Dom: Our coach into La Paz from Copacabana was a little bumpy. This was partly due to the little boy that we ran over. I think he lived but our bus was terminated in the slummy outskirts of La Paz because of the incident. The cab ride into town afforded us better views of the setting of this city. In the valley below were ancient colonial churches nestled alongside skyscrapers. That was the plush part of town. Up the mountainsides spread all around La Paz are the ever-expanding shanty-towns. La Paz is the fastest growing city in South America, and that's with some pretty stiff ompetition.
La Paz is also the highest capital city in the world at 3650m. If I had come directly here from London I probably would have had bad headaches and sleepless nights because of the altitude. C on the other hand seems not to have any problems with the altitude. The city was named La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora de La Paz (The City of Our Lady of Peace) in the 16th Century. Though for the most part it was anything but peaceful.
We stayed right in town around the corner from the Witches Market. This was a strange affair. Lots of stalls run by old ladies selling potions, scary looking figurines, llama foetuses, and other things you'd never get through customs. There was also the Mercado Negro where you could buy practically anything that we found in Peru but for a fraction of the price.
Crystal got a little ill while we were in La Paz. Being the dutiful boyfriend I headed out in search of some cornflakes and pasteurised milk. Before I left C thought I should leave my debit card and driving license in the hostel. So off i went in my quest for cornflakes. Some time later I'd found them and was heading back through the crowded market when it seemed bird crapped on the back of my head and neck. It felt massive and wet. Instinctively I put my hand up and touched it! I don't know why, you just do that. It was clear, but stinking and vile. Before cleaning it I stepped out of the crowd.
Clean up complete I headed back into the crowded market. All of a sudden these old ladies were swarming round me pulling at my t-shirt and trying to clean another glob of crap behind my left shoulder. This was just like the scenarios in the guides that you get warned about. Sure enough, while these old ladies were invading my personal space and dragging me about on the left, a guy had his hand in my pocket on the other. He'd mananged to put his hand in, unzip the security pocket and get his hand on my wallet before I'd realised the scam. I started shouting at him as he walked away shrugging his shoulders. I turned around and the old ladies had all disappeared into the crowd. I looked for the guy and the friendly old ladies that spit on you but now everyone just looked the same.
Back at the hostel the site of cornflakes and an exciting story managed to perk Crystal up a little. So I guess it was worth it! The stink of the rank, vinegary spit was in my nostrils for a while after.
Throughout Peru and Bolivia we've met quite a few travellers. It seems that nearly all of them had a story to tell about a crime of some sort, more than once involving guns. So I suppose we were lucky to limit our criminal experiences to a failed mugging by some old ladies.
C- Before we ran any children over there was another interesting aspect to our journey from Copa to La Paz. The bus came to a stop at a lake, we all get off and the bus boards a raft, everyones luggage still on board, as some men row it to the other side. We all sat there not having a clue where to go until it became clear we had to pay to get a boat to the other side.
For some reason I had scared myself into reading all of the lonely planets dangers and annoyances sections for Bolivia, particularly La Paz and had heard of this old lady spit scam. Not that anything came of it, but I was glad for once of my total paranoia and having stripped Doms wallet of all cards before he left alone. The worst that could have happened was that we would have lost a bit of cash. I'll stick to wearing my secret money belt with our passports and tickets under my trousers where I will be very aware of any theiving hands!
La Paz introduced me to my new least favuorite smell. Nothing smells quite as bad as a dead Llama foetus. The Witches market as it is locally known is a whole street of scary old women selling precisely these kind of horrible things - god knows who to -shouting 'Pachamama' (mother earth) at you as you walk by. Very interesting to look at though, all kinds of potions and lotions and dead animals. Lovely stuff.