Day 159 – High in La Paz

2009/02/12 § Leave a comment


What do Princess Ann and Pope John Paul II and I supposedly have in common with most Andean people? We are consumers of mate de coca [1]. The coca leaf– the plant that can also be used in order to produce cocaine- is a product that you can consume here as coffee can be consumed in Europe.

Can you guess what is in the bag ;)The coca leaf looks harmless enough and really is harmless. I can not really report of any noticeable effects despite my best efforts. On the other hand, to stick to the coffee comparison, if you drink a few cups of coffee you may not think too much of it. If you however would be buying pure caffeine from a pharmacy and consume it you may get all kinds of effects. Similar with cocaine extracted from coca leafs- though you need half a kilogram in order to extract one gram of cocaine. Drinking mate de coca* from 500 grams of coca leafs on the other hand would keep you quite busy and would probably rather lead to a very clean kidney and bladder rather than a high.

Here in Bolivia chewing leafs is quite popular among many indigenous people too. The cocaine in coca leafs is believed to help against altitude sickness. Since large parts of Bolivia are on altitudes beyond 3000 meters above sea level many people experience headaches and other symptoms of altitude sickness [2].

By the way, I am 3600 meters high in the highest capitol of the world: Nuestra Señora de La Paz [3]. 😉


* The “mate” is not drunk through a straw, like the typical mate
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mate_de_coca
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altitude_sickness
[3] http://wikitravel.org/en/La_Paz_(Bolivia)

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