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Dec 27th 2010 - Jan 10th 2011

Bolivia Cont.

 

27-30/12/2010

Cochabamba (Residencial Tajibos)

27/12/2010 - Most of our gear dried out overnight, just a few bits and pieces left that we couldn’t hang anywhere. Watched the news about all the snow in UK and Europe, we weren't jealous!

Wandered into town for lunch, tourist office and internet. We got a map of the city and some tips on places to go and see, just the usual, Colonial buildings, churches and some small museo’s. maybe we will look around later. Next is internet, tourist office recommended a bar/restaurant called Casablanca as it has the best connection and good cheap food.

We received an email (sent the day we left Sucre) from Skip and Rachel, the Aussie/Brits that accosted us in the supermarket in La Serena, Chile! They are now in Bolivia and had seen a post that I put on Horizons and thought we might be in the same area. They are bored with the wet and not having met up with many travellers and need some company. Reply sent, hopefully it’s not too late as we haven't had internet since we left Sucre

8 hours later we left!! Good food, huge pizza which I struggled with, good coffee and website updated.

28/12/2010 - We need a new cable for the music player, the one we have keeps cutting out, must have a break in it somewhere, or it’s the player itself, will check out MP3 player prices as well.

We are a good 20 minute walk into town from the hotel, and it is a big city.  We walked around for hours, got a new cable for not a lot and priced up new players … ouch!

Got a reply from Rachel and Skip, they are now in La Paz so we made a plan to meet them there.

Luckily we got back to the hotel just before the huge thunderstorm that lasted throughout the night.

29/12/2010 - After not getting much kip last night because of the storm we decided to stay put another day, catch up on sleep and watch T.V. Back to Casablanca for Dinner tonight, a disappointing Carbonara, very dry.

On the way in we noticed a lot of ash on most of the intersections and a strong fire smell in the air. We had heard on the local news that Evo Morales, the Bolivian President, was thinking of hiking up fuel prices. Apparently he has …. by a whopping 75%, the people aren't happy and there are protests in the streets with blockades, I’m not happy about it either, it was costing me less than £10 to fill up!

30/12/2010 - Up early for the run to La Paz. It’s raining, so wet weather gear on and off we go ….. No we don't! The bike won’t start again, not even with a bump, it’s trying but just won’t fire up, bugger! The hotel owner tells us of a few mechanics he knows of so off we trudge in the rain with all the gear on. 10 minutes later the rain stops, the sun comes out and we are melting. We didn’t find any of the mechanics we had been told about but found a workshop that had a couple of KTM’s and big Honda trailies being worked on, looks like a good bet. After explaining the problem we jump in the guys truck and head back to the hotel. The mechanic has a quick look and says it’s a fuel problem but he can’t do anything yet as it is lunchtime and he has to wait for his mate to return with the computer to check the bike properly. Off he goes saying he will be back at 14:00. Sure enough he’s back on time on his moped and he gives me a push back to the workshop and a lift back to the hotel, he will let me know what the score is later this afternoon.

Book back into the hotel for another night, on the ground floor this time. An hour later the mechanic is back, the problem is blocked injectors, most likely from the roadside fuel we bought at Padilla. Another strip down and clean out, the bike should be ready for 10:00 am tomorrow and he will deliver.

Back to Casablanca to email Skip and Rachel to let them know we will try to get to La Paz tomorrow but looking more like New Years Day.

There have been more fuel protests today, bigger from what we hear and a lot more rubbish on the streets. We were talking to a couple of guys who had not been able to get into their hostel for 6 hours and had to stay in a bar behind a police cordon, I can think of worse places to be stuck!!!

 

31/12/2010

Start Mileage - 32,079

Miles - 240

Cochabamba (Residencial Tajibos) - La Paz (Residencial El Carrietero)

Up early and pack everything except the coffee makings and wait for the return of the bike. 10:00 comes and the mechanic is back, without  the bike … arse! But not to worry, we get the thumbs up from him as he gets off his bike, ours is too big for him to ride back so he has come to get me. Confirmed dirty fuel and blocked injectors but no damage done, I’ll have to be a bit more careful filling up from the roadside and filter fuel through one of Lorraine’s t-shirts!! At the workshop I just want to pay up and get back to load up but I get pounced on by two local cops who luckily only want to talk about the bike and the trip.

11:15 - we’re pushing it too make good time to La Paz, looks like a quiet new Years eve for us.

The hotel owner gives us directions out of town and tells us where to find a good fuel station, with all the directions being given he forgets to charge us for last nights accommodation and of course it completely slips our mind as well, honestly!

Slow and hot going in the heavy traffic and the heat of the day but we eventually get out of town and start the climb up into the mountains. It is quite a quick climb into the mountains and within 20 or so minutes we are above 3,000 meters and the weather is changing, cooling down as we go higher then the mist and rain starts. At the top of the pass we are over 4,000 meters again and the rain has turned to snow and ice and it is freezing cold.

The weather got slightly better as we neared La Paz. Making good time we arrived around 17:00 and got our first view of La Paz, wow, it’s big!! We decided we would check out the Hola hostal we had seen online rather than be in Skip and Rachel’s face as they were with a couple of other Brits travelling by cycle that they had met up with earlier. La Paz is another South American city that doesn't make sense road wise, we have the exact location of the hostal but everytime we try to get there we are stumped by one way streets and no left or right turns. Eventually we get to the end of the street we need, the wrong end obviously and no entry. A local who has seen us riding around asks where we are looking for so we tell him “just up there”, pointing up the one way street. “No problem, just go against the traffic” he says. That would have been ok if it wasn't so narrow, cars parked on one side and only enough room for others to pass with nowhere for us to pull in to avoid, and a constant stream of traffic. We get other directions to get there and end up further away. Sod it! Pull over and ask a cop how we get to the hostal Skip and Rachel are at. A lot easier, should have just gone straight there and not worry about intruding. I say it was easier, navigating the streets was, but the hostal was up a steep cobbled hill, as we are going up Lorraine shouts “there it is”, just as we pass the turning. Now I’m stopped on a steep cobbled hill with traffic everywhere, the brakes aren't holding the bike and we are sliding backwards!! Lorraine jumps off to try and hold the traffic while I manoeuvre the bike back down the hill trying to avoid dropping it on the cobbles or the huge metal grids that are across the road. Just as I’m turning Rachel appears, glad that we made it, because we have to go down a narrow street against the traffic she tells us to park up on the side of the road and wait until the entrance into the hostal has been cleared so we can get in without frustrating other drivers by blocking the road. Entrance cleared and a break in the traffic we go for it, a bit of shunting to get in line with the planks to get up the three steps and through the gate, not much of a problem as we had a couple of guys helping and we just squeezed in. A quick change and we are out for some nosebag, us two, Skip, Rachel, Juliet and Steve. Bought a few beers on the way back and went up onto the hostal roof to see  in the New Year and the spectacular firework show going on all around the city.

 

Happy New Year

 

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01-04/01/2011

La Paz (Residencial El Carrietero)

01/01/2011 - Not much of a hangover this morning, not a very big drinking crowd. We all met for breakfast then went off and did our own things. Most of the shops shut for the holiday. Had lunch and did a bit of internet stuff. Met up with the rest of the guys for dinner as Steve and Juliet are off tomorrow.

02/01/2011 - Steve and Juliet had gone by the time we got up. Met Skip and Rachel for breakfast, they mentioned an English pub in town that did full English breakfast all day, I need bacon!!! Arranged to meet at the pub for 13:00.

Wandered around town a bit then off to the pub and had the best breakfast for a long time, with fried bread, (nearly) baked beans, black pudding, fried tomatoes, hash browns, eggs, sausage and proper bacon!! on two plates.

Every Sunday, just outside la Paz in El Alto the locals all go to watch “Cholitas wrestling”, basically WWE but a bit more cuffy, very staged!! Advertised as women's wrestling and there was also supposed to be dwarf wrestling, not very “PC” but it’s Bolivia not Europe or the U.S!! Something to do and it might be a laugh so we got tickets. The place was packed when we got there. It is still mostly for the locals but it is being geared more for the “Gringo’s”. Just as much fun watching the crowd as the wrestling, some of the locals got really into it and would have joined in by the looks of some of them. A fun afternoon.

03/01/2011 - Skip and Rachel heading off today so we got up early to say our farewells and to see how easy/difficult it is getting a loaded bike out of the hostal.

Having a bad time sleeping again at altitude so spent the rest of the day dozing and not much else. About 15:00 we had an almighty hail storm with hail the size of golf balls, it was reported on the news later that the weight of the ice had collapsed a roof just around the corner from where we are, also we are concerned about the effect it will have on the “Camino Del Muerte”, the “Road of Death” which we were planning on doing tomorrow.

04/01/2011 - Go or stay? Because of the weather yesterday and lack of sleep we decide to stay another day. It is dry and sunny today so should be good for us to do the “Road of Death” later.

Into town again, got a few bits and pieces and got the music player fixed.

 

05/01/2011

Start Mileage - 32,319

Miles - 92

La Paz (Residencial El Carrietero) - Coroico (Hostal Isos Silbos)

D Day or Death road day!!

The road starts about 60KM’s from La Paz at La Cumbre pass which is at 4,650 Meters ASL and drops to 1,200 Meters 45KM’s later at it’s end in Coroico. The road was built in the 1930’s during the Chaco war by Paraguayan POW’s. Very steep, twisty and narrow (sometimes only 3Meters wide) with 600 Meter drop offs, the road is said to claim between 100 and 200 lives a year. In 1983 a bus with over 100 people went over the side killing all. It got the name of the worst road in the world in 1995 after a survey was commissioned by the Inter American Development bank. Read more here.

 

Rig up the helmet cam, out of the hostal with no problems, fuel up and off we go. A nice run with tarmac all the way to Unuavi. Three police check points on the way, the first and second for drugs check then the third supposedly to check the condition of vehicles heading for the Death Road, no problems with any of them. We have seen a couple of videos and pictures of cyclists and bikers doing the road so we recognised that we were close to the start but unsure exactly where it was. We stopped at what we thought was the beginning but turned around to ask at the last checkpoint to confirm. The cop said that the road we thought was the start was correct. Back to the turn off, a quick smoke before we get going proper, Lorraine bawling ‘cos she is scared, mostly just because of the name. After getting her to calm down we get ready to move just as a load of 4x4’s turn up and get their video cams out so we decide to let them get sorted and in front of us rather than us holding them up. We gave them enough time so their dust would clear then set off, a bit nervous but happy. Very narrow and a lot of steep drops but great views, first scary part came at a sharp corner where a dog decided it wanted to eat my front wheel and ran right in front of the bike, back wheel skidding and sliding we missed it and stayed upright. Onwards and upwards, or rather downwards, we soon caught up with the 4x4’s and were eating their dust so we pulled in for another stop. More great views, twisty bends and drop offs then the tape in the camera runs out, I thought a one hour tape would have been enough for the 45KM run, my first thought that maybe we weren't on the right road. After pulling the bike apart looking for our last tape I find it at the bottom of the pannier, off we go again. The second inkling we might be on the wrong road was we had already done 60KM’s (remember it’s only 45KM’s) and we saw a sign for Coroico …. 60KM’s!!! Now we know we have gone wrong … keep plodding on, the road gets bad in places and we don’t seem to be getting anywhere, every sign we see doesn't seem to be getting us any closer. Eventually at 19:00 we arrive at Coroico in the pitch dark and exhausted having ridden over 100KM’s. Found accommodation, dumped the bike in a Parquedero and had some beers feeling a bit P***** off! We will just have to do it the wrong way around later … like Clarkson!

 

We later found out that the start of the Death Road was 100 or so Meters further than where we started, we had actually taken the “South Yungas” road rather than the “North Yungas” road, not quite the “Camino del Muerte” but considered to be just as dangerous. I would think, possibly now that the new road has been built from Coroico to La Paz and the old road is no longer used by trucks that the “South Yungas” road is now the new “Death Road” as it is still used by trucks and busses!!

 

No route. Tracker not working again!!

 

 

06-07/01/2011

Coroico (Hostal Isos Silbos)

06/01/2011 - Didn’t stir until 10:00 this morning. Apparently another huge storm overnight, thick clouds covering the mountains, clearing then returning and repeating all day. When the weather did clear enough to see the road it was too late in the afternoon to make a move. Check with the tourist office about weather conditions but no help, he did say though that doing the RoD backwards isn't a problem, just need good weather and be aware of insane cyclists coming down!

07/01/2011 - Alarm went off at 06:30, mountain couldn't be seen for the clouds, pack up anyway ready to load the bike if the weather clears. The rain stopped around midday but the clouds stayed. We will be here another night then! The price of the parking has gone up, forgot about day and night rates being separate!

 

08/01/2011

Start Mileage 32,411

Miles - 160

Coroico (Hostal Isos Silbos) - Copacabana (Hotel Gloria)

Alarm set for 06:30 again, no rain overnight but still very foggy. We can’t stay here indefinitely waiting for a clear day to come so we decide to cut our losses and ride out via the new road … disappointed to say the least!!

Go and collect the bike from the Parquedero and I notice that the bags we left strapped on have been tampered with, we are missing a towel and a pillow from one of the dry bags and one of the jerry cans has been opened. When we arrived, the woman that owns the parking assured us it was safe to leave stuff on the bike, we knew we shouldn't have believed her. After lots of complaining and the woman shrugging her shoulders not at all bothered we eventually get the gear back and she blames one of her little kids for swiping it, how she managed to open the jerry can I don't know!!! The first theft we have had all the way round.

A steep cobbled road out of town then another 8KM’s of cobbles, fun in the wet!! Onto the new road for a nice ride out through the mountains which started not too badly, then the cold, mist and rain came in and made us glad of the decision to take the new road. A quick stop in La Paz for fuel and money then the short hop over to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. Another great sight as we came around a corner and got our first sight of the lake then some good twisties on the way down to the shore. We stopped at a little restaurant in Huanari for a coffee and ended up having a huge trout fresh from the lake …. Tasty!

44KM’s to Copacabana, we turn a corner and nearly ride into the lake, not really, we have to get a ferry to cross the lake and it just appeared as we rounded the corner. Shades of crossing the Zambezi with the rickety boat and it is a ride on back off, hope the guys are going to give me a hand! Safely off the other side with assistance from the crew and some more good riding alongside the lake.

We arrived in Copacabana and went in search of a very cheap hotel that Dan and Claire, (who we met ages ago in Bajo Caracoles on the Ruta 40) had told us about. Found it no problem but it is full and not so cheap anymore either!! Hotel Gloria is just across the road and has secure parking so we go to try that one, again they are full. Lorraine does her bit and wanders off checking out the accommodation in town while I stay with the bike. There is a Kawasaki KLR on Argentinean plates parked in the car park, the owner comes out while I  am waiting, turns out he recognised me, we had met in El Calafate, small world syndrome!! While we are talking the receptionist comes out, they have managed to find us a room if we still want it, it is not in the main hotel but in a small annexe across the car park, looks quite nice, shower, bath, T.V. think it might be staff quarters but it will do. Lorraine comes back after checking hundreds of hostals, so she says!! All full because it is the weekend, she has found one that has a vacancy tomorrow but we can kip on the sofa in reception if we want, we opt for the staff quarters in Hotel Gloria.

 

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09-10/01/2011

Copacabana (Hostal Sonia)

09/01/2011 - Moved up to Hostal Sonia this morning and had breakfast while we waited for the room. Booked a trip for tomorrow to Isla de Sol.

On the ride in yesterday we had seen lots of cars covered in flowers and thought it must have been a big celebrity wedding or funeral, when we went into town we found out what it was, the church here blesses vehicles to ensure safe driving (so they can drink more!!!), there is a queue of trucks, busses and cars all waiting to be dressed in flowers and have alcohol poured over them as an offering to god, think I won’t get the bike done!

10/01/2011 - Isla del Sol. Another 06:30 alarm call this morning so we can get down to the front for the boat at 08:00, it is raining again so fully kitted up. 08:30 and we are under way, a little bit drizzly but soon turned into another downpour, all the “Yoof” that had thought it would be a good idea to sit out on the open top of the boat soon realised their mistake and crammed into the dry deck where the “sensible” people were sat .. lol. Two hours later we are at the first stop at the North of the island and it is hoofing it down again, sensible people headed straight for the café’s for breakfast.

We had to be back at the boat for 13:30. It is a 40 minute walk each way to the Inca ruins at the Sacred Rock, Chicana Kasa Pata and Pilco Kaiama which in the Inca religion is where the Sun God was born, so by the time the rain had stopped there wasn't enough time to get all the way, we would have been pushed even if it was dry! On the way up the climb we passed two young guys ambling along and huffing and puffing, they caught us up when we stopped for a smoke and gave us “Big respect” for charging past them and then stopping for a smoke, and we are at least twice their age!!!

Back to the boat for the required time as were most of the people but as usual there is always one that doesn't listen, 10 minutes after due departure time one of the missing party turned up as we were pulling away, there were three others but they were still on their way back to the jetty so we went back and waited. The other punters on the boat were getting a bit pee’d off by now and were demanding that we got going and left them there, at 14:00 after much complaining from everyone on board the skipper decided it was probably in his best interest to get going so we left the one guy on the jetty shouting abuse. Don’t know if they made it back, I think we were the last boat back so it would have been a night in a pricey hostal for them!!!! With all the delay the second stop at the Southern end of the island wasn't really worth bothering about as again it was a good 30 minutes each way to the ruins and we only had 30 minutes before we left again, just enough time to get a coffee. Back on the boat and one more scheduled stop at the Sun Temple but as soon as we started to pull in to the jetty the majority of people on board were yelling to just get back to Copacabana as it had been such a crap tour. Lucky it wasn't an expensive tour!!

Had some good lake trout again for dinner.

 

 

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