Today we visited El Alto for the first time. After our classes in the morning, we returned to Instituto Exclusivo for our trip to the Ferria El Alto, which is basically a huge flea market where you can find absolutely anything from sweaters to gardening tools to automobiles!
Before embarking on the VERY uphill journey to El Alto (for which most of us had our first Minibus experience), Lucas and Carlos took us to the Cementerio General in La Paz. In this cemetery, families purchase or rent spaces in the walls of the cemetery (the bigger the crypt, the more expensive) instead of burying their loved ones in the ground. Many of the spaces in the cemetery that we saw had photos, object, and poems placed by families in remembrance of their loved ones. Carlos pointed out one memorial in particular of a very important figure in Bolivian political history, that of Carlos Palenque Evilés, who was a Bolivian musician, journalist, and politician. Palenque died young of a heart attack, just as he was gaining political prominence during the late 1990s.
We also got some beautiful views of La Paz and the Andes from one of the buildings in the Cementerio, such as these.
After we left, we took our second Minibus up to the fair. As we ascended, we got some more excellent views of much of La Paz. When we arrived at the fair, we noticed that it was not as crowded as we were expecting, as we had been told by our friends from the UK that the place was likely to be mobbed and we should be extremely wary of pickpockets. The fair is only open on Thursdays and Sundays, and Lucas told us that Thursday is a much better day to come because it is significantly less crowded.
Sure enough, we trekked through much of the fair (the place is so huge, it’s impossible to see everything in one day) without incident, and we made some excellent purchases at great bargains! For example…
Several of us got these beautiful blankets made of the cloth typically worn by the cholitas who use it to carry their wares, or sometimes their children. Mine was only 42 Bs (about $6).
We also bought scarves, bags, and Christie even bought a NorthFace jacket in preparation for her trip to Macchu Picchu!
After nearly three hours of shopping, we headed down to the highway to go back to La Paz, but not before taking advantage of a few more fantastic photo ops.
Back in La Paz, we got off the Minibus in front of the Museo de San Francisco, which was mentioned in an earlier post. After waiting a few minutes for a cab in the craziness of rush hour, we decided to walk back to the hotel instead, and on the way we saw several cebras in the streets directing traffic. These men and women literally dress up in large zebra costumes with Stop/Go signs and basically function as crossing guards, with a little extra flair. One even stopped and posed for a picture!
After recovering from our tiring afternoon, we dined at La Coca, a Bolivian restaurant near the Instituto Exclusivo and across the street from the Hipermaxi. We had a delicious dinner which included arepas, sandwiches made of thick corn tortillas…
…as well as sandwiches on fried plantains, and grilled chicken cooked with pineapple and fried camotes (sweet potatoes).
All in all a great day – more to come tomorrow!