La Paz, and the most Dangerous Road in the World

Trip Start Jan 19, 2008
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25
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Trip End May 01, 2008


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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, March 3, 2008

Overnight bus breaks down
The recommended hostel - Loki
Coca Museum
Pool
MDRITW
Shopping necessities
Returning to La Sende Verde

Our first experience of the Bolivian night coaches turned out to be a pretty pleasant one. The seats recline almost all the way down, we got blankets, and the film was an old Chuck Norris classic... On the down side the bus broke down in the middle of the night for a couple of hours and all the men had to get off the bus to help make it work again. Well, almost all the men - Matt reckoned he wouldnt be much help not being able to understand the language so just went back to sleep.

We arrived in La Paz early in the morning and got a taxi to Loki hostel that had been pre-booked for us by Jerry. Itīs a huge backpackers hostel that's really geared up for the young people around here. There's a big bar with a decent pool table, they show the football at the weekends and have a TV/DVD lounge. It's situated in what used to be a pretty ornate hotel. It's certainly very different from everywhere else we've stayed so far.

La Paz is a pretty crazy city, the buildings cling to the steep slopes of the various hills that surround it in a way that doesnt seem structurally feasible. On our first day we just hung out around the hostel with the others (Jerry, Nicole, Paz, Itamar and Rafael) and played a lot of pool. Matt hit a rich (and slightly lucky) vein of form and everyone was suitably impressed... this form deserted him for the remainder of the stay though :(

We did take time out however to visit the local coca museum. This turned out to be a small, serious but informative museum looking at both the positive and negative effects of coca and it's derivative cocaine... more on this later.

On the second day Kat had a day without Matt as he took on the Most Dangerous Road in the World. This is a 64km stretch of unsealed road, liberally sprinkled with small rocks and streams to cross, waterfalls to go under and regular drops of upto 600m for anyone unfortunate enough to slip off the narrow (1 bus width and no more in places) path. Fortunately since a sealed toll road opened last year there is much less other traffic to share the road with the mountain bikers. It was an amazing experience - real heart pumping scarey stuff in places. The weather was abismal with visibility limited to just tens of metres in places and it pretty much pored down the whole time. Muddy, slippy and pretty dangerous business. At the end of the descent (now in Coroico) we had a late lunch at a local animal sanctuary. It was an amazing place, with some great people there volunteering and helping out the random assortment of animals that had been rescued (around 10 monkeys and cats, a puppy, a wild Oscat, some ducks, guinea fowl, Maccaws, Parrots, 2 giant tortoises, a couple of bunnies, a Boa Constrictor and some guinea rabbits. Although the guinea rabbits were only there as occasional live feed for the snake...) Matt got a little close to some of the monkeys are the video attached to this posting bears out. Matt thought it was a real shame that Kat wasn't with him to share the experience as the monkeys and other animals typically just wandered around unfettered and would happily climb all over the visitors. So he resolved to try to convince Kat to spend a couple of days there with him. More on this later.

The following day we both went for a bit of a wander around La Paz and to do some shopping. Matt's poor old shoes had taken a real battering on the previous day and the time had come to replace them with some Bolivian brand of hiking shoes. These are currently restricting the blood supply to his big toes and seem to have soles made of teflon - so maybe he should have gone for a more recognisable brand. Still, they were cheap...

That evening Kat was feeling unwell so stayed in whilst Matt went out, of all things, clubbing with the young people. The first club was a reasonably familiar affair with cheesy music. At around 2am though they all headed, upon someones recommendation, to another bar. Matt's suspicions were first raised when the bodyguard outside the door cordially paid for the taxi we had used to get there. Furthermore, upon descending to the underground bar, there was no-one dancing. There was music however and everyone appeared to have CD's on there table. How odd. The CD cases appeared to be pretty dusty, or covered in some white powder or something. Well, it turned out that Matt's new friends had taken him to an illegal underground bolivian coccaine den. Still, Matt had a pleasant enough time until everyone started talking gibberish and much too fast and asked for a cab. Much to his relief the cab firm used by the IUBCD seemed to be legit and he arrived back to the hostel, safe and sound, if a bit bewildered...

The following day we did indeed return to La Sende Verde, the animal refuge, where we spent a couple of pleasant days in relative wilderness playing with the animals. More on this in the next posting. 
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