Here were some of the options for things to do in La Paz:
1/ Bike riding down Death Road – There are various reasons why I won’t be doing this. It’s expensive (around $100), I’m fairly sure that such activities aren’t covered by my travel insurance and also I don’t fancy getting seriously injured or killed. In the past this has been labelled as the world’s most dangerous road. During the worst years, 300 people were killed on the road annually, with vehicles toppling over the steep sides on a weekly basis. Nowadays it has been made a lot safer with modern bypasses missing out the more dangerous bits. Cycling down the road is a popular tourist activity. I’d heard of people frequently walking around the hostel wearing a sling on their arm or using crutches as a result of Death Road. I looked up on Google how many tourists have been killed while biking down the road. The statistics vary but it seems to be about twenty people since 1998. At the top of the Google search was a dailyexpress.co.uk article. I try to avoid clicking on such links in order not to line the pockets of a publication with an unhealthy obsession of Princess Diana, the weather and Bulgarian immigrants. However I couldn’t resist a headline of “EXCLUSIVE: Welcome to DEATH ROAD where 300 tourists are killed PER YEAR.” For a start it’s not an exclusive story by any definition as the details are widely available on internet. The 300 deaths per year stat is from Wikipedia where it clearly states that this was vehicle casualties before the road was modernised in the 1990s. This figure has nothing to do with tourists and also nothing to do with 2016. Don’t let facts get in the way of a sensational story I suppose! And to think people use this nonsense as their major source of news. That said, I still wasn’t going down Death Road!
2/ Cholita wrestling – This has the twist of women wrestling while wearing tradition Bolivian clothing! However I’ve already seen already seen this year’s quota of Latin American wrestling while in Mexico.
3/ Crazy Dave – I’d first heard about Crazy Dave when talking to a girl from Bury while on Lake Titicaca a couple of weeks ago. Apparently he’s a bit of a cult figure among backpackers. With the San Pedro Prison tours supposedly a complete no-no nowadays, Dave offers daily tours around the perimeter wall, where he will tell stories about his days inside. Crazy Dave is an American who served time in San Pedro for drug smuggling. Apparently he is unable to get a job in Bolivia and doesn’t have the funds to get home, hence the tours offered. Dave is easy to spot. He’s be the disheveled man in the square, usually surrounded by Gringos. Some of the allegations I’ve heard about Dave meant that I give this a wide berth. I’d imagine that a fair bit of his clientele would allegedly belong the niche market of tourists whom one of the main motivations of travelling to Bolivia is the availability of cheap cocaine. Without sounding like a granddad, why anyone would risk getting involved in narcotics here is beyond me. I’ll be doing what they advised in Grange Hill and just say no!
4/ Dynamite _______ – I’ve deliberately left that bit blank as I can’t think of a suitable accompanying verb to go with dynamite. This one isn’t in the guide books but a few people have told me that around the mining areas there are “spare” sticks of dynamite available for purchase. As someone who likes having hands on the ends of my arms rather than fifty feet in the air I’ll also be passing on this activity!
Looking back on that last paragraph I suppose that Bolivia could be described as a bit mad! It’s definitely the sort of place where you need your head screwed on otherwise you could easily find yourself in trouble. Therefore I planned to do what is currently TripAdvisor’s number one rated thing to do in La Paz and ride the cable cars. They aren’t a tourist attraction per se, more a form of mass transportation to avoid the often gridlocked streets and transport people from the city to the surrounding hills. The current routes seem to go from various points around La Paz up into the city that overlooks it at the top of the hills, El Alto. El Alto hasn’t got the safest reputation but it supposed to be OK around the cable car stations. Here you can take some photos of the great view of the city below and the mountains beyond. However as I approached the cable car station it became very overcast and eventually rained so this excursion was postponed for today.
I had a few things that I needed to buy so spent the afternoon shopping. Shopping centres around here are restricted to the wealthier suburbs heading out of the city. Even standard shops are few and far between, with most locals opting for the thousands of market stalls. Finding a belt, some headphones, a wallet and some toothpaste was harder than you’d think. OK the wallet and toothpaste were easy as they’re widely available in the markets. The other stuff required a fair bit of walking around. I felt like was doing a task on The Apprentice. Many of the shops in La Paz are grouped together by categories. I saw a street of paint shops, a group of opticians and even a whole road of shops selling hooky football kits including an entire indoor precient! Eventually I found an electronics shop for the earphones. The belt was the most difficult. All I could find were belts for skinny people or belts that looked like they’d fall to bits within a couple of wears. There was a shop that would sell you a nice belt for £30. Alan Sugar would have gone mad if someone had bought this one! Eventually I got one from a stall outside San Francisco Church. For 112 bolivianos (about £14) I ended up with the belt, a tube of toothpaste, a The Strongest (the la Paz football team) wallet, some earphones and a pair of Cameroon football shorts. The shorts were an impulse buy but you can’t leave them there for £1.50!
There was still no beer in the hostel bar. For a place whose own website promises good beer and a great party, this clearly wasn’t the case. Therefore a relatively quiet Friday night ensued.