As with many who venture here, I lost my shit in La Paz. Altitude, Wild Rover and Loki hostel parties that would be illegal in Europe and, how do you say? The prison known for some of the best high grade… Anyway no beating around the bush here.
Now I’m simple minded but here’s my advice on what to prepare for backpacking La Paz. I found the culture and structure of the city mind-bogglingly-fascinating. As I said though, I’m simple minded. The high altitude affects you, constantly making every step and uphill street a challenge in itself. I walked the streets of this mystical-black-magic-lama-eating-city for days.
The people are fascinating and the stories they told me of their beliefs and culture were just as weird. The free walking tour explained a lot but chatting to the local older women at the market stalls, in Spanglish, explained more.
They’re like Opera for the young females. If a young teen has some beef with a lad. She’ll go sit with the older big mama, and they are big, ask for advice and what to do. You see it happening, old women selling fruit and a young girl almost in tears quizzing her and showing her messages. Each teen has one of these Opera style helpers for her entire life, the same one. I wonder if their business has gone up since Bumble?
A lama foetus!
The lama foetus is a whole other thing. Supposed to cure illness and bring prosperity, aye sure pet. Intriguing to look at mind. I stayed in Loki, it was NYE I had travel buddies in Wild Rover and was game to party.
Wild rover is truly mental and truly fun, if you let your inhibitions go for a wee time. Come NYE we started the night there and for midnight hunted out Route 66, the infamous cocaine bar. A taxi dropped us close around 11pm and we were in 30min later after wandering and asking to find it. It’s a peculiar place that made you giddy to be inside. We went all out. If you’re wanting to find it drop me a DM @trxtraveller I’ll help as best I can.
- Stay at Wild Rover for the seriously huge parties
- Stay at Loki for the smaller, but still large, ones. It’s quieter in the rooms here as the party happens on the top floor
- Eat at the local markets for cheap meals
- Checkout the quieter, nicer boutique hostels north of the city away from the bus station down the motorway if you’re wanting more of a sensible place
- Take the teleferico to the the very top point and from one side to the other, it’s class
- Listen to crazy Dave’s 1 hour talk outside the La Paz prison. I think his talk is at 1pm everyday. He’ll find you
- Get a group together and hunt out route 66 (if you’re that inclined)
- Eat at the little local markets for cheap, you can find great smoothies and a variety of cuisine for next to nothing
- Take the free walking tour
- If you’re considering doing death road, do it. But have a little read of the below for info and my advice
- Listen to the tales of the older women at the market stalls about the culture of marriage and love advice
- Pick up some amazing woollen jumpers (not the pattern tourist kind) if you’re heading south towards Patagonia you’ll be very happy for it – also buy a bloody tourist woollen Peruvian jumper. Go on, get it and Instagram the balls out of it
- To reiterate the below, don’t go cheap on the death road company. Pay more, be safer and have a better time
- Eat anything you haven’t seen been thoroughly cooked in the markets. They’re lovely people bless them but sometimes a bit hap hazard when it comes to washing their hands etc. I got a nasty case of viral gastritis from eating a salad, took me down for days.
Now then, death road.
It’s cool and unique so certainly do it. I would strongly advise you not to skimp on budget here. Just suck it up and spend more for a higher quality company. People do die and after having a few beers with one of the tour guides some of the accidental stories he told me that he’d witnessed were pretty brutal and they all came from the cheaper agencies.
Think of the bike as a car, you wouldn’t ask a back alley geezer to do your MOT to then drive on motorways, so don’t do the same with your bike on the most dangerous road in the world. Plus, the more expensive companies take the better photos.
Tips for healthy eats
- There’s a lot of lovely smoothie stalls to get your vitamin kick in the markets and on the streets.
- There was one in particular round the corner from Loki which I went to every morning for a beetroot, carrot, orange and ginger smoothie. She even had little seats to chill at outside and people watch.
How to get meat for that protein hit
- You can grab huge chicken breasts with rice and veg from the little stalls in and outside of the market for dirt cheap, don’t eat the salad. Look for the oldest and fattest women. She’ll cook it up the best. One/two of these a day mixed in with a decent egg breakfast, can of tuna salad for lunch and you’re laughing.
- It’s also a good place to stock up on some protein before Santiago, if heading south, as the gyms and chemists sell some decent names. Google reviews before purchasing.
Where to exercise
There’s quite a few gyms in Bolivia and they’re cheap as chips. If you’re gagging for a session, then a quick google will lead you to a few. Most sit in the old town on the side of the hill. One in particular round the corner from Loki was a prison style gym – perfect.
A HUGE word of warning my fellow fitness freak, you are over 3000m high. You simply cannot push yourself to the limits of sea level, take your time and ease into it. You will however come out of the back end much fitter when you return to lower levels. Squats in particular are a bastard.