Wow. The party hostel was true to form. By 9pm there were people so drunk they were struggling to navigate their way into the lifts. All Brits of course I am proud to say.
Every stereotype was covered.
There were the three blond public school girls whose drawling upper class tones could probably be heard in Cuzco as they complained how they could “haaardly walk” after doing Death Road and ordered all those in sight to head to the bar on the top floor, “Floor seven bitches” they shouted on entering the lift.
There was the drunk Scottish couple who I had seen at 7am that morning when I arrived demanding to stay another night with no attempt at politeness – or Spanish. Twelve hours later they staggered into the lift stinking of booze and slurring so much I couldn’t actually work out what they were saying. Perhaps they were finally trying out some Spanish, it certainly wasn’t English coming out of their mouths.
There was the swaggering cockney ‘lad’ who seemed to have found himself at the head of a gang and was getting cross that reception were unable to give them a room for seven people all together.
“We’re gettin’ the room for seven and that’s that. No arguments, right.” He told his acolytes, only to have it calmly explained to him that he and his friends were not the only people staying in this hostel.
The advantage of all my fellow countrymen spending their sojourn in La Paz knocking back cheap beer in the hostel bar from morning until night is that none of them were roaming the city streets breaking into my happy musings with their irritating noises.
And I would actually recommend the Loki Hostel. The ‘party’ element is largely confined to the bar – and apparently the lift – so does not disturb your sleep, it is in a great position and is clean and well run with an in-house restaurant and fantastic views out over the city.
In spite of my disdainful attitude towards anything referred to as a party hostel, most of the people staying there were absolutely lovely.
Had I not been so sleep deprived I could have happily stayed up drinking all night too. Hypocrisy is sometimes hard to avoid.
But I had been pacing the streets of La Paz all day and my bed seemed more attractive than any alcoholic beverages.
Ignoring the warnings of stomach upsets I treated myself to a three course lunch at a charming restaurant called the Colonial Pot for a mere 40 Bolivanos, or £4. I felt I deserved it after existing entirely on dry bread, chocolate biscuits and peanuts on the bus from Villazon such was my fear of eating anything that might create problems… I ate a hell of a lot of bread and biscuits, largely out of boredom, but bread and biscuits alone can never satisfy.
So by about 2pm yesterday, faint from hunger after exploring the crumbling historic centre of La Paz, I decided to gorge myself.
I wouldn’t pretend it was the most amazing food I have ever eaten, but my god it tasted good.
I started with the traditional Bolivian dish of quinoa and vegetable soup with slightly toasted bread dipped in oil and herbs.
This was followed by roasted lama – which I should have mentioned after my first taster of lama in Tilcara is bloody delicious. It came with chips and a tomato and onion sauce.
All this was rounded off rum flamed apple.
Bloated and happy, I set out again, this time with the energy necessary to deal with La Paz properly. It is not a city for the faint hearted.
La Paz is a crazy city. Crazy. It is a bustling, noisy, smelly, colourful melting pot of traditional indigenous Bolivian culture – think women with waist length plaits, full skirts and high bowler hats – rampant commercialism and modern business. And traffic. Lots of traffic.
Everything is for sale in La Paz it seems, from Quechuan alpaca knits at prices which wouldn’t buy you a burger in Britain to lama foetuses in the witchcraft market – funnily enough I didn’t enquire about the price of those.
Virtually every street in the centre heaves with market stalls.
And the geography of the city alone is crazy enough.
It sits in a deep bowl surrounded by snow peaked mountains. The city centre is at the bottom of the bowl with the rest of the sprawling metropolis rising up ever steeper slopes. Only the near vertical tops of these slopes remain bare. Above the cliffs is a high plateau on which sits the separate city of Alta, looking down at its more famous and prosperous neighbour.
I took a cable car up to El Alto from where you can look down upon the whole of La Paz and get a real idea of the scale of this city of nearly a million people built 3650m above sea level.
This is also means it gets very cold at night. Don’t be fooled by the temperatures in the midday sun, by 8pm that alpaca jumper will come in handy.
For me a day and a half amidst the madness was enough. You cannot relax in La Paz. Fun, fascinating but stressful.
The cool lapping waters of Lake Titicaca seem very appealing right now.