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Bolivia's National Treasure, the Cholitas
4 Amigos in South America

(Faye Xuan)
Hotel Julia was the named of the hotel we stayed in last night in Uyuni. I believe it is one of the more expensive ones in town. The room was 270 bolivianos (40 USD) per night. Right above us was the kitchen and last night they didn't stop moving furniture until about 10PM which made us the tired travelers not very happy. At one point of the night, the curtain fell off. The shower had a mind of its own. It went from streaming hot to cold in a flash and back to hot again. The heat was suppose to be turned on at 8PM which didn't happen until 9:30. Breakfast in the morning was suppose to start at 7:30AM. The "cook" strolled in at 7:40 and we were served hot beverages, juice and dry bread. Needless to say, Hotel Julia will not be our hotel of choice next time around. If there was a star rating for this hotel, it would get a dot at best in our opinion.

Our flight back to La Paz was at 9:40AM. We had received an email informing us we will not be checking in at the airport (which made sense since the airport looked unfinished) and will check in at the Amazonas office by Uyuni's town centre plaza. We were lucky to bump into the agent we recognized on the way here. I think she stayed at Hotel Julia too. She took us to the office and checked us in. Around 8:30AM, the Amazonas agent told us to hop on the same bus and we had to pay 7 bolivianos per person again to get to the airport with our checked luggage at the back.

At the unfinished airport, our carry ons were not screened at all. But the flight once again departed and arrived on time in La Paz with no incidents. We were checked into our hotel shortly after lunch.

We met a couple of very funny kiwis on our Uyuni tour. We made plans to meet up with them at our hotel at 1:30PM today since we were all interested in checking out the Cholita Wrestling at 4PM every Sunday. Cholita wrestling is very unique to La Paz. It is women wrestling dressed in traditional riffled skirts and top hats.

The tickets for the show can be purchased from any travel agencies on Sagarnaga Street for 70 to 80 bolivianos (11 to 15 USD) each. We got ours for 70 since we had 5 people. The price included VIP front row seats, bus to the arena, a bag of popcorn, a glass of coke, a tiny clay cholita figurine souvenir and two bathroom passes. The yellow school bus picked us up near our hotel and took us to the top of La Paz city where the arena was located. Before letting us off the bus, the guide said this is not a safe area and do not wonder outside of the arena without an escort. In front of the arena there were already a lot of people gathering to get in and vendors selling popcorn and other local snacks. But the area smelled like urine and poverty was evident.

We got seats centre of the ring. Later we found out it can get hairy in the front row. The first match was a fat guy wrestling a skinny guy named Shocker. They all wore very flashy outfits and masks. The fake throw downs were so cheesy that it was good. We had quite a few laughs. At one point the fat guy threw the Shocker into the crowd, one of the kiwis who sat three seats down from us got scrapped in the face. She was surprised by the whole thing, but ok.

There were one or two more matches before the cholitas came out. But we were all waiting for the real attraction. Finally the cholita dressed in pink sparkly wrap, top hat and puffy skirt came out with the crowd cheering loudly. She "fought" bravely against a man and a "corrupt" referee. But she showed good heart and good sportsmanship despite being thrown into metal sheets and hit with a small wooden crate. She managed to turn the referee onto her side and won the match! It was all very dramatic.

Then it was a match between a really fat guy and Frankenstein. Again it was really cheesy and the real entertainment was when Frankenstein tried to scare the kids. The stadium now had become quite chilly since the roof was partially open. The next match was between two cholitas. It definitely was the highlight of the night. The two bitter rivals threatened to cut each other's pig tails off while the crowd cheered them on. The "bad" cholita had popcorn, an orange and numerous plastic bottles thrown at her. I felt really bad for her. But no one messes with a Cholita, she gave it all back. Opening the bottles that still had pop or water in them and sprayed the crowd with them. Being in the front row, we got a little bit on us, but lucky not too badly. Row 2 and 3 weren't so lucky. At one point the "bad" cholita twisted open the orange that thrown at her and threw it at the "good" cholita. Later, she picked up the mangled orange off the floor and took a bit out it. She was a bad ass!

There were three more matches including a foreigner wrestler named Gringo Flamingo. It all ended at around 7:30PM. We stepped outside of the stadium and to our amazement it was snowing outside! We ran to our bus because it was so cold.

By the time we made it down the hill, there were no more snow, but a drizzle of rain. We grabbed a bite to eat at a cozy pizzeria with the kiwis and headed back to our hotel for the night.

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http://rubyroads.blogspot.com/2011/09/bolivia-national-treasure-day-15.html

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