Monday, October 28, 2019

Johns Day on his own in La Paz

I needed to rest my ankle so I stayed at the hotel all day. I would from time to time go to the roof top restaurant to check out the peaceful demonstrations on the street below. 
From time to time they would let off fireworks.

Here is John's version of his day:

I headed out in the morning to walk around the city. Our street was blocked off by protesters who had roped off the street. From the rope hung Bolivian flags. The news said that last night police had fired tear gas at a large crowd of protestors but we had not seen or heard any of it. As I walked the city I could see that other streets were also roped off by protestors but it was all peaceful.

The issue making many angry was that the day before the President declared himself the winner of last Sunday’s election despite many unresolved issues. The main problem is that as the election results were being announced on Sunday the President had a narrow lead. Suddenly without warning or explanation they stopped announcing the results for 24 hours. When they resumed the President had a much more sizeable lead. 

I went to some of the places we had gone to on our first day in La Paz on the walking tour but spent more time at those sites. I also went to Calle Jean (Jaen Street) which is a steep cobblestones street which is picturesque. 

I then returned to the hotel and Kimberly  and I went to the Qhatu Cafe where we talked to  the owner who was from La Paz but grew up in Toronto.

Kimberly returned to the hotel to rest her foot and I headed out to do another walking tour with Redcap Walking Tours but with a different route. This tour went to the Recoleta Cemetery and El Alto.

Our guide was Max and we had a small group of nine. La Paz does not have a public bus system but relies on what they call minibuses which have designated routes We used the minibus posted on their front windshield. The minibuses are actually large minivans that carry 12 passengers. You hail the minibus you want and pay 1-5 bolivars (20 cents to $1 CAD) depending on the length of the trip. 

So we hailed a minibus labelled “Cemetario” and we’re soon dropped off at the entrance to Recoleta Cemetery which is the largest public cemetery in La Paz. Bodies are buried above ground in multi-level vaults. The front of the vault is decorated with flowers, photos, mementos etc and the higher vaults are accessed by colourful ladders.

The ends of a row of vaults are painted with artwork, some art is not what you’d expect to find in a cemetery.

In order to make room for new arrivals,  bodies can only remain for 8 years after which the family must move the body to another cemetery or have the body cremated and the ashes stored in a much smaller niche that can be rented or bought.

November 1st is All Saints Day and families pack the cemetery to visit their loved ones. On November 8th a different event occurs where people who believe in the old ways bring the skulls of deceased relatives and place them on the ground in the cemetery where they offer the skull food, candies, alcohol etc. It must be quite a sight!

We then caught a cable car to El Alto which at 4,000 metres is a suburb overlooking the city. La Paz has a public cable car transit system the same way that other cities have a subway system. 

When we exited the cable car station there was a small dance group with a van blasting music out from speakers in the back of the van. They invited us to join in with them and were so thrilled that we participated they wanted to take our photo. 

We continued on to the Witches Market which was much larger than the one in downtown La Paz. The market sells everything required for offerings: candies, food, alcohol and llama and dog fetuses.

In another area of El Alto I saw a street lined with what I thought were metal bbq stands. In fact they are operated by shamans and used to burn offerings. 

We then returned to La Paz by another cable car line and the tour was over.

Back at the hotel we packed up for our 9pm night bus to Uyuni. When I went to check out from our hotel they advised that their credit card machine was not working. To pay cash we needed more money from an ATM. I asked Kimberly for her bank card as I had already used mine that day and thought I may not be able to withdraw more. 

To much huffing and puffing Kimberly opened up her luggage in the lobby searching for her card (note from Kim...hidden in my underwear, which I had to go through in public). Having gone through everything she then realized it was in her bra  pouch so she repacked and stormed off into the public bathroom to retrieve the card. For some reason this was all my fault...note from Kim:It would have been less embarrassing if he had told me five minutes before when I was still in the privacy of our room.

Card in hand we went to a nearby ATM, punched in all the information only to have the screen tell us it was out of service. I dashed off to find another ATM that worked and finally returned with cash to pay the bill just in time to get our taxi to the Todo Turismo bus terminal. Todo Turismo is the bus company. 

We had paid for the VIP ticket which gave us extra wide almost lie flat seats, a glass of wine and a hot airplane style meal. We departed at 9am for our 10.5 hour journey to Uyuni where we would start our 3 day tour of the salt flats

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