The Wrestling Cholitas of La Paz

Trip Start Jul 05, 2012
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Trip End Jun 19, 2013


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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Saturday, May 4, 2013

Highlights

La Paz.
La Paz is the most spectacular city weve seen so far. Around 3800 masl its the highest capital in the world. We arrived via a short bus journey from Copacabana along the altiplano, following various 6000m+ mountain peaks along the way. We then arrived in what we thought was La Paz but actually was El Alto, a seperate city with a population of around a million which pretty much merges with La Paz. We passed through the craziness of collectivos (minivan taxis) and then joined a highway before getting our first view of La Paz....WOW! La Paz is set in a bowl shaped valley and we were sat in a bus right at the top, with the main road into the city centre curling along the rim and then spiraling down. The views were amazing, everyone on the right side of the bus got their cameras out while the people on the left, including us, pretended not to care. As we drove down into the centre it looked like a sea of brown brick houses, somehow clinging onto the mountain sides. Once we arrived we joined the chaos that is La Paz. It reminded us of Kathmandu in terms of the location and Hanoi with the hustle and bustle. There were splashes of colour from the huge brightly painted old American school buses, we assume are here to handle the steep roads at high altitudes. Indigenous women or cholitas wearing their traditional dresses and bowler hats were mixing with business men and tourists selling anything and everything including llama feutses at the witches market. Apparently these are bought to bury underneath the front door of a new home for good luck. We attempted to take a tourist bus to see some more of La Paz as its quite a difficult place to get around by walking, however a few road blocks, that we're quickly realizing are very common in Bolivia, saw to it that it wouldn't be possible. Our hotel was decent for 6 each although there was no hot water so showering was a painful experience especially as it gets pretty cold at night here.

The wrestling Cholitas.
Completely by chance we saw a poster advertising the opportunity to see wrestling cholitas (local indigenous women). The thought of our 'mama' from our lake titicaca homestay having a brawl with another fiesty mama was hilarious so we paid 7 for a ticket and got picked up at 5pm for the show. On the way the guide told us some interesting facts about La Paz, apparently the reason all the houses are left with brick exposed is due to taxes being imposed on finished homes, imported cars mainly from Japan have to be modified to cope with the lack of oxygen for engines and the airport has an extra long run way as it takes a lot more effort to get planes of the ground. We also stopped off at a view point over La Paz for some cool photos. We arrived not sure what to expect and was greeted with free beer and popcorn plus a ringside seat. Whilst we drank beer and soaked up the very Bolivian 'atmosphere' the wrestling began, first up was a clown with a man u top on against a villain. Unexpectedly they produced some good moves and got the crowd warmed up for what was to come. We watched around 6 fights with the best being sponge bob square pants making an appearance, and then getting a stinky hand to the face...hilarious! The fights got more and more impressive with some of the wrestlers jumping off the top ropes and then somersaulting onto there opponents below. Even the crowd were getting involved by throwing bottles and popcorn at the villain of the fight. Everyone was loving it when the cholitos made an appearance, after introducing themselves by going round kissing the audience they would then attempt to bribe the ref before whipping out some awesome moves on each other. We've now learnt to expect the unexpected in Bolivia. Nice innocent looking ladies 'laying the smackdown' on each other in a quiet neighborhood just outside of La Paz, who da thought!? Lastly we watched two male wrestlers put on a great show which consisted of one of them being smacked round the head with a table, one wrestler spitting on the audience and then chasing a kid around the stadium after he threw an orange at him....ladies and gentlemen, wrestling in Bolivia has produced one of our funniest nights of our travels!

Lowlights

Tiwanaku Ruins.
Our guide book made this place sound on par with the ruins around the sacred valley, unfortunately they were nothing in comparison. The history of the place and what it would have looked like would have been impressive, but now theres just a mound of dirt and some renovated walls. We were so bored by the end of the day, God knows how the guide can walk round here everyday of his life!

Another bad dinner date.
Walking the streets around our hotel we quickly learnt there wasn't much choice for dinner, missing the spice from asia we decided to have a thai red curry at a asian fusion restaurant. What we were served was far from the cuisine we feasted upon in Thailand though, probably one of the saltiest dishes we've ever eaten, so much we both couldn't eat our meal. I suppose we should take note that south americas cant cook the basics, so asking for a thai curry what should we expect!
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