La Paz - Cusco Redux

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September 3rd 2007
Published: September 4th 2007
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On the Way to TiahuanacoOn the Way to TiahuanacoOn the Way to Tiahuanaco

This is an excellent example of what most public transport looks like in South America.
I travelled straight from Buenos Aires to La Paz, a trip which lasted 3 days. Bus-train-bus, and in La Paz I stayed at the Hostal Austria, which was filled with Japanese people.
I figured I'd spend a few days there doing the things I wanted to do my first time through, but skipped because I was rushing to get to the hypocritical Dutch farm in the jungle.
Really this was just visiting the ruins of Tiahuanaco, which are about 70 from La Paz, near the southern shore of Lake Titicaca. This site was the center of one of the most important pre-Inca cultures (creatively known as the Tiahuanaco culture) for about 500 years until it collapsed around 1000AD.
The site itself was really rather uninteresting - it's in pretty bad shape. But the location is impressive, way way up high (3800m) on the altiplano, the sun baking down on endless grey brown stretching off into the distance.
Back in La Paz, I stopped by the office of Gravity Assisted mountain biking to check out their book exchange and got talked into riding a mountain bike down "The World's Most Dangerous Road" (so named by Inter-American Development Bank in 1995 because more
At TiahuanacoAt TiahuanacoAt Tiahuanaco

Um, ruins. 'Nuff said.
people died on it every year than any other road in the world), which runs from La Paz to Coroico, in the jungle north of La Paz. On this bike ride you descend from something like 4300m to 1500m in 6 hours. It was amazing, starting out in the early morning up in the barren mountains, with local priests burning suspicious-smelling offerings under a nearby blue tarp. The first 10km or so are on asphalt, so rather easy... then you get to the fun part. Being about 4 hours descent down a one-lane, rutted pitted rocky dirt road with 600m cliffs off the side. On the upside, a new road was recently completed, meaning there are now almost no cars on this one. Just a lot of crazy gringos on bikes.
After these two activities, I felt I was done with Bolivia, so headed back on up to my favorite place (so far) in South America, Cusco. I had a job interview there, and had decided that it wouldn't hurt to see Machu Picchu again.
I went the same route (the cheap back way), but switched it up a bit: this time I bought an entrance ticket, took the tourist
Disclaimer: Not My PhotoDisclaimer: Not My PhotoDisclaimer: Not My Photo

Nothing to worry about as busses no longer use this road.
bus up the mountain, and came back to Cusco by walking 28km along the railroad tracks to Ollyantaytambo, then catching a series of collectivos. I was also there later in the day and during the high season, and the place was absolutely packed with group tours. It does take away from your perception of the energy of the place somewhat to be walking around in a khaki herd. However, I developed a nice method of just hanging out at each major step in the tours and listening to the tour leaders who came by - and as all the tours seemed to be in English, Spanish, or Italian, this worked out very nicely.
From Cusco I took a 24 hour bus to Lima, passing through the Nasca-Ica-Pisco area that was so damaged in the recent earthquake... lots of people queuing for items being handed out from buses, lots of tents set up amongst fallen mud brick walls.
I headed right past, feeling guilty as hell, to go hiking in Huaraz.

Additional photos below
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La PazLa Paz
La Paz

That's Mt. Illimani in the background.

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