La Paz is a little bit crazy. As we were driving into the city for the first time I said to Andy, “This is what I always pictured India would be like.” It was crowded and dusty. The streets were literally packed with cars, vans, bikes, motorcycles and livestock all trying to avoid hitting the brightly dressed, fruit-eating local people as they bobbed and weaved their way across the 8 lanes of traffic. It was a bit overwhelming, to be honest.
Once we got into the city centre things calmed down a little bit. The roads got smaller, the buildings were more colonial-style and there were far fewer farm animals. The city of La Paz is perched on the sides of a deep valley, with houses and buildings and roads all spilling down the hills. The city is surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountains that are visible early in the morning, then disappear into the smog during the day, then peek back out again in the evening.
We stayed in a hotel in the middle of the famous Witches Market. Just out our front door were hundreds of stalls selling local pan flutes, lengths of beautiful native material, touristy t-shirts and creepy-arse dried llama fetuses. Apparently it’s good luck to bury a dried llama fetus under the porch of your house. I’ll just have to trust them on that one as I’m fairly confident that the customs agent who stopped me trying to carry a dried llama fetus back into the US would be less than thrilled.
We spent several days wandering around the city, seeing the sites, dodging traffic and eating local food. Saltenas were a particular favourite… like empanadas but with a slightly sweet crust and a juicy, meaty inside. So good! We also managed to spend some time watching the baseball play-offs, shopping for souvenirs and visiting a local hospital, which I’ll tell you more about in another post.
Our best afternoon in La Paz was spent getting vaguely lost in the local market during our search for “ispi”, a local dish of small fried fish similar to white bait. We past stalls selling everything from remote controls to bras, towels to wooden spoons. When we finally found the right place for our lunch Andy had the ispi and I had fried trout. Both were fresh and ever so tasty! In a city like La Paz just walking to lunch can be an adventure!