It’s been a while since we treated ourselves to ‘above par’ accommodation. Ali arrives before me in La Paz and checks in; our Airbnb is in a tower located in Sopocachi the trendy neighborhood of the city. Each one of us has his own room, and we actually have hot water to shower now. Well, we think we do, it’s one of these heaters that heat the water while passing in it. So, doesn’t really work well, but I have other worries and concerns; whether this thing will electrocute me. One or two wires were exposed.. inside the shower.
The first night in La Paz, we head to a restaurant recommended by the locals. The ambiance is great and the food is delicious. Our server is very friendly and I sense she wants to get to know us better; you don’t meet two Egyptians in La Paz everyday. Anyway, before leaving I ask her in my broken Spanish “Quieres salir?”. She is laughing out loud, I am thinking whether I should not have asked, but apparently my way of asking is kind of literate Google translate type of way. She writes her number on a piece of paper, and I write her to hangout again.
My Spanish is almost non existent still, improving of course than the Peru and Mexico days, but still not there. Her English is pretty similar in proficiency to my Spanish. From what I’m gathering over a couple of beers, that she dances Tango, and I find myself invited to a gathering in an apartment close by, consisting of her dance partners and instructor. None is able to speak a word of English, and I am trying really hard with my broken Spanish. The second glass of wine, I start speaking better and clearer.
Ali records one of my favorite episodes for his radio show, Essential Mix, while we sip on some Bolivian craft beers. The view is breathtaking from our condo, overlooking the mountains adjacent to the city; best seat in the house. And when I say house I mean entire city.
Oh, before I move on to Potosí. I decide to have a haircut in La Paz. All I intend to do is cut the ends. I go to a nice hair salon, and use Google translator to explain that I only want to cut the ends. The lady nods and throws at me sí after sí after sí. While I’m washing my hair, she’s blabbing big time and all I can make of the sentence(s), words like ‘pelo’, ‘masaje’, ‘bueno’.. I’m thinking hair massage, great, and agree to do it. Apparently, she applies this dead sea mud cream to my hair and starts pulling it (it hurt to be quite honest), then I find myself stuck in one of those hair dryer/steamer chairs. Then she mentions, ‘aquí’, ‘quarenta minutos’, etc.. I have a meeting with Ali and some friends that we had met before in 15 minutes, and now I’m stuck to this chair for 40 minutes as if I’m a lady in my 50s, reading Spanish hair salon magazines. Great. Then, I can have my ‘los extrimos’ cut. No more haircuts till we get to an English speaking country.
Potosí was vouched for us by our friend Sayed, and till this day, Ali and I don’t see why. We get there after a 9 hour smelly bus ride, although to be honest the bus itself is comfortable. It’s the smell, and there’s not much the bus company can do. We understood the lesson afterwards, and took with us the traditional Bolivian dish, ‘Pique Macho’ with us. Yeah, people were not too thrilled.
Potosí is at elevation 4,100 m (13,451 ft), and one of the most polluted cities I’ve ever visited. Apparently, these two attributes don’t go well together. The higher you get, the pollution settles in the thin air more, and you are already feeling altitude sickness. So, we are limiting ourselves to one night here, enough for both of us to get stung by some sort of bed bug and get a rash all over our legs. As a result, after checking out the market area, we find a big square where we apply our cream simultaneously. A scene that all Bolivians that are present will not be able to erase for quite some time.