Ahh, now you’ve heard of this one. Bolivia’s northern city, the business centre and economic capital, is a mad sprawl of 870,000 people. Mount Huayna Potosi sits silently on the horizon, the crazed hills collapse in the middle like a soufflé, and there, in the pit, is La Paz. The high altitude and trapped clouds make it a cold place, but the sun shines high and the city is alive.
The witches market
No, there aren’t witches here, yes I know that it says so in the name. The witches market is a set of four streets in the middle of town. They ‘witches’ sell all kinds of strange things, mainly old herbal remedies, for you to cure your ailments. Find cocoa leaves in every shape and form, spiritual figurines, cough medicine, oils, herbs, powders and stuffed baby llamas feotuses. On that last one, the baby llamas are used for brining luck to new homes in a traditional Patcha mama ceremony and are part of the culture here. You won’t find many people buying llama, mostly tourists having a poke around, but the market is lots of fun anyway. Further along you’ll find ponchos, leather goods, jewellery, scarves, key rings…etc.
The Black Market
This is where you’ll find the locals and with them, chaos. The market disctrict is made up of a douzen or so different sections, each a maze and each a madhouse of their goods. Walk down trouser street and out onto sock street, cross and go through meat avenue and you’ll find yourself in toy world. From cooking pots to thongs, pineapples to nikes, the black market has it all.
You’ll notice that La Paz has more micros and taxis than private cars and with them, terrible traffic. The micros will take you anywhere, if you know which one to get, and are the cheap local way around the city. I recommend the cable cars that go from the centre, up the hills out of town. For three bolivanos you’ll get views of the city and save your lungs the steep walk. Win win!