I have spent the last 4 days in La Paz, but I have decided to take off tomorrow. I have enjoyed my time here, but I feel like if I spent another day or two, I might feel a little bored. Also, being the very start of my trip, I realized I don´t want to stay too long in one place and then miss out on a bunch of cool things later on because I didn`t have time.
The past few days have been fun and interesting. I am very thankful for Couchsurfing, since this has allowed me to make many friends here. I have almost already made more friends here in La Paz than I did in 3 months in Ollanta. On Saturday night, I posted on Couchsurfing that I wanted to meet up for a drink for whoever wants to come, and 7 people ended up showing throughout the night. We were at a German pub, and then went to this little secret type place where we had to knock on the door of what seemed to be a normal house. Inside were random decorations, leather couches, and an ambiente atmosphere. These places were in a very nice part of La Paz, seeming to be more in Europe than La Paz. The area many international restaurants and pubs, and it felt good to be in civilization again. There are many Christmas decorations around the city, including some big Christmas trees, lights and wreathes on buildings, and Santas walking around. Makes it feel like Christmas now (without the cold weather!)
On Sunday, I met up with one of the Couchsurfers and we walked around the city. She is from Bolivia, but not La Paz, but she´s been living here for almost a year. We went to a really nice and large Christmas market, where they were selling anything Christmas you would want. All kinds of decorations, music, cds, candies. There was also a eating area with traditional Christmas pastries and drinks. I forget the names of the pastries, but were somewhat like a elephant ear but with honey and much fluffier. The drink was called Api, and is a thick purple drink served very hot. Absolutely delicious. The eating place had several stalls serving the same thing, and each stalls had several tables and a big HD tv and surround sound playing different Christmas movies. This is heaven for most children.
After walking around more, we made our way to Miraflores, a district in La Paz where a Couchsurfer was hosting a Sushi party. He bought all the supplies, and then we split the cost and helped prepare the sushi for the 15 or so of us. It started at 7, and we all ended up leaving at 12 after a good night with nice people. Most of the people were from South America, but also were 2 other Americans, an Italian, and a German. They had a ridiculous amount of Christmas decorations in their condo, so it definitely reminded me of home! Overall, another great Couchsurfing event!
Today, I woke up and searched for almost 3 hours to find a voltage converter for my electric razor. I asked probably 20 stores and stalls if they have it, and they always told me who had it. Somehow, the next person never had it but knew who did. My persistence paid off and I was able to shave off my 5 day beard.
La Paz is a very interesting city. La Paz is a city built into a bowl shaped valley. The downtown is directly in the center, so whenever you look in the distance, no matter which direction, you see a houses rising on the hill. Above the city is the growing El Alto (which I have heard has 500,000 people) and is a growing suburb. But since it is growing because people from rural villages are coming to try to make some money, it is extremely impoverished. I have been told by several people to be very careful when going there, but I haven´t been.
La Paz is a city of vast differences, from the Zona Sur (South Zone) where people have nice houses, nice cars, and send their kids to private international schools for thousands of dollars a year, to the people living in El Alto living far below the poverty line. There are highrises where people are paying $1000 a month for a condo, and there are people paying $80 a month in El Alto. It´s an interesting contrast, and makes for an interesting city. The city is filled with nice plazas, old churches, green space, high rises in the center, and of course the markets. Interesting thing, also, is that the weather varies depending on which district. The South Zone has the warmest weather since it continues to decrease in altitude in the south part of the city, and El Alto has the coldest weather at the top of the bowl shaped valley.
I have enjoyed the 4 days here, and I might return again if my route brings me back. Tomorrow, I will be doing a bike tour that starts on a mountain at 15,200 feet of elevation, and in 4 hours we will be in the jungle town of Corioco at 3,900 feet of elevation. Let´s just say that I won´t be peddling up many hills. After this, I will make my way into the jungle and hopefully get a tour of the Pampas, which is a part of the Amazon great for seeing animals.