Here we are in La Paz, the world’s highest capital city. And it’s not just the altitude that makes it a heady place to wander: as I alluded in my last post, the thin air is filled with choking exhaust fumes. The first time I’ve been grateful for the MOT.
It’s a fascinating place. The location is spectacular, with buildings of questionable safety spilling down the steep valley and out towards spectacular Andes peaks. Half the city seems to be one big street market, almost every stall selling the same selection of trinkets.
Our visit coincides with ongoing demonstrations about the country’s pension provision (or lack of), allowing us to spot a notable difference in the Bolivian national psyche, compared to that of Britain. Back home people just moan and grumble; here they let dynamite off in the street and block major roads day in, day out. So far it doesn’t seem to have achieved any more than the grumbling.
As unique and interesting as the city is, I can’t claim to have fallen in love with it. Not only is the air horrendous, but poverty is more prevalent than in any other place we’ve visited so far. Beautiful buildings have been allowed to rot, and young lads shine shoes in ski masks, ashamed to show their faces lest they be judged on the way they earn their living. Life here is hard. There aren’t a lot of smiles on the street.