Coca Puffs and Llama Fetuses

DSC03820cocamuseum.JPG

This blog entry about the events of Friday, January 09, 2004 was originally posted on January 12, 2004.

DAY 83: Bolivia has been blamed for supplying the international drug trade with its coveted coca leaf — which is processed with ether and a bunch of chemicals to produce cocaine.  However, the coca leaf in its natural form has been infused with Bolivian culture for centuries.  Years ago, one of the first things a family would build right after a house to live in was a coca garden, as coca leaves were an integral part of Bolivian life. 

All this information was given to me at a visit to La Paz’s Coca Museum, where Lara, Tim and I went in the morning.

ALTHOUGH SMALL, THE COCA MUSEUM (picture above) was a very informative and comprehensive exhibition on all aspects of the green multipurpose plant, from its ancient religious connotations to its medicinal purposes to its transformation into cocaine — which was widely distributed in the early formula of Coca-Cola.  The museum, opened in 1997, was created to educate people on the coca leaf, as it as become the scapegoat of many of the world’s drug problems — George W. Bush plans on using troops to eradicate prospering coca farms in the Bolivian countryside.  However, one other aim of the museum is to educate people on the process of cocaine addiction, so that curious ones know without having to try it, in attempts to reduce the problem through education.

Although cocaine hasn’t been an ingredient in Coca-Cola for years, one particularly interesting fact I learned from the displays is that companies in 34 countries are legally allowed to produce cocaine — supposedly for medicinal purposes — including StePan Chemical, owned by Coca-Cola.


FOR THE REST OF THE DAY, Lara, Tim and I went out shopping around the city.  Lara shopped for gifts to bring home while Tim shopped for new boots since the soles in his Sketchers had cracked, allowing water to seep in and stink up his socks.  We visited many stores in the artesan district, the shops in modern downtown and even a supermarket back in Sopacachi, but the most interesting shopping experience was at The Witches Market, a strip of vending stands that sold exotic love potions, lucky talismans and, most noticeably, llama fetuses, used to put in your house as a form of good luck.  I’m not so sure about bringing an abortion in the house could provide such luck, but I suppose if I broke into someone’s house and saw a llama fetus on the dining table, I’d drop everything and get the hell out of there.


BECAUSE I RIP OUT THE PAGES of my Lonely Planet book section at a time as needed, to conveniently fold and fit in my pocket — I hate lugging the entire brick around — I had been dubbed our gang’s “tour guide” when going out.  Wouter, Claudia, Tim, Gilbert, Lara and I went out for dinner and using my pages I tried to find a nice restaurant mentioned in the book.  However, a “tour guide” is only as good as his outdated Lonely Planet book, and the place was closed when we got there.  Luckily there was the Palacio del Inka next door, which was not run by descendants of Incas, but by Koreans.  There we had dinner while Cradle 2 The Grave played on a big screen TV in the corner. 

After dinner we hung around for rounds of cocktails, learning that Wouter was the baby amongst us at only eighteen years of age.  We chatted about songs from the 80s — Wouter didn’t know certain pop songs were actually remakes of old songs I had grown up with — and made ourselves laugh with really dumb riddles, including one that Lara wanted me to mention on The Blog for readers to guess:

What word can be described with “H I J K L M N O”?

Gilbert had befriended a couple of Bolivian girls in his travels and had them meet us at the pseudo-Korean/Incan Palace.  The sisters, Pamela and Giovanna, who lived together in La Paz away from their parents in Elizabeth, New Jersey, knew the city a lot more in depth than any “tour guide” with ripped Lonely Planet pages in his pocket, and so they led the way for the nighttime festivities.


THE GIRLS KNEW OF A CLUB called Dedekos not listed in the Lonely Planet book.  In fact, I doubt it was listed anywhere because it was so damn hard to find.  It was one of those cool clubs with an unmarked door in the middle of a quiet residential area of Sopacachi — you just had to be cool enough to know about it. 

Once we entered the door, we were transported into what was built to look like a club at the bottom of an underground mine, with rocky walls and mannequins dressed as miners on the wall.  The place was packed with young Bolivians partying the night away to American dance and hip-hop tunes, from Dirty Vegas to Dr. Dre.

The eight of us found a nook within one of the “mine shafts” where we camped out with these big bowls filled with juice, vodka, tequila and other goodies, served with six straws.  With the exchange rate, one bowl was only about three US dollars — needless to say, at that price, we had a pretty crazy and not-so-memorable night, if you know what I mean. 

I do remember meeting a guy named Junior, a Bolivian-American from Falls Church, Virginia, back in Bolivia to visit his ill grandfather.  It was his eighteenth birthday and we helped him celebrate — it was easy with the opening lines to 50 Cent’s “In Da Club.”  We also met some Israeli girl who was either drunk or high on a certain derivative of the coca leaf, or both.  She too had made peace with La Paz — she had been there for two months thus far.

The music switched around as the night progressed, and Lara and I danced the night away with the Dutchies, singing along to the lyrics we knew.  We almost tore our throats out with the ending part to Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child Of Mine,” but it was great fun — Wouter really got a kick out of it.

We partyed there until the morning hours, each leaving at different times in different cabs.  In my state I probably would have bought a llama fetus as we drove passed The Witches Market, but in retrospect, I’m glad that even witches close their shops at some point.






Next entry: Gags

Previous entry: Journey to the Moon and the Zoo and Brazil Three Times




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Comments for “Coca Puffs and Llama Fetuses”

  • First!! 

    Erik, as everyone has already said, Day 73 has been my favorite so far.  It was an excellent piece of writing..  The answer to the riddle is sixty nine.  Really, what is the answer?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/12  at  04:23 AM


  • water

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/12  at  04:34 AM


  • fetuses, mining shaft, and Wouter! Man, i can only imagine the adventures you go thru each day thru your blog. While i am rotting piece by piece going thru the daily grind.


    Erik et al. Just in case you’re bored at work (or in Erik’s case, free time) and you need a break, watch these guys from the westcoast. Freakin’ hilarious.

    http://www.sevenohfive.com/movies_html/threecardstuds.html

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/12  at  05:14 AM


  • So, the answer to the riddle…uhh…no idea…too early in the morning to guess…

    does it have something to do with peeing…letters before P?  Because you would laugh at a joke that involves peeing.

    will the person with the right answer get a postcard?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/12  at  01:33 PM


  • H I J K L M N O? what the hell is that?.....

    A B C… easy as 1 2 3?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/12  at  01:50 PM


  • francis got it right. Water is the answer.

    proof: H2O (H to O)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/12  at  02:08 PM


  • OHHH…I was confused by Francis’ “water” post.  Thanks!  smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/12  at  03:11 PM


  • get a damn haircut hippy…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/12  at  03:22 PM


  • erik: let it grow. you can be a rockstar!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/12  at  03:39 PM


  • LP: that link is hilarious!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/12  at  03:51 PM


  • markyt: glad you liked it. its only the tip of the iceberg tho…these 3 guys are the flip 3 stooges.

    check out Skid Marks and STD also…i couldn’t stop laughing.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/12  at  04:01 PM


  • Great post - llama fetuses and a hidden mine-themed bar.  The hangovers are tough at the high alititude! Good bar pictures too.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/12  at  05:00 PM


  • That mine shaft club looks Awsome!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/13  at  02:23 AM


  • That vid was hysterical LP!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/13  at  02:25 AM


  • Wouter looks like he could be MATTO’s long lost brother

    Posted by dunlavey  on  01/13  at  12:41 PM


  • Riddle, smiddle. I was too busy noticing how Lara is checking you out! Maybe she’s digging the hobbit-look (your lovely long locks are quite shocking for me)!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  08:29 PM


  • Hey Erik - you know you have connections at Stepan Chemical!  wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  04:53 PM


  • Erik,
    you know too much now…you must
    be eliminated…i am sending my ppl
    down there…they will meet you in the
    bakla office…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  05:22 PM


  • wheat is head of the bakla office…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  05:34 PM


  • UDZ/YVETTE:  Time out, time out… Udz DOES work for Stephan chemical?  I AM getting close to the secret…and I didn’t even have to get you drunk…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  07:01 PM


  • Erik - yup - now you know ALL the secrets!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  07:05 PM


  • Erik,
    It’s StePan chemical, not StePHan…goddamnit!
    hey, could you find out from that place why they sometimes have women’s underwear in the leaf bag??
    what’s the significance?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/20  at  08:13 PM


  • UDZ:  The spelling of your coke-producing company has been corrected. 

    As for the women’s panties… now THAT’S a secret that you’ll have to get me drunk for me to reveal!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/21  at  02:11 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Gags

Previous entry:
Journey to the Moon and the Zoo and Brazil Three Times




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