November 8, 2005
Today, Diego, Lloyd, Matthieu, Julien, and I decided to go to the Tiahuanaco ruins. First, we got on one of the "combi" bus-vans which drove us for an hour to the general area of the ruins. Next, we walked about fifteen minutes to the entrance. We learned that it would cost 80 bolivianos, or ten dollars, to enter. It may not seem like much, but it's easily enough to last an entire day in Bolivia, a lot of travelers are college students on very tight budgets, and the locals only had to pay two bolivianos each to get in. This is one of the many issues of traveling that I have had mixed feelings about. On the one hand, the government is clearly gouging the tourists. On the other, at least the locals get to enter for a price they can afford. I think it's really sad, for example, that most Peruvians will never get to walk the Inca Trail because they can't afford the outrageous $300 price tag to do so. Anyway, Diego, Mathieu, and Julien decided that the price of admission wasn't worth it and agreed to meet Lloyd and I later.
Tiahuanaco is probably the most important archaeological site in all of Bolivia. Built over 3500 years ago, it represents one of the oldest cultures of the area. The problem is that it is still being excavated, so there isn't a whole lot for the layman to look at. Lloyd and I walked around for awhile, looked at the pillars, the faces on the walls, and the subterranean temple, and called it quits when it started to pour.
Also included in the price of admission was the museum, which was more interesting than the actual ruins. The museum was full of ancient artifacts including pottery, textiles, and deformed skulls. Of course, I wasn't allowed to take pictures of anything there except the mural at the entrance that represented what Tiahuanaco originally looked like.
When Lloyd and I found the others, we headed back to La Paz. Even though the site was very important to archaeologists, I don't think it was worth the effort of trying to find a bus to drive us an hour there and back and paying the admission fee. Maybe in a few years when it's done being excavated it will be better, though.
When we got back into town, we went for a long walk through the markets. Every day, farmers from the area bring their crops and animals to the city to sell to the local people. You can buy anything at these markets, including fruit, flowers, and freshly-killed chickens. A lot of vendors on the street buy this food and cook it up right there for passers-by to eat.
We kept walking to the seemingly endless streets aligned with electronics and clothing shops. Bootleg DVD's, stolen CD players, off-brand designer clothes, and brand new digital cameras were being sold everywhere. After seeing the same stuff for sale over and over again for half an hour straight, I began to wonder how every shop could possibly stay in business, yet somehow they all do.
After doing so much walking and looking at food, we decided to get a real meal at a pizzeria. A guy eating at the restaurant happened to be going toward Peru and had a Bolivian guidebook, so we agreed to trade our books tomorrow at the same place. Until this point, I had been relying on the word of mouth of other travelers to figure out where to go and what to do in Bolivia, so this will be a welcome trade for me.
Internet cafes are absolutely everywhere here, and unlike Copacabana, they are reasonably-priced, so I decided to go to one on the way back from lunch to get my website updated. That was a really bad idea. Not only did my computer still use Windows 98 (which makes it very cumbersome for me to upload photos), but I think it was made around 1988. I couldn't believe how slow the system was. After two hours of getting absolutely nothing done, I figured I had tortured myself enough and left. On my way back to the hostel, I passed by some more Internet cafes, but their computers looked equally crappy, and it was about to get dark (and therefore dangerous), so I decided to wait until at least tomorrow to try to use the Internet again.
At night, a bunch of us just basically hung out and exchanged old photographs. Lloyd gave me the photos from his trip so far. He has only been traveling for five days and already has taken over 500 pictures. And I thought I overused my camera! Also, Matthieu, Julien, and I decided to get the hell out of La Paz tomorrow night. We will take a 13-hour bus ride to Sucre, which is supposed to be much nicer than La Paz. I've heard way too many stories of tourists getting robbed and murdered here to want to stay any longer.
The photo album for this entry is here.