A Travellerspoint blog

Arequipa, Day 3

Catching up

sunny 20 °C

Ok beautiful people, this is it: my catch up session.

When I was in La Paz, I:

1) Bought a new pair of glasses for the Canadian equivalent of $24. They`re not super amazing, but they`re still pretty nice, and even if they only last me until the end of the trip, big deal!

2) Rode a bike down the world`s most dangerous road. On the road itself only bits and pieces are super dangerous: it`s the sleepy drivers and many blind-spot-curves that give it it`s 100 deaths per year. And it`s much more safe to ride down on a bike than it is in a truck or on a bus. For this ride though I`ll copy from my journal:

¨The bike ride yesterday was the most fun ever. Such a thrill and so dangerous at times! I went with 3 guys from my hostel, Guy and Aaron from my room and Peter from downstairs. We all got on well (and still do), and it made for an excellent ride. Guy is a 23-year-old English guy from near Cambridge, very nice and outgoing. Aaron (24?) is from Sydney, Australia, and is studying medicine. Peter, 21, is Swedish and was the fastest and fittest of us all; he kind of reminds me of my brother Adam and is another one of those people I wish I could spend more time with. Such is the life of a traveller, to say goodbye to all your new friends. Christoff, our German guide, gave me an iffy first impression, like he was tired and not sociable, but once the ride started and we got chatting he was very nice. He`s been leading bike tours for 3 months and will keep doing it for 5 more weeks before returning home. What a great way to fulfill your civil service!

...

¨The bike trip starts in the Yungas, moutainous and cold, and ends up in the near tropics at the town of Coroico. You fly down the road from 4700m above sea level to 1200m in about 4 hours, including frequent stops either for snacks or just to make sure everyone is all right. As we went down we shed our layers and put them in the van that followed us down the hill - it got pretty warm by the end though it was windy at the beginning.

¨The first 20km is on smooth asphalt, dangerous mostly because you tend to go SO quickly dow that bit. The guide told us his hand signals for ´stop´, ´overtake a vehicle´, ´slow down´, and ´get to the left´, and told us never to overtake him. The downhill on this bit was so fun and so fast! It was a good road on which to get used to the bikes, especially mine with the hydrollic brakes - dangerous if you don`t use them properly. There was a nasty uphill bit that lasted for an exhausting 20 minutes. The altitude didn`t help, that`s for sure, and I walked my bike for a few minutes before struggling through the last stretch on the bike. I wasn`t the worst though out of a team of daredevil boys! Guy and especially Aaron stuggled quite a lot as well.

¨After this ´safe´ bit came the dangerous, gravel/big slippery stones road, wide enough for a truck to drive along it, but not much more. It was very rocky and slippery from the waterfalls that came from above. We rode through a few of them with Christoff in the front filming us with the camera. Peter and I still headed the team on this bit, but he got ahead of me eventually and Guy passed as well; I took the corners a little more easily. Some of that loose gravel would not have been a fun landing spot! There was one point where I was riding along an edge with a sheer drop (we had to ride on the cliff side - rule of the road) and my back tire slipped out a bit cuz I was busy looking at a condor. Scary! I think that`s how the accidents happen; if you always pay attention to the road and don`t go beyond yoru safety limit you`ll be fine.

¨The odd time a vehicle did pop around a corner was a bit of a rush as well - you have to make sure you`re close to the edge to prevent getting smucked. It`s a winding mountain road, full of surprises and hidden corners. One was called ´Devil`s Corner` because of all the deaths there...

¨The last third wasn`t as precarious - the road was still loose gravel but much wider and without the drop on the side. By the end though my arms and hands were hurting from the aggressive bump bump bump of the road.

¨We ended at a little town just near Coroico and had a victory beer, after which we drove the final uphill to Coroico and had a hot shower. So nice. After a buffet lunch we headed back up to La Paz in the van. I had a wicked headache from the rough ride so I couldn`t sleep on the way back, but it was nothing a little Aspirin couldn`t fix. It was such a great trip and my final reward was to pick up my free ¨Death Road¨ t-shirt and photo/video CD. Woo!¨

3) Partied hard with my biking buddies and others from the hostel that night.

4) Visited San Pedro prison in the hopes of getting an interview with one of the prisoners there. It`s an intersting prison, unique in South America because the quality of prisoners´ lives depends on their individual savvy. They all work within the walls of the prison for their survival: those who have money live 5-star hotel type rooms; those with no money live in horrible conditions. The prison is closed off to tourists, but if you have another purpose it`s possible to gain admission. I said I was a writer from Canada interested in interviewing the prisoners for a book. To make a long story short though, I didn`t get past the first security checkpoint because I didn`t have enough time to get written permission. I would have been able to with more time, but I needed to move on.

5) Partied all night yet again with the craziest people, not sleeping a wink and having a wonderful time. I guess it was to make up for 3 relatively partiless months.

So that was La Paz in a nutshell. Tonight I take a bus to Ica, at which I can go on a dune buggy and go sand-boarding in the desert!

Posted by The Cat 07:45 Comments (1)

Arequipa, Perú, Day 2

Well well well

sunny

I have to get into this writing every day thing again... When I`ve done tons of wonderful things and don`t write about it immediately, I just put it off more and more. I promise to catch up soon.

For now I am in Arequipa. I arrived last night and will leave tomorrow night on a bus for Ica. It`s a nice city, but most of the wild fun things you can do take 3 days or something like that so I don`t have time to do much.

Today I visited the Santa Catalina monastery, this massive building famous for it`s architecture and history in general. It was very beautiful and worth the 2 hours it took to walk through it all.

And tonight I went go-karting!! It was so much fun! Of course because it`s South America none of us wore helmets; they even let one guy with a cast on his leg have a go. We had 5 turns each so we were able to get a good fix racing and skidding around the corners, trying to overtake the guy ahead. Yay for actually doing the things I usually just do in video games!

Catch ya on the flip side.

Posted by The Cat 19:42 Comments (1)

Copacabana, Day 1 - my last day in beautiful Bolivia

Man oh man...

sunny

I was in La Paz for 3 nights but had such a wild time I haven`t anywhere near the internet for more than 10 minutes.

I`ve come to the realization today, a strong, desperate realization, that I don`t want to leave Bolivia. I have a bus ticket for Arequipa, Perú, tomorrow, and it`s going to rip my heart out when I go. I`m in love with Bolivia, it`s people, and La Paz especially. The practical side of me is going to make me move on, knowing I have to catch a plane 3 countries north of here in 3 months, but I want to stay. I wish I could figure out a way to work and make enough that I could live AND pay back my student loans. Anyway, I will go back one day, I have to.

As for the past few days, I will write about them another time, probably when I`m in Arequipa. I plan to travel through Perú in no more than a week and be in Ecuador at least a few days before Christmas.

For now though I`m going to go enjoy my last night in Bolivia. A couple friends from La Paz happen to be here now, too, so I`m going to try and find them. Adios!

P.S. Today is my 3 month mark!

Posted by The Cat 16:38 Comments (4)

La Paz, Day 1

Too much to catch up on...

sunny 10 °C

I have way too much to catch up on so this entry will be a condensed quick version of everthing I`ve done the past couple weeks.

The mine tour in Potosí was really interesting. ´Fun´ is the wrong word cuz you go down into the mines and see these men, some boys as young as 12, working 12-hour days with no food in contaminated air. It was intersting though, and as usual I had conflicting thoughts about whether I was doing any good as a tourist or not. It was a bit scary at times, actually. We were all dressed up in our protective clothing, hard hats, rubber boots, head lamps. At some points along the tunnels are tracks for the miners to pull/push trolleys of minerals in and out, we had to dodge them suddenly when we heard they were coming. There was never much room obviously so sometimes we had to run down the track a bit to get to a wider space. Sometimes we were crawling the shafts were so narrow. We had a dynamite demonstration as well - one of the miners was getting ready to blow a bigger hole in his section so we scooted to a safer place and listened as the muffled boom boom went off. I could feel the energy wave through the rocks. There is so much to say but to describe it all would take pages.

I went to Tupiza with Andy and Tamsin and we stayed in the same hostel. The first afternoon we just arranged everything we were going to do. The next day we went horseriding which was fantastic. Unlike the smaller weaker Bolivian horses I rode when in Samaipata, these horses were from Argentina: big and strong and very very well bred and well looked after. The canyons we saw were spectacular - it really was like being in the American Wild West and the galloping was scary but great fun. I`ve never gone so fast on a horse before! The second time we tried it my horse tripped though and almost fell over so he gave up after that.

The day after we started our 4 day jeep tour. Aside from copying down my rather extensive journal entries regarding this trip, I don`t know how I can describe it. I think it`s the best thing I`ve done so far, and I doubt I`ll ever see such amazing landscape ever again. Bolivia is so full of hidden and unexplored treasures! What I paid for the trip was well out of my usual budget, but it was worth every penny. Bolivia`s southwest and leading up to the salf flats is virtually impossible to navigate without an experienced driver and a 4x4 vehicle. The roads are rough and sometimes barely visible, they fork out all over the place, and there is only the occasional very small village. With a good topographic map and a compass and a lot of patience it might be possible to do this on one`s own, but I don`t think many people would attempt it.

The landscape changed so much in our 4 days that just reaching the top of a hill was exciting cuz we never knew what to expect on the other side. We went from tundra-like land to the roughest rockiest terrain, to rich coloured lagoons with flamingoes straight out of a fairy tale to the vastest yellow deserts where nothing can possibly grow. The salt flat, the biggest in the world, was incredible too. It`s like walking on hard crunchy snow, but it so so flat and stretching out for ever, sometimes to the horizon. The last morning we got up early to watch the sunset in the middle of it, and driving across the flat flat white land was surreal and magical and I`m never going to see anything like it again.

After exploring the salt flats we made a final stop in Uyuni, a town not far from the edge. I hung out with some other people who`d just finished the trip as well for a few hours, and took a night bus to La Paz, where I am right now. I dropped my bag off at a hostel, but I have to wait a couple hours before others check out before I can have a bed for myself and catch up on some much needed sleep.

As much as I love La Paz, it`s very different being here after 4 days in a completely different world with no people but those in the other jeeps. Time to change gears once again.

Posted by The Cat 05:03 Comments (5)

Uyuni, Day 1 and only

I´ve never been on a slower connection in my life!

sunny

Man what a fan-freakin-tastic trip! I saw deserts! and red mountains! and purplegreenblueyelloworangered lagunas! and flamingoes! volcanoes! geysers! the biggest salt flat in the world! a coral island covered with cacti at 5000m above sea level!

And I´ll write all about it when I get to La Paz. I got back from the jeep tour this afternoon and now I´m just waiting for a direct bus to La Paz. I´ll be there for a few days (1) to ride a bike down the world´s most dangerous road and (2) to buy new glasses because I sat on mine yesterday and snapped them in half. What luck! But from what I´ve heard it´ll only cost me about $40 to replace them.

Yesterday I rode through a desert at top speed in a 4x4 Land Cruiser so I´m not too worried about the glasses.

Posted by The Cat 12:35 Comments (0)

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