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Life on the Street in La Paz

semi-overcast 13 °C

Wherever we go in the world we visit markets as a way of getting an insight into the daily lives of the locals. Marketplaces are the lifeblood of many communities in poorer countries and here in Bolivia almost everything can be bought on the street. It is as if La Paz is simply one great market. There is hardly a street that does not have some vendors and many are totally clogged with stalls offering all manner of goods and services...
While many street markets have an eclectic mix of stalls, others cater to specific needs. In the Witches' market, the dried foetuses of alpacas are supposedly a traditional ingredient for powerful potions. The dead babies are prominently displayed to freak out the tourists, but we thought you'd rather see the ladies selling all manner of medicinal herbs...
Some traders have nothing more than a wheelbarrow in which to display their wares. This lady is selling prickly pears, known locally as tuna...
While here's a stall selling colourful party hats just right for Carnaval...
This baker has his breads piled high on the sidewalk to catch the attention of shoppers and the fumes from the passing traffic...
In addition to the markets there are entire streets of shops dedicated to specific products. For example: one long street is lined entirely by liquor stores, another solely with furniture shops while another is dedicated wholly to electrical appliances. There is a cellphone street, a leather goods street, a shoe street and even a street where almost every shop sells toilet bowls and urinals. Most Bolivians seem to have weight issues and it is not surprising considering the large number of stores and market stalls selling vast quantities of sugar coated popcorn and other sugary starches...
Because it is Carnaval time everyone is stocking up on booze and candies and the street in front of our hotel is jammed with stalls selling party costumes and 'gifts' of seeds and nuts painted gold and silver to represent wealth – it's called Challa...
Few people can afford cars or even individual taxis so most travel in collectivos, (mini-buses). The narrow streets of La Paz are often at a standstill as thousands of these vehicles try to navigate the roads where stop signs and pedestrian crossings are a waste of paint and traffic lights a waste of electricity.
The best way to view the choked streets of La Paz is from above...
Like a number of overcrowded and polluted South American cities the government has had the good sense to build a network of commuter cableways. Ultra modern, environmentally friendly, cable cars zip you smoothly, silently and safely across the city, high into the mountains and beyond - into the sprawling suburbs where the street markets make driving virtually impossible...
La Paz's Austrian built, Mi Teleferico, is the longest cable car system in the world and will stretch some 34 kilometres when the 11 lines are completed. Travelling on the cable system is a great way for us to practice Spanish with fellow riders and each journey costs only 50 cents Cdn. (30p).

We can't help but wonder how an impoverished nation like Bolivia can install such an advanced, clean, and sensible transportation system when certain cities close to home can barely run a bus service!

We are now leaving La Paz for Sucre, (a city that shares some of the governmental responsibilities with its big brother) and we will miss the Carnaval in La Paz. After witnessing the mayhem in the run-up to the big event we are not sorry to leave. The streets are already awash in cheap booze, deafening firecrackers and vomit, and this is just the first of a four day festival. These Bolivians may not have a lot of cash but they sure know how to let their hair down.

Posted by Hawkson 15:23 Archived in Bolivia

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Love the market. I hope they maintain control over their wares and don't end up being overtaken by big box interests that force them to sell for less than they can produce.

by Janet Vickers

Sounds like good timing to proceed on to your next destination. Great that you can get a birds eye view.

by Sue Fitzwilson

A great escape from the chaos of La Paz in the “ Télécabine “ for a few hours and even better leaving the capital before the revellers get over boisterous
Going to the London tomorrow for half term.
Safe travels x

by Christine Lloyd

Thanks. Now we don't need to travel there. All the fotos you send are enough for me!!

by Kelly Waugh

Interesting building in the photo with the jammed street scene. It appears to house everything from an internet sports bar? to a music academy. Also note the garbage cans on the roof. Nowhere else to put them I guess.

by R and B

These market pictures are amazing especially when you think that every body must pack all that stuff up at night.
There is a prickly pear (tuna) tree with almost ripe fruit across the street from our house in Mexico.

by keith and helen

Same route as us this past fall. Bolivia really grew on us, but first impressions were a little questionable. Salt flats are a must. I just finished reading Marching Powder anou5 SAN Pedro prison in LaPaz. It is one crazy story! Safe travels my friends

by Maxine Stewart

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