Bolivia--Takes Your Breath Away
 

La Paz--May 24-27, 2006

My next country to visit in South America is Bolivia. I had heard some great things about the country and was eager to get there. When I felt I had recovered enough from my illness in Ecuador, I booked a ticket and headed to the highest capital city in the world. La Paz is over 3800 meters (12500 feet) above sea level. The first day here was difficult to walk up the street without feeling lightheaded and without my heart rate being up to 150 beats per minute. I felt like I had run a marathon and all I had done was walk up the street to my hostel!

I spent about 4 days in La Paz and have really enjoyed my time here. It is a hustling and bustling city and with all the markets and street stalls reminds me of Asia (although the food is not nearly as good!!!). The people are very friendly and other than the hills and the altitude, it is easy to get around.

Here is a picture of the San Francisco Church in downtown La Paz.

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Colorful city

The city is very colorful, especially with the traditional dress of the indigenous peoples. Here you can see them at the bus station buying bus tickets to Sucre.

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Witches Market

They also have a Witches Market and one of the more curious items for sale is the llama fetuses. They bury them under new houses and buildings to ward off the evil spirits.

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Worlds Most Dangerous Road

One of the wilder things to do around here is to go mountain biking on "The World's Most Dangerous Road". In all we biked 64k, with about 22 considered the most dangerous. The trip starts at 4700m and descends to the city of Corico at 1800m. It has been dubbed this because over 30 trucks, buses, cars etc, go over the edge of the cliff every year. The road is a one lane dirt road with 1000 meter drop offs on most of the road.

Here you can see us getting ready to get our bikes and our first of many safety instructions.

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1000 meter drop offs

The bike ride was very exciting, and terrifying at the same time. There were 1000 m drop offs and of course we had to hug the outside of the single lane track on the way down. The company that I went with was very safety concerned which helped. Since the road is so narrow and so many trucks and buses go though there daily there are some rules that apply to the road different than any where else. The uphill vehicle had the right of way (which meant we had to stop on small alcoves when trucks were going by uphill). All traffic drove on the left side of the road which meant we were hugging the edge for most of the trip down.

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Human Traffic Lights

A few years back a man lost his wife and child in an accident on the road, and since then he has worked with the locals on some of the more difficult and dangerous curvy road sections to be "human traffic lights". These people volunteer their time and help to direct the traffic. They work off of donations from the people passing by (I saw one truck give a handful of oranges to one of the volunteers).

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Dusty Downhill Ride

The road was a dirt road and I was extremely dusty. I was coughing up dirt and grime for days that had gotten into my lungs.

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View from one of the difficult sections

This group shot shows us resting and getting more safety instructions for the next section of the road.

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Group Pic

The group had 18 of us with 3 guides. At the end of the day we stopped for a beer and took this group photo. We were actually clean when the day began. Luckily we went up to a hotel that had a buffet lunch for us and a nice hot shower so we could be clean for the ride back home.

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Stunning Mountain Views

There were some amazing views along the way.

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Valley View

Here is a view of the valley from the restaurant where we ate lunch.

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