La Paz

La Paz Travel Blog

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After very nearly missing my flight to out of Cuzco, due to some late night pool playing with some local kids, I was quickly introduced to Bolivian lifestyle.  About 15 minutes into the winding driving from the El Alto to the city centre, our cab was hailed down by a cop who demanded a bribe from the driver, who was less than pleased about this.  He then dropped me off at my hostel, Adventure Brew Hostel, which is just my kind of place. It has a microbrewery on site, free beer and free pancakes, but unfortunately not available at the same time.  Anyways, after spending the first night in the bar meeting some people from all over, I went to bed early as I was to do the infamous Death Road mountain bike ride.  The Death Road is a stretch of unpaved gravel path really, which itself isn't all that bad.  It winds down a jungled valley about 50 or 60km with 200-600m cliffs dropping straight off the sides.  Its really not all that dangerous it seemed to me, I believe that its more due to the insanity of Bolivian drivers, who will pass each other around blind corners regularly, that cause the high amounts of deaths.  It was a slightly unsetteling to see the crosses along the road as we rode down, but I don't believe many were for bikers.  The company I was with was great also. Really good gear and bikes, dual suspension Kona's with disc brakes, probably $2000 at home I would guess.  A cool part was the drive out as we got to watch a couple biking videos in the van.  One of the videos was Red Bull Rampage 2008, which is some crazy mountain bike competition in Utah. In the middle of the video they started showing guys like Thomas Vanderham and Geoff Gulevich, two guys from Deep Cove that I know, so I explained to the guides that they were friends of mine, so they were quite impressed. 
After surviving the Death Road, I stayed up all night again with some guys I met from the bike tour and with a little more than an hour and half of sleep made my way back up to the airport for my flight into the jungle town of Rurrenabaque.  Unfortunately it had rained in Rurre the night before making our trip not possible that morning. The thing with the airport in Rurre is it doesn't exactly exist, its basically a dirt road which the planes land on, so when it rains they can't fly. I headed back to the hostel for some needed sleep, and was told to call at 2 to get the weather report.  I got up at 1 to call, and discovered from so Irish people that they were heading up there now as they had a flight at 430. So I rushed up to the travel agency in the hostel, and the woman informed me I was somehow on a flight at 230, despite not having been told. I made my way frantically to the airport, discover there was no such flight and I was now of a flight out at 6. I gave up and my new Irish friends and I got some beers to blend in with the carefree locals.  Sure enough at 6pm our flight left, and within 45 minutes we came soaring into the jungle and landed on the mud road safely.  We checked into a hotel, only $4 dollars for the night, not too bad, and then booked a 3 day tour into the Pampas, for only $65, everything included, just great. 

The next day we headed out along a 3 hour dirt road to the boats which we floated down to the camp about another 2 hours downstream.  Our guide, Fernando, was just the guy you wanted to take you out in a dugout canoe into pirana and crocodile infested waters.  A stocky, moustachioed madman who constantly was singing or drinking.  Our group, consisting of myself, 3 Irish people, 2 hilarious Germans and 2 stereotypically weird Poles all had a great time getting to know one another the first night, heading over to the Sunset Bar and did just that, drank beer and watched the sun go down.  The next morning at 540 we got up and went to watch the sun rise which was equally beautiful, but hte pictures I have make it difficult to tell which is which.  After that we came back, had breakfast and went out for a hike to look for anacondas. Unfortunately, we were visiting in the dry season and found nothing interesting at all, but it wasn't all that bad we just joked around with Fernando the entire time.  Nap time was followed by a ride up the muddy river, seeing many crocodiles, capybaras, which look like an enormous guinea pig, birds of paradise, turtles, and many other animals, to go swimming with the pink dolphins which live in the river.  We were all a little aprehensive about jumping into water you can't see 3 inches into when the entire drive we had seen crocodiles sitting on the banks with their jaws open, but Fernando assured us it was safe, "no problema, chicos" and jumped in, so we all followed. The water was incredibly warm, not even refreshing really, but still was cool to swim around in.  It wasn't the crocodiles which bit us though, but the piranas and sardines which would bite your nipples quite regularly, an unsettling feeling.  After swimming, we made the obligatory stop at the Sunset Bar, and after an hour or so, Fernando and his other guide buddies had started an improntu band session on the hammocks. Our group stayed much longer than anyother, mostly due to the other groups being incredibly dull and headed back with a crate of beer to enjoy the night with.  We had forgotten our flashlights and it was now pitch black but Fernando, true to form, knew the way despite being very drunk. he followed the reflection of the stars off the calm river while getting us to the camp safely all while singing and playing guitar the whole time. That night we drank till quite late, jumped in the water again, not realzing until the morning that a crocodile had been camped out on the beach we were swimming off of, but in the end we all survived with nothing more than a headache the next morning.  We then headed back to Rurrenabaque and La Paz for a well deserved huge slumber.  
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La Paz
photo by: wilfredoc2009