Saturday was Independence Day for Bolivia, but the celebrations had occurred in La Paz the previous day. Regardless, just about everything was closed when I rolled out of bed Saturday morning. My friends in the hostel had headed out earlier to brave the World’s Most Dangerous Road, so I did some exploring/ATM-searching of my own.
La Paz is as beautiful during the day as it is at night. It’s the dry season and ‘winter’ at this point, but I was super warm and the sun was bright and blazing overhead.
Bolivia has a lot of history, much of which I read in a traveler’s book. La Paz is a melting pot of sorts; it was under Spanish rule and influence for years, which lends it Catholicism and Spanish traditions, but the indigenous people also began moving to La Paz, especially after Spanish rule. There’s a mixture of cultural influence and religious beliefs, and it’s really interesting to observe Catholicism in one area and Incan beliefs, such as worshiping Pachamama, the earth goddess, in others.
Above, you can also see a brightly colored checkered flag, which is the Quechuan flag. The first few times my friend said this, I thought he was asking to play capture the flag, and I was horribly confused. The next two images come from a collection I call “Children With Pigeons” and will be on display someday in a very special kind of museum.
Many people think that since Bolivia is a developing nation (nonpc=third world country), they lack running water and enjoy the comfort of a straw hut when they’re not hunting pumas for dinner. While poverty is very visible and widespread, the city is not a jungle nation.
After exploring some of the center, my friend Lee (met at the hostel) and I ventured toward Plaza San Francisco, where Bolivia’s oldest (?) church stands tall and people gather to feed pigeons or, as we would shortly do, head up to the market on Sagarnaga.
After resting in Plaza San Francisco for a minute, we headed up to Sagarnaga. It’s literally right next to the plaza, but I was thrilled to know that I remembered it. Last year, Alana and I visited Sagarnaga on my fourth day or so, and I had to get a cab back because the altitude sickness was so bad. La Paz is the highest capital city in the world (then Quito, then Bogota), so altitude sickness is not uncommon. It can be anything from a persistent headache to dizziness to nausea, and can be treated with drugs (which I’ve heard are awful) or some coca tea (which I can say from experience does the trick). I was thrilled to find that this time, on my first full day, I conquered Sagarnaga problem-free. Sagarnaga is a super steep street that is home to a pretty cool market boasting everything from hand-woven bags to jewelry to coca leaves to…
…llama fetuses. Up Sargarnaga on a cross street, curious travelers will find the witches’ market, where vendors sell dried llama fetuses among other interesting trinkets that bring luck or blessings to your home. If you’re lucky, you might even see someone blessing a fetus or a display before selling it to a fortune-seeking Bolivian.
And you can’t have La Paz without formidable and beautiful Illimani in the background:
After some ice cream, the day concluded with some beverages in the hostel bar and meeting some very fun new friends.