Thursday 14 December 2006 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!