Back for some adventure

Trip Start Oct 02, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, November 30, 2009

We arrived back from the Jungle on Monday afternoon and were in need of a good drop after being in the wilderness for 4 days. Clarkey hit the bocks hard and displayed a fine bosco impression for the wild rover bar before we were all kindly asked to leave.

The following day after waking up with some altitude sickness we were informed the Bolivian Presidential elections were being held in La Paz that weekend. This meant there was a complete ban on alcohol and there would be no buses leaving until Monday night. Although there was a ban on alcohol, there was still a great buzz about the place, probably because the Wild Rover continued to serve beer.

On Sunday night the history books were rewritten, Evo Morales was re-elected for his second 5 year term and would remain in office until 2015. Evo is Bolivia's first indigenous leader and ran away with 61% of the votes. There was a massive party outside the government buildings that night, the whole place went nuts.
A load of crusties arrived back to our room that night for a celebration party. They got dogs abuse from the Irish lads, especially Steve who woke up to "worps" throwing juggling balls around the room.

Another day we decided to take a look at the world famous San Pedro prison. San Pedro prison, the biggest in Bolivia's main city, La Paz, is home to about 1,500 inmates. However this prison is very, very different to any other in the world. Inmates at San Pedro have jobs inside the prison community, pay or rent their accommodation, and often live with their families. There are on average four deaths every month inside the prison from natural causes or from violent attacks.
In April 2009 San Pedro Prison closed its doors to tourism. Around 50 backpackers entered through its gates every day for a bizarre tour that allowed them to try some cocaine that was manufactured in makeshift factories inside. Travelers were being allowed to take cameras in and were uploading pictures and videos on the net so they decided to stop the tours.
The recent book Marching powder is based on a British inmate who was known to offer tours to the public.

We also noticed some strange sights on our days wandering around La Paz. The shoe shine boys wore balaclavas and there were kids dressed in zebra costumes working on the zebra crossings. Strange.....

Death Road

Brian and Steve's experience of the worlds most dangerous road.....

A climb of around 4,700 meters from La Paz to La Cumbre is the start of the world's most dangerous road. It's a road which plunges down some 3,500 meters as it snakes it's way down from the Andes to the edge of the Amazon basin.
It's known as the world's most dangerous road because it has the highest fatalities per usage anywhere in the world. One look at the road and it's no wonder why this is the case. Most of the road is just a dirt track, two or three meters wide, with a 600 meter vertical drop to your left hand side with no crash barriers. Buses and lorries hardly fit on the road, so several go over the side every year. The roadside is littered with flowers, memorials, and crosses from the years of tragedy.

Some statistics
-Up until 2006 when the new road was opened, on average 250 people were killed on the road EACH year.
-In July 1983, Carlos Pizarroso Inde drove his bus over the edge, killing more than 100 passengers in Bolivia's worst ever road accident...and that was just one incident that year!!!
-The last fatality occurred two months ago when a tour guide was taking a picture of his group, he lost his balance and fell over the edge.
-Depending on who you ask, 7 to 8 tourists on mountain bikes have been killed since 2003.

So, of course, the best way to travel down this road is to put your life in your own hands, and not in somebody else's. We decided to go Vertigo, recommended by the hardy bucks from the west.

After driving in a minivan to the top of the freezing cold 4600m high hill, we were then instructed in what we had to do; how we should brake, where to ride when a vehicle was approaching and all the different hand signals from our guide Marcelo. After that it was 62km downhill, dropping over 3500m to hopefully reach the end at 1100m above sea level.

We got lucky as there was only three of us on the tour that day and we had a great instructor called Marcelo. The first 20km was on a paved road going through the wet and misty morning clouds, overtaking some slow trucks on the way .  After the paved part we came to the original "worlds most dangerous road"..... Now the fun would begin.

The temperature was rising, not just because we were traveling into the subtropical areas of Bolivia, the confidence in the bikes/brakes was also increasing and we were now traveling a lot faster. It appeared Steve was getting a bit too confident in trying his best to keep up with the guide Cello. On one of the bends he hit a loose stone and got hupschutled off the bike, this didn't surprise Batty who arrived at the scene 3 hours later. Luckily he was riding in the middle of the road and not too close to the 600 meter drop to the left. The helmet, knee pads and elbow pads were put to the test and he came out with a few minor cuts and a torn pants.

After 3 hours of racing down this beautiful hill we finished off in Coroico, a small village on the edge of the Yungas Jungle at the Amazon basin. Here we ate a buffet lunch, relaxed in the pool and drank a few beers. Pa was supposed to reach the summit of Huayni Potosi that day, we were secretly hoping over a few beers he wouldn't make it.

That night, Cello called around to our hostel and invited us to his sisters 20th birthday party. Steve arrived in the door and immediately went looking for the bar, Brian had to inform him they were at a house party. A messy but entertaining night while Pa was struggling in Hunyi Potosi.

For Steve it was one of the highlights of the trip so far, probably because he was away from abusive Patrick for one day

Hunyi Potosi

The following is Pa's account of Huayni Potosi,

Since traveling with the two boys for two months, I had heard enough of the excuses being churned out about the Liverpool fiasco so I decided I would go and climb a mountain in order to try and retrieve a bit of my sanity.

I first got all the gear in the office including crampons{spikey shoes for ice climbing} ice axe, headlight and all the thermal gear and headed for the first base camp which was at an altitude of about 4500 meters. I was brought out to a glacier and done a bit of vertical ice
climbing using two axes and the crampons with a rope tied around my waist if I fell. Thankfully the rope wasn't called into use. I then returned to base camp where I was left on my own for the rest of the day with an old Bolivian woman. Needless to say she hadn't a word of English so we had a very basic conversation about the Bolivian president.........I think.

The next day I climbed to the second base camp which was at an altitude of 5130 meters. This was a tough climb due to the fact I had all the gear in the bag and the path up to the camp was not a path at all. After getting to the second base camp I was beginning to wonder would I make it to the summit at all. At this stage my appetite was completely gone and was starting to get sick from the altitude. It also didn't help when i heard that 3 English boys had only made it 30 minutes into the climb the day before before turning back due to altitude sickness. Thankfully three Clare lads arrived to do the climb so I was able to talk about something other than the election in broken Spanish. Everyone went to bed at about 5pm as we would be starting the climb at 1am. After a sleepless couple of hours we went downstairs and donned the gear for the climb. Over the next 5 hours I preceded to get sick, fall over, and doubt whether I would ever make the top. When I tried to even nibble a snickers I would be bent over trying to get sick. Needless to say no pictures were taken on the way up as every bit of energy was being uses to put one foot in front of the other. When I finally reached the summit, 6088 meters, I collapsed on the snow. After taking a minute to build up some energy I stood up and had a look around. The views were very impressive and you could see Lake Titicaca in the distance. After reaching the top I realised it had been worth it however id never to do it again. The long descent now lay before me which was done in half the time. When I reached the second base camp I was given a pen to sign the wall along with all the other people who had reached the summit. It was then time to head back to the boys to see if they survived the death road and partake in more drinkin, fighting and schmoking. 

We really enjoyed our stay in La Paz and all agreed (for once) that the Irish owned Wild Rover hostel was the best we have stayed in so far. The rooms were excellent, the food was great and the atmosphere in the bar was hopping every night.

It was here we said our emotional goodbyes to the hardy bucks from the west, it is to Australia's sunny shores they are inclined to roam. We will hopefully meet up with them in the near future....
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Bosco on

The pain etched on your face at the summit makes me glad I chickened out of doing Potosi

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