So La Paz is the capital of Bolivia and is the highest capital in the world at about 3,650 m above sea level. By this time we'd become quite used to altitude though because Cusco, Arequipa and Lake Titicaca are all very high up!! So somehow we didn't actually end up doing very much in La Paz but it's just that sort of place where you end up staying way longer than you planned. What we did do though was go up the cable car which goes from the bottom of La Paz right up to the very highest and poorest part called "El Alto". We got some really great views over the whole of La Paz and you could see just how huge it is.
|La Paz from the cable car|
|Amy, Cass and I in the cable car|
|Central La Paz|
We did the free walking tour which was really interesting, we learnt about how every house under La Paz has a llama foetus under the foundations - apparently they use them as a sacrifice to Pachamama (Mother Earth) in order to protect them from harm and danger. We saw them selling the foetuses in the shops too, not a very nice sight... Also apparently in the witches' market you can buy this powder called "come to me" or "follow me" which you're meant to sprinkle on the back of the person you like and they miraculously will like you too! Hahahaa hilarious.
We ended up being in La Paz for the World Cup Final which was just so crazy. I mean La Paz is already known for being a bit loca but with the World Cup everyone just went mad! It literally was a madhouse. So much fun though, there was a really great vibe in our hostel.
While we were in La Paz we took the opportunity to do the "death road" - so this is the world's most dangerous road. I have to say it was one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life! You're riding a bike down this tiny road with a huge cliff face to your right and a massive, goodness knows how many metre drop to your left! And no railings, nothing. No wonder it's called the death road! But, safe to say, I did survive. How else would I be writing this. So it wasn't all that bad. A big rush of adrenaline for sure, but it was really very fun.
|Amy, Cass and I ready to go!|
|Our wee group with death road in the background|
|The huge drop!|
So we stayed in Sucre (still in Bolivia here) just a couple of nights. Unfortunately I was a little bit ill so we didn't actually see much, but what we did see was soo pretty! Sucre is supposedly Bolivia's "white city", and I could definitely say that's true! Most of the houses are pure white, it's so beautiful.
After Sucre Amy and I separated and I had my first taste of solo travelling!! It was so bizarre not having her by my side all the time and I missed her so much!
So I went to the little mining town of Potosi. Now this is the most freezing place I have ever been. Potosi is the world highest city at 4,090 m above sea level and oh my can you feel it. It is SO unbelievably cold and dry and I had to buy myself woolly gloves and a hat and wear them all day every day, including overnight (as in, they rarely left my body). Apart from the cold though I actually really like Potosi. It's a relatively quiet little town, tourists only really come to visit the mines. So of course I was a tourist too and did the touristy thing and did a mine tour, which was really interesting. I had this cute wee guide and a nice group and we went inside the mines and he told us everything about it. It's so fascinating to see how they still work there deep in the mines doing hard and dangerous work even with the possibility of getting silicone poisoning due to the dangerous gas down there. We were able to meet and talk to some of the miners there, some of whom had been working there for over 25 years!! They said that the trick to staying healthy in the mines is to eat healthy and be healthy outside of the mines. If you eat unhealthy things and then go and spend your days in the mines then yu're more likely to get sick from the silicone gas. Anyway that was really interesting and we had a really lovely tour guide which really made it all the better.
|bags of coca leavesfor the miners!|
|with one of our guides|
|inside the mines|
|inside the mines|
|some of the miners taking a break|
|our cute wee guide|
|gorgeous view after coming out of the mines|
I also went to the Santa Teresa convent and museum in Potosi, a convent where they used to take in young girls aged 15 and upwards from wealthy families (ones that were able to pay the expensive dowry). There was quite often a waiting list of girls (more likely it was their parents who wanted them to get in) to get into the convent because it was really great privelige to be a nun and also having a relative in the convent was supposed to guarantee you a place in heaven. The waiting list was so long because a new nun can only enter once an old nun has passed away. Once the girls entered the convent at age 15 they hardly ever saw their family again, only very rarely through massive and thick barred windows (not even really windows though) you could barely see through, although they were allowed to exchange some small gifts as time went on.
|barred windows through which the girls were able to talk to their family|
|Some craftwork the girls used to make when inside the convent|
|Corsets were sometimes used as a form of punishment in the convent|
|Santa Teresa Convent|
Tupiza is right down in the south of Bolivia, pretty close to the borders of Uruguay and Argentina. It was meant to be warmer than in Potosi, and I guess it sort of was, but compared to Potosi anywhere could be warm!! Tupiza is kind of strange and very different to whichever South American image you've got in your mind right now. It's set amongst red canyon country, so picture American Wild West and you're pretty much there! So I spent my time there just kind of relaxing. I was waiting for a trip to go on a horse trek with and there wasn't one for a couple of days so I took a few chill out days, read a book, had slow and enjoyable meals (on my own, it has to be said) and took leisurely afternoon strolls around the town which was wonderful. It's such a beautiful place! I eventually went on my horse trek which was sooo much fun, I've not been horse riding in a long time and I hadn't realised quite how much I missed it.
|The "Devil's Gate"|