the highest capital in the world
01.16.2011 - 01.19.2011 70 °F
By now, we´d more than accustomed to the altitude, after stays in Cuzco (10,860 feet) and Copacabana (12,600 feet). Now, we´re fit and ready to tackle everything that La Paz can throw at us. The never-ending noise, bustle, and thick exhaust - but the biggest highlight being the street food and the street markets...bring it on, our stomachs and wallets can take it! Maybe...after a quick runthrough, be sure to stick out this post for a nice dining story at the bottom. Don´t skip down, though!
Bolivia is known for its salteñas and empanadas - little hot pockets stuffed with meat (plus bones, sometimes), potato, onion, grapes, olives, and the kitchen sink as well. Also ubiquitous in Bolivia as well as South America is the tamale, a rather bland combination of cheese and corn wrapped in a corn husk and heated. They´re good, but definitely not as good as the salteñas and empanadas.
Yummy fried empanada with a semi-cold Fanta Orange
What Bolivia is also known for is its markets - handmade crafts and clothes; fresh fruits and vegetables; and...dried llama fetuses and toucan beaks. You can find practically anything there, especially in the (in)famous Witches´ Market.
NOT the Witches´Market, but darn close
A Post-Meal Drink
Now let me tell you about our first night in La Paz. We had just gotten settled into our hostel in the late afternoon, and after a quick rest, we were ready to eat like kings. We headed over to the hostel-recommended restaurant, which was a real treat - and dirt cheap! After stuffing ourselves various delectables from the salad bar, we had our main course and a towering bottle of beer. Chicken for Hillary, tasty llama steak for Kyle.
Once we were finished, our friendly waiter asked us if we´d like a trago (drink) on the house. ¨Sure,¨we said, not sure if he meant ¨on the house¨or simply ¨house drink.¨ Either way, we were game. So after rummaging around behind the bar, our waiter returns hugging a big jar. Now, we´re not talking about your normal, everyday jar of Smucker´s Strawberry Preserves. No, this is a jar he needs to hold with both hands (again, as I said before, hugging). It´s also covered in a cloth. No biggie. He pours the shots for us, places the jar on the table, and glides off to tend to a couple of other tables.
Like the couple of wussy gringos that we are, we start sipping the clear liquid. It tastes a bit like vodka. ¨Must be some kind of after-meal licour,¨ I (Kyle) say. ¨I had something similar in Italy once¨. Sure... Anyway, we finish our shots in one last gulp (or two, or three). Just as we do, our waiter is back to see how much we enjoyed it. We nod politely. By now, I´m thinking ¨OK, I can feel it working. I really don´t feel that full and my stomach feels pretty darn good.¨ That would soon change, though.
¨It´s a liquor of...a eh-snake¨ the waiter says in broken english. There´s no way he meant to say snake, I thought. He must have it mixed up with another word. ¨Boa. Boa constrictor,¨ he continued. Uh oh. Just as my stomach began to take a turn for the worse, he moved in for the grande reveal and removed the cloth.
(INSERT PICTURE HERE)
OK, so not thinking it would be a picture-taking night, we didn´t bring the camera...HOWEVER, we do have a low-res pic on our trusty Blackberry. Unfortunately, there´s no way to get it from the Blackberry to the computer (I know, it´s true..I´ve tried everything). If we can find a way to post the pic, we will. Until then, you´ll have to use your imaginations on this one.
It was actually a baby boa constrictor snake, with scales flaking off and everything. Only a proper way to end the first meal in what is quite possibly the most interesting city we have visited yet.