A steep ascent and the history of coca leaf
Trip Start Apr 18, 2011
51Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Lion Palace Hostel
We had lunch then set off to the office in town to check in. On the way, a stray dog that was sitting under our table at lunch followed us. I playfully told it it couldn't come to the airport. Two minibuses awaited us at the office to shuttle everyone to the airport. I was surprised to see the dog had hitched a lift with one and was happily roaming the airport (small wooden house). It appeared that the ground was still pretty wet, so we were to be shuttled across the grass to the tarmac in the mini buses instead of the plane. Everyone piled in as we splashed our way across to the runway
The flight itself was spectacular as we lifted over the Amazon basin then started to climb rapidly toward the Andes, which hug the borders of the city La Paz. Rurrenabaque sits at 215m and La Paz at 4000m, a long way for our little plane to climb in 40 minutes. The first section was fine, but towards the end I started to feel quite sick as the little plane rattled around. Luckily the flight was short and we landed soon enough. We shared a taxi into the centre back to our hostel, (Lion Palace) with the two guys from California that had been on our pampas trip.
The next day we set about booking a tour agency to mountain bike down Bolivia's famous death roadOverdose do the death road with. They were a mid-range company with good double suspension down hill mountain bikes and full on safety gear. I also eventually bought my alpaca wool jumper in one of the market shops near to where we were staying.
Also while we were in La Paz we visited the Coca museum. The coca leaf is seen as culturally important to people of Bolivia and Peru, largely due to its role in history being used for over 4000 years by their ancestors. Also, it was spiritually significant to the Inca's whos' empire stretched over the Andes. The museum covered the story of the coca leaf from 4000 years ago to the present day. In the western world it is probably more associated with Coca-cola and cocaine. A reason the little leaf was -and largely still is - so popular in the high altitude Andes regions is that it combats altitude sickness and generally helps you stay alert. Medical studies show that the Coca leaf has many health giving qualities
We also booked our bus tickets to Sucre the former capital city of Bolivia where the Bolivian declaration of Independence was signed. With a bit of luck it should be a 12-14 overnight bus, we booked the best company we could see in the hope of lessening the chance of bus disaster.