La Paz - Bolovia
04.01.2009 - 07.01.2009 15 °C
Sunday the 4th of January
After a great nights rest we packed our gear and headed out the door of the Inka´s Rest Hostel with smiles on our faces. This place really was a fantastic hostel and had a great feel about it.
We headed to the bus terminal in Puno and hopped on our day bus that would be taking us through to Bolivia. Just under 4 weeks have been spent in Peru and I can safely say that we have got our monies worth! From the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, to the Colca Canyon to Cusco and more and more and more.
We hit the border after a couple hours in the bus and went through the normal process. Exit stamp form one place, entry stamp into another, money exchange and we were done! First impressions of Bolovia was quite nice as we stopped at a small town on the edge of Lake Titicaca (Bolovian side) called Copacabana to change buses and have some lunch. We hopped into a lakeside restraunt and each ordered ourselves fish with rice and saled and chips all for a whopping AUD3.75! I immediately liked Bolivia!!!
Once back on the bus we headed South for La Paz with a brief stop in between to catch a ferry across Lake Titicaca before arriving into the highest city (3660M above sea level) in the world around 6pm. Next thing on the list was to find a place to stay for the next 3 or so nights. One thing we have done pretty much the entire trip so far is just rock up to the the city where we are going and find somewhere from there. It seems better and also sometimes cheaper and so far we have had so problems (fingers crossed) We found a place within 10 minutes which had private rooms, private showers, and breakfast for AUD10 per person. Again I thought to myself I like this country!
Once settled in we headed out for some dinner to a local pizza place and had a couple of drinks before turing it in for the night and to Mon´s delight watching some English TV!
Monday the 5th of January
Up and at it today with plans to do a city tour of La Paz of some sorts so after some breakie we headed out and found ourselves a tour company that offered what we were after. Once sorted we had some time to kill before the tour started so we headed towards San Pedro Plaza where we were hoping to find some information about visiting San Pedro Prison. San Pedro Prison is the largest prison in La Paz and holds approx 1500 inmates. Inside there are 8 sections which vary from top class to 1 star (which the prisoners have to pay for themselves), plus restraunts, and lots of other small businesses all that are run by the inmates themselves. This gives them an income while they are inside which helps them pay for what they needs while doing their sentence. Also while inside alot of the times there wives and kids will stay inside with them rather than be thrown on the street or worse whle the husband is doing his time. There is also alot of drugs being produced and sold (mainly cocaine) that is widely known about but ignored as the money it brings in is too good to refuse. This prison is a different to any other prison in the world as it allows tourists to be taken through (limited daily) and shown prison life within the walls. Sounds like a stupid idea huh?? So when we were approached in San Pedro Square and asked if we would like to go in what do you think we said??? Hell yes!!!! So we went to the bank, cashed up (its an expensive tour but where else are you going to be able to visit an active prison in the world!!) and were taken into the entrance for registration and a quick briefing.
Once we signed in and were told that cameras were not allowed but you could take as many pictures as you wanted once inside and away from the guards we were taken through the gates and introduced to our guide (a prisoner who can speak English) and our 2 bodyguards. For the next two hours we were taken through the sections of the prison, shown cells, businesses, and many other things that were all a completely new experience to all of us. Not once did any of us feel unsafe as I believe the people inside really respect us coming through as it is a source of income that they can get through us.
Once we finished our tour we were taken into a cell and sat on the bed for a quick thankyou from our guide. I asked him why he was inside the walls and he expained that like about 80% of the inmates in here it had something to do with drugs. From here of course he wanted a tip plus a small amount for each camera that we used while inside. Once satisfied with our offering he led us to the exit and we were free!!!! An awesome and strange experiece for all of us which I am sure I will not encounter again. Unless I go back to La Paz that is!!!
We quickly had a bit to eat and then got back to our hotel for our 2:30pm pick up for the city tour that we had organised early in the day.
Firstly we headed out of town and were taken to a place called Valle De La Luna (Valley of the moon) which was a short drive out of La Paz. Once here we were taken around the site that was a maze of canyons and pinnacles that had been eroded over time. It really reminded Krystal and I of Cappadocia in Turkey and was great to wonder around and enjoy the frsh air away from the hustle and bustle of the city. From here we made our way slowely back towards La Paz but before hitting the centre we made a quick stop at a view point that gave us an awesome look out over the city. La Paz itself is an amazing place as it is pretty well plonked in 3 canyons and from above is one of the best cities I have ever seen.
After a couple of snaps we headed into town for a quick walk around and then taken back to our hotel about 7pm. The tour was fantastic and our guide was one who enjoyed his job and really had passion about the place. It really makes the difference in good tours and great tours I believe.
Once back at the hotel the day didnt stop there. We headed back to the travel agent and arranged for the following days activities which included Ted, Mon, Krystal, and I booking ourselves to mountain bike the wolrds most danerous road, and Sharon to head out on a day tour to some famous ruins (I will let het explain them to you cause I havent a clue). Finally we were finshed for the day and we headed to a nearby restraunt, had a couple cervesas and some great dinner before heading to bed excited about what we did that day and what was on offer the following day.
Tuesday the 6th of January
Agian another early get up (this trip was clearly not designed to be a sleeping holiday) and we were in our van ready for a day of mountain biking by 7am. After driving for an hour or so we had to stop at a checkpoint before we were allowed to finish our drive to our location. After an hour or so of waiting and watching every other tour company pass by we were starting to get a little concerned. Then to add to our thoughts a traffic partol officer walked past me, Ted, and another guy on our tour and chuckled something in Spanish. ´´What did he say?´´ I asked. ´´You are not going anywhere, your driver does not have his licence with him´´ the fella translated to us!!! Great now what are we going to do we all thought. So after another hour or so our driver finally makes it back to us (I think he got a cab back to the city or something) with his licence and we were back on track. it actually worked out well for us as we were so far behind the rest of the tour groups we had the road to ourselves.
Ok so a quick run down on ´´The Worlds Most Dangerous Road´´ The road was built in 1930 and is called Yungas Road. The length of it is approx 61kms and supports dropoffs of up to 600m with little to no rails. Also the road is single lane, unsealed, and is often in fog, rain, or both! It was said that up to 2200 people since 1992 have been killed on this road, plus another 22 mountain bikers to be thrown in there!!!!
Back to us now and once we were kitted up with our bikes and gear we were on the road and ready to go. The first part of the ride was great as it was all on sealed road and smooth sailing for 30 minutes or so. We could pick up some great speeds and zoom past trucks at our leisure. We stopped off for a break and quickly loaded the bikes back on the van (uphill section, only do downhill on hoidays!!) before stopping off at the beginning the Yungas Road. The good thing about this section is this is where the old road and the new road seperate. In 2006 after 20 years of construction a replacement road was opened to public leaving the old road as only a route for mountain bikers and minimal traffic. From here it started to get fun!
We headed off on the dirt/stoney road and bounced our way all the way to the bottom. 3 hours (something like that) of bouncing, braking, lots of braking, and resting we made it to the bottom of the road. In between the start and end we were riding on sheer cliff edges, admiring the views, and concentrating on staying on our seats.
The ride was amazing and the weather again stayed kind to us as it has so far the whole trip really. We were also shown the spot where in 1983 a bus went off the edge of the road and killed 100 people which is said to be the worst ever accident in Bolovias history. Something that needs to be pointed out is Krystals grit and determination! About 1/2 way down she was very very close to hopping in the van and hang up the gloves form the mountain bike but powered on the make it to the end. Pure guts by the girl I have to say! I also had a part in it as I said that she would not be allowed to wear the T-Shist that you are given at the end if she didnt ride the whole way down!!!!
Once we cleaned ourselves up we headed to a local hotel for a buffet lunch (5pm mind you) and then made our way slowely but surely back to La Paz along the new road before finally arriving back to the hotel about 9:30pm. Sharon patiently waiting for us bikers to return and we all headed out for a late dinner, some drinks and our final supper of the holiday!
Wednesday the 7th of January
Pretty boring day this one really. We had our breaky with the five of us before a sad (only brief this time) goodbye to Sharon and Ted. Sharon cried again which was a given and was predicted by Mon and Krystal earlier that morning!! From there we went to the bar and chucked a huge party as the parents were now gone!! No only joking I have to say that it was an amazing 3 weeks for the 5 of us and something that we will all remember I am sure.
For the 3 of us today was really a catch up day on all the boring stuff. Some shopping for USB memory sticks (we need another 16GB for pics), arrange our Uyuni Salt Flats Tour and night bus, basic supplies, some touristy stuff, internet, and relaxing.
Before we new it we were picked up from the hotel at 6pm, taken to the bus terminal and put on the overnight bus for next destination, Uyuni
Take care all
M and K