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8 cray-cray things to try in Bolivia

Published April 17th, 2015

Bolivia is the literally still the Wild West. Legend says that the famous cowboy duo, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, met their ends here during a shootout in 1908. I’m not suggesting you become a gunslinger, but you can get up to some goodhearted, dangerous fun here. Here are a few things to try in Bolivia.

 

Put a spell on you - talismans at the Witches Market.

 

1. Buy a magic potion from the Witches Market

Start practicing your best cackle and make a list of enemies you’d like to see in rodent form. In La Paz, you can visit a real-life Witches Market where special remedies can be procured to spice up your love life or smite your rivals and everything in between. Animal lovers beware; there are some pretty hectic sites to see. Llama fetus anyone?

 

Matt (left) and fellow Student Flights consultant Caleb van Schmal outside the Potosi mine.

 

2. Get deep in a working mine

The southern city of Potosí was once the richest and most populated city in all of the Americas, thanks to a mountain chock-full of silver. It’s been hacked at and dug through for centuries but thousands of hard-working locals are still making their livings underground. Tourists are welcomed inside for a four-hour claustrophobic journey, don’t forget to stop at the shop for some TNT and grain alcohol first (for reals).

 

3. Try to find the 'top secret' cocaine bar

Dubbed the world’s first cocaine bar, Route 36 moves locations every month or so to stay under the radar. You’ll hear stories about this place within hours of checking into any party hostel in La Paz. To gain entrance, you need to find a taxi driver who’s in the know and he will make a call to procure your access and location.

 

 

4. Pedal the world-famous Death Road

Warning: For adrenalin junkies only! On this goosebumpy cycling trip from La Paz, you will descend over three thousand metres, starting in the high mountains and finishing in a sweaty mess in the jungle. Cruise underneath waterfalls on single-lane, bumpy dirt roads past memorials dedicated to the hundreds of people who met their maker by taking the short route to the bottom. Seriously though, it's not that scary if you take your time - there is absolutely no rush!

 

5. Scope out San Pedro Prison

If you’ve read Marching Powder, you already know about the famous prison smack in the middle of downtown La Paz. If you haven’t, read it now. There used to be semi-official tours offered, which have stopped now, but there was a rumor going around that a few Aussie dudes managed their way past the guards when I was there. If you’re not that crazy, just take a spin around the walls. Oh, and if you see any wrapped-up baby nappies on the ground, just keep walking - this is how they sneak pure coke out onto the streets!

 

Hola cholita - you lookin' at me?

 

6. Get rowdy at cholita wrestling

Every Sunday, on the outskirts of La Paz, there is a pretty random event that’s worth the trek. Cholitas is Bolivian slang for the traditional indigenous women who wear little bowler hats and long colorful skirts. Well, these lovely ladies jump into the ring for some WWE-style fun, including all the dirty tactics you’d expect! The crowd is encouraged to get involved, but don’t be surprised to have a bottle of Coke sprayed your way by a nasty cholita!

 

Getting a bird's eye view of La Paz.

 

7. Use public transport made for a ski resort

You know those cable car thingies that take you up the mountain at large ski resorts? Well the geniuses in La Paz decided to use them to get people around the city! I’d take them over a crowded, jerky bus any day of the week. The serenity is incredible and you get a bird's eye view of the neighborhoods that are a bit too sketchy to check out on foot.

 

Time goes backwards at the Bolivian Congress building.

 

8. Check the time on the backwards clock

Indigenous President Evo Morales decided to change the clock on the Bolivian Congress building as a show of pride for the Southern Hemisphere. It moves counter clockwise and has been confusing people since 2014. He’s even put forth a plan to change all government clocks. This is the same guy who once famously said, “Only gay people eat chicken” and “Coca-Cola makes you bald”. He took it back after chicken farmers complained they were losing business.

 

Matt Castell

If you could make travel a full-time job would you? I am. I've been called a "jack of all trades" many times over the ten or so years spent wandering the globe. Always looking for new skills to learn, whether it be lion taming or flying helicopters... I'll give it a go! Being a Travel Agent for Student Flights has been the top pick so far though!