Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Way of Death

Our journey to La Paz was definitely one of the scariest if my life (and I have survived the roads if the Middle East, India and the Philippines). Our bus driver definitely seemed to be in a rush, overtaking other buses, lorrys and pretty much anything else while going down hill round hairpin bends... We arrived in La Paz early (the only time on our trip this has happend), just about in one piece but not having slept a wink!! 

Open air market La Paz

La Paz in first impressions is mental, we arrived through Palo Alto, which is above the city on the altiplano. As we dropped though the layer of thick cloud covering our view of the city, the huge sprawling mass if buildings becomes apparent (if you arrive in good weather you can see the whole city sprawling through the valley), it is definitely a dramatic place! 

Me at Mirdor Killi Killi

Steps to nowhere at the Wild Rover

We decided to take the plunge and stay in the wild rover hostel, an infamous party hostel of La Paz, many of the reviews discuss how difficult it is to leave the building. The place was huge with comfy bed and an Irish bar (which is exactly what you want when you are exploring the world right?). It was a pretty fun place  with party's pretty much every night, but as long as your room wasn't too close to the bar you could still get a decent nights sleep if you wanted to!! On our first night we ran into Hetty (again I know it's like we were stalking her) and randomly Micheal who we had met much ealier in our trip in El Calafate. It was really nice to see him again and catch up on everything he had done! 

Witchs market 

Most of our time in La Paz was pretty chilled out on our first day we explored the witches market and all the gringo shops (I may have gotten a little carried away with all the shopping). The next day  we did a really good walking tour around the city with red cap tours. We were told a lot about the traditions of the indigenous populations which was really interesting, saw the infamous San Pedro prison (which is basically a town of criminals with no law enforcement kept behind walls) and as an extra plus the tour guide looked uncannily like my brother PJ (well in profile at least). The tour also briefly popped into one of the big food markets where we sampled some local food (basically giant hash browns filled with meat in a tasty red sauce) which was really tasty! On our second night in La Paz we decided to splash out and have dinner at a restaurant called Gustu which was set up by Noma co-founder... But more of that meal in my next post! 

My brother Pjs side profile twin

Our third day was the big one.. The Death Road... I had been a little scared of doing this before we came to Bolivia due to my relative inexperience on a bike. However, once you reach Bolivia you find out pretty much everyone has cycled the death road which must mean most people survive.. We spent quite a while shopping around for a tour company for this excursion after reading a few horror stories about bad breaks and awful guide. Also all the company's give you a free t-shirt at the end and I wanted I make sure we got a good one!! In the end we went for Vertigo as they seemed a good blend of cool t-shirt, good reviews, competeivive price and also the lowest number of people to guides! The day itself was amazing, our group was nice and small (just 5 of us, The Photographer and I, two awesome Aussie guys and a super fun Brazilian girl) with two guides. The weather was awful, rain and clouds throughout the mountains, but the scenery was still amazing and the ride very fun (I held on to the breaks constantly). The road itself is mental, on a bike you feel pretty much safe, but I cannot imagine having to drive a car on it... Some sections are around three feet wide with vertical drops on one side and waterfalls flowing on to the road. The whole ride was one of the best things I have done so far and I would 100% recommend Vertigo!! 

Our lovely Death Road group almost at the bottom

Our minibus at the waterfall section of the road

After having a nice sleep on the bus ride home we arrived back to our hostel and were invited to dinner by our room mate Matt. We ended up at a British curry house (the worlds highest apparently) with his death ride group. It was actually pretty good, apart from the "worlds hottest curry" which was pretty spicy but also tasted disgusting (we didn't win the t-shirt incase you were wondering, it would have looked so nice in my collection). 

Warm up road, nice and paved but still dangerous apparently

Under a waterfall

The next day we were supposed to be leaving, but after lying in for a bit too long we decided to spend another day in La Paz relaxing (well we did climb up to mirador Killi Killi so not complete relaxation) before we headed on to Lake Titicaca. 

Kitted out and ready to go

Location: La Paz

Highlights: The Death Road, markets and the visit from my brother PJ! 

Top tips: As tempting as it is, especially will all the warnings on the dangerous nature if La Paz, don't just party in your hostel, explore the city!! Also Bolivian food is not as bad as people will tell you - you just  need to risk the good poisoning and not eat pizza all the time!! 

Profile pictures: A couple, but I do have loads of awful (but brilliant footage of me on the death road), I will make an edit at some point!! 

Must eats: Amazing potato snacks, Rellenas.

Break the budget: Dinner at Gustu, pricey for a backpacker, incredibly cheap compared to home and a great experience. 

Epiphany's: 0

View near the top of the paved section of the ride
Wiggly downhill fun

Riding into the mist

Stick to the wall!!!

The Photographer and I

Looks nice and safe...

A bit scary..

One of the worst parts of the road

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