April 22. La Paz.

La Paz. It is cold indeed and the bus driver halts for me so I can take my jacket out of the luggage compartment. The old orange one that has served in Russia earlier on the road. The arrival in La Paz is spectacular and comfortable. A modern bus terminal right in the center, plenty of affordable accomodation within walking distance. The world’s highest capital at some 3500 meters, until Tibet gains independance one day. It’s not very cold inside the city because of strong direct sunlight. With a few Argentinian girls I find a hostel and walk around. It’s all there: romantic cobblestone streets with bright colored Alpaca ponchos on display; salespersons luring you inside their little tienda saying “no comprometido”; ancient blue Ford buses with elegant protruding hoods crowded with noisy locals; older women carrying their offspring in traditional woollen pouches tied on their backs; a central Plaza with a proud revolutionary élan reminding of Buenos Aires’ classicistic avenues; dark-skinned shoe polishers covering their faces with a mask and wordlessly pointing at every pair of rich shoes to offer their service to the owner; a nice national Art Museum with an arched patio and an interesting exposition of Bolivian modernism on the second floor; a cathedral as the heart of a rich Catholic tradition; a crowd of silent protesting people in front of the municipal buildings. And that’s enough lonely planet intake for the day, mind you.

I walked around at night and experienced some fine happiness in a small bar in the romantic Calle Jaen. Oh if you visit La Paz, walk that magic Calle Jaen. The spot where I saw the protesters that morning was empty, the people that were populating the streets at the evening hour were all on their way to bars. I didn’t come back very late and knocked the door of the Argentinian girls’ room. Behind closed doors, they said goodbye, and I went to my room where I tried to sleep. Remember: Calle Jaen.

Tried, but my legs hurt like hell. Cramps. Rolled around in my bed, sweating and tearing off the sheets in a vain attempt to overcome the pain. After a few hours, I got up, scoured my backpack for some pills, and took two tablets of acetylsalicylic acid. The pain went away and I could sleep. I dreamt about what our society must have been like before the invention of aspirin, when people had to cope with unbearable pains every day. And I dreamt that in the world before those little Bayer pills religion must have played a bigger role than it does nowadays. Perhaps, religion is one big conspiracy against complaining.

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