Another night bus, another new city. This time the administrative capital of Bolivia, La Paz. 3,600m up, the valley is bursting with buildings that cling to any patch of spare ground a true urban sprawl.
The base of the valley has wide streets and high rise towers, while the ridge lines above are dominated by bare blockwork walls and winding concrete stairways. After much scaremongering in travel blogs and guidebooks we were on our guard in La Paz, but found the city and its people to be warm and friendly.
The streets in between the densely packed buildings are filled with activity. Markets run every day as one of the main employers of the lesser privileged female citizens of the city.
Witchdoctors still practice openly in Bolivia, performing rituals using llama foetuses and other such delights. We were told these foetuses were all acquired by natural causes, but you never know. Just this week we heard a story about a woman who farms puppies for their blood. The lack of flushing toilets start to make sense when you hear stories like this. The men who find themselves short of work buy or lease minivans to serve one of the many local bus routes. While some 'micros' (old Dodge school buses) do run, minivans are the predominant form of local transport here in La Paz.
Speaking to locals it seems that government allows the minivan congestion to continue due to a wider lack of employment in the region. Solving the problem by reducing the number of minivans on the streets could create mass unemployment.
One attempt to mitigate the city's congestion problem is the Teleferico system, a new series of cable car lines intended to connect suburbs with central districts and reduce demand on the road system.
The fares have been set on average 50% lower than the current minivan prices, with the aim of encouraging use of the new system. We saw more new lines and terminals under construction when we visited, and connectivity between precincts will be greatly improved by 2020, so the government promise.
We stayed in the Sopocachi neighbourhood a half hour walk from the centre, full of tower blocks and busy streets, but a friendly neighbourhood. Our apartment was on the thirteenth floor of Edificio Carmen, looking north. Lots of superstitions here, but missing out the 13th floor on high rise towers is not one of them!
At night the view was hypnotic, what a city. We were left literally breathless, and quite dizzy and sick at times! But thank you La Paz.