Woke up early to do the free walking tour of La Paz. The tour started at San Pedro square, located near it is a prison. It is a very unique prison, used to be a monastery for nuns, then a torture chamber, then a prison with a capacity of 400 people and now even over 2,000! Wifes and kids are also allowed to go in whenever they want. Kids walk in and out as well, with a school next to it. It is a very open prison, with just 10 guards the prison is running itself, a la prison break season 3! It has its own ecosystem, renting your own cell block, divided in poor and even richer areas which you pay 1,000 USD per month with hot tub and cable tv! The poor ones 5 USD per month with urinated mattresses and shared with 4 others. The prison also produces cocaine, with labs in the walls to deal it. They can easily smuggle cocoa leaves, gasoline etc in. And corrupt cops make it possible to distribute it in the outside world. They also used to put it in dirty diapers etc to get it outside. The book marching powder is written about the prison. Prison tours are not allowed anymore, so if someone offers you a tour it is a scam.
Next stop Rodriguez Market. Here you can get anything, litteraly ANYTHING! From WWE figures to barbies to fresh fruits to meat to fresh fish to all you can imagine. Insanely big! And every zone of the city has one. Supermarkets are not easily to find because of these open markets. Bolivians also like the social aspect of the open market, becoming a regular of the vendor. It is all about trust in these markets, and respect the vendor the more often you visit them. Here they do not appreciate bargaining. The vendors are like a family, you can also just gossip or talk about your problems to get advice. It really is one big community life! The market is every day, weekends mostly bussiest.
A lot of women have long hair, because it stands for beauty. They also use a lot of extensions. They also want their hips to look wide to attract men and to showcase they are fertile to men, that is why they are hiding the ‘sexiest’ part of the body, the booty! They like chubby women, because it shows power.
We went to the witch market, not really a market but has a lot of ritual things. The shop is filled with statues, dried small animals and medicines. The guide explained about the sacrifices a shaman made when he was younger, killing a young cock and doing a ritual, getting the strength of the animal and not getting sick again. They had a little stool in front withof offerings in it, like candy, alcohol and imagines standing for what you desire. Then give it to a shaman, he has to burn it, with a baby llama foetus. The superstition is that the foetus of a baby llama buried under a house brings good luck, so they had a lot hanging. For bigger buildings, human sacrifices are common. It has to be someone no one can miss. First thing you need to find when building something big you need to find a high ranked shaman, pay a lot of money and they go to pick up a homeless or alcoholic person to pick. Ask many questions to gain as much information as possible, if they say they have no one and no one will miss them, bingo. They will give him food and drinks and as the tradition says, they give him 90% alcohol and as soon as he passed out they put the person with the blessings in a whole, face down. Face up the spirit of the human will haunt the murderers. They have to check if he is alive and then cement them. It is an urban legens, but things still happen.
Guide gave an example of the castle of la Paz, where two builders died and the prime minister only offered llamas and not humans, so people believe mother earth was mad with the offering.
Next stop was the in 1548 built San Francisco church, built by the Spanish to convert the locals. They put some local traditions next to the holy San Francisco, like shamans and the goddess of fertility. The church has mirrors, to scare people that their souls get trapped in the mirror to convert them. The believe to this day is still if you get a scare, for example almost run over by a bus, you need to touch the ground with a finger and lick the earth to make sure your soul is not trapped to a mirror close to you. They used this mirror game to make sure locals go to the church. The church opens at 7 pm.
We stopped at a food market place to try different food. Here there is a lot of food to try a lot of food, we took some fresh water melon juice for 8 Bolivians and will come back here to take some time to eat! It is called mercado Lanza, open till 15:00 PM for lunch.
Plaza Murillo was a big squire with the parliament building and the royal palace. It was named after Pedro Murillo, in 1809 he expelled the Spanish for three months, after that the Spanish crushed with troops from Lima and he and his followers where beheaded on this square. In 1825 independence came, until 1982 they had more than 100 leaders, a record worldwide. Most of them were dictators. The guide told us a lot about the history of the leaders of the country, very rich history with lot of interesting backstories! The square is filled with bullet holes, from fights between police and the army after one of the presidents put taxes on the minimum wages, which also police got. So it was police and civilians against the military who did not have to pay taxes. He fled to the US and because Bolivia is a socialist country relations with US are not good, so he is still alive there. There is a backwards clock on the square, quite interesting to see.
Last stop Miralos restaurant, for 25 Bolivians we had the option for some local food. Here the guide told us about the current president. The president was the president of the coca producers before he got elected. He is still the president of the coca union and the country, making it a big problem with countries like US who claim Bolivia produces a lot of cocaine which goes to the US. The president has bought the Manchester United plane for 38 million USD, he is still alive and made a 80 million USD worth museum about himself in his home town.
At the end we got a 40% orange alcohol shot. The guide from Red Cap, David, was awesome.
We decided to get some lunch before taking an Uber to the airport for our flight to Uyuni at 18:55 pm, and just across the street of our hotel there was a nice local spot with a speaker outside blasting Daddy Yankee and Nicky Jam to lure us in. Food was awesome and cheap! I had a Sajta de Pollo which was a chicken leg with curry and black potatoes, Sam had Sillpichs which was a thick slice of beef on top of potatoes and rice. Both dishes around 30 Bolivianos, cheap and delicious!
After that we took an half hour Uber drive to the airport of La Paz, just a small but very neat airport with lots of nice shops and excellent service. After a quick check in we saw a lobby with chargers and chill chairs everywhere.
Then our flight took off, which was a small Bombardier CRJ-100/200 CL 600 – 2B19. Just 40/45 minutes in the air and we arrived! Flying with Amaszonas, who gave great service from baggage drop off to flight.
We took a cab from the Airport to Uyuni, they have standard rates during the day of 10 Bolivians per head, at night 15.
We quickly scanned the city, a nice cozy town with some tourist hot spots. Bought some items as souvenirs and for our photo’s in the Salt Flats. We visited the tour and upgraded to an English speaking guide. After that we decided to go local in a grill shop with some excellent chicken and beef. Tomorrow, Salt Flats adventure of 3 days 2 nights begins!!