La Paz and Route 36

The next few days I took steady, as I fully recovered. I ate mostly at Olivers Tavern or the cafe in the hotel (Banais Naira), as I knew the food was steady and wouldn’t upset my belly.

I ate at Wild Rover hostel on the Thursday, and I managed a sneaky buy of the Seattle Sounders FC kit. On the way back through Plaza Murillo I saw the most colourful, bouyant and happy political march we’ve ever seen!

Seattle Sounders FC kit
Seattle Sounders FC kit
Plaza Murillo
Plaza Murillo
Political March
Political March

That night I went for a few drinks, and met a couple of English lads that I got on with and after some drinks we headed to the infamous ‘route 36’ bar. It is found by asking a taxi driver, as the address is always changing. We paid the cab driver, and were led through a single door shutter, up 2 flights of stairs and met with a  small mousy Bolivian and an unassuming door. We were asked for 30Bs each, and we duly paid.

Inside there is a small bar, 2 toilets, and a few sofas with tables. The lights are dim and there is house music playing, louder than I would have expected. We were led to a couple of sofas surrounding a table by a waiter, who asked us for our drinks order. After grabbing our beers, he asked us if we wanted any other produce. We politely declined, but I could tell from nearby punters that it was 150Bs for one, and they seemed pretty chatty shall we say.

The next day would have been the day that I did the prison tour, but after a lot of people warned me off I decided not to. I looked into it further and it turns out that the money from the tours goes to helping people escape, and I didn’t want to be part of that. Instead I spent the day at Plaza San Pedro, next to the prison. The plaza is a hub of activity, and was interesting to sit for a couple of hours and people watch.

I saw an old man doing yoga on his own, loads of people come in and out of the prison, lots of tourists meeting for the ‘free’ city tour (stay away) and finally an orange juice seller that amazed me. He peeled the orange like I’d never seen before, so I filmed him. As you can see, he wants money. I offered him 1 Boliviano, but he refused once I’d stopped filming. He came over to the bench and demanded 10. I said no, assuming Bolivian law would let you film in a public place just like the UK. He mentioned the word ‘policia’ and the person I was travelling with became uncomfortable and urged me to pay.

 

On the Sunday morning I found out that cars are banned on certain days. It’s part of an air pollution reducing scheme from the government. I went for a nice walk. No cars, no fumes, no pain, and seeing Bolivians turn the streets into football pitches, bouncy castles, markets and of course, political walks, was nice.

No cars!
No cars!
No cars!
No cars!
No cars!
No cars!

I headed back just in time for Cholitas Wrestling. It is like American fake wrestling, but with Bolivian men and women in traditional clothing. I hopped on the rickety bus and it took me to El Alto, atop the mountain, where Cholitas Wrestling takes place. Due to last Sundays fiasco I had free VIP tickets (this means I get a free t-shirt and mask). I took my ringside seat and watched on as the madness commenced. The video tells you what you need to know!

There was a pantomime feel about it, and it was good fun. I booed one of the bad guys and he stuck his finger up at me, so I threw some popcorn at him. He then opened his mouth and pointed, I lined up my aim and boom, threw it straight down his throat from 4 metres. Biggest cheer of the night!

Just been thrown into crowd!
Just been thrown into crowd!
About to get slammed
About to get slammed
This guy was a hate figure. Nice skirt though
This guy was a hate figure. Nice skirt though
Looks cute now, but wait til she wrestles!
Looks cute now, but wait til she wrestles!
My free mask
My free mask

The tourists are ringside and nationals are behind. It was good to see the Bolivians getting into it. Although in Spanish, the storylines aren’t difficult to follow. At the halftime break the tourists are invited into the ring to have photos etc. Nobody seemed keen to be the first in, and I had already collected my mask, so I thought what the hell. I ran in to a big cheer, and slid under the ropes like a pro. After a few hand-lifts to get the crowd going I jumped onto the ropes for my photo!

Seizing my moment
Seizing my moment

The return journey was good for as I ensured I sat on the right side of the bus and got some great views. Photo doesn’t do it justice, but it was a lovely descent. I hit the hay immediately, as I had my flight to Bogota early in the morning.

View on the descent
View on the descent

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