Dangerous Roads, Jails, 5th Wheelin and Planning

Trip Start Jul 02, 2006
Trip End Mar 02, 2007

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

As soon as you enter La Paz you know you are in a different world.  The bloke running through customs at the airport was a great example after the police tried to stop him he just legged it and after at most a 10m chase the officials just gave up...

La Paz is not a beautiful city but it is one of the most spectacular in the world.  Mud brick houses are build perched on the edge of the shear cliffs that circle the city, the streets are choatic to say the least and the people although overtly poor always have a smile on their face. 

Uncomplicated meeting with Rossy, Ali, Sam and Emily and some brilliant food - Its sooooo good to be eating steak again.  A combination of "The Inca Two Step" and a touch of altitude sickness (probably not helped by my continued smoking) had me subdued for a few days but you can never keep a Cat down for too long.  Good to see that all the boys´ beards are coming along nicely...

One of the best days of the last six months yesterday, mountain biking down the "Worlds Most Dangerous Road".  Starting at 4700m where there was snow falling, four of us jumped on our bikes and started (initially slowly) down this amazing road.  The first 12km or so are paved with no shear drop but that soon changes...  Loose gravel and at some points a 400m shear drop off to the closest side gets the heart pumping.  Absolutely loved it.  The road is barely one lane wide and there are buses and trucks going up and down all day.  The strange rule of the road is that traffic going down must give way to traffic coming up.  I wasnt the only one in absolute awe of a truck that reversed around three tight corners with less than a foot between his wheels and a 200m drop back to a slip lane to let a bus past - made me laugh at my Dad´s efforts trying to reverse a trailer up the driveway at home!!!  I must be honest, come the last few segments of the road, as the road itself widened and the gravel dried out I started to push it pretty hard... and did come off at some speed - a big thanks to my mates who had a good laugh and just kept on riding.  Either way a few bruises to remember a clasic day from.  I dont think you realise just how nuts the road is until the return drive up in a bus where the guides tell you some of the stats... 9 riders have died in the last 3 years and three bus loads of people have gone over the edge in the last year!!!
Last night was a celebration at a local reggae bar with Rossy that maybe ended up a tad latter than we expected - and possibly landed him in the ####... oh well. 

Anyone who has read a book called "Marching Powder" about the infamous San Pedro prison in La Paz will understand the following - those who havent will think i am a little crazy.  Basically inmates in San Pedro have to buy their own prison cell, some of the better off prisoners have apartments with TV, microwaves and their families live in the prison with them.  The inmates are not fed by the prison and have to make their own money by running shops and resturants inside, there is even reports that the best cocaine in Bolivia is actually made inside the prison - crazy hey, read the book!!! Anyhow an English prisoner previously ran tours of the jail something that was recommended by the Lonely Planet so myself and a few English tourist I met at the Valley of the Moon (outside of La Paz - pretty cool) thought we might try our luck and get in a tour.  No tour but an experience.  Somehow I managed to get a note from one of the prisoners "Hello my name is Ernesto.  I am from Spain. Please need help"  So through the front gates of the prison and in to talk with this chap for a while, give him some smokes and a banana or two - mate scary enough, no need for a tour.

Part of today has been planning the biggest test of my life.  Next week I will attempt to climb Mt Hyuana Potosi, a 6088m mountain in Bolivia.  It is glacier capped and -20 degrees at the summit.  It is going to be hard, really hard but I am excited.  Maybe I feel I have something to prove to myself, but I have never felt so fit in my life so heres the chance...
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