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Full Circle

Day 180: La Paz

La Paz, Bolivia 
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La Paz, where the rich live at the bottom of the hill, the poor at the top.
Michael Palin - Full CircleDespite, or maybe because of, this the Indians resolutely refused to take Spanish as their first language and even today most speak only the Indian languages of Aymara or Quechua. And they don't like being photographed. Basil has had water flicked at him by several ladies and aspersions cast on his legitimacy. In Aymara and Quechua.

Higher up the hills behind the fine stone facade of the basilica of San Francisco I find very odd things for sale, including dried llama foetuses. Apparently they bring good luck. I'm told that no self-respecting new building goes up in La Paz without a llama foetus in the foundations. (Other bits of llama are put to good use as well. La Paz was the first capital in South America to have its own electricity supply powered in those early days by llama dung.)

Minibuses squeeze past me through the streets with children at their open doorways shouting a list of destinations in a lilting monotone, like a priest absolving sins. Shoe blacks who can't be more than eight or nine years old, shout 'Blanco!' and point accusingly at my travel-worn trainers. It's a disorderly, entertaining city and I return to the sober, more expensive anonymity of the commercial district tired but happy in time to watch the sun slip behind the surrounding hills and the canyon walls turn into a carpet of sparkling lights.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 180
  • Country/sea: Bolivia
  • Place: La Paz
  • Book page no: 241

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