Bolivia begins…

After the fun that was Lake Titicaca we had an early bus to take us to La Paz. Ultimately the bus would take us around the lake, and then onto a direct road to the city. Or at least that was the plan! About an hour into the journey we heard a massive clunk and the bus slowly stopped on the side. We learnt that we’d lost part of the engine (or something – I’m not a mechanic by any stretch!) but the upshot was that the bus wasn’t going anywhere. This is a perfect example of when I was SO glad to be part of a tour group. Eddie made a couple calls, and next thing you know a bus was on its way to pick us up to continue the journey. There were a few random travelers also on the bus with us; some chose to sweet talk Eddie to explain what they should do, others chose to get angry with him as if it was his fault! Literally 10 minutes after we broke down another bus pulled up. We (G Adventure lot) quickly got onto the bus and grabbed seats, as per Eddie’s suggestion. The others followed suit, but there weren’t enough seats for people, so about 8 people had to sit in the aisle for about 40 minutes as we headed to the Peruvian/Columbian border. Border control was easy enough – queue here for a piece of paper, queue there for a stamp in your passport, walk there and give the piece of paper and get another stamp. A bit slow, but it worked! The back on to the busy bus which was taking us to Copacabana – not the one you’re all thinking of, but a small lake-side city in Bolivia. Here we changed onto another bus which would take us finally to La Paz – but sadly the long way. This meant we were travelling from 7am – 5pm pretty much – including a ferry ride too at one point! It was a long day, but we made it!

La Paz is a crazy city – it’s loud and frenetic with no real order to anything! We checked into the hotel and went straight out to get the cable car up to the top and see the view. La Paz (already high at around 3500m) is split into two parts. The ‘high’ part and the ‘low’ part. Many people live up high and work down low, and until very recently had to do a 1.5hr trip to get to and from work. In recent years the government decided to create a cable car to connect the two areas – and it’s great. There’s the yellow line, the red line and in two weeks the green line opens. And it costs about 50p to use – very much done for commuting and not for tourism – though it’s a good thing to use so you can see La Paz in all its glory!

La Paz
La Paz
Heading up to see the view...
Heading up to see the view…

A steak dinner was then in order- and boy was it good! The South Americans are not very good at understanding what ‘rare’ means, but that aside it was tasty and went down a treat! My first steak was a success, but everyone was telling me that Argentina was the place for the best steaks, and that wasn’t for another good few weeks!

Sadly, with all the travelling, I had managed to get a cold; something was going round the group so it was inevitable that it would hit at some point, and today was the day. My head felt fine, but the ear/nose/throat combo was having a hard time of it! Bolivian pharmacies are one of the most popular shops you’ll see on every street so I got some tasty throat sweets, some extra tissues and combined with Nurofen / Lemsip Cold & Flu waited for it to pass!

The next day was Death Road day… this is a c.60km bike ride down a road that is called Death Road. It’s a long windy road around the mountains. Starting at 4700m and ending around 3000m it has some hairy bends, traffic to fend off, and some sheer edges that you really don’t want to get too close to! Half the tour chose to do this… I wrestled a lot with whether I should or not, but the cold won out… Wearing a helmet and trying to sneeze / blow nose and avoid hurtling off edges didn’t seem like a good combo!!

Instead the rest of us did a free walking tour of La Paz which was great. Two young girls took us around the city for around 3 hours and told great stories about the area. We saw the San Pedro prison which I was reading about in Marching Powder (recommended book), visited the witches market, the fruit market and some key buildings. Did a spot of shopping after and then chilled to get rid of my cough.

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Market women

P1070377

San Pedro Prison
San Pedro Prison

I’m happy to report the rest of the group all survived the Death Road and thoroughly loved it – but after their accounts of the day I’m glad I didn’t do it- that sort of activity is not for me!

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