27th April - Le Paz

We left Sorata by minibus at 6.30am bound for Nuestra Senora de La Paz, Our Lady of Peace or the City of La Paz. Well I say 6.30am as that was the advertised time but it was nearly 7.00 before the driver deemed his van was sufficiently full to be worth the journey.
Coming out of Sorata we climbed up over the rim of the surrounding hills, and at this time of the morning the valley was full of cloud. I managed to get a couple of shots as the van was forced to slow to get round the switchback corners.

Similarly I managed to get a shot of the moon as we stopped along the way.

It must have taken around 3 hours to get to Le Paz and as we got closer the traffic got heavier and traffic jams developed. We came through some 'suburban' areas and in one place an enormous street market was taking place. 

The city sits  in a bowl spreading out up the hills underneath Mount Illimani. It is not the judicial capital of Bolivia, that is Sucre, but it is the 'de facto' administrative capital as it has more government departments based here. The metropolitan district has a population of 2.3 million people.
It is also the highest administrative capital in the world at 3,650m, although as the city has grown up the surrounding hills the actual height varies between 3,200m - 4,100m.

The minivan did not terminate at the bus station but in a side street. We had not the faintest idea where we were and staggered about with our bags for a while trying to find our bearings. I had a bag on wheels which was really difficult to use on narrow pavements full of overflow from shops and street vendors. We eventually got a taxi to take us to our hostel - the Adventure Brew (odd name) and my temper improved.
We dropped off our stuff and hit the city.

The square  Plaza San Francisco is a large and ugly concrete space which has the Iglesia de San Francisco on one side. The church was originally constructed in 1548 but collapsed under the weight of a heavy snow fall and was re built in 1784. The plaza is used for political protest, of which there is a lot in Bolivia!As we got there they were shutting the church (shuts at noon!). It is not far from the Plaza Murillo, a nicer place where there are the normal pigeons, ladies selling jellies and street photographers.

The Jelly Seller

Iglesia de San Francisco
The Plaza Murillo is more pleasant and is surrounded by colonial buildings (also closed - everything in La Paz seems to shut at noon).

The Presidential Palace

Cathedral (1835)

Street Photographer, Bolivian Style

Curiously outside the Iglesia de San Francisco there was a video being filmed of someone (the Mayor?) introducing Miss la Paz, a very different kind of beauty.

Miss La Paz (on the right)
The side streets were still full of bad wiring.

Some of the streets had numerous shops selling craftwork to tourists. These led down to Mercado de Hechiceria, the Witches Market. Here you could buy llama foetuses to place under the cornerstone of your house for good luck.

I chickened out on that one and bought two boxes of joss sticks. 

La Paz was too full of people so we walked down to the main park, which was another concrete edifice with some grass added. We didn't stay long but came back to the central area where we spent some time in a rather pleasant cake and coffee cafe. Mairi and Naomi had such enormous slices that they had to take some home to supplement breakfast the next day.
We also signed up for 'cycling the death road' (not me - I elected for staying in the support van) and the 3 day tour of the salt flats and the Parque Nacional de fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa.

Tomorrow - the Death Road !!!


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