From Peru, we crossed the eastern border into Bolivia. First stop: La Paz, the highest capitol city in the world (elevation 11,975 ft / 3,650 m).
We had a heck of a time getting into the country. Once already traveling on the bus headed from Peru to Bolivia, we pulled out our Bolivia guide book (a little too late), and read something about American citizens needing a visa, which we didn't know about and didn't have. Luckily it could be purchased at the border, but the border crossing was in the boonies, and we had no cash to pay for the $140 (per person) visa. We had to catch a taxi into the nearest town, where all the banks were closed, and the ATMs were not working. Finally we struck gold with an ATM, but it wouldn't give us American dollars, which were required for the visa. Cash in hand, we raced back to the border, praying our bus was still there waiting for us, exchanged our money into American dollars, then headed to customs. One of the twenty dollar bills had the tiniest tear and they wouldn't accept it, even though they had just handed that torn bill to us at their currency exchange. Long story short, we made it in, but not without a lot of hassle, adrenaline, and with $280 less in the bank. Apparently Bolivia requires a travel visa for Americans only because America does the same for Bolivians. Maybe we should do more research before visiting a new country, instead of figuring it out on the fly. But where's the fun in that, right?
La Paz was a nice surprise. Driving into the city was amazing. It's an enormous city built into the mountains, with peaks surrounding the city. Some have said La Paz is like one big market. Anywhere you go, there are stands and shops and things for sale. Even though its a huge capitol city, many of the locals wear colorful traditional clothing (unlike Lima in Peru). Women wear pollera (long, full skirts), bombín (bowler hats), and colorful shawls that double as packs for carrying stuff. It was the best place to people watch. Many of the women did not like to have their photo taken, so I had to be sneaky, and used my smaller camera (Fuji X100s) to appear less threatening and often shot at waist level.
At the end of our trip, our camera was stolen, and along with it, a memory card full of photos of our entire time in Bolivia (the Peru part was on a different memory card). So, all we have left are some photos from the smaller camera, which we used just a little bit in La Paz, and mostly photos from our iPhones. More on that story later, but I just wanted to let you know that the next few posts won't be as full as usual and are mostly iPhone images.
Isn't La Paz enchanting? I'm glad it was the first city we came to, because we immediately thought, okay, paying for that visa was worth it.
Our pastries filled with sweet cheese getting deep fried.
One thing that was constant about Peru and Bolivia... we ate a lot of soup.
Fried fish with rice.
At the Witches' Market, you can buy charms, potions, and dehydrated llama fetuses, which are buried in the foundation of homes for good luck.
Our tour guide assured us that llamas are not killed for the purpose of harvesting llama fetuses, but seeing dozens of them at every stall made us wonder.
Julia in souvenir heaven.
Zhanna getting talked into buying this gorgeous rug. Except she didn't buy it.
Going up the mountain on a fancy new cable car to get a better view of the city (though locals use it as vital transportation to get to and from the city).
La Paz from the cable car.