We arrived in La Paz, after a rough bus trip at 7am. We made our way to Loki Hostel which was full, so we left the people who could not be far from appropriate facilities and went in search of another hostel.
The first morning consisted of a lot of people feeling sorry for themselves. When we finally checked into our room that afternoon and locked in a siesta, I was feeling pretty pleased that I had dodged the bug, but alas, my self back patting was premature and I woke up feeling pretty rough.
Thankfully, the bug was only a short term one and by the next day, we were all feeling a lot better. We walked around the markets and made some purchases. I picked up a pretty nice 3/4 size guitar with a soft case for just under NZD60 which I was pretty pleased with.
That night we introduced ourselves to the La Paz nightlife, which, despite being a Wednesday was a great night had by all.
The following day, the girls sifted round the markets, Nato did an advanced mountain biking track which he said was fantastic and James, Emma and I went just out of town and hired some dirt bikes. James got a 600cc with Emma on the back and I got a 250cc. The mum and dad who owned the shop gave us the safety run down and sent us on our way with their 15 year old son as a guide. He obviously was going through a teenage phase of not listening to his parents and we took off. The ride was mostly on gravel roads and was heaps of fun. It included a bit of river crossing and we even got to stop at a motorcross track and have a hoon around on that. Besides the scooter in Bariloche, which doesnt really count, it was first proper go on a motorbike since the crash and it was heaps of fun.
That night we had a quiet night, as we were up early the next morning to do mountain biking on the world's most dangerous road. This is one of the main tourist attractions in La Paz. It is the old highway which is essentially a dirt/gravel road cut into the side of a cliff. For most of the ride you are on a 4 metre wide road, so it is not technically difficult, but on one side you have a sheer drop down into a valley which is a very long way down. There are always heresay reports of how many people die on the road a year, and whether that is mountain bikers or road users, but we were assured that if you ride within your ability and dont be a cowboy, you should be fine.
The good news is our group made it through incident free. We would ride for 10 minutes then stop at a lookout, wait for everyone and then take photos and move on. The views were pretty amazing and we were lucky to have some good visibility. When we got to the bottom we visited a monkey sanctuary which was fun and then got the bus back to town.
That night we met up with Lucy's cousin who is traveling through La Paz and a few of his mates and had a good night out.
The next day consisted largely of sleeping and Burger King, but because it was Saturday night, we ventured out again and checked out some more of the nightlife. Despite the pub we were at running out of beer (a bit like when we turned up to a Mexican restaurant to be told they had run out of food) a good night was had by all.
For our last day in La Paz, we did a guided bus tour around the Southern end of the city, which is called "Valley of the Moon" because of the cool rock formations. The others did a guided tour of the city as well, but Lucy and I decided to flag that and instead walked past San Pedro prison and had a look at that. San Pedro is a prison made famous by a book called Marching Powder, which is so corrupt, tourists used to be able to bribe guards and inmates for a tour of the prison. Prisoners can bribe guards for pretty much anything and the book is all about an English guy who ran the tours of the prison and talked about prison life. The tours have been largely cracked down on after the book was released, not that I was hugely keen to go inside anyway. It was cool though to see the entrance and recognise the pictures from the book. The front gate was full of family bribing their way in to see people inside (the book talks about familiies happily living in the prison with husbands/fathers). Apparantly there was a raid recently and tourists inside had to make large bribes to get out. We were pretty sure we were being cased by an undercover cop who was on the lookout for gringos trying to get in - either that, or he just liked the cut of our gib and was having a good gander, but im leaning towards the former. We saw people getting snuck in and out a side door too which was interesting. It was a fairly non descript building, and if you didn't know what it was, you could probably walk right past and not give it too much attention, but after reading the book and knowing exactly what we were looking at and knowing what kind of stuff goes on in there, it was quite cool to see it in real life.
For our last night here, the others have gone out to dinner. I am hanging round the hostel, bringing the blog to the people, playing my new gat and taking it easy. We have a 8am bus to Cuzco tomorrow. We have to be in Cuzco 48 hours before starting Inca trail but thought we would give it a day's grace and get there a day before that since there are often strikes that block the roads and cause delays.
Overall, La Paz is a pretty nice city, considering it is in the poorest country in South America. the main town is in a valley and the "suburbs" are build on a huge cliff face that overlooks the city. From a distance, it looks like the houses are stacked on top of one another. It is mainly known as a party spot on the gringo circuit and we can leave knowing that we gave it a good go.