Thursday 21 May

Still John is no better, and perhaps slightly worse. We make a late start, and leaving John at the hotel, go to the Torino Café for breakfast. We spend the morning wandering lazily in and out of markets and shopping arcades, looking at the tourist goods. My quest is for some post cards that sum up what I have seen of La Paz. The choice is very limited, and most of the cards present a very western and somewhat unreal image of skyscrapers and orderly traffic. I feel that the essence of La Paz lies in the street traders, the grid-lock, and in the ever-present clamour of car and truck horns.

La Paz Micros

We reassemble at the hotel and decide that John should see a doctor. Marcia is duely called to interpret for us, and then John, Marcia, and James go off to the hospital by taxi. While they are out, I take the opportunity to visit the post office to get some stamps and to post my post cards. It is a modern, orderly, and spacious building with polished counters and a cool marble floor, a world away from the chaos of the streets of La Paz. Despite this, with my almost non-existant grasp of Spanish, it takes me some time to locate the correct counter at which to buy stamps. Even then, as I attempt to post the cards, it is only the intervention of a kindly local that saves me from pushing them through the slot of what turns out to be a litter bin.

The news from the hospital is good—John’s ailment is nothing more serious than a nasty dose of flu compounded by the altitude. The treatment is a paracetamol and a jab in his backside to bring down the fever.

That evening, the three of us go out to eat at the nearby Residencial Rosario, equipped with a plastic bowl to bring some chicken soup back for John—doctor’s orders. We are entertained during dinner by pan-pipes, Andean flute, guitars, and singers. It is quite superiour to the pale immitation sometimes seen on Saturday afternoons in English town centres.