Trip Start Jun 15, 2004
Trip End Jun 15, 2005

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Thursday May 12th 2005
Couldnt get the bus until 1.30, so nice lazy morning in Copacabana. Board the tourist bus, predictably enough full of tourists, and climb high, with further spectacular views of Lake Titicaca, and snowcapped mountains in the background, with the bus spending a lot of the time driving on the left to avoid the steep drops! - theres not much traffic, other than sheep and Llamas.

We clearly take the northern route around the lake to La Paz, as we cross the lake by ferry at one thin point, to a small town called San Pedro De Tiquina. We reach El Alto, the city/suburb of La Paz that is now apparently South Americas fastest growing city, and then, suddenly, we can see the impressive image that is La Paz - we are on the crest of a bowl, looking down on La Paz, which fills the bowl - imagine a bowl of cornflakes, and you pretty much get the picture. The bus stops dangerously for us to take pictures, and then we drive into the sprawling city.

We pick up on route a tourist policeman, and find somewhere to stay (surprisingly, the bus stops outside its hotel...and we stay)

Then did what I love - wandering out in a strange city, getting my bearings. We are close to one of the many markets, as well as tourist shops, and I wander through them all.

Friday May 13th 2005
Do the tour of La Paz, firstly through the very, very busy markets, where you se lots of traditionally dressed women selling everything, including the large sized popcorn you see everywhere.

Down the steep streets, to the main street, which follows the bottom of the canyon that is La Paz, and then back up the other side, to see the cathedral and Plaza Pedro De Murico, where there are lots of photo opportunities of people and places, and then back onto the markets area (another one!). Completed the loop by going through the tourist markets.

Bolivia and La Paz sometimes have a bad reputation for scams etc, but I didnt feel threatened at all here - I like this city.

Saturday May 14th 2005
7.30am in a cafe in central La Paz, and I board my bus, with Gravity Assisted Cycling - today I am cycling the worlds most dangerous road - so called, because lots and lots of people die on it!

Out through La Paz, and we climb to 4700m, a place called Cumbre, but which is simply at the top of a mountain, where we are given our good quality bikes, gloves, kit etc. Its freezing cold, and you can feel the lack of air when you cycle round, and we are also given our saftey briefing - watch out for big trucks etc, and were off, all 29 of us.

I dont need to tell you who was first (OK, the guide was first, but I wasnt allowed to overtake him), and we reach terrific speeds on the tarmac road, with spectacular views - though dissapointingly there are crash barriers everywhere - how are you meant to fly of a cliff edge????

My first place is soon lost as we reach some flat, where I cant work out my gears, and when I eventually do, we are going uphill - not my speciality...

After 20km, we then reach the worlds most dangerous road, and you can see why - gravel / dirt / rock, single lane, with huge drops down the mountain if you miscalculate - and no crash barriers in sight. To add to that, its the only road in Bolivia where you drive on the left - to help truck drivers look at their left wheels - but this means you cycle on the side where you can fall off.

Have to admit to a little trepidation at the beginning, but that soon dissappeared, as I was speeding full throttle down the mountain, overtaking anything in my path including the occassional truck). Stop quite a few times to let the slower ones top catch up, and to warn us of what was coming, and get some great photos. Have to cycle through a waterfall that cascades onto the road, as well as cross a couple of rivers (...dont stop peddling).

As we go further down, it gets drier, dustier, and warmer, with the landscape changing to jungle. By the end, at 1200m, my hands are killing me, and the beer is very welcome - Im very tired now.

We then board the bus to Corioco, a nice town at 1800m, and change to 4WD to go to a hotel for lunch/dinner - with 12 people on each 4wd (on the roof and hanging on), this felt at times more dangerousn than the bike ride), but the hotel is fantastic - wonderful views, sunny weather, great swimming pool, all for $7 a night...I wish I was staying!

Have to go back though, the same route, and it takes ages as we are in the dark most of the time, and have lots of traffic jams...on the worlds most dangerous road.

Return to La Paz, to see lots of little fires all over the streets, where street traders are struggling to keep themselves warm.

Sunday May 15th 2005
Got overcharged, but caught the bus to Oruro, or route to Uyuni, and then waited around a few hours to catch the train from Oruro to Uyuni - which was surprisingly good quality, playing movies and having an element of heating
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