Up early and ready for Top Gear, we had breakfast and then were in reception for half eight. We thought there were only going to be six of us but then another three guys turned up, one of the receptionists Diego and two Irish guys.
After 10 minutes Pablo turned up and ushered us to the waiting taxi's, five people in each taxi, excluding the driver, so three in the front, three in the back. This seems to be the way to do things in Bolivia, saved a few Boliviano's though! We even drove past a few sets of traffic cops, who didn't even look imagine if we had been doing that in the UK!!!
Pablo gave us a running commentary of the city explaining all about the politics and how the old President was corrupt and how the new president had an assassination plot against him quashed and that all the people involved were dead, in prison, or had fled the country.
Next we drove past the football stadium, I think it was the national one, the Bolivians are very into their football. He said how they had beaten Argentina there and how proud of their team they were for that. It would have been great to see a match there, the atmosphere would have been electric, a bit different to the matches back home I would have thought. We carried on our tour and kept on going through the city seeing all the different areas rich and poor, it was good to see both sides of the coin.
We had arrived! All three of the cars were there lined up outside, I was so excited driving the Top Gear death road cars, not copies or replica's, the real things!!! Martin the ex BBC producer who had rescued the cars and had set up the tour (which was a bit exclusive as not many people had done it) explained how he had done it then got us to sign the usual insurance bits and pieces before we got on our way.
Three of us had to drive the cars out of the city so I put up my hand to drive the Toyota! It was the old Land Cruiser driven by Hammond in the show. It was amazing as we drive through the city, the Toyota was probably the most recognised of the three vehicles.
First stop the fuel station where we had to fill up. The other two went through ok but they had forgotten the key for the fuel cap on the Toyota! We had to wait about fifteen minutes before the key turned up and we could fill the tank. I had to maneuver the truck a couple of times, I forgot how hard it is to drive without any power steering. Then we were on our way driving through the winding streets stopping occasionally because one of the cars had a problem. Very Top Gear! They all had their quirks where the on board mechanic has to stop and sort them out. The Toyota was running too rich, the Suzuki had a dodgy battery and the Range Rover had a bad alternator and spilled loads of fuel when it went round the tight corners. Luckily we had Ricardo the mechanic who ran back and forth between the cars getting then going. He really earnt his money that day!
We climbed through the city towards the mountains, at one point I accidently nudged the Range Rover forgetting the size of the bullbar on the front of the Toyota, Martin just laughed! We stopped at a good viewpoint of the city and everyone hoped out to take pictures, I went drove into the back of the Range Rover again by mistake as you had to leave the car in gear when you stopped as there was no handbrake. The dent that was already in the back was a whole lot bigger after I'd finished with it but no one minded.
We swopped drivers to give everyone a go in all the cars. We carried on until we got to the next point to swap over, we had to wait for the Range Rover to catch up as it had stalled again further down the hill. Stuart then drove it into the ditch and it stalled again so the Toyota had to pull it out. Before we started off again we took some pictures and the crew went on ahead to get some good pictures and video.
Sarah had taken on the task of driving the Land Cruiser and as we headed higher into the mountains it started to get a lot, lot, colder especially in the Toyota which had no roof or doors. Martin and the guys were great though giving us their coats to keep us warm, me and Sarah were so cold as we only had shorts on as we had expected to go on a different route and for it to be warm! Pablo hadn't told us very much about what to expect!
After various breakdowns and stopping for more video and pictures we stopped at the lunch point which was a sort of base camp for people climbing the mountains in that area, it was great to get in the warm. We had a packed lunch, some coke and also some hot tea to get us warm again, after lunch we jumped in the Range Rover as it seemed the warmest of the three! After getting used to the throttle as you had to keep the rev's up to stop it from stalling, we made steady progress back down the mountain stopping to take them off road for a bit…
As soon as we did this they all broke down at once which was funny. After lots of mad running around Ricardo eventually managed to get the Suzuki started first and that pulled out the Toyota which was then jump started down the hill. Then we tried to use the Toyota to start the Range Rover but that didn't work so we had to use the little Suzuki again to pull out the car so we could bump start that down the hill too. It was my fault the Range Rover stalled really as I told Sarah to go the wrong way and she couldn't keep the revs up as it was too steep.
The little Suzuki was really impressive though as none of it believed it had the power to tow both larger vehicles back onto the track, even Martin!
We got them all going and headed back down the mountain towards the city again, you could feel it getting warmer again and by this stage me and Sarah had jumped into the Suzuki, it wasn't a bad ride just a bit bumpy. Quite nippy for a 1.3 and I ended up driving it all the way back to the yard in La Paz through all the rush hour traffic which was moving about a meter at a time. It took about 3 hours! After that we all shook hands and then tried to find a taxi which was a lot harder than first assumed. We eventually hailed one and got back to the hostal and got something to eat, by that time all everyone wanted to do was go to bed and sleep, we all had an early start the next morning as we had a flight to catch to the jungle at six so had to get up at four thirty to finish packing and get the taxi to the airport.
Next the jungle…..