La Paz was full of hills and we certainly got our exercise there! We stayed at a nicer sort of place but unfortunately, our room was on the fifth floor of a building without an elevator. So, La Paz is 3650m high and my breath came in short gasps a lot, even though we were now technically at the same altitude as Uyuni and lower than some of the places we visited while on our tour. I guess it takes me time to acclimatize. I felt like an old lady climbing those stairs and being so out of breath that I couldn’t speak. It certainly made me feel nervous about our impending Machu Picchu trek.
Anyway, La Paz is a vast city of red bricked buildings, hills, mountains rising sharply upwards, rugged looking architecture and modern cable cars rising from among the city at a great height, carrying thousands of people a day to and from the neighbouring city of El Alto and back down to La Paz. We rode one such cable car and while Callum revelled in the views, I screwed my eyes shut for most of it, heart in my mouth, sweaty hands, the whole bit. Really really really hate heights. It’s always a struggle to decide what I hate more: heights, or spiders. Cannot decide. Anyway, the view was indeed impressive.
The people again look a bit different in this region of Bolivia. The ladies look similar but I found a lot more of them wearing more ornate blouses and sweaters and shiny skirts as well as the very interesting bowler type hats, perched on their black-braided heads as if they had just floated down from above like feathers, landing delicately on top. These ladies are called cholitas and really don’t like having their picture taken. Dangit. I very much wanted to photograph them as they look so unique. But I have been warned that some of them are actual witches who won’t hesitate to curse you if you snap a pic without asking first. I think I’m protected by Jesus anyway, but I still didn’t want to chance it. I hate making people mad at me. I did manage a few sneaky shots though.
One of our days in La Paz, Callum and I parted ways so that he could go off on his own adventure (riding Death Road on a mountain bike—something I was not keen on doing) and me to get boring errands done and do a walking tour of the city. I highly recommend doing the Red Cap walking tour of La Paz. Though I had already discovered most of the talking points myself, it was cool to hear the stories of each place and to learn a bit more about Bolivian culture.
The funniest thing I learned was about the “mating ritual” of the cholitas and the local men. If a man sees a woman in the market that he likes the look of, he won’t dare approach her. No, he will keep his distance. After observing her for a couple of days perhaps, he will then be bold enough to try and get her attention—by throwing rocks at her. Not hard, and not to make contact, but to just stir the dust by her feet so that she notices something is amiss. She will look around and try to find the source of these rocks. If she likes what she sees, she’ll smile, giggle, and play with her long braids. Shyly, she’ll slowly approach the man. She’ll test his belly to see if it is gushy enough by poking him. If it’s suitably gushy, she knows he is a rich man and also that he can eat. Next, she’ll test his hair. If it’s too soft, she’ll think he’s a prissy woos sort of man—not what she wants. It has to be thick and coarse. If she’s satisfied, she might slowly lift her skirt to reveal the sexiest part of the female body…..obviously, the calf, people. Yes, the lower part of the leg is what gets everyone’s motor going here in La Paz. What the man hopes to see is a nice, fat, brown, juicy calf, and if he sees that, then he knows that this woman is sexy and a suitable mate. The tour guides were hilarious and I enjoyed hearing these sorts of stories along the way of the 3 hour tour. Again, great exercise walking up and down hills.
Callum will have to be a guest writer one of these days to explain his death road biking adventure. His pictures certainly are quite exciting but what I was most impressed with was that he made it. He didn’t hurt himself, though he was surrounded by people who themselves “stacked it” (Aussie term). That’s for another time.