Saturday, November 10, 2007

Accidentally , Utterly Trashed in La Paz

Upstairs in the hostel bar, we bumped into Sam and E-J, two friends we’d met while experiencing the out-of-place luxury of the Inca Trail. The four of us went out for dinner, and by 9 or so we’d finished eating and were grimly staring down the prospect of going home too early and too sober. Seeing as Sam and E-J had the Death Road bike ride beginning the next morning, we decided that just a quiet drink was in order, and on a quiet city street, beckoned by upstairs strobes, we soon found what we thought was the perfect place.

The ancient stairs bowed and squeaked under our weight as we ascended to what was now turning out to be some very loud, very Bolivian music. Had there been a real band playing when we entered, I’m sure they would have stopped and joined the other three hundred Bolivians staring coldly at us as we crabbed through the doorway. The place had the all the charm and thoughtful aesthetics of a fifties discount hardware store, complemented only by a few coloured lights, dangerous levels of decibels, a stage and a mob of hostile short people.

A little unnerved, we stole to the bar to order our couple of quiet drinks while the room returned to bouncing along to some panpipe rock. With no table available, we elected to stand in the darkest available corner of this unreceptive upstairs den. After a little while, curiosity got the better of some of the other patrons, and we were called over so they could get a closer look (mainly at Angie and E-J). The first friend I made introduced himself as Fidel Castro- when I laughed he produced an ID card and the name was there- Fidel Castro Rodriguez. He didn’t have the cigar or the beard or the new shell suit, but he spoke Spanish and seemed friendly, so I introduced him to Sam, who was in conversation with someone known only as ‘El Presidente’. We all shared a drink- a shot of orange juice and sangani (the Bolivian national spirit- a clear fluid that tastes as though it may be useful for cleaning purposes).

The band restarted and the room gradually released some of it’s tension, and Sam and I were soon sat down at a table while the girls were passed around the room to new dance partners, much to the disgust of many girlfriends but no doubt fuelling many incredible day-after stories of how “I danced with TWO gringas last night!!!” The drink of the night seemed to be a cola type beverage poured from a jug and consumed from shot glasses. There was supposed to be rum in it, but neither Sam nor I could taste it. Among the noise and multitudes of tiny drinks we shared many private jokes about this being ‘The purest coke I’ve ever had!’ while the locals looked on admiringly.

At least I thought they were looking on admiringly while we downed copious amounts of this brew, and I didn’t notice myself getting rowdier by the shot and toasting Bolivia and Australia, Australia and Bolivia! Bolivia Bolivia Bolivia!!! Fidel and me were starting a whole new brand of diplomatic relations based on soft drink and saying our respective countries’ names. What’s that they say about alcohol increasing one’s confidence? Who cares? I was totally killing it, impressing with each skolled shot. All of a sudden, hometime came, which meant standing up. Curiously, things were very wobbly and a little out of focus. ‘Maybe there was some rum in that coke after all!’ I blurted hysterically at anything that moved.

Cut to half an hour later and I’m in my undies, head planted on the blown plastic toilet seat I’m trying desperately not to look down into the bowl, which is rapidly filling with the night’s excesses. Flopped there on the tiles, between convulsions, I cursed Fidel, cursed Bolivia and cursed my tastebuds for not informing me that those jugs of rum and coke actually contained rum. I also cursed whoever it was that mixed that magic tasteless rum and coke, cursed the bouncer who let us in and finally cursed myself and climbed into bed. The one upside (for me at least) was that I wasn’t Sam, who had been drinking just as much as me, but he had to get up in three hours to ride a mountain bike down the World’s Most Dangerous Road.

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