Viva La Paz, countdown to departure

La Paz is a city like no other. Snow-capped mountains form a surreal backdrop to the city, while gravity-defying houses tumble down the side of the crater in a way that is both beautiful and terrifying. In the bottom of the crater the city sprawls north and south down roads clogged with fume-belching, horn-blaring buses and taxis, the drivers of which have absolutely no respect for pedestrians or other vehicles. Its a miracle there aren’t more fatalities.

Bolivian coat of arms, Plaza Murillo, La Paz, Bolivia

Bolivian coat of arms, Plaza Murillo, La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz with Illimani in the background, Bolivia

La Paz with Illimani in the background, Bolivia

Houses and Illimani at sunset, La Paz, Bolivia

Houses and Illimani at sunset, La Paz, Bolivia

The streets are filled with bowler hatted chollas, their huge skirts swishing as they walk; coca leaf-chewing campesinos rub shoulders with suited businesspeople; tattooed and pierced young people fill restaurants to eat traditional food; shoeshine boys inquire about polishing your Habanas; and the street markets sell everything from a hundred types of potato to dried llama fetuses and magical powders that make people fall in love with you.

A woman walks past street art, La Paz, Bolivia

A woman walks past street art, La Paz, Bolivia

Bowler-hatted Chollas in La Paz, Bolivia

Bowler-hatted Chollas in La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz street scene, Bolivia

La Paz street scene, Bolivia

La Paz street art, Bolivia

La Paz street art, Bolivia

All of this frenetic activity takes place at the breathless altitude of 3600m. In winter it is bitterly cold once the sun disappears, in summer it rains so hard that almost every year houses and roads are washed away – often with the loss of life. There is great poverty, especially in El Alto, and extravagant wealth on display almost everywhere you look. My first few days in the city left me feeling disoriented.

Posing for a photograph with pigeons in Plaza Murillo, La Paz, Bolivia

Posing for a photograph with pigeons in Plaza Murillo, La Paz, Bolivia

Street art, La Paz, Bolivia

Street art, La Paz, Bolivia

A woman sits outside a church in Plaza San Pedro, La Paz, Bolivia

A woman sits outside a church in Plaza San Pedro, La Paz, Bolivia

X-ray llama, La Paz, Bolivia

X-ray llama, La Paz, Bolivia

Campesino women with children, La Paz, Bolivia

Campesino women with children, La Paz, Bolivia

Electrical cables, La Paz, Bolivia

Electrical cables, La Paz, Bolivia

Alcohol and sex sell, La Paz, Bolivia

Alcohol and sex sell, La Paz, Bolivia

The more time I’ve spent here though, the more I have grown to love the city and its people. It is a place that slowly gains your affection, and although we chose to live in more genteel Sucre, it is La Paz that, to me, encompasses and defines all of Bolivia. It is also a city where you don’t have to look far for a photo opportunity. I spent a couple of days just wandering the streets in-between packing our bags in preparation for our return to London.

Street art, La Paz, Bolivia

Street art, La Paz, Bolivia

Posters, La Paz, Bolivia

Posters, La Paz, Bolivia

A bar advertising John Lennon's "Let it beer", La Paz, Bolivia

A bar advertising John Lennon’s “Let it beer”, La Paz, Bolivia

Street advertising, La Paz, Bolivia

Street advertising, La Paz, Bolivia

Chollas and street food, La Paz, Bolivia

Chollas and street food, La Paz, Bolivia

The other great thing about La Paz is that you can walk around and suddenly find yourself embroiled in a local fiesta. Several times we came across bands and costumed performers playing and parading just in their own barrios. These events are frequently accompanied by heavy drinking; there was one man in the fiesta below who, despite the best efforts of his family to sober him up, was so drunk he could barely walk.

They like to party in La Paz…viva Bolivia.

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

The drunkest man in the parade…moments after this he just collapsed and the parade went on without him.

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

Fiesta, La Paz, Bolivia

Rurrenabaque, gateway to the Bolivian Amazon

Arriving in Rurrenabaque from La Paz is like being transported to a different planet. Everything about this small and sleepy Amazonian town sitting on the banks of the Rio Beni screams different. It drips with tropical heat, is surrounded by lush, forested hills and, the final touch, parrots and parakeets fly screeching overhead. The only things that screech in La Paz are the infernal horns of the micros and taxis.

In part the shock of arriving in Rurrenabaque is down to the short, dramatic flight to get there. Leaving El Alto airport at an altitude of 3800m, you fly between the snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Real feeling very small in an eighteen seater plane and, forty-five minutes later, you are deposited in the tropics outside Rurrenabaque’s tiny airport terminal, where the air temperature is thirty degrees hotter than in La Paz.

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

The Rio Beni in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

The Rio Beni in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

You can travel by bus to Rurrenabaque, a journey that takes twenty-four hours if you’re lucky, and which takes you over some of Bolivia’s worst and most dangerous roads. I’m sure the bus is one of those experiences that you’d look back upon retrospectively with a mixture of delight and pride, but at the time it would be a small slice of hell. There was no way I was going to subject my rear end to such a trial.

Inside the Amazonas plane en route to Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Inside the Amazonas plane en route to Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Amazonas plane at Rurrenabaque airport, Bolivia

Amazonas plane at Rurrenabaque airport, Bolivia

Rurrenabaque airport, Bolivia

Rurrenabaque airport, Bolivia

The runway at Rurrenabaque airport, Bolivia

The runway at Rurrenabaque airport, Bolivia

Rurrenabaque is the gateway to the absolutely stunning Madidi National Park, one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. Jaguars and ocelots rub shoulders with tapirs, toucans and five types of monkeys; the diversity of insects and flora is staggering. The town is full of travellers heading out to spend a few days exploring the vast rainforest and absorbing the rhythm of life away from the distractions of the modern world.

The Madidi National Park is home to numerous indigenous groups, many of whom still live deep inside the forest. A number of these groups have embraced ethno- and eco-tourism since the creation of the park, and small, community run lodges can be found in the forest allowing travellers to experience a unique way of life first hand. That’s the reason we’d dragged ourselves away from freezing La Paz for eight days…not that we needed much convincing.

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Rurrenabaque itself is a town low on energy and big on relaxation…the heat and humidity won’t allow for anything else. The best way to enjoy the town is to find a hotel with a swimming pool and a few hammocks. Luckily, Rurrenabaque has plenty of both and you’re rarely in danger of not relaxing. Bring a good book and a flexible schedule.

The town sits at a point on the Rio Beni where it splits and forms an island in mid-river, providing open vistas and stunning sunsets across the river. Surrounding the town, the forested hills have been carved into sugarloaf shapes by wind and rain, reminiscent of South East Asia. The town’s inhabitants reflect the cultures of the Amazon – physically they look different and they dress differently to the highlands of Bolivia.

The Rio Beni in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

The Rio Beni in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Life slowly floats past on the Rio Beni en route to other parts of the Amazon, with occasional canoes stopping in Rurrenabaque with giant catfish for sale. Other than that, the lifeblood of the town is the steady trickle of tourists that daily turn up in the hope of an Amazonian adventure, and intent of thawing their bones after spending time in Bolivia’s altiplano highlands.

"I'll have the checken to the fantasy." Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

“I’ll have the checken to the fantasy.” Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

We would be leaving Bolivia in less than two weeks and we’d saved this delight for our final few days in the country…I’m glad we did, it’s a lovely part of the world and a fitting place to sign-off our time in Bolivia.

Sunset over the Rio Beni, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Sunset over the Rio Beni, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Sunset over the Rio Beni, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Sunset over the Rio Beni, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Sunset over the Rio Beni, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Sunset over the Rio Beni, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Sunset over the Rio Beni, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Sunset over the Rio Beni, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Sunset over the Rio Beni, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Sunset over the Rio Beni, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Sunset over the Rio Beni, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Sunset over the Rio Beni, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Plunge into the Yungas

Awe inspiring. There is no other way to describe the journey from La Paz to Coroico. The road winds out of La Paz to the mountain pass of La Cumbre; it snakes between snow-capped mountains at a breathless 4800 metres in altitude; it plunges 3600m downwards, taking in a series of hairpin bends and tunnels, before reaching the crystal clear waters of Rio Huarinilla in the valley floor. It then climbs several hundred metres upwards to reach Coroico.

If the small, sleepy village of Coroico defies logic by balancing impossibly on the side of a mountain, the change of landscape, flora and fauna from the high altiplano to the Yungas is even more dramatic. You literally go from ice-capped mountains outside La Paz to the humid, sub-tropical forested hills with colourful birds and butterflies surrounding Coroico…in less than two and a half hours. Its an amazing journey.

Coroico, Bolivia

Coroico, Bolivia

Coroico's main plaza, Bolivia

Coroico’s main plaza, Bolivia

The road we travelled is famous because it was built to replace the World’s Most Dangerous Road, which runs along the mountainside on the opposing side of the valley. While the World’s Most Dangerous Road is now largely the preserve of cyclists and the morons from Top Gear, the new road takes most of the traffic but is no less dramatic – and is a remarkable feat of engineering.

Despite the engineering, landslides still occur. We had to divert off the road onto a dirt track to avoid a partially cleared landslide. Travelling in a minibus on a narrow dirt track without safety barriers, zig-zagging around hairpin bends down a mountainside with 2000m drops, and, at one point, performing a three point turn to get round a particularly vicious corner, is a terrifying introduction to this mesmerising region.

Views of the Yungas and Cordillera Real from Coroico, Bolivia

Views of the Yungas and Cordillera Real from Coroico, Bolivia

Views of the Yungas and Cordillera Real from Coroico, Bolivia

Views of the Yungas and Cordillera Real from Coroico, Bolivia

Once you arrive, Coroico is a really lovely village with a mild climate and spectacular views of the mountains and road we’d just travelled down. At weekends it gets busy with people from La Paz, during the week, when we were there, its a quiet place to spend a few days reading, relaxing, walking local trails and swimming. Coroico probably has more swimming pools per head than anywhere else in Bolivia.

Views of the Yungas and Cordillera Real from Coroico, Bolivia

Views of the Yungas and Cordillera Real from Coroico, Bolivia

Views of the Yungas and Cordillera Real from Coroico, Bolivia

Views of the Yungas and Cordillera Real from Coroico, Bolivia

Views of the Yungas and Cordillera Real from Coroico, Bolivia

Views of the Yungas and Cordillera Real from Coroico, Bolivia

The village itself isn’t very pretty, but it has a nice central plaza which is the focal point for local life. From the plaza there are a number of walking routes that take you out of the village and either up mountains or down to beautiful rivers with natural swimming holes. I decided to climb Cerro Uchumachi, a 2500m mountain that has unbelievable views of the village and surrounding mountains.

View of Coroico from Cerro Uchumachi, Bolivia

View of Coroico from Cerro Uchumachi, Bolivia

The route up Cerro Uchumanchi, Bolivia

The route up Cerro Uchumanchi, Bolivia

Views from Cerro Uchumanchi, Coroico, Bolivia

Views from Cerro Uchumanchi, Coroico, Bolivia

It was a hard walk straight up the mountainside, and you pass through densely wooded areas that are very humid. By the time I reached the top I was soaked in sweat. When I started, the top of Uchumanchi was covered in low cloud, but by the time I got to the summit the cloud had cleared and there were wonderful views reaching all the way to the mountains of the Cordillera Real.

Views from Cerro Uchumanchi, Coroico, Bolivia

Views from Cerro Uchumanchi, Coroico, Bolivia

Views from Cerro Uchumanchi, Coroico, Bolivia

Views from Cerro Uchumanchi, Coroico, Bolivia

The summit of Cerro Uchumanchi, Coroico, Bolivia

The summit of Cerro Uchumanchi, Coroico, Bolivia

The sign at the summit says Uchumanchi is 2480m in altitude, but I met an Argentinian woman at the top who had an altimeter saying it was 2517m. I could definitely feel those extra 37m in my legs!

Coroico had one more surprise for us before we headed back to La Paz, a spectacular sunset that set the sky alight in oranges, pinks and reds…all with the mountains of the Yungas and Cordillera Real as a backdrop.

Sunset over the Yungas from Coroico, Bolivia

Sunset over the Yungas from Coroico, Bolivia

Sunset over the Yungas from Coroico, Bolivia

Sunset over the Yungas from Coroico, Bolivia

Bolivian landscapes

Living in Bolivia feels, at times, like living in several different countries all at once. I’ve touched on this before, but the diversity of landscapes, cultures and peoples constantly surprises, and it makes Bolivia one of the most interesting countries in the Americas.

It is possible to be in the Amazon rainforest one day at an altitude close to sea level, and in the high Andes at altitudes of over 6500m the next (although this isn’t advisable). In between there is just about every type of landscape, and a mind-boggling degree of biodiversity, imaginable. In fact, the only thing missing from Bolivia’s kaleidoscope of landscapes is a coastline. Bolivia used to have a large chunk of the Pacific coast, but it lost this to Chile in the War of the Pacific (1879-1883). There is little evidence that Chile will be giving it back any time soon.

Moving from the Amazon to the Cordillera Real, this is a selection of some of my favourite Bolivian landscape shots…

Bolivian Amazon, Trinidad, Bolivia

Early morning in the Bolivian Amazon, Trinidad, Bolivia

Sunset over the Rio Mamore, Bolivian Amazon

Sunset over the Rio Mamore, Bolivian Amazon

Rolling wooded hills and deep valleys, Samaipata, Bolivia

Rolling wooded hills and deep valleys, Samaipata, Bolivia

La Paz with Illimani in the background, Bolivia

La Paz with Illimani in the background, Bolivia

View of La Paz from Chacaltaya, Bolivia

View of La Paz from Chacaltaya, Bolivia

Cordillera Real, Bolivia

Cordillera Real, Bolivia

Lake in the Cordillera Real, Bolivia

Lake in the Cordillera Real, Bolivia

Sunset over Sajama National Park, Bolivia

Sunset over Sajama National Park, Bolivia

Vulcans Pomarape and Parinacota, Sajama National Park, Bolivia

Vulcans Pomarape and Parinacota, Sajama National Park, Bolivia

The Cordillera de los Frailles, Sucre, Bolivia

The Cordillera de los Frailles, Sucre, Bolivia

The Cordillera de los Frailles, Sucre, Bolivia

The Cordillera de los Frailles, Sucre, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Sunset over a lake, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Sunset over a lake, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Sunset, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Sunset, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

The Cordillera Real looms over Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

The Cordillera Real looms over Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

The Cordillera Real en route to La Paz, Bolivia

The Cordillera Real en route to La Paz, Bolivia

Sunset over the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Sunset over the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

The Siloli Desert, Bolivia

The Siloli Desert, Bolivia

Flamingos in the Bolivian South West, Bolivia

Flamingos in the Bolivian South West, Bolivia

Street Life

One of the defining characteristics of life in Bolivia is the way it is lived to a large degree outside. I guess this is a trait of a hot climate and a legacy of Spanish cultural influence that has bequeathed every town in the country with at least one plaza where people congregate to meet friends, promenade or simply people watch.

The outdoor life goes further than this though. There are a multitude of street vendors selling everything from freshly squeezed orange juice, weavings, shoe shines, plastic bags full of drinks or food and repairs of just about every type imaginable; smooching students inhabit street corners and plaza benches; and campesinos wait on the pavement outside churches in the hope of charity.

This being Bolivia one of the more obvious outdoor activities is the regular ‘bloqueos’ or strikes. These occur with a frequency unheard of in any other country in the world as far as I can tell, and they bring thousands of people onto the streets – mainly because transport strikes are quite common.

Coming from a cold, wet, northern country I love the outside lifestyle of Bolivia, it certainly means there is rarely a shortage of things to distract and entertain…

Street vendor repairing shoes, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Street vendor repairing shoes, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Orange juice vendor takes a nap, Plaza 25 de Mayo, Sucre, Bolivia

Orange juice vendor takes a nap, Plaza 25 de Mayo, Sucre, Bolivia

Pigeon people, La Paz, Bolivia

Pigeon people, La Paz, Bolivia

A young girl selling jellies, Potosi, Bolivia

A young girl selling jellies, Potosi, Bolivia

Fashion shoot in the streets of Sucre, Bolivia

Fashion shoot in the streets of Sucre, Bolivia

Balloon seller, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Balloon seller, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Table removals, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Table removals, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Plaza Central, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Plaza Central, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Chorizo Festival, Sucre, Bolivia

Chorizo Festival, Sucre, Bolivia

Juice stalls in Sucre's Mercardo Central, Bolivia

Juice stalls in Sucre’s Mercardo Central, Bolivia

Balloon seller, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Balloon seller, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Protest march, Sucre, Bolivia

Protest march, Sucre, Bolivia

Media crowd around a strike organiser, Sucre, Bolivia

Media crowd around a strike organiser, Sucre, Bolivia

Toys for sale, Potosi, Bolivia

Toys for sale, Potosi, Bolivia

The many faces of fiesta

Fiesta is a serious business in Bolivia and in the six months we’ve been living here we’ve been lucky enough to take part in several. Some, like the Fiesta de San Ignacio de Moxos in the Bolivian Amazon, we went out of our way to get to; others, like Sucre’s Fiesta de Virgen de Guadalupe, were right on our doorstep; yet others we just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Fiesta is a glorious expression of deeply held traditional and modern beliefs, as well as being an occasion for an outpouring of joyous fun. People take it seriously but at the same time it is about making sure the party goes with a swing – bands play, dancers dance and both participants and onlookers drink heartily.

Every country in Latin America has its own traditions and costumes – think of the outrageous carnival floats in Brazil – and one of the striking features of Bolivian fiestas is the variety of elaborate masks coving everything from pre-Hispanic mythical creatures to Spanish Conquistadores thenmselves. There’s even a museum in Sucre which dedicates a whole floor to masks of the region, a visit to which made me want to share some of the faces of fiesta that we’ve seen.

This first selection comes from the Fiesta de Virgen de Guadalupe in Sucre.

Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

Bird Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

Potosi’s Ch’utillos Festival, or the Festival of San Bartolomé to give its correct name, is a three day extravaganza held in the highest city in the world. It is home to some unique  costumes and masks, and also to some of the hardest drinking you’ll ever see at a Bolivian fiesta.

Masks, Ch’utillos Festival, Potosi, Bolivia

Masks, Ch’utillos Festival, Potosi, Bolivia

Masks, Ch’utillos Festival, Potosi, Bolivia

Masks, Ch’utillos Festival, Potosi, Bolivia

Masks, Ch’utillos Festival, Potosi, Bolivia

Masks, Ch’utillos Festival, Potosi, Bolivia

The Fiesta de San Ignacio de Moxos in the Bolivian Amazon is one of the highlights of Bolivian festivals, imbued with typically Amazonian themes and taking place in a small village with hardly any tourists in sight. One of the outstanding features are the wooden mask and leather hat wearing Achus who represent the Spanish and cause mayhem wherever they go.

Masks, Fiesta de San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Fish Masks, Fiesta de San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Sheep Masks, Fiesta de San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Jaguar Mask, Fiesta de San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Finally, walking through La Paz one day we just bumped into a small fiesta in a barrio near the San Pedro prison.

Masks, La Paz, Bolivia

Masks, La Paz, Bolivia

Anyway, we’re off on an overland trip to Chile tonight so hopefully lots to report in coming days…

Bolivian Sunset

It might be my love of the sundowner that makes me an aficionado of the sunset, but the stunning extremes of colour that sunsets provide is something I’ll never tire of watching – especially if it comes with a vodka and tonic. I can’t say I have the same feelings towards sunrise, I’ve seen a few but it’s not my favourite time of day.

Sunset is a magical time, especially for a keen amateur photographer like myself. I’ve been fortunate to have witnessed some beautiful sunsets in some extraordinary places around the world – the sunset in the desert north of Timbuktu will live long in the memory. Bolivia’s diverse landscapes – from the high Andes to the Amazon Basin – have provided sunsets to match any I’ve seen before.

The hills of the Corillera de los Failles that form the backdrop to our home in Sucre have been the setting for many a pleasant sundowner while watching the sky explode with colour. It is an ever changing palette and now the rains have come the scattering of cloud has made sunset even more impressive.

Sunset over Sucre, Bolivia

This photo was taken as the sun set and a tremendous storm ranged across the mountains, there was thunder, lightening and heavy rain – but none of the rain landed on Sucre itself.

Sunset and a storm over Sucre, Bolivia

Sunset and street lights over Sucre, Bolivia

Although Sucre’s backdrop of mountains is impressive, you’d have to go a long way to find a backdrop to match that of La Paz at sunset.

La Paz sunset with Illimani in the background, Bolivia

Travels around the country have also witnessed some stunning sunsets. These are from the high altiplano in Sajama National Park, the first was taken just as an adult and baby llama crossed in front of me.

Sunset and llamas, Sajama National Park, Bolivia

Sunset over Sajama National Park, with Vulcan Sajama, Bolivia

Sunset over Sajama National Park, with Vulcan Sajama, Bolivia

The next shots come from the Amazon basin, first in the small village of San Ignacio de Moxos where the entire village seemed to gather at the nearby lake Isiboro to cool off, most people left as the sun went down but a few people stayed in the water until darkness descended.

Sunset over Lago Isiboro, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Sunset over Lago Isiboro, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Walking back from the lake to the village of San Ignacio several vehicles kicked-up enough dust to get this pattern in the sky and the haziness in the trees.

Sunset in San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

I love the way water and sky combine at sunset, there was no better example than when we sailed up the Rio Mamore in the Bolivian Amazon.

Sunset over the Rio Mamore, Amazon Basin, Bolivia

Sticking with the water theme, I’ll finish this montage of sunsets with two from Lago Titicaca.

Sunset over Lake Titicaca and the Cordillera Real, Bolivia

Sunset over Lake Titicaca and the Cordillera Real, Bolivia

La Paz street art II

Heads or tails? After the previous head-fest, here is a quick run through some non-head related street art from the city of La Paz, Bolivia.

I wouldn't go as far as saying I 'heart' La Paz, but I'm getting there. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

I wouldn’t go as far as saying I ‘heart’ La Paz, but I’m getting there. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

We've all had days like this. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

We’ve all had days like this. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Next up two lovely pieces from the Sopocachi area, just off the Plaza Espana.

From the streets of Sopocachi. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

From the streets of Sopocachi. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Sopocachi ink merchant. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Sopocachi ink merchant. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Voodoo or Halloween? Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Voodoo or Halloween? Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Scene from the La Paz tunnel. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Scene from the La Paz tunnel. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Found: Major Tom. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Found: Major Tom. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Most walls would be improved by giant blue mice. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Most walls would be improved by giant blue mice. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

A more rarified taste. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

A more rarified taste. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Traditional Incan forms merge with modern spray paint culture, Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Traditional Incan forms merge with modern spray paint culture, Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

And, not before time, a camelid finally makes its mark on the walls of La Paz…

It's Llama time. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

It’s Llama time. Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Heads up, it’s La Paz street art

On first inspection, La Paz is a hard city to love. It may be one of the most dramatically located cities in the world, tumbling, as it does, down the near vertical sides of an enormous crater, with 6000m+ mountains as a backdrop; but it takes a while to win over the affections. Not, I suspect, that it is trying to win them.

La Paz’s case isn’t aided by the 3600m altitude, the hills you need to walk up every time you step onto the streets or the crazy traffic spewing noxious fumes that distort the senses; but the few days I’ve spent in the city since arriving in Bolivia have gone a long way to converting me to its charms. Key to this, as I wandered through its highways and byways, was some bizarre and intriguing street art, the like of which you just don’t get in provincial Sucre.

Most interesting is the fact that much of the artwork focuses on heads. So here’s a step-by-step guide to some glorious street art by La Paz’s spray-paint ragamuffins.

Like all good street art, politics should find a place alongside more esoteric work. In this case, it started with Evo…

Clown or Red Nose Day ambassador? La Paz, Bolivia

Clown or Red Nose Day ambassador? La Paz, Bolivia

Another Bolivian icon to get some stencil treatment is the beloved Che.

He probably could knock up good saltenas, La Paz, Bolivia

He probably could knock up good saltenas, La Paz, Bolivia

While stencils are quite popular, the artwork in some barrios is much more intricate.

He wouldn't be out of place walking the streets of Bermondsey, La Paz, Bolivia

He wouldn’t be out of place walking the streets of Bermondsey, La Paz, Bolivia

Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Definitely reminds me of someone...Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Definitely reminds me of someone…Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Self portrait? Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Self portrait? Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

There are quite a lot of maniacal grins on the walls of La Paz, Bolivia

There are quite a lot of maniacal grins on the walls of La Paz, Bolivia

Is this Michael Jackson? Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Is this Michael Jackson? Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Women remain in the minority on the walls, Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Women remain in the minority on the walls, Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

A typical Andean scene, Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

A typical Andean scene, Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Not a typical Andean scene, Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Not a typical Andean scene, Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Proof that shrunken head technology exists? Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Proof that shrunken head technology exists? Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

And finally, something that people may be familiar with…

Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Street Art, La Paz, Bolivia

Coming soon…non-head street art…watch this space.