakfasts. Plus, Cafe Il Lampu had a fantastic seat on a little second floor mini balcony to people watch from:
Fortified with some espressos, toast, and my new vocab word of the day “huevos duros” or hard-boiled eggs, I was ready for some more slow wandering. After another 10 minutes or so, I came upon the church of San Francisco, which had a fantastic plaza to camp out and people watch for a bit . Are you catching a theme here? It was lots of stop and go walking in the thin air for the first several hours:
Another church, whose name escapes me:
…and the Government Place:
I was finally starting to get a bit of energy at this point, so decided to keep going to a place that was supposed to have a great lookout. It was only supposed to take 15 minutes walking according to google, but that involved climbing 100+ steps at one point…so…no. Eventually, I did make it to the Parque Urbano Central, which contained the Parque Laikakota – a small childrens’ park with a fantastic look out over the hills surrounding La Paz:
By this time I was getting tired, and was pretty close to my hotel, so decided to head back and see if they could help me book a tour that I’d been looking for. No, they couldn’t…and neither could their on-site travel agent, who wasn’t very helpful. I decided to take a quick taxi down to Sarganaga Street, where I’d seen some travel agents advertising it earlier in the day. First one I tried…score…yes they could do it, and yes it was only 70 bolivianos ($10) including transit…and better hurry…it only goes once a week….IN FIVE MINUTES! Complete luck….now hopefully it would be fun.
Packed into a small minibus with about 25 other tourists for the ride up to El Alto near the airport. Stopped to take pictures looking down on La Paz. This reminds me….I still want to find that cable car!
Now the main event….the Cholitas Luchadores…or the “Wrestling Cholitas.” These a group of women (and some men) who dress in traditional clothes or costumes, and wrassle (this isn’t wrestling) WWF-style. It was soooo kitschy it was hysterical. One of the early fights. Yes, that is a serving tray she was hitting her with:
As you can see by the sun setting through the semi-open roof, one of the later fights…this guy went over the turnbuckles right in front of me. Call it fake all you want (and lots of it is) but he definitely hit the concrete with quite a thud:
…this wrassler (the mummy?) seemed quite fond of one of the female tourists in our group:
…and the best part, since we had “VIP tickets” (seriously? for $10 transport included?!) we got to get in the ring and take pictures when it was all over. Here’s me posing all badass with one of the cholitas:
…and a group shot. HEADLOCK!
Got back to the centre of La Paz just after 7:30, and decided I was in the mood for steak, so decided to try a steak place that had been recommended to me and was pretty close to where the bus dropped us off. It had the most creative of names…”The Steakhouse.” Their specialty is the “jack daniels steak” – comes in 300g, 600g, or 1200g. Yes, that’s 2/3 pound as the smallest one, 1.3 pounds in the middle, or over 2.6 pounds for the big one. I really wanted the big one in order to get the t-shirt if you finish it, but decided on a small llama chorizo appetizer and the 600g. Glad I did, because I was stuffed by the end. Oh, and the steak is finished tableside by pouring a shot of jack daniels over it and lighting it on fire:
The finished product:
Quick cab back to the hotel, and off to bed, since I had a 3am wake-up call coming to fly to Uyuni. Ugh, need sleep….