Hola from Bolivia!
I took the bus from Puno,in Peru, to Cococabana in Bolivia and then jumped on another bus to La Paz. When I got to the bus station in Puno, I was told my bus ticket hadn´t arrived at the office so I was waiting- with five minutes until my bus departed- for my ticket. Thankfully, someone delivered it on time and I was on time for the bus. When I got on the bus, however, someone was in my seat and seemed to take forever for someone to sort it. I was finally given a seat and had no one next to me so I could spread out 😊 On the way to Cococabana, I had to cross the boarder. It was pretty much straight forward. I had to see the police on the Peru side, go to the Peru boarder office to hand in my exit card then walk over the boarder to Bolivia where I then had to give in my entrance document. Thankfully, I have a British passport as some countries have to pay to get into Bolivia! I carried on in my journey and caught the bus to La Paz.
as I arrived at La Paz, I walked around trying to find my hostel and as I couldn´t find it I decided to ask at another hostel to help direct me. The guy working there had no English but was very nice to me and tried to help me as much as possible. Finally, I made it to my hostel and decided to book to go to Death Road, with a company called Gravity, the next morning. I wasn´t sure what I was letting myself in for.
To explain what Death Road (aka La Carratera de los Yungas) is : it is one of the world´s most dangerous roads, a rocky road surrounded by beautiful, steep mountains. According to www.dangerousroads.org, on average, 26 vehicles plummet over the edge each year and since 1998 at least 20 cyclists have died. Throughout my travels of South America, people have told me about Death Road and their experiences, for example, people falling over the top of their handle bars and people breaking their ribs and arms!However, all in all, people have said how fun it was. I thought to myself, as long as I take it slow I would be fine. Everyone
I had met had been safe and they had only apparantly had people in their group that bad things had happened to. I was sure I would be safe too.
I got up early to meet my group at a cafe in town. I then met my group and we set off on a 45 minute journey up the hill to reach 4800 metres. I was a bit worried that I would be really cold again, like I was when I went to Machu Picchu, so I made sure I put on extra layers this time! The view at the top was beautiful and the sun was shining so it didn´t feel that cold. We got kitted out with our helmets, gloves and clothes and received our bikes. We had a little play around to make sure the breaks etc were working and then surrounded our guide, Andy. Pachamama, Mother Earth, is very sacred to a lot of South Americans. They toast her before every meeting and festivities. In this case, we had to toast Pachamama before our bike ride. We were given a bottle of very strong alcohol and had to toast the earth, our bikes then let
the bottle touch our lips to taste the alcohol slightly...it burnt my lips!! After the toasting, we set off on an easy paved road for 16km to get used to our bikes. The cycling was all down hill and we stopped along the way to take in the beautiful view.
Towards the end of the 16km we reached a bridge that we had to go around. At the side of the bridge, was a rocky road. We were shown how to ride the road successfully but it didn´t quite prepare me being flung everywhere! I was a little bit scared for when we finally reached death road!
We met down the road at a drugs check point. In South America, people grow a lot of coca plants for medicinal and traditional purposes. Unfortunately, some people use this plant to make cocaine so the drugs check point is there to check cars for what they are carrying. I saw a few cars go past and not one of them was stopped...hmmm.
We then got the opportunity to go back in the van for 20 minutes or keep on riding the road- uphill. At that altitude there was no chance!
At the end of the hills, we got back our bikes and landed on Death Row...I mean Death Road 😊 We were again shown how to ride the bikes over rocks and how to turn the corners. We were warned that some of the other companies didn´t instruct the cyclists very well and I definitely noticed this along the bike ride!!! Gravity Tours is a lot more expensive then the other companies but I am glad I paid the extra as they really cared about our welfare.
I started down the road and I thought OMG what on earth am I doing! We rode for small intervals at first so that we could have a break from the intense feeling of feeling scared...at least that´s what it felt like for me. It was true, the faster you go, the easier it is to pass over the rocks on the road as we had good suspension on our bikes. We were, however, riding downhill which meant we were travelling really fast so I liked to apply my breaks quite often to slow me down. This worked for me for quite a while. Towards the end, we started riding for longer periods
which meant that the distance between each cyclist got quite big meaning I couldn´t see the person in front or behind me. I was really enjoying the ride and thinking to myself: I really wish I had a Go Pro to record this brilliant, yet very scary journey. All of a sudden, I am being thrown off my bike and went skidding across the gravel, banging my knee and scraping my arms. I looked up and took a deep breath, looking at my body to see where I had hurt myself. My knee was hurting but everywhere else felt fine. Thank goodness I didn´t break anything or fall off the edge!! As there was no one around, I had to just get up and carry on. About ten minutes previous to this, I had taken off my Gravity jacket that would have protected my arms from being scraped. Oh well, at least I was alive!
I made it to the next check point and showed Andy my arms. He cleaned it up for me and we carried on again. From then on, I was much more careful, riding a little bit more slowly and stopped thinking how much I
wanted a Go Pro! The rest of the ride was scary but I was in control. There were some places, however, that I couldn´t really see the road very well in front of me as there was sand blowing in my face or the road was covered by shadow. This meant I couldn´t work out where the big rocks were. A few times my bike swerved but I didn´t fall off. Yay 😊
I made it to the bottom safe and sound, heart pumping and big smile on my face that I had conkered Death Road.
Would I do it again...probably not but it was a brilliant experience and THE scariest thing I have done in my life as I was totally in control of my fate!
I arrived back at my hostel later that evening and quickly got my stuff sorted to get my bus to Uyuni. As I am close to the end of my travels, I trying to fit in as much as possible so not getting a lot of rest between each place. I arrived at the bus stop and realised I hadn´t booked a hostel! I got some internet access at the
bus stop and found out all the hostels on hostelbookers, hostelworld and bookimg.com had booked up. I then looked at hotels and they were way too expensive for my budget. I wasn´t sure what I was going to do until I met a girl on the bus, Camille, who was going to try and get straight on a 3 day tour of Solar de Uyuni. I decided I would go too as it seemed the best option rather than paying lots for a hotel!
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