We made it to La Paz!! Not with some effort though but before I get into that let me please pay tribute to our last country Chile. Chile could well be one of my favourite countries of all time, it's fairly cheap, don't get me wrong don't go there expecting Asia cheap but there is a bargain or two if you scout about. But the main reason Chile has sky rocketed to one of my favourite countries in the world is because of its sheer diversity, the country has it all a big city in Santiago steeped with history, great red wine, volcano's, earthquakes, skiing, a beautiful desert, the Andes, you name it you could probably do it in Chile and it's for this reason as well as the beautiful chica's Chile has to offer that I would tell anybody that Chile is a country that you must visit.
Now let's get back to business our trip from San Pedro De Atacama to La Paz consisted of three different buses and a total travel time of 28 hours and 45 minutes. There was no direct bus from San Pedro De Atacama so we had to get a two hour bus to the next big city called Calama. The city looked impressive, a decent night out from the amount of bars I saw, but we were on a mission to get to Bolivia so asking around we found out that we needed a company called Trans Salvador, which proved a mission to find in itself, we did find it though located in one of the shabbiest bus terminals we have ever visited. They only had a bus to Oruru that night, another Bolivian city, but it got us over the border so we decided to snap it up thanks to the help of a couple of great Chilean bus drivers who were a brilliant laugh and told Earl he stunk, which he did because he hasn't washed his clothes for so long. I hoped he got the hint. We had a three hour wait for our next bus so I set off in search of a drink to quench my thirst, but with only 350 Bolivian pesos between us it proved quite the difficulty, to put it in English terms I had roughly 35p to try and find a drink. It looked like I would have to settle for tap water until I had a genius idea, for 100 Chilean Pesos you could get an ice lolly, so I got three, two for me and one for Earl. It did an adequate job and before we knew it we were on the way to Oruru. The trip took around 18 hours mainly because of the wait at the border crossing; his is the only thing I would not give Chile credit for their border crossings were long and tedious. I think we got to the border before it opened we put us in a wait immediately and then we had to wait whilst the six buses in front of us passed through and as we found out they shad to hand search everyone's luggage which must have made the process much slower, saying that though when we got to have our bags checked all they merely did was pat the side. Earl also had a bit of a trauma not getting any food, and the journey was slowed down due to the sandy / dusty roads of Bolivia which obtained a 30km speed limit. But we eventually arrived in Bolivia and were pretty much straight on the next bus after Earl exchanged some US dollars and we got a drink. The next bus was by far the worse bus we had been on in South America, but in some sort of peculiar way I admired its quirks. For example the bus had decided to maximise profit by ripping out the toilet at the back, only leaving the mirror and installing two rickety seats, we luckily missed having these seats by a fine margin; the lights did not work above us so I couldn't carry on reading The Cocaine Wars which I was finally getting into. The Bolivian music being played on a constant loop could also send a gut nuts and then to top it off when it started raining I had a nice drip that would land right on top of my head, luckily this was near the end of the trip, but lie I say for some weird reason I liked these quirks, it gives more of a story I suppose and we managed to get by laying a pub quiz game on Earl's phone.
We arrived in La Paz at 10pm, after setting off at 5.15pm the previous day, but we had made it, the first job was go to find a hostel. Hostel World had come up trumps with a hostel called Bacoo. Baccoo was cheap 45 Bolivians for the 18 bed dorm, had a Jacuzzi, bar area with free pool table and free table tennis table so we signed up for a couple of nights. The only down fall was in the room we only had one plug socket which was shared between 18 of us and located to far from where we were located, this made issues like charging the laptop and mobile phones challenging. But as always we would get by. The next job on the agenda was finding some food since we hadn't eaten much all day, unusually for South America we found a lot of places closing at 11pm but we did come across a burger place where I did my waist line and heart no favours by ordering a triple burger with egg, sausage, tomato, cheese and relish for just over one English pound. The travel had certainly took it out of me so I retired to bed, I also wanted to be up early the next day so I could go and watch the Man Utd game.
My alarm woke me up at 7am. Due to time difference the United game would kick off at 7.45am in Bolivia. Not many things can get me up at that time but football can. And I put on my red jersey and made my way to a bar I had already sourced called Oliver's Tavern. Oliver's Tavern had also wooed me with its English menu and full breakfast. Though their English breakfast was a bit Kieron Dyer, it only consisted of a couple of minute pieces of Bacon, scrambled egg, two slices of toast and a mug of tea. It was far from the traditional breakfast I am use to with Sausages, Beans, Black Pudding, Tomato, Hash Browns and Mushrooms absent. But this is the only criticism I could have of Oliver's they couldn't find the game on normal TV so streamed the game for me using Wiziwig. They also had a tremendous book exchange which consisted of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, tons of travel guides and the fifth instalment of the Game of Thrones trilogy, unfortunately there wasn't the second instalment both Earl and I craved. The beer I had more expensive than I thought at a couple of quid turned out to be a 600ml Bolivian beer called Judas which had a percentage of 7% an interesting way to start the morning. They had many class adverts around they claimed to be the 5th best bar in La Paz which I found a nice touch they were also looking for staff and I was really tempted to enquire, unfortunately Man Utd couldn't give me a great start to the day as they laboured to a zero zero against Burnley so I took myself back to the hostel where I made it back in time for the free continental breakfast which was pretty much just bread and jam. After a shower which went from scolding to freezing every few seconds I chilled out in the bar area for a couple of hours keeping track of the football and have banter with the guy behind the bar who was a Gunners supporter. I then made my way to Estadio Hernando Silas where I would go and watch a Bolivian league game The Strongest vs Universitario Cobija. I had history with The Strongest football team, when we were younger Adam Frith and I would set up friendliest against the Bolivian team based on us finding their name funny and I'm sure a quote we use to say at the time was only The Strongest played The Strongest. Genius eh? So off I toddled to the stadium leaving Earl who didn't fancy the top flight Bolivian action, instead he looked at other hostels, their book exchange and went to the local market.
I had spoken to reception and they told me just to turn up to the stadium and that I would be able to get a ticket as the games were not that popular. I was a tad weary though as I'd heard this line before and ended up having to acquire a ticket from a tout. I got to the stadium fine; it looked pretty decent, although alarm struck when I noticed there was no grass on the pitch. There was however queues of children in various strips entering the ground, I thought these must be ball boys or school trips to bolster the leagues attendance, I was a bit confused and couldn't find anyone to ask so I decided to follow the next person wearing The Strongest colours and hoped he wasn't just going to the pub or back home. I latched on to a man in a black Strongest coat and all was going well until he started sprinting, not at my stalking may I add. So now I was even more confused as he was sprinting away from the ground. Two more fans passed me and then I grabbed the bull by the horns and stopped a girl who looked like Yohanna a Colombian girl I met in Sao Paulo during the World Cup. In broken English she was able to tell me I could get a ticket at the ground but it was not at the stadium reception and Soccerways.com had told me the game was being held. I enquired how to get there and she said a bus. She was soon joined by a woman and child also going to the game and they obviously knew each other, they spoke in Spanish for a while about stuff and my predicament and they decided I would be able to go with them, I wasn't sure where we were going I was just following and then we broke out into a jog, next thing you know I'm on one of four or five Strongest supporters fan buses. It was mental, one of the first things I noticed was the amount of women on there, decent looking too. The next was the fireworks being fired from the windows, and the flags being hung out. Some youths were then up on the roof of the bus, there was chanting and all sorts it was mental. It was about an hour bus ride to the suburb of Anchumani where the 15,000 capacity stadium called Estadio Rafael Mendoza Castellon was located. The ground was once again dwarfed by the Andes, it had no seats just concrete slabs, and it was open roofed which didn't help because the rain was on and off all game and the pitch looked horrendous and bobbly. I'd probably been to better Sunday league grounds and pitches but I warmed to the stadium and become very fond of it. The game was also one of my favourites that I have watched in South America. Mainly due to the value for money it cost just under £3 at the ticket office, so I didn't get burnt again. The Strongest started the strongest battering at the door with a few long range efforts but then the away side I will call U.C. for short got a dubious penalty which sent The Strongest players berserk, they proper lost their heads. They almost immediately equalised when a defender from U.C. put his clearing header against his own cross bar. The Strongest showed dominated the rest of the half but were unable to find the breakthrough they wanted. The ref felt the aggression from the fans at half time with angry whistles and phrases aimed at him, I couldn't tell you what they were though as my limited Spanish doesn't stretch that far. He copped it too when he returned for the second half. Once again The Strongest started strong and should have been level when there centre half missed an open goal, but moments later that was forgotten as a goal keeping calamity let Rodrigo Ramallo score from distance, the ball slipping through the body of the goalkeeper Massimo Taibi style. Ten minutes later and The Strongest were in front this time there was nothing the keeper could do as The Strongest number 11 and y man of the match Ernesto Cristaldo scored a Paul Scholes like thunderbolt from range. Two minutes later and The Strongest had shown their strength by making it three this time a tap in by Mendez after good work down the right flank. It could have been different though as between them two goals was a disallowed goal for U.C. when there player was deemed to be offside from the free kick which he nestled his header from. It could have been more as The Strongest were dominant and lived up to their name, the fans I travelled with were also in good voice all through the game even when losing, something I appreciated a lot about South American football. What was also commendable was how the players coped with the altitude, I panted and puffed anytime I had to walk up some stairs or a hill which was very common in La Paz, so for players to run around for ninety minutes in those conditions to me was top notch. In England I find it is too easy to jump on a band wagon and moan at players if the team is losing, for me the best way is to support the team, encourage and not criticise. I managed to get a lift back with the supporters club too, I expected wild celebrations after victory but things were surprisingly quiet apart from a giggly group of girls, I presume who must have been intimidated my dashing looks. Once back at the original stadium where I was picked up I made my way back to the hostel which bypassed a market where I found a baseball cap I had been wanting for at least two years, so for just under £4 I purchased presumably fake Arizona baseball or NFL baseball cap and went to meet Earl who told me of his ventures around La Paz.
That evening I took Earl's to Oli's, there was a pub crawl which started there at 9pm so we thought we would check it out. Unfortunately the pub crawl was a non-starter there was only another couple of guys up for it, but it was on every day between Tuesday and Saturday so we thought we would give it a bash another night, instead we stayed in Oli's trying different Bolivian beers such as Judas, Bock and a coca leaf based beer which was far too gassy and not pleasant. We met fiver German girls who we played pool with, there standard was pretty horrendous and each game must have took an hour, we met a Welsh girl who I liked banter with and some English ladies. It was a fun night in Oli's we met an English couple Stuart and Charlotte who told us about a place called Route 36, it's a bit of an underground bar which only taxi drivers now about but we thought we would give it a bash. It turned out to be an eventful night, the place was decent, I met my friend Charlie there who I had previously met in Melbourne, a bloke from Leeds and a Canadian girl, we had a good night chatting away drinking Rum and Cokes. Before we knew it, it was 7am, there was football being played in just over an hour and with Stu's team Aston Villa playing he was eager to watch it, so we all made our way back to Oliver's English Tavern, where I had the strongest Rum and Coke of my life, I swear the drink was 80% rum, 15% coke and 5% ice. I was even a bit of a girl and had to ask for more coca cola to be added. As everyone dwindled one by one it was left with Stuart and myself watching the Villa game and Tottenham vs Liverpool. Villa held on to a victory and Liverpool battered Tottenham and it was eventually time to head back home at the time of 10.30am to cap off a very eventful 24 hours.
It was fair to say the next day was a complete write-off. I only managed 4 hours sleep but due to being massively hungover getting out of bed was a difficulty. I manage to go out and get a hot dog despite not being massively hungry. What was worse was that we were expecting guests this day as the Chileans - Katy and Paulinha, blinded by our pretty faces had decided to fly to La Paz to meet us for a few days, it was properly mental. They arrived around 6pm and I was still feeling as rough as a badger's arse and pretty grumpy. It wasn't until around 9 I was feeling more like myself, so we took the Chilean's out to Oli's again. Where we feasted on a Sunday dinner, the Sunday dinner was decent, good beef, good mash, decent gravy, a couple of things were lacking though a Yorkshire pudding which in truth I did not expect but more surprisingly was the absence of peas. Instead was a couple of lettuce leaves, which I thought was a strange addition to a Sunday dinner, still it was nice to have something that reminded me of good English food after living off rice, pasta, noodles and the occasional burger most days. The Chileans each ordered a curry which they had to send back because it was too spicy, for me it wasn't that bad but instead they got a sandwich which was probably the biggest sandwich I have ever seen as a pub meal. Everyone was pretty tired, the Chileans from their travel and Earl and myself from the crazy shenanigans of the night before, so we headed back to the hostel where we tried to get a decent night sleep. Unfortunately I woke up a bit and to Katy's annoyance got the chats as I told her stories of England into the wee hours of thee morning.
The next morning I woke up to the crazy news that Man Utd had signed Roman Falcao on loan. Although he is undoubtedly a talented player, in my opinion there was other areas of the team that needed strengthening more. The plan for the day was to do the walking tour of Bolivia's capital La Paz, but we still had a couple of hours to kill. So while everyone rested I kept an eager eye on the transfer window and updated my dream team competition, well I would have done if the tinterweb had been working instead I found myself reading a few cheeky chapters of my book - The Cocaine Wars until it was time to go to the tour. The tour was one of the most disappointing I have been on, maybe I expected too much, but I just found there stops and stories were too long and dragged out and most of the time I switched off most of the time. It was also quite challenging taking the Chileans who do not speak much English, they would often disappear to do some shopping which got pretty annoying as we had to keep track of them and the tour. We did visit some decent places though, no fewer than three markets, one of which sold lama foetus's, the presidential palace and my favourite San Pedro Prison, this was made famous in the book called Marching Powder where an English inmate gave guided tours to tourists. Earl and myself were inclined to try and go in the prison but since the book has been released prices have sky rocketed and it has become much more dangerous, and we herd that the strike rate of getting a successful tour is one in forty so I considered myself happy with getting a photo outside Bolivia's most famous prison.
I was still pretty full from the sandwich I had at the market on the tour (the sandwich in question was an avocado sarnie which was great but I had initially asked for meat sandwich, still I wasn't too disappointed) Everyone else was pretty hungry though so whilst they went off for food I made friends with a Dutch guy called Wilbert. We had a few games of pool (I won 2-1) to be honest his standard was rubbish and he didn't know the rules. One by one my amigos came back and joined me in the bar where we had a beer or two, played pool I beat Katy (1-0) she was also pretty terrible and it was quite challenging explaining the rules to someone who spoke very limited English. I was getting fed up of playing such poor quality, so then played Earl who I believe to be of a similar standard to myself and I edged a 2-1 victory. We also played table tennis and chatted, and then we went and had a hamburger dinner. It was a pretty decent chilled night.
The next morning Katy and Paulinha were up early to go on a trip to the Copacabana. We didn't join them for the day tour because the Copacabana would be our next destination for the night so it would be pretty pointless. So we enjoyed a lie-in whilst they had to wake up at 6.30am. After our lie-in we decided to go around La Paz and tick off some of things on our to-do list, most of these involved cultural eating. Our first stop was just around the corner from where we were staying, we were going to attempt to eat a roasted face of a lamb I believe, we had seen this on the famous Australian TV Show Hamish & Andy's South American gap year and were always keen for a challenge. Unfortunately the restaurant we had researched before did not have any in stock but said to come back the next day. So we went on to our next stop which was to book the Death Road day trip. The Death Road day trip was a case of cycling the world's most dangerous road, all 64km of it, downhill. Next up we visited the witches market where we sort after some coca leaves, coca leaves are the base products for things such as Coca-Cola and cocaine but if you eat them in the raw format mixed with the alkaline it is said to help with the high altitude and also give you a bit of an energy boost. We then stumbled along a street which sold cheap football shirts so I acquired The Strongest jersey and Colombian jersey. They were probably fakes but looked decent enough. We then found ourselves in a restaurant where we were able to start off our cultural eating; we ordered two dishes Lama Steak and Assado Cui or as it is known in English Roasted Guinea Pig. We also tried the Bolivian Chicha which was ok apart from the mass amounts of clumps of stuff in the bottom which made it a little off putting. The lama steak was really nice served with French fries; it had a hint of liver about it but all in all was just like a regular steak. The Guinea Pig however came out like it had just been ran over, it was squashed and down and you literally served everything from its claws to its head, teeth and tongue. The meat of the guinea pig was generally quiet tasty but there was fat which nearly made me gag. I think my biggest problem was getting over the fact I was eating a guinea pig. Pretty similar to when I ate dog at Raymond's house in Korea. I think if you had blindfolded me and fed me the meat would have enjoyed it, I also think had it not come out with full body and head and it was just sections of the meat I would have enjoyed it. The Guinea Pig was also served with three kinds of potatoes (Bolivia are very famous for their spuds) they were a mixture of white and black ones and to be honest they tasted a bit too weird for me. In conclusion I'd definitely eat Lama again but Guinea Pig I wouldn't be too fussed if I didn't eat that again. After our dose of cultural eating we went across the street to the Cocoa Museum, the entry was just over a quid and what I enjoyed about the book was that they gave you an English manual so that you could read everything that was in Spanish. The museum looked at the harvesting of Cocoa leaves, its different uses, chewing of the leaves, coca leaves and cocaine, and of course cocoa and Coca-Cola. It was a pretty interesting museum, pretty small, but interesting. They also had a café up stairs which sold various cocoa products including alcoholic beverages, cakes and other delicacies. I decided to try the coca cookie as it was only three Bolivians, there wasn't much too it in truth. Our next plan was for more cultural eating and once again it was from Hamish and Andy's South American gap year. This time we were looking for a dish called Caldo De Cardan which in English means Bull Penis soup. Our research had told us that the best place to find this c*** soup was La Paz's Mercado Rodriguez, but as we got there we realised the market wasn't too busy. We asked at several restaurants for directions to somewhere that might sell the**** soup and were directed up several hills but ultimately found nothing. In fact most people were seeming to say come back tomorrow. Still the journey was not for nothing as we got to see some incredible views of La Paz from the dizzy heights of the hills. We made our way down through the streets of La Paz where we headed tour last stop of the day this would be San Pedro prison where I got my picture outside with my newly purchased Strongest jersey. We also did a block around the prison. I found it very weird that a prison was located right in the city centre; we also got a glimpse of the chaos inside as the guard undid the doors as we strolled passed to let some visitors inside. It did look crazy. Apparently the prison was originally only meant for 400 people and now inside there are approximately 2,500. With our day tour done we headed back to the hostel, on our way back we thought our luck was in as we spotted a sign for the todger broth we were after. One of my favourite moments of the exchange was me saying that our Spanish was not very good, and the bloke responding with speak English then. This then lead to Earl awkwardly asking for penis soup. Unfortunately though they didn't have any and advised us to walk another block. We never found any though and put the search off until another day and headed back to the sanctuary of our hostel where we were reunited with the Chileans who had a great day in the Copacabana.
It was the Chileans last night, Katy was eager to go out dancing, I was tired and not to bothered, Paulinha was in tears because of leaving Earl and Earl well Earl was just Earl. With Earl trying to console the emotional Paulinha Katy and I went off to a place called Eli's where we had a Philadelphia Cheese Steak sarnie which as pretty good. We then headed back to the where Earl had managed to calm down Paulinha so we made our way to a Dutch bar called ……. for a couple of drinks. Everywhere was pretty quiet being a Tuesday night n all and most places were shut or closing so thankfully for me but annoyingly for Katy we didn't get to go dancing and headed back to the hostel.
We woke up the next morning to check out and then Earl and I to check back in the Orphanage - the 18 bed dorm room - it was much cheaper than the rooms we had been sharing with the Chileans. While I was waiting for Earl and Paulinha to get ready, Katy and I had a game of pool where I managed to seven balled her adding her to the two other competitors I had seven balled in my lifetime - Martyn Woodland and Nick Judge. In true English tradition if you get seven balled the rule is that you have to put your pants round your ankles and run around the table, Katy didn't approve and refused the tradition claiming she was still in training. The Chileans were off later that afternoon so we decided to take them for breakfast at an English pub, called The English Pub, or it might actually be called The UK Pub, either way it did a Full English which my taste buds were eager to get together with. The pub had actually offered us both a job the previous day, they were looking for gringo's to work in the bar, but it was only eight hours a week or I could have been tempted. We got to The UK Pub and it only took me one glance to order - The Full English with two rashes of bacon, two Cumberland sausages, two eggs fried or scrambled (I chose fried), toast, fried tomatoes and the thing I had been missing more than my Mum and Dad (slight exaggeration there) baked beans! I also ordered a side of two hash browns and a pint of PG Tips. Yes that's right a pint! The Chileans ordered a club sarnie each, and Earl the same as me but a pint of Tetley's. It was torture waiting for the food to come out; it felt like I was waiting all day. I was very eager. The tea came out first and as many people know I'm not normally a tea drinker, in fact you can probably count the cups of teas I have in a year on both hands, but this brew really hit the spot. At last the Holy Grail came out and to my delight it was swimming with beans, the hash browns were home-made and were the biggest I have ever seen, so much so that when I uploaded the picture to Facebook my travelling friend Rob Smallbone thought that it was Chicken. It was a cracking breakfast and to top it off The UK Pub had a cracking soundtrack, it was like listening to my iPod with them playing tunes by Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and Stereophonics. I was happy as a pig in s***. The Chileans sandwich was also very impressive, and rivalled Oli's with the amount and quality; as usual they were unable to finish the meal. The sun was shining in La Paz, so after our delicious food we decided to make the most of the Chileans last hour or so and sit in the square soaking in the rays, eat some jelly and cream and watch the mime street artist. The mime's are up there with my favourite street performers they are very funny, this one was ok, not as good as the one we saw in Santiago though. Time flew and before too long it was time to say goodbye to the Chileans. I think I speak for myself and Earl when I say that we were pretty glad to get rid of them. Earl had had his fill of the emotional Paulinha and 90% of the time all I got was grief from Katy, learn Spanish, do this, do that. They are incredible people but we just needed some space, when they left the empty feeling I usually get was nowhere to be found. Maybe because England was playing and I wanted to watch the game, so I went to the bar and asked if I could flick through the channels. Normally the only thing blasting out of the TV is The Simpsons. Bolivians have a massive fascination with the cartoon family, like I say it is on TV as regular as clockwork and a lot of their shops sell Simpsons Bolivian souvenirs. So I didn't see a problem with me channel hopping to search for the game, as it happened I couldn't as there was a problem with the satellite box and they were waiting for someone to come and have a look, so I settled with keeping track on BBC sport and finally getting round to updating the dream team competition.
A couple of hours later and I was joined by Mr Johnson. The English brekky was finally wearing off and we were starting to feel peckish. We decided to try and tick off one of the two things left on our Bolivian cultural eating list, so for dinner it was either roasted face or the Bull pecker gumbo. We asked my amigo behind the bar, the gunner who had a resemblance to Sucre from Prison Break. He advised us that we would be best to go in the morning to a place a bit further out of town; he also said the Cum Gun delicacy was good for a hangover. That left us with the roast face option, so we went to the lace they sold the cabezas but once again they told us there was none in stock and advised us to return on Saturday. With our eating challenges exhausted we made our way to a nearby eatery where I had a simple dish of chips and cheese. The plan that night was to go to Oliver's for the quiz night advertised in their menu. We had an hour to kill before the start so we went back to the hostel for a few games of free pool which ended in a 2-2 daw and to see if there was any genius looking folk who would add to our team. There wasn't so off we plodded to what was becoming or local Oliver's and ordered our usual - a Judas. As we were sipping away at our ale and talking about the best hostels we had stayed in so far in South America we realised that not many people were in the pub and there was little or in fact no sign of a quiz about to start. So we enquired about the quiz only to be told that it wasn't on anymore, so we finished our beverage and headed back to the hostel for a quiet night watching a movie (22 Jump Street) and hoping we would finally be able to get a decent night sleep.
We woke up that morning knowing that breakfast would be some Bull wanger chowder. What better way to start the day? To get there we had to get one of the many mini-buses which congested the roads of La Paz. It was easy enough to find the mini-bus, but truth be told we might have been quicker walking. After about 20 minutes in the bus we had gone around five blocks, eventually the road began to clear and it wasn't long before we were at our destination. It didn't take us long to find what we were looking for as we got seated in a restaurant and ordered our Bull Schlong Soup. It was out within minutes, it looked like chicken soup, it had chicken in it, and some other meat, we were curious to ask which part of the soup was the Bull's Winkie, so we asked the waitress, who decided to bring us extra portions of the Bull's Middle Stump. To be fair I didn't find it that bad, and much preferred the Bull's Jackhammer Broth to the Guinea Pig we ate previously, there was only two small bits of the Bull's Willy in the soup and the rest just tasted like chicken soup. I could also see why our prison break lookalike friend at the hostel said it would be good for a hangover. With our latest cultural meal polished off we decided to walk back to the hostel via a brief stop in a hostel called Wild Rover, where one of our friends Jon had worked while he had been in Bolivia. While we were there we had a cheeky pint and checked out their book exchange and then headed back to our hostel, where Earl advised e to download a game on my phone called Quiz Up. Quiz Up allows you to play different people around the world at various quizzes ranging from sport categories to art categories. It was pretty addictive and took up most of our afternoon until we got confirmation that we would be cycling death road the following day. That gave us the impetus to get ae arse into gear and sort out what we needed for the trip and get some dinner. The night was steady from their with a couple more games of quiz up and then retiring to bed to watch The Inbetweeners 2 due to our early start the next day. The Inbetweeners 2 was funny but on a whole I was a tad disappointed my main issue was that there seemed to be very little character development.
It was death road day, I woke up slightly nervous, I hadn't properly road a bike since I was a little boy, in fact I think the last time that I rode a bike the bike didn't even have gears. I was a novice, less than and today I would be cycling 64km downhill on a road that had a steep drop of around 100 meters one side and the risk of rock avalanches the other side. It had already encountered for numerous amounts of deaths mainly from people in buses and cars but also there was cyclists who met their maker on the aptly named death road. It probably wasn't ideal that my first proper bike ride would be on this notoriously dangerous road. The ride started off ok enough, with our guides Kenneth and Christian leading us over paved roads, on our tour there was also a nice Swiss couple and two Bogan Aussie fellas. After around 20km we were eventually ready to cycle death road. This is where my nerves got the better of me, as the others raced off I was left behind clutching my breaks going at near walking pace. I think James May has a contender for his Captain Slow nickname, but I was much more bothered about being safe than being the first to the end. If the road had safety padded fences meaning you couldn't fall of the edge then it would be a different matter but my lack of confidence on a bike and my fear of heights combined to make me probably the slowest person ever to ride death road. I did feel really s*** that I was slowing the group down and letting them down so at one point I volunteered to sit out of the ride and travel in the van, which wasn't the greatest feeling in the world. But the guides were very encouraging and I got back out the van and on the bike to complete the ride all be it very slowly. What should also be noted about death road is the amount of various weather we encountered; we started off with it snowing and then along the way encountered mass fog, blazing sun, and the heavens opening with ain we really had it all. The road itself offered sensational views and had a kind of eerie feeling to it with all the crosses and memorials dedicated to the many people who had lost their lives on the world's most dangerous road.
Having survived the world's most dangerous road I decided to reward myself with a curry. I haven't had a good curry since England. Curries in Australia our as spicy as milk, so I was definitely craving one. So we made our way to the highest curry house in the world called The Star of India. It was a tad pricy but was well worth it as I stuffed my face with a chicken madras, madras rice and garlic and cheese naan. In fact it got the better of me and I had to ask for a doggy bag so I could have the remainder for lunch the next day. The activities of the day had taken it out of us so after the curry we called it a Night.
It may sound weird but one of the biggest things I have missed in South America is Beans on Toast, now with an English pub nearby I was able to indulge in my cherished food. So Saturday morning started with a trip to Oli's where I could eat some beans on toast I followed this with a Bolivian empanada which was truly awful, the worse empanada I have easily had in South America, it was just bread and had no filling, awful! We then went to vertigo tours to pick up our death road photos and t-shirts which were included in the price, a class touch if you ask me, as were the snacks and lunch they provided. After collecting our goodies we decided to catch the cable cart up to the top of La Paz which offered extraordinary vies of the city. Unfortunately it wasn't the nicest of places up there, it screamed of poverty and we got some very dodgy looks, someone threatened to kick me with their steel toe cap boots and to other masked fellas ran after Earl wanting him to drink a substance that looked like shoe polish, so after a few snaps we decided to get out the chaos and make our way back down to the bottom. To be fair I felt safer on death road and the cable carts didn't ease my fear of heights either. With more things ticked off our La Paz bucket list we headed back to the hostel for a siesta.
After a cheeky little siesta we tried to get our hands on the last of our cultural eating -roasted face. We yet again was unsuccessful as the restaurant who had told us to come back tomorrow and then Saturday had none, we didn't have a back-up plan so grabbed a burger on the way to Oli's where we were hoping to join a pub crawl, what we didn't realise though was the next day was a walking holiday so everywhere was shutting early, so we settled for a few bevvies in Oli's and The UK Pub and I trounced Earl 4-0 at pool before calling it a night and heading back to the hostel via some greasy Bolivian street food.
When we returned the previous night we had drunkenly asked the night manager about roasted face. He advised us of a couple of places to go so with it being our last full day in La Paz we set out to find the Bolivian Dish. Unfortunately due to the walking day festival thing that was happening everywhere semt to be closed apart from the odd place that wasn't serving the delicacy or knew anywhere open that was either. We accepted defeat and while Earl went on to see the parade and antics of the festival I went on to The English Pub where I went and got a Sunday dinner. This one was Chicken fillet with traditional stuffing, mixed vegetables, roast and mashed potatoes with thick chicken gravy poured all over. I would be hard pressed to make the call as to which Sunday dinner between the English themed bards- The English Pub and Oliver's Tavern they both had advantages and disadvantages. For example Oli's had the better mash, but The English Pub had s***e loads of gravy and roasties and both places lost points for not having peas. I think if you went to either though you wouldn't be that disappointed especially if you hadn't had a good old Sunday dinner in a while.
After my Sunday feast which was accompanied with a strawberry milkshake I made my way back to the hostel for a siesta as I was feeling a bit ropey, like I was just about to be hit with man flu. I woke up a few hours later not feeling much better but I had to get my arse in gear as we were about to go and see Cholita's wrestling, this is basically Bolivian Women's wrestling and don't start thinking it's like the WWE divas with talent such as Trish Stratus, AJ Lee or Natalya they were absolute power houses. The wrestling wasn't too great but it was fantastic entertainment with good crowd interaction if there was one slight problem with the wrestling it was that every match would follow the same formula, a corrupt ref helping the bad guy, the good guy getting beat up a lot only to make a rousing come back and ended up sealing the win. I just thought it might help for them to mix it up a little. Where the Cholita's wrestling was entertaining the tour that took us was less to be desired, because of the walking day festivities we missed two hours of action with no discount, one of the selling points was that we had a guide, well we found out nothing from the guide we had apart from where to get the bus back, another selling point was hostel pick up and drop off and we got dropped off at least five blocks away from our hostel which was ridiculous. At the end of the day it didn't stop us having fun at the wrestling which was the main thing.
It wasn't that late when we got back to the hostel but I was feeling pretty rough still and we had to wake up early to get the Peru-hop bus where we would head to Peru, but first we would have a night at the Copacabana. So until next time stay safe and take care.