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January 26, 2013

Bolivia: La Paz, night buses, and the southwest circuit

I finally got through posting some of my "lost" pictures from Bolivia. Thanks (thanks, thanks!) Dawn for backing them up before they were snatched!

Back in September, Dawn and I met up in La Paz and spent a few days taking in the local food and culture. In La Paz, this includes, among other things, a witches market, lucha libre, and striking miners.

Fighting Cholitas in El Alto
Miners striking for safer work conditions.
Dried baby llama carcasses at the witch's market.
The miners blocked all roads out of La Paz the day after we left on a night bus to Tupiza. Lucky for us, or we would have been stuck there for a few more days and I would have subsequently missed out on visiting the salt flats, our motivation for the trip.

We decided to take the no frills local night bus, which met most of our expectations - it was freezing (despite someone admirably trying to cover some of the window seal cracks with tape before we left), left late, made a number of unplanned stops, had a token sketchy man that stared at us for a good portion of the trip, and made a single passenger stop in the middle of nowhere during the 14 hour trip for all of us to take a bio break (first time I had to pee in an open field with a friend and busload of strangers).

Happy to arrive in Tupiza, we spent an evening there before heading on a 4 day tour of the common southwest circuit: flamingos, red lakes, llamas, bubbling geysers, salt flats, cold nights, little oxygen, tree-shaped rocks, and more.

Llamas rule in these parts.
Árbol de Piedra. No climbing!
Pink flamingo in red Lago Colorado
Pink flamingo closeup.
Our tour group in the Salt Flats.
Isla  Incahuasi
Per travel custom, Dawn and I tried to find a cooking class to take during our time in La Paz. Neither of us found any options from travel guides or the Internet, but it turned out that Grace, a girl working at the front desk of our hostel, was a chef in training and offered to give us a cooking class at her home. Perfect!

Dawn is a vegetarian, and meatless dishes aren't typical for Bolivian fare, but Grace was flexible and showed us how to make a number of quinoa dishes in her home kitchen.

Quinua / Quinoa
Quinoa has become trendy in the U.S., so much so that we're apparently creating a new and damaging demand for the wonder grain. Everyone we made was yummy enough, but I've yet to repeat any of the dishes at home, so don't blame me!

Grace's modest kitchen.
Quisotto (Quinoa + Risotto)
Pastel de Quinoa
Sopa de mani
Compota de manzana
And then I flew to Buenos Aires...
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