Tuesday 23 Mar
La Paz, Bolivia
"Hate Chile" day
The title of this entry might seem somewhat insensitive given the recent earthquake in Chile, but essentially "Hate-Chile Day", or as it's officially known "Day of the Sea", was the main celebration taking place in La Paz today.
Bolivia lost the Atacama region (and consequently it's only shoreline on the Pacific) to Chile back in 1879 during the Pacific Wars in a dispute over the Bolivian government taxing Chilean companies in the region (which it had every right to of course!).
Evidently the pain is still felt to this day, and every year Bolivia commemorates this loss on the 23rd March by organising huge parades (one of which passed directly by me in the hotel lobby as I was typing up another blog entry) with trumpets blaring and large sections of the city closed off to traffic.
The city seems to be frequently at a standstill as many people protest the government of Evo Morales, plus elections are taking place in around a week so the whole country is fairly on edge politically.
Today was a bonus day for me as the bus to Uyuni, my next destination, wasn't leaving until 7pm so I had a day to finally explore La Paz.
The smog is La Paz didn't really hit me until today. Trucks spew out so much thick black smoke because of the steep inclines on the streets. The city is extremely compact which makes it easy to get around, but I really felt rather exhausted from the mixture of high altitude (3660m) and extreme smog. I think this city has the highest smog I've experienced anywhere (including Mexico City).
Despite this, the central Plaza Morillo is actually quite a pleasant place to visit. Pretty much the only colonial buildings in La Paz are found in this area and surrounding streets, including a guarded tomb of Bolivia's first president which you can walk into, and the square itself where millions of pigeons compete for the meagre amount of crumbs thrown at them. I swear I've never seen so many pigeons in one place, even sitting on top of people, rather like an extreme version of how Trafalgar Square used to be.
Later this evening I uploaded a few pics of the excellent Death Road bike race and even booked a few flights that myself and Gwen will be going on when I get back to Ireland. I'm going to be broke in no time I tell ya!