Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bolivia - La Paz, Death Road to Coroico, Oruro, Potosi

February 16th 2011
As soon as I arrived in La Paz I headed to the hostal Loki, recommended by Pablo (Chilean I met in Copacabana). It's certainly the busiest Bolivian city I've been through. Found the hostel, parked the bike and had time for a walk.

Pirate DVD store;

Those 2 kids were quite funny to see singing and dancing.

The cheapest Pepsi of my life: 1 Bolivianos (about $0,14), they seemed to still use the old bottles from the 90's.
View from my hostel room.
the night is spent at updating my blog and having a drink at the bar. I decided to go to the Death Road the next day; what used to be the deadliest road of the world. It's goes from La Paz to Coroico. La Paz is already at about 3700m above sea level but the road goes up to 4650m then down to 1000m before going up again to about 1500m. All of that in 80km or so. It's now a touristic road since they've built a safer road just next to the deadly one.

So the next day I took my free breakfast constituted of a instant coffee and few pieces of bread and I went there. As I drive I see a dirt road following the good one, this must be the one, I decided to backtrack to do it, I want to do it all!

The problem is the road at that point is washed away because of the rain. It's the rain season in Bolivia after all. I decided to go anyway, felt down in there;
My leg was caught under my bike made a video of it but never uploaded it lack of hight speed internet access. Laying on my side with the bike on top of me at 4500m altitude it's almost impossible to get out of there, and since the road was in such a bad shape, nobody would come to help me out. I almost resigned to press the 911 button on my SPOT gps. My arms were too weak to lift a loaded bike while laying on my side in that little creek, but I managed to use my other leg to lift the bike a little bit then place a rock under my pannier to keep the bike a little more upright. Little bit by little bit, rocks by rocks, plus digging around my caught leg I got myself out, fortunately, after maybe an hour. At that altitute it's anything but easy.
Then I had to turn the bike around, in that little and narrow creek, it's not easy either. The bike is heavy. Then the rear wheel was just spinning so I turn the bike around, again and went down slowly.

This is where I spent a few hours exhausting myself; you can see the bike on the right corner.
I unloaded and reload the whole bike with all my stuff the go further down the road just to realize the road just gets worse and I need to go back the way I came. Unload the bike again and I spent some time arranging the rocks so it's a less bumpy ride up that "hill".
I took a deep breath, forgetting to turn my helmet cam on, and made it to the top before falling down again, but at least I can get back on the road. Can you see the bike on top on this photo?
Bring all my panniers bags and all the heavy stuff I carry from down to up that "hill", I'm out of water and exhausted, I risk to drink from the creek I have no other option. I decided to go back to the good road, but fall down many more times trying. Going downhill on a slippery surface is easier than going up. It's raining and running water is part of the road and makes the mud quite soft and slippery. I made  a video, which hopefuly will be uploaded soon!

As soon as I'm out the there and back on the road I the sun came out and I can see the Death Road from far;

I went to Coroico totally exhausted and starving, some Germans backpackers helped me find an hostel since my brain isn't working from lack of food. My 2 pieces of bread I had in the morning are far away and it took me the whole day to get out of where I was. Got my hostel just before dark...

I didn't take any picture of Coroico because it was raining the whole time and I wasn't in the mood. It quite warmer since it's lower altitude and at the edge of the Amazon jungle. The next day I waited for the rain to stop but it never happened so I had to leave at checkout time at noon. I'm in the jungle at about 30 celcius then go up in the mountains at hight altitude, rain and 0,5 celcius my bike said, in just a few kilometers.

I was quite happy to have a good meal at the hostel, something hard to find in Bolivia. All they seem to eat is chicken, you get tired fast of damm chicken with rice. Anyway after I bit of resting a roommate in my dorm told me about the San Pedro's Prison and the book he was reading:
One the the most famous and craziest prison in the world. Women and children are living in the prison with the inmates. The family's prisoners can go out selling stuff to bring them money. Prisonners can buy or rent their cells, some are like nice appartment others are shit holes. There are stores, restaurents, markets and Cocaine labs inside. People pay to get in for some tours or to stay in and do drugs which help financing the "system". It's all done by bribing the guards and everybody in is corrupted. I never imagined such a place existed. The book tells is all and made the prison quite famous, plus a few youtube videos and you get a very hight demand to get in the prison for an unofficial tour, so apparently price to get in also went up...

Since is was only 5 blocks from the hostel I went there just for fun, it's right in the middle of La Paz...
Here you can see a bit of inside. I didn't tried to get in a tour since it's probably expensive, a little risky and I don't want to take Cocaine.

I decided to leave to Oruro the next day, the 19th. Road looked like this;
Nothing so nice in Oruro. Lots of trash everywhere just on the outside of the town it doesn't look like a nice place, but at some time of the year there are Carnaval and festival which wasn't the case when I was there.
Had a nice hotel next to a busy bus station. Since buses and vans were always stopping to pick up of drop off people blocking all you can hear is honking, at all time all day long.

I watched TV and relaxed in my room that night, still tired from my experience at the Death Road.

Feb 20th 2011, had breakfast at that food stand since there were no reataurent offering anything else than chicken and there were about 20 of those just in that bus terminal area. Please no chicken for me!! Not for breakfast!!! I'm having a chicken overdose.  Anyway I ended up still eating chicken but in some kind of pastry with very good spices and a peanut sauce, it was good and at least it wasn't plain chicken with rice.
Some car racing just outside of town.
Road to Potosi:

Potosi, apparently the world's highest city at 4070m. I am now immunised to high altitude since I've spent enough time at those altitudes lifting my bike  and turning it around for hours and hours without food and water at the death road, now I don't feel the altitude sickness no more, well not at "only" 4000m anyway.  

Some gathering where the fun was to spray people with some king of foam. Nobody were spared, including me or even the homeless dogs.
Found an hostel with a drive in access and internet terminals. Right outside at the door I've met a Polish couple from UK biking South America on a KTM 990 adv. We decided to all stay in and have a meal together.
Marcin and Renata;
It's funny they've bumped into Wolf the German biker I've met in Peru.

Feb 21st,
Marcin and Renata went to Uyuni, I decided to stay there another day as I have a place with Internet and need to update a blog and I still need to rest, all my muscles are still stiff and tired.

The famous Salar de Uyuni will be next!

1 comment:

  1. Allô Sim,
    Impresionnant la route de la mort! Genre d'expédition à faire à deux. Ne trouves-tu pas?
    Tu as réussi à te sortir de là avec force et détermination. Imagines ce que tu pourras réaliser en revenant au pays avec ce genre d'énergie! Je souhaite que ce genre de voyage te fasse réaliser tout ce dont tu es capable. Lâches pas. On veut te voir avec tous tes morceaux! En tout cas - moi- j'ai hâte que tu reviennes.