Size: 1,100,000 sqkm
Capital: La Paz
Time Zone: GMT -7
Part of 2006 World Trip, arriving from Peru
and continuing on to Santiago and Buenos Aires
A day to cycling the hair raising 'death road' and a few more to explore the La Paz Witches' market.
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The border between Peru and Bolivia was manically busy due to it being market day, and John had to inch the truck through the street, gesturing to the stallholders to shift their wears out of the road. After the usual paperwork we were on our way again, headed to the ancient ruins of Tiahuanaco. Tiahuanaco was the base of a major civilisation that predated the Inca and developed some of the technology often associated with them. Much of the ruins are still being excavated but there is a museum and some impressive statues. After a tour and some lunch we continued on to La Paz, the highest city in the world.
We hit La Paz at an interesting time as it was the day before an important election, with the people voting on alterations to the constitution. All traffic was banned and shops were closed. Beer had also been banned from the previous night and the day was a public holiday. It was quite surreal wandering the silent streets where the day before streams of taxis and cars had been fighting for passage.
We only had a few days here so had a quick look around, the most notable place being the famous Witches Market, I place where you can by anything form Lama foetus's to love potions and replica Inca statues. The following day we headed off for a trip down the infamous death road.
Death Road is one of the major routes from La Paz to Brazil, and is a dirt road clinging to the edge of a mountainside, often with a shear drop of hundreds of metres. Being essentially a single track, and with nothing to stop vehicle plunging into the jungle below, it leads to some difficulties as trucks and busses going in both directions try to negotiate the treacherous turns. It has a reputation as the most dangerous road in the world for a reason, and frequently along its length are plaques commemorating those who have perished. It not because of the danger the road is a popular cycle route, but because it starts in the snowy high Andes at 4700m and plunges down more than 3 Km in altitude into the subtropical rainforests over a stretch of no more than 60 Km. The first section of this roller coaster is on a sensible tarmac road but this has some uphill sections, made more difficult by the altitude. After this it's all down hill on a bumpy grit track.
A couple of times I let myself gain some speed and entered a corner a little too fast, coming nearer than I like to the precipice of a road side. The bitter cold of early morning at high altitude quickly gave way to the warmth of the tropical midday sun and it was nice to feel true warmth for the first in weeks. This did not last long, however, as after cycling the decent the minibus, which had follows us down, was loaded with the bikes and returned up Death Road, and back to La Paz. On the way back, after the guides did some dubious stops either side of a military drugs checkpoint (tourists it seems are not searched), just as the sun was setting over the snowy peaks we were shown a bus which had come off the road only a few days earlier. It had plunged and rolled a good distance and I feel no one would have walked out at the bottom - a stark reminder that it is not always just fun.
The next destination was Santiago and Buenos Aires