Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year from La Paz, Bolivia!

Saturday, New Years Eve

It sounds like the whole city is awake and going about its business before I even get out of bed. The activity around Plaza Eguino starts early and builds to a chaotic roar by 8:00 a.m.

Taxied to "Alexander Coffee Shop" to start my day off right: strong coffee and a chocolate croissant! When I asked the driver the fare, he said "ten". When I told him I only had six Bolivianos in coin, he said "fine". Typical. Everything's negotiable here.

After coffee, walked across the street to the five-star "Plaza Hotel", figuring if anyone has wi-fi around here, they would. Of course, I had to buy something to disguise my free-loading intentions. Another cappuccino (which was terrible.)

As the computer searched for available wireless sources, one of the names that popped up was "Alexander". I bailed on the cappuccino and returned to "Alexander's". Yes, indeed, they have free wireless service. So, I set up camp for the rest of the day.

La Paz infrastructure. It is amazing the city functions. Wouldn't wireless be nice!

Continued to expand my music library, using LimeWire. I had just downloaded some Cat Stevens songs, when the cafe started playing the same.

Walking back to the hotel late in the afternoon, traffic was very heavy. The mix of humans and vehicles is incredible. And there are no rules. There should be bodies all over the streets, but somehow, the people manage to avoid being run over.

Yesterday, Fernando was telling me Bolivian drivers are the best. They have to be to drive these roads!

He also said it's obvious why all the buses have "announcers" hanging out their windows shouting out destinations: most people are illiterate in Bolivia. They can't read the names on the front of the buses.

When I mentioned that late at night around Plaza Eguino, it sounds like there are a hundred auctioneers, he said that's exactly what happens: the buses are so desperate for riders, they auction off their services, lowering their rates to attract the night's final riders, who are the poor, returning to the barrios after a day of selling their wares in the Mercado Negro.

Wandered the produce markets, taking just a few photos, and being chased away from other opportunities by a number of merchants who had no tolerance for the gringo with the camera.

Cameras are not welcome in the market. I was chased away by a few vendors.

For the third night in a row, went to the "Hotel Rosario" for dinner, finally sitting down at 8:30. (They were fairly busy tonight.)

I was told that most Bolivians spend New Years Eve with their families. According to tradition, if they're with their family on New Years Eve, they will be together throughout the year.

I returned to "Hotel Italia" before midnight and climbed into bed. (Party pooper!) But it frankly didn't seem too safe in the streets. As midnight approached, the fireworks increased in frequency. And these were not the "safe and sane" fireworks we have in the U.S. Here, there are rockets, missiles, bombs, probably even a few artillery shells thrown in for good measure. Stuff that would do serious damage to bodies.

It sounded like a firefight in the streets below, and rockets were exploding between the buildings, except there was loud disco music and laughter mixed in with the sound of warfare. I had visions of rockets sailing through my open window, exploding and setting everything afire.

Across the city, blasts rang out for well over an hour, interspersed with sirens. Hopefully my neighborhood would survive the night. What a wild city!



Certainly will be a memory worth savoring. Of all the places you've spent the new year none will remain so vivid as this one....good luck to you friend, and safe journey.

timtraveler said...

I think you got it right!

It will certainly be interesting if, in retrospect, La Paz turns out to be one of my favorite places!

All the best in 2006, Tim!

Dicky Neely said...

Feliz Ano Nuevo! Me gusta mucho las fotografias del mercado. Hay muchas colores y buen sabor del centro de la ciudad!
Dicky Neely

timtraveler said...


It sounds like you're warming up for a trip down this way!

Thanks for keeping me company.

All the best to you this year!