Saturday, December 17, 2011

La Paz, The Death Road and Pampas, Bolivia 3-12 Dec 2011

La Paz is the highest capital city in the world, we arrived at 10pm at night, took a taxi straight to the hostel. It wasn’t as cold as we thought. Near to the hostel, there were a lot of stalls on the street, by the time we checked in and come out for dinner, most of them are closing. We found a place for dinner, they sell few different type of fried fish.  Seems like everything is fried here, fried chicken, fried meat, fried fish, fried potatoes, etc… not so healthy. We had fried fish, corns and potatoes for dinner :-( very oily! This night we didn’t sleep well because the room is at the front street and there were couples of bars on the street, too much noise all night long. We moved to another hotel the next day.

Walking around La Paz is a challenge because the streets are 45° uphill or downhill. It’s difficult to breath at this altitude. On the 2nd day, we went shopping, there were many make shift stalls around our hostel, selling shoes, cloths, toys, food, anything that you can think of. :-) There are also lots of souvenirs shops as well. While I was walking on the street I took some photos of the street stalls, an old lady selling crackers across the street waved to me with a smile, I went over and suddenly she grabbed my camera and asked me to pay. I was shocked! Antoine came over to help. I even deleted the photo in front of her but she refused to let go, then I told her I will buy some crackers from her and Antoine was also fighting for her to let go my camera. WTH! I was getting piss off and at the end she agreed with me to buy from her, I just refused to pay her for nothing. Friendly BOLIVIAN huh! We continue to shop, Antoine and Anthony bought lots of stuff, I bought a table cloth, hammock and matt to post back home as the postage is the cheapest in Bolivia. I had like 3.2kg of souvenirs including some from Ecuador, Peru and Costa Rica. It cost me B520 for the postage. The exchange for US$ to Boliviano is US$1=B6.9.

Day 3, I went to a few agencies in La Paz to look for a package for biking down The Death Road and tour to Pampas. I found Nuevo Continent Agency, the lady working there “Mary” is very friendly and helpful. I booked both the trip from her and she helps me with the bus ticket to Rurrenabaque. Antoine and Anthony left to Sorata for trekking. They wanted to climb Huayna Potosi which is at 6088m. I think I would have frozen before I reach the top, so I opt for trip to Amazonias. :-) It was great travelling with them for a few days.
The Death Road
Day 4 in La Paz, woke up at 630am. I have to be at El Solario at 7am for breakfast before we take off to The Death Road. I was given a set of equipments which are a Thermal cycling T-shirt, a long trouser, a jacket, a helmet, a pair of gloves, and a pair of elbow and knee protection. We left in a group of 16 in 2 van. We have 3 guides. First we drove to La Cumbre at 4700m, there we gear up and get our specific bike that we paid for. There were 4 different types of bikes ranging from B290 to B420. I chose the 3rd class with Hydraulic Disk Brakes. First we test our brakes then the gear, everything is good and we are ready to go. We first ride down the pave road to try our bike. Overtake some buses and trucks on the way and then we stop at the police post where we need to walk across with our bike. It was very COLD! We were all freezing. We then have to pay B25 to access The Death Road.

Why is it called The Death Road? It’s because the extreme dropoffs of at least 600 meters, single-lane width – most of the road no wider than 3.2 metres and lack of guard rails, the road is extremely dangerous. Further still, rain, fog and dust can reduce visibility. In many places the road surface is muddy, and can loosen rocks from the road but since the new highway opens in 2006, there was less traffic that passes thru this road. We did many stops along the way to take photos, fixed some flat wheel and wait for the slow cyclist. One guy who has rented the best bike fell. He hit a rock and flew, the cyclist behind him run over him and fell as well. They were both lucky that they didn’t plunge into the cliff. He injured his knees and had a few scratches on his arm. He took the van after that, no more cycling for him. We teased him for getting the best bike. :-p We finished at Yolosa at around 3pm. Only the last few hundred meters required paddling. We all made it and survived. :-)
Day 5, I took a bus to Rurre at 11:30am, I have to get to Rurre for the Pampas tour. Pampas tour is a trip into the Amazonia Basin with boat and stay overnight at the jungle hut for 2 nights, we do some trekking and boat ride to look for anaconda, crocodile, alligator, birds, and other animals. There were 2 options to get there, either fly or take a bus. The flight was B500 versus B80 by bus, obviously I chose the bus. It was suppose to be a 16 hrs bus ride but ended with 21 hours. The bus was overloaded with goods under and above. I just hope that it doesn’t overturn into the cliff. :-( There was some land slide on the way and lots of stops. The journey was rough, dusty, and hot. I felt like my lung has aged for years after this journey! Half way down the journey, a fat lady sat next to me and she was so fat that her arm overlapped on me. I was suffocated, I couldn’t move. It was horrible, I got thru the night and when the bus reached a place where some people got off, I changed my seat immediately. Finally we get there at 9:30am on day 6. I almost couldn’t recognize my backpack as it came out covered with dust!

Day 6, I am still not there yet, at Rurre, I joined the tour group, we leave on a 4x4 jeep 3 hours to arrive to the river.  In the jeep we were 9, 1 Australian with his Filipina girlfriend, 2 Spanish, 1 Israeli, 1 French, 1 Swiss, 1 Japanese and 1 Malaysian, very international! :-) After lunch we left with the boat, it was another 2 hours into the river before reaching to our cabanas. Along the way, we saw many alligators, caimans, birds, monkeys, pink dolphins and capybaras. We were all excited to spot all these animals! We took tons of photos of alligators up close and personal.

Finally after 26 hours, I arrived at Fluvial Cabanas. First thing I did was to get a shower, ahhhh… I felt so fresh and good after. We had a snack and off we go to watch the sunset. It wasn’t great as it was cloudy but I felt good to be there.  After dusk, we went hunting for alligator and crocodile in the river. With our torch, we could see their red eyes popping out from the water. The guide caught a baby alligator for us to take photos before we went back to our cabanas.
Day 7, wake up at 8am, the weather was shit, it has been raining all night long and it was still raining in the morning. We waited till 10am, the guide said we will go hunt for anaconda in the pampas. We put on our poncho and rubber boots and off we go, it was still pouring. The rain made the hunt more difficult because anacondas usually hide in hole when the weather is cold. We walked in the tall grass bush and flooded ground trying to find the anaconda. After about an hour, the guide finally found one but it was death. Well, it’s better than nothing. Everyone took a photo and after that we split into 2 groups, one groups wished to go back and another wished to continue. I chose to continue, it was kind of fun too walking in the rain. We reached a pool full of alligators, the water was at knee high with some pot holes, we walked along the pool carefully not to step into any alligator, water got into our boots and at the end we were wet inside out even with the poncho. The guide found a caiman at his nest, he was around 2.5m long I guess, he was quiet anxious when we got close. We stayed like 5m away from the nest. We took some photos and went back to the cabanas for lunch and a siesta.

In the afternoon, they went fishing for piranhas. I decided to stay and chill in the hammock. It was really nice and quiet after everyone left and I could watch the alligators, caimans and dolphins swim by the river, birds flying by, Howling monkeys, squirrel monkeys and another type of monkeys were on the trees. Just enjoy the jungle all for myself. :-( They came back with loads of cat fishes and piranhas. We had them for dinner.

Day 8, woke up at 5am for the sunrise, we were suppose to go to another place to watch the sunrise but no sign of the guide coz they were drunk the night before. Well, it was nice to watch the jungle slowly woken up with the sunrise and the call of howling monkeys and birds. I love waking up in the jungle with the sound of nature. Today we went swimming with the pink dolphins but there were too shy, they kept a distance from the boat. No luck! We left around 11am and arrived Rurre around 4pm. I have my bus booked for the night back to La Paz, I was not really looking forward to the 21 hours ride. :-(
Day 9, I spent the whole day in the bus, and finally got back to La Paz at 6pm, the journey was ok, only 18 hours! :-) Back to the cold weather and altitude, I have to walk much slower to catch my breath. I went back to Cactus Hostel, got the same room and same room mate.

Day 10, today first thing after breakfast was to send my 6 days of dirty clothes to laundry and book my bus to Uyuni. I went back to the same agency and Mary was there. I have asked for a 4D3N Uyuni to Tupiza trip, but she could not promise me the trip, we need 5 to go so hopefully there will be enough people to go when I arrived in Uyuni. If not I will have to take the 3D2N trip that return to Uyuni. There is an option to cross to Chile after the 3D2N trip but I didn’t want to because my passport is running out of pages. I will save the space for after Argentina. So left with the 7pm bus to Uyuni. It was another 12 hours bumpy ride.

To be continue...Salar de Uyuni
Hostel El Solario – B25 for quad dorm room with shared bathroom and WIFI available but didn’t work.
Hotel Maya Inn – B50 for triple shared with continental breakfast, shared bathroom and WIFI available.
Hostel Cactus– B30 for double dorm room with shared bathroom.

Taxi from Terminal to Hostel – B10 each way
Taxi from hostel to V. Fatima Bus Terminal – B15
Bus from Rurre to La Paz – B80
Collectivo from V. Fatima Bus Terminal to Hotel – B2
Bus from La Paz to Uyuni – B120

Biking the Death Road with the 2rd class bike – B320
Entrance fee to Death Road – B25
3D2N Pampas tour – B680 include bus from La Paz to Rurre
Entrance fee to Pampas Park – B150

No comments:

Post a Comment