So far my stay in La Paz has been pretty interesting and im sure it will continue that way. We arrived on the 22nd and went for a little city walk with our tour leader, on the way he booked tickets for the Bolivia Death Road bike ride, which is down the worlds most dangerous road, as shown on Top Gear not too long ago. Unfortunately it was $102 US and I could not afford it so reluctantly declined. Everyone else in the group was doing it but I wasnt too upset about missing out on it. We spent the afternoon in a bar called Oliver´s Travels, which is a main backpacker location but I will explain more about the bar later.
The following day the rest of the group arrived and we went on another city walk and explored the market. That evening we spent In Oliver´s for tea and a few drinks when the worst thing happened. After spending months in Peru visiting some places I have spent years waiting to go to and finally getting the opportunity to go and take photos, my camera was stolen. We were all sitting in a group around a table and I had my camera on there. I turned round for no longer than a minute to talk to someone and when I turned back the camera was gone. Its a shame to lose all my photos however I have a back up of my ones from Huancayo at the volunteer house and everyone on the tour has taken lots of photos so I can get copies but I would have liked to have my photos. As I had to decline the bike ride due to funds and then with my camera stolen I was pretty gutted so as a surprise all the other people on the tour clubbed together to pay for me to do the bike ride. Even though it was an absolutely amazing offer I had to decline as it was a lot of money and my money is my responsibility but they insisted and wouldnt take no for an answer! I couldnt believe their generosity and was more than grateful for it. It also meant I was able to do the Death Road Bike Ride, something I had wanted to do for a long time!!
The following day we set off at 7am on a mini bus, climbing from 3600m to 4700m where the bike ride began. It was absolutely freezing where we began the bike ride as it was so high so we layered up, had our safety speech and off we went. The first part of the bike ride is just down a paved road. Its called Gravity Assisted Cycling because as you are so high whenever you reach a slight down hill you build up speed very quickly as gravity pulls you down. Its pretty amazing to feel how fast you are going as you go down hill and round corners with the icy wind blowing in your face, I never expected to go as fast but loved it. After about an hour or so we reached the beginning of the Death Road. This is when the road leaves the tarmac and turns basically to rubble for the rest of the way. As we set off it was still foggy and cold as we were still high up but nothing prepared us for when we turned the first corner and all we could see was a sheer drop on one side of the road. That drop would be with us for the rest of the journey. We all slowed down when we first saw the drop, at least for a little while. It may be adrenaline or it may be stupidity but after you are aware of the road width (which is at its widest 3m) and the distance you are from the cliff you cant help but build up speed and we descended the road faster and faster avoiding the larger rocks and pot holes on the way. Its hard to explain but you forget about the sheer drop which you could go over at any time and you just get on with having the most intenst experience ever! We spent the entire afternoon riding down the hill, stopping for explanations of how to handle difficult sections of the road. On the way down you also pass a lot of crosses and memorials on the roadside, pretty unnerving!
After a day of cycling we made it to the bottom to La Sende Verde Lodge, which is an animal sanctuary and restaurant where we were given our t shirts to prove we survived and a nice cold beer which was much appreciated. As we were being told about the work the sanctuary does, a spider monkey came strolling along and sat with us the entire time. Then on our way to the restaurant the spider monkey walked up along side me, held my hand and continued to lead me to the restaurant. Its amazing how friendly and loving the monkeys were, they were not scared of humans and were very calm and tame with the others. Even when they were intimidated by the people or were scared, the monkey would jump in to your arms and give you a big hug to get protection from you, it was pretty amazing.
After lunch and spending time with the monkeys, we boarded a bus and to my surprise the bus drove us back up the worlds most dangerous road! The higher we got the more nervous I got as I knew the width of the road was probably equal to the width of the bus and the guide would point out what every memorial meant on the way back up. Since 2003 there have been 19 cyclist deaths on the road, the most recent being 31st May this year. A japanese girl was cycling down the road and lost control of her speed, it is being investigated but some people said that she tried to use her brakes but they failed while others say that she didnt use her brakes and panicked and drove over the edge. There were lots of other similar stories of pèople braking too hard and going over the edge, or people hitting a rock and going over. Its hard to imagine that their families have had to visit the place where they died in order to create a memorial to their memory, its pretty horrible. There were also many other stories of cars going over the edge and you can see the tracks of the car tires going down the side of the cliffs. At one point the guide even pointed out the shell of a bus that had went over the edge. Im glad we were given the information after the ride otherwise I may have been too nervous to do it, but it was an amazing experience i will never forget.
The next day we all chilled out and in the evening everyone packed as the other guys carry on along the trip, myself and 4 others leave the trip here in La Paz.
Yesterday we had one last breakfast as a group and returned to the hotel where we said goodbye to the people I had met and made good friends with over the last 3 weeks, leaving only myself and one other in La Paz. We spent the rest of the day looking for a hostel for myself and I eventually found a cheap decent one so booked in here for the following 15 nights. The reason I am here for the next 15 nights is because of the bar I told you about, Oliver´s, they are looking for someone to work there short term so I spoke to the manager and I am going to be spending two weeks working there, with the pay covering my accommodation fees and leaving me extra for food so its a pretty good deal!
Last night myself and Cat decided to go to the Cholita Wrestling, which is nothing short of amazing. When we got there the first match was pathetic and didnt look real at all between two guys. But as the night went on things definitely picked up. At one point a midget came out and she fought a grown man with another woman. The fight was going well then when the guy did a move on the midget she didnt get up, she just lay there. I assume the guy thought she was acting so he continued to kick her and pour popcorn over her until someone who worked there came and carried the midget back stage, and we heard nothing more so who knows what happened. After that the best fight of the night began. Two women came out in the traditional dress and didnt look like fighters at all, until they began to fight. It started off a normal wrestle match then things turned crazy. One of the women threw the other out of the ring then over into the crowd, almost on to me and Cat, then they began to fight in the crowd right next to us. One of the women seemed really angry and was throwing our chairs around the room at people and taking people drinks and throwing them at us, and they just kept going like that for quite some time, and we had to keep moving unless we wanted to be hit with a chair. The angry wrestler even smashed the other in to the wall and into the stalls selling food. She turned on the crowd too and started to threaten us but eventually they both got back in the ring, along with some wooden crates that is! They continued to attack eachother with the crates, drawing blood from one anothers heads and eventually the match ended with the angry wrestler losing, it was something that I never expected to see but was absolutely hilarious and something that I will never forget! On the way back I said goodbye to Cat as she heads off to Buenos Aires today and I headed back to the hostel. Today I called in at Oliver´s and I start work tomorrow for the next 2 weeks!