Discovering La Paz

Discovering La Paz

We are typically the plan ahead type of people, but with the Salt Flats tour and no internet access we were lucky to have found such a great apartment last minute. The apartment is part of the Lhamourai Living Apartment Group owned and run by Marina and Fernando. They have been so helpful and accommodating and concerned about my medical issues and even let us stay an extra week in the apartment. Wish we would have thought to contact them while actually in the hospital to help with translation. Only downfall of the place is it’s on a busy street corner with honking cars and minibuses starting about 6am.

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We took advantage of the local shops right in the neighborhood and did a lot of grocery shopping and cooking at home. Aaron was quite proud of the delicious tuna casserole he made, I’d like to think I whipped up a pretty tasty stir-fry one night and of course Aaron hit a home run every morning with a great breakfast scramble. We love being able to cook for ourselves as eating out for 3-meals a day can get old (and expensive) real quick. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a bit of normalcy in our lives again.

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As I slowly gained my strength back we were able to leave the apartment for longer amounts of time and do more and more activities. A museum visit is always a great slow-paced activity, so we visited the National Folklore Museum ($3/each, $3 more if you want to take pictures, closed between 12-3pm). Four floors of a wide variety of exhibits ranging from weaving and crafts, photography, festivals, economy, currency, local birds, and ceremonial masks. Unfortunately none of the descriptions were in english, otherwise we could have spent all day there. Even without translations we were still able to appreciate the deep culture surrounding this country.

One day we walked through the old San Francisco Church ($3 each) and admired the details and effort that used to go into building religious buildings. Too bad the chapel itself was not open that day but still it was an interesting stop.

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The streets are steep and packed with people; add that to all the honking cars and minibuses and this city is one hoping place. We wondered around the tourist shopping streets and purchased a few souvenirs for ourselves and a few presents for loved ones back home (don’t get too excited guys!). We had decided we would try to mail a box of stuff home to Michigan so we took the chance to buy a few fun things. We ended up with 6.5 lbs of stuff and it only cost about $60 to get it home. That may sound like a lot but added to the minimal amount we spent on the stuff and the fact we do not have to carry it for the next 3 months, it was money well spent.

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On another outing we visited the creepy and eerie witches market. Everywhere you looked there were baskets full of died llama fetuses, piles of dried herbs, rows and rows of statues, every imaginable homeopathic healing remedy, hanging from the ceilings were stuffed baby llamas, stacks of incense and piles of “powerful healing” rocks. It was a bit overwhelming not only in sight but in smell too. Needless to say we did not purchase anything at this market!

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We had read about in a few different travel books and had seen advertisements around town for something called Cholitas Wrestling. Supposedly it’s a local La Paz special, so we felt we had to give Andean Secrets a try and book tickets for a Cholitas wrestling match ($7 each). The price included transport, snack of popcorn and soda and a small souvenir (we got a pin and a mini stuffed Cholitas wrestler doll). We arrived at a large gym like building and took front and center seats. Ring side baby! I wish I had been told it was semi-outdoors as it was very cold and I shivered for the next 3 hours. If you go bring a warm jacket, hat and/or blanket to sit on.

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This was one experience we won’t forget. The arena was filled with people, loud music and flashing lights as the 1st wrestlers emerged from behind a curtain. It was very similar to what you see on WWF. Interestingly the 2 rounds of opening wrestlers were all men wearing crazy outfits, makeup and masks. I do have to say some of the stunts they performed were pretty impressive. Flying off the top ropes and throwing each other out of the ring. It was hilarious, stupid and entertaining all at the same time. Their crowd interactions were great too! One of the guys picked up Aaron’s half finished soda, took a mouthful and spit it on his opponent.

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The best part for sure was the actually Cholitas (woman) wrestlers. They entered the ring wearing traditional clothing and accessories in all different colors and looked like any other woman you’d see on the street. I was quite impressed with the fact that they could do just about everything the men did while wearing full skirts and sandals.They too were launching themselves off the top ropes, flipping each other over and smacking each other around. Right after I got a great picture with one of them, she leaned over the railing and gave Aaron a big smooch on the mouth! If I hadn’t just had my appendix out, I may have jumped in the ring myself! It was almost mesmerizing to watch the colored skirts swirl around as the match went on. There was a lot of theatrical bits to the show and sometimes annoying as it was all in Spanish and really we just wanted to see the woman fight. We are not violent people I swear, but this was a pretty funny and cheap evening worth of entertainment.

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NOTE: Read about Aaron’s crazy adventure down Death Road here.

I spent the day running a few errands (printing/photocopying, stopped by the hospital, mailing our insurance claim, last minute shopping) and relaxing at home on the couch. It was nice to have a day to myself after 2 months of constantly being together. Don’t get me wrong I love Aaron more then anything, but really can 2 people spend this much time together??? Hahahaha, if this doesn’t build us a strong marriage I don’t know what will.

Our last day in La Paz was basically spent trying to find a computer store that sold a small external hard drive and Ipads as we are contemplating purchasing another device so we can both be online at the same time. We are looking at this as a sort of investment in our marriage!  No more fighting over who gets to use the computer and it would be really convenient and useful. We generally aren’t the mega chain store type of people but where is a Best Buy when you need one? We wandered around in circles and waited for shops to open post lunch as most shops, markets, museums and even some restaurants close up between 12-3pm. In the end we basically accomplished nothing besides wearing ourselves out, so frustrating. To avoid a total flop of a day we headed to the Red cable car called Mi Teleferico ($6 roundtrip each) that rises up to the top of the surrounding hills and has a spectacular panoramic view of La Paz. I didn’t realize it was so big and had SO MANY houses cramped together. The brown color of the bricks that 90% of the houses are made of make the hillside look like they are covered in rocks not homes. Very different from the neighborhoods we grew up in. It was a quick and inexpensive activity and I think worth the beautiful view.

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