Networking has never been more important than in Bolivia and everything started with my crash in San Matias, followed by the meeting of unbelievable friendly people from all over the country…
Erwin who was inviting me to the festival in Cochabamba put me in touch with his son Javier who lived in La Paz. “A friend of my father is always my friend too”, Javier said.
Javier, his girlfriend and cousin picked me up the same evening I arrived to gave me an overview of La Paz. Therefore, we went on a 1,5 hour ride with the recently built cable car “Mi Teleferico” to get an amazing overview of the world’s highest administrative city at night. It was incredible to see the tiny lights sparkling from high above the sky.
The 1 million citizen city is built within a dramatic mountain landscape ranging from approx. 3’500 metres on the lowest level up to El Alto and its snowcapped peak of Mt. Illimani with 6’438 metres.
The next morning I was about to change the hostel and moved into an apartment Javier was offering me to stay. I had to follow again the same procedure as every day… packing my stuff and moving to the next place to stay which is in fact still bothering me, even after almost one year of travelling. It becomes a sort of routine. However, while I was just about to leave the place, the hostel staff lost the key to the garage and so we had no other option but to break free. They called a guy with a massive circular saw and “opened” the lock. There is nothing such as a smooth day in South America, lol.
After going to Javier’s place we checked out one of the local specialities in La Paz and had a delicious spicy soup with pork meat in a famous restaurant in town. Portions were absolutely hugh and even though I highly enjoyed it, I could barely finish it. The beer I ordered made me almost drunk and I remembered again the altitude of the town and its affects on the human metabolism which, I can approve, is not the same as at sea level 😀
Having had a great lunch we continued our tour through the city centre of La Paz where a large group of people were sitting everywhere around the Plaza, trying obviously to be heard while launching ear-damaging fireworks. It was not the first time that I saw people on the streets and is apparently a popular activity of the Bolivians, maybe a bit similar to the French with one difference: Situations like that can get easily out of control and Embassies are always warning to join large crowds like that. Usually, strikes in Bolivia go always hand in hand with the police or even military and you certainly don’t want to fool around with those guys. However, the strike possessed a great opportunity to take pictures of the situation and especially the people who were trying to protect themselves from the powerful sun while holding umbrellas and chewing coca leaves (which might be to suppress the appetite).
Having had a look at the watch, it was about to go shopping on the local craft market where everything from pullovers to pens could be found. The shipment of the many things (for family and friends) I found was more expensive than the whole lot of gifts in total. It was ridiculous… an Alpaca pullover was like 12 Euros.
After the shopping was done, we went to the so called witch market of La Paz which was just a couple of meters away. While we were exploring the market I saw a familiar motive which I knew already from somewhere. Rainer, a friend of mine, shot exactly the same picture a while ago when abortions of dead lama were hanging down the ceiling of a street vendor. Apparently, those dead lamas are burned together with other gifts like alcohol to worship mother earth, praying for good health, prosperity and so on.
In the evening a culinary highlight was awaiting us. Michelin star Gustu’s, ranks amongst the 50 best restaurants in South America and is apparently the best restaurant in town. We chose the traditional Bolivian menu which consisted of 9 or 10 courses which I can’t really remember anymore. It was just a lot but due to the small sizes of the dishes absolutely ok and we were pleasantly full after almost 3 hours in Gustu’s. Since I already felt the effect of one beer during lunch at such an altitude I ordered instead just a single glad of wine (which I honestly regretted at the end since the quality of the whole set up was just overwhelmingly good).
Every new course was a new surprise from the recently crowned Latin American best female Chef of the restaurant, Kamilla Seidler. Just to highlight one of the many dishes, which is not easy at all, was the simple preparation of butter and brioche with coca ingredients. Sniff… lol.
By the way, The name Gustu is the Quechua word for flavour and I can 100 % confirm that! D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!!!!!!!!
The next day we went to the coolest neighbourhood in town which was formerly a horse competition circuit, called San Miguel. A quarter which one could compare with Soho in New York, a lot of high class cafes, restaurants, bars, fashion shops and art galleries.
A truly unforgettable time in La Paz, the worlds highest administrative capital and one the worlds best restaurants.
Muchas Gracias Javier!