From the jungle we fly back to La Paz. We are welcomed back by our friend and private chef, Ben.
We had a brief stop over in La Paz en route from the salt flat to the jungle, during which time Mr Beet was poorly and we barely left the hotel. The view from our window was as much as we saw of La Paz. Pretty good view though.
It was during this time that Ben took us under his wing, cooking special recovery food for Mr Beet and generally making a fuss of us. This time around, we actually manage to leave the hotel and see some sights. We go to the “artisan” (read “gringo-friendly”) market, where they do a roaring trade in “lucky” dried llama foetuses. I can see that they would have a rather macabre appeal, but would you really want to carry one around in your luggage and then what would you do with it when you got home? The alpaca-wool bobble hat is going to be embarrassing enough. We also visit the cathedral and the presidential palace.
On the Saturday it is Mr Beet´s birthday. And the Bolivians are kind enough to throw a bit of a bash for him, under the guise of “El Gran Poder” Festival. This involves lots of different groups from around the country, who each send a contingent consisting of:
1. Brass band in mafioso suits (sometimes pan-pipers instead, but usually brass band)
2. Half a dozen young women in She-Ra bodices, tutus and platform boots.
3. Lots of older women in more glamourous versions of the traditional Bolivian costume of wide tiered skirts, shawls and bowler hats. They have old-school football rattles in the shape of e.g. trucks, cows, whatever.
4. Lots of men in big shiny outfits, with feathered metal devil masks.
5. Helpers (not in costume) who try to keep the paraders in some semblance of order and also give them beer and whisky (it is very hot). It occurs to me that these tasks are rather counter-productive.
The parade starts at 8am and goes on until after dark. The drinking also starts at 8am and by 10am there are some people who are pretty hammered. The route goes right along the street by our hotel, so we start off watching out of our bedroom window. Then we go downstairs and for a few bolivianos, we buy a couple of seats on the tiered stands at the side of the road. Our neighbours immediately start plying us with snacks and some kind of punch. Then I tell them it is Mr Beet´s birthday. The plying increases ten-fold and everyone sings Happy Birthday in English and in Spanish.
More pictures of La Paz and the festival are on Mr Beet´s flickr page.