Here in Australia, where, drugs are both notoriously expensive and notoriously shite in their quality, we often hear stories of our young and more open-minded adventurers descending on the Americas to experience what could only be described as getting completely off one’s tits. Trust then, it would naturally come down to one of South America’s most corrupt cities to provide not only a place to do this not only in full public view, but also in an environment where the staff give fewer fucks than you do. Within the heart of La Paz, capital city of Bolivia lies Route 36, the world’s first cocaine lounge.
While we’re obviously not condoning this behaviour, it’s easy to see why the trend of cocaine tourism appears to be taking off so rapidly in the country. La Paz is run by notoriously corrupt public officials, meaning basically anything goes. Combine this with some of the worlds largest cocaine factories, and the fact that the country is not only run by a president who grows Coca himself, but has also took it upon himself to kick the DEA out of the country, and you have the recipe for a pretty damn good time. All this means that on Route 36 serves grams of standard (Blow your head off by Australian standards) cocaine for 100 Bolivianos, or what they consider “Strong” (turn you into a jibbering wreck) cocaine for 150. That’s about $20.
“Since they are an after-hours club and serve cocaine the neighbours tend to complain pretty fast. So they move all the time. Maybe if they are lucky they last three months in the same place, but often it is just two weeks. Route 36 is a movable feast,” says a Bolivian newspaper editor who asked not to be named. “One day it is in one zone and then it pops up in another area. Certainly it is the most famous among the backpacker crowd but there are several other places that are offering cocaine as well. Because Route 36 changes addresses so much there is a lot of confusion about how many cocaine bars are out there.”
There’s not much point in going on about how this is another sign of the failed “war on drugs”, but something like this is in it’s own way quite refreshing and endearing to see. “I travelled the world for nine months, and for sure La Paz was the craziest city and Route 36 the best bar of my entire trip,” writes one, while another says, “Like to burn the candle at both ends? Well, here you can bloody well torch the whole candle.” It’s probably safe to say you won’t be seeing it on TripAdvisor anytime soon though.
Read: What we learnt (and plurnt) from the Global Drug Survey