La Paz

Saturday 17th October 2015

I arrived in La Paz at the Intahuasi Hostel, dropped my bag and with Lluis we went straight to the street where all the tour agencies where and went to a few of them asking about going to Huayna Potosi the next day. Lluis had talked to a few already the day before and one had told him that the weather forecast was not looking good for the Monday evening, that there would be a snowstorm and lots of snow fall on the Tuesday, so we decided to do it in 2 days instead of 3 days. Walking down this street.

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Here was the programme for 2 days that most agencies offered.

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The equipment they give to get on the walk to the summit.

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In one of the agency, the woman looked at the forecast and showed us the details. Indeed, not really keen in doing it in 3 days because the third day would be the Tuesday for which lots of snow was forecast.

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We booked with Inca Land Tours for 2 days and then off we went to explore the city. Lluis had already spent a bit of time the day before and knew his way around already, that impressed me. He was like a perfect guide! First we passed the San Francisco church.

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Inside the church

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The plaza in front of the church

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We continued walking towards the Red cable car. Street life.

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Another street life scene

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Lots of shoeshines. They probably wear their hood to avoid smelling too much the chemicals they use to make the shoes shine.

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Construction work.

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Painting a fence

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Road work

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Men as much as women

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Painting the pole

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Fancy an ice-cream or would you prefer some candy floss?

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Those kids were dressed with the Bolivian flag colours, red, yellow, green!

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Getting into the red cable car.

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What a view!

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Passing above the cimetery, so huge. Interesting how it is structured with building after building of boxes after boxes…

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So many houses!

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View of the roofs

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View to one side

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View to the other side

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Walking El Alto, there were people having all the Ice Age animals, probably to offer parents to take a photo of their kids posing with them. Funny though, had not seen that anywhere yet.

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We sat here and had a local lunch with the locals. Was yummy!

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I like this photo, a man and a woman chatting around a table, with an incredible background. It is said that the richest people prefer the valley because it is less cold so that`s where they go. But what a view the poorest have from the top of the mountain, where the air is probably much more pure and where being in altitude makes them probably much more healthy. There is a French song called “Les rois du monde” that the guide Tim played in the mini-van during the day trip we had to the Salar de Tara. I had forgotten that song and when he played it, it really overwhelmed me because I find the lyrics so powerful and the music so lively. It says that the kings of the world live at the top and have everything they want but they get so bored and they are afraid of everything because they get mixed up dogs and wolves, while at the bottom everyone else lives their life fully, dancing all night, enjoying themselves without fear because they know that time is like wind and that there is no time to loose. That situation I was told about in La Paz made me think of that song, with the opposite situation that the rich want to be at the bottom and the poor are at the top. The life in La Paz happens on the streets. It is buzzying, vibrant, incredible the world is out there, the people are street sellers of anything they can, clothes, shoes, electronics, but also food, bread, juices they make themselves, pastries, whatever is possible to sell. It is so vibrant to see a place where life is out there, even if the weather is cold, rather than inside. La Paz is a city which really gets under your skin!!

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Traffic jam

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One of those very cool mini buses. There used to be buses looking a bit like this in Malta where I was a kid, but with the entry in the European Union, Malta modernised and replaced them with modern boring buses. I can`t help looking at La Paz with these eyes, fearing of the change that will eventually make it change and get modern but loose its authenticity and character that it still has. To all the photographers of the world, come take photos of this incredible La Paz that still exists because in thirty forty years, it will be gone.

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Women chatting in the street. Lluis was a big fan of trying everything on our way, ok maybe not everything, but a lot of stuff, which I found very cool too so we got a bag of those sweets which were nice!

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Passing on a bridge.

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A statue

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We saw this guitarist and dancers maybe practicing for an event.

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I took a video of them, although the sound of the guitar is too far to be really heard sadly, but their dancing is really great.

Walking in those vibrant streets of El Alto. It is said that it is not really safe, but on the contrary of the moment we were walking in similar street atmosphere in Lima with Matt, I felt that these streets here were really safe and was happily taking my camera out and taking many shots.

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We took this mini-bus to get to the yellow cable car as it was quite far.

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It was awesome actually because we could take many photos of the street life without being seen. There is something interesting in Bolivia, people are very very hostile to cameras. They spot them in advance and as soon as you take your camera out of the bag, they turn away. Much more than in any country where I have travelled and taken photo of the street life. The sad thing with that is that it is really hard for photographers to take good shots and be the Historians of this time in La Paz. I can understand people don`t like to be shot and I hate seeing awkward photographers who are absolutely aggressive with their cameras and are “in your face” embarassing the people they take photos of. Good street photographers are the ones who are very fast and very discreet, capturing the life of a street without bothering the people they take photos of. I don`t claim to always manage that, but I do have lots of practice over the past 6 years in street photography especially thanks to shooting the streets of London almost every day when I used to live there, and I do try to be discreet and fast. But here, in La Paz, even when doing that, it is hard to shoot the street life. So all that to say that jumping in the mini-bus and being totally invisible was a pure joy! The ones I admire the most in this La Paz street life are the women. Bolivian women really have a certain fashion style which I find really unique and interesting. But they are working their ass out to feed their family, selling whatever they can. They stand there all day long, waiting, selling, earning a few bolivianos to get them and their family through the days. They are the blood of the streets, its essence, its life. Remove all the women from La Paz streets and it would suddenly feel empty and missing something. To all the women of La Paz, thumbs up to what you are doing! Here are a few photos of them.

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Woman walking

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Women all carry these coloured bags and their back, often with a child inside. No prams here.

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Selling clothes

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Selling bags

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Selling bananas

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The street

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Women selling various things

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We got out of the mini-bus and went down these stairs to admire the view of La Paz.

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The yellow cable car we were about to take.

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Another view

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Including the mountains

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Lluis told me, when we look at this particular view, we could almost be anywhere in Switzerland or where there are mountains!

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Queuing to get our tickets for it.

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View from the cable cart

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La Paz Eiffel Tower.

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Big stadium

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Big Bolivia Eye Brother is watching you. 😀

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So much going on here!

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Love those mountains in the background!

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We got off and were in the “rich” area, you can tell by the look of the houses which are wider.

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Went to this park which should be called Parque del Amor. Nice fountain.

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People kissing.

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Some getting engaged or maybe just celebrating some anniversary.

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Others getting married.

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View of the surroundings from this park.

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Walking down the streets back towards our San Francisco`s church neighbourhood.

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I really like that in La Paz you get those expènsive views looking far far away. Nice fountain and graffiti.

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Zooming in on the woman and the rainbow created by the fountain.

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The street to the right.

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Plaza with some cool graffitis.

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Nice place where to hang around.

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We went to the shop to try out all equipment that we would take to Huayna Potosi.

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After that we walked around the market to grab some cereal bars and chocolate snacks for the hike. The streets were full of life, crowded, buzzying, during the night as much as during the day. The funny thing is that at the beginning we were searching for a supermarket, even just a small one, to try to find cereal bars we are familiar with like from the brand Quaker. But there were none! No supermarket! That`s not how La Paz works! Everyone is a street seller, there is everything everywhere…on the streets! So we bought some very thin cereal bars just wrapped in plastic without any branding and you know what, they turned to be really really good!

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My last picture will go to the bread because it is simply amazing. Best bread I have had in South America so far. Kind of mini French baguettes, crunchy, tasty, not sugary like some bread in Peru. Lots of travellers tell you that when you get to Bolivia the food will be terrible. Well I haven`t spent much time here yet but I had a great lunch today at a local place, soup and main, and their soup is really awesome and now I found that bread, the best bread ever!!!

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After our snack shopping, we went for dinner in a Chinese restaurant for a change. Then prepared the bag we would leave behind and the stuff to take for 2 days and went to bed.

Tomorrow, meeting at the equipment spot of the agency at 8.30am and off to Huayna Potosi!!!