Published: July 5th 2009June 20th 2009
OK, so I realize that this whole blogging adventure has not worked out incredibly well and that I am a few weeks behind where I should be but I wanted to write a quick update about my last few days in Bolivia. Please discount the fact that I have been in three countries since Bolivia...
One of the most exhilirating experiences of my trip so far was mountain biking down what they called the World's Most Dangerous Road, or the Death Road, outside of La Paz. Whispers about this old highway that winds downhill through the jungle flanked by sheer cliffs had been on backpackers' lips for weeks and weeks but at first throught that it was only for the testosterone-laden. I decided to do it for sure when I heard about the stunning natural beauty of the place and I want to clarify that for me the adrenaline rush was not even close the most important part of this adventure.
The day began high in the mountains where the air is chilly and the padding we layered on served not only for protection but also for warmth. Our first few kilometers were asphalt highway. Me, and the ten men riding with me, began heading downhill nervously but grew to trust our super high tech bikes as well as ourselves, eachother, and the cars around us. After the asphalt section we entered the national park and began the Death Road proper, which was gravel and dirt and featured some pretty sharp corners that merited many a "curva peligrosa" sign. We cycled some 80 km. in total, if I'm not mistaken, and at the end of the day were given t-shirts to prove that we had survived as well as a dip in a pool and a hot shower plus a buffet lunch as a congratulations of sorts.
Reflecting back on this experience I am so glad that I decided to take in this excursion and brave the death road. The beauty of the surrounding Bolivian jungle was truly stunning. The route is not without danger - in my hostel alone two people were seriously injured the day that I rode and there was a young British traveller killed just over a month beforehand - but if you are careful and sensible the most trouble you'll get in to is eating a couple of bugs and perhaps tearing your pants on the gears like I did. It is an exciting, beautiful, boundary-pushing adventure not to be forgotten anytime soon.
After tackling the Death Road I headed to Lake Titicaca, which was a bit disappointing, really. Although certainly a beautiful, enormous lake, I can't say that I support its candidacy as one of the seven wonders of the natural world. It's bascially just a beautiful, enormous lake that happens to be at a significant altitude. I found Copacabana to be a charming town full of tourists and I didn't have enough time to devote to the Isla del Sol or the Floating Islands, both of which seemed to be intended for foreigners who have sapped what might have once been special. This was very unfortunate for me to find and I wish I could have spent more time at the Lake to try to see some of its magic. As it was it "dont impress me much" as Shania Twain would so eloquently put it.
And that was Bolivia. The salt flats and the death road as highlights. I rushed through the country becuase of a run-in with the Bolivian Red Cross that I wont detail here and headed to Peru to meet my parents visiting from Canada. But that is another story.