Leaving Sucre on a night bus was supposed to be a chilly affair. Faye of course was seriously panicking about it. Partly due to her irrational fear of the cold, but mostly because she'd read all the horror stories of people almost freezing to death for the entire 8 hour trip. This was compounded further when shortly after we'd boarded a local lady got on and proceeded to unfold a sack full of blankets. "She must be selling them to the passengers" I said. No such luck! She slowly unfolded them one by one, put half on her seat then sat down and wrapped herself in the others! Faye was beside herself and terrified she would turn into a human popsicle by the the time we got to La Paz. I just had on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt so would've been in serious trouble, but what I'd learned by now is that Bolivians feel the cold very easily and took this episode with a very large pinch of salt. And I was right. The evening was mild and the bus was warm so we had a comfortable journey all the way. Another lesson learned in don't always believe what you read!!
La Paz is huge. We arrived in the city an hour and a half before we got to the bus terminal so it's by far the biggest city we'd visited. Luggage removed and a cab hailed we were at a our hostel in no time. A fairly nice place so we were a bit bewildered to find no sheets to cover the mattresses, but not the weirdest thing we'd seen so we let it slide and went out to explore. There is a market in La Paz which is legendary for leather bags and as Faye had discarded hers courtesy of the bed bugs we went shopping for a new one. We covered every inch of that market and obviously the one she liked was one of the first we found. Nevertheless, the store owner was a hard-nosed lady who would not drop the price which regrettably may have caused me to say that it just wasn't worth the money. Big mistake! After 2 hours of traipsing around a now rainy market Faye got in a huff and trots off to buy the nearest (and naffest) bag she can find, just to make a point! I immediately retract my statement and forced her to go and purchase the one she REALLY wanted. She was a happy bunny again and my future marriage was saved! To be fair it was a nice bag - if not a little pricey!!
That was not the only frivolous purchase made that day! For some time now I have had guitar envy. Or more to the point: people-who-can-play-the-guitar envy. I'm not sure what possessed me but I found myself drawn to a tiny guitar in one of the many music shops, which I eventually traded 250 bolivianos for which is roughly equivalent to 22 of our UK pounds. Not a great deal of money but ludicrous for a man who can't play a single note!! I mean, what the hell was I thinking?? I told myself that now I have it I have to force myself to learn. I have all the time in the world so how hard can it be, right? Wrong! This thing has since been lugged half way across S America and not one note has been played. All I've managed to do so far is download a tuning app and get each string to sound fairly OK. What a plonker! Still, I have 9 months left so you never know!
We'd read great things about a restaurant in La Paz called Gustu; Michelin star quality with a Bolivian twist. We booked days in advance to avoid disappointment - a table for 5 as it turned out. We were joined by our good pals Scott and Ang and a girl called Fiona who we'd met in a hostel in Sucre who was also in La Paz at the same time. The cab driver got lost so we drove around for what seemed like an eternity, but just as we began to give up hope we stumbled across it. We thought we'd be the last to arrive given the lateness of our arrival but we were the first there so we sat down and ordered a cocktail. 15 minutes later the others strolled in and we knew they'd suffered the same fate! We were immediately shown to our table by a very tall and very skinny Danish guy who would be our waiter for the evening. We were advised on taking the tasting menu as this gave us the best chance to get an overall flavour of the place so that's what we agreed. From here on in I'd like to say it was the most spectacular food we'd ever eaten as the decor and ambience promised so much but sadly the food let it down somewhat. It was not horrible by any means but just simply "OK" at best! They'd tried so hard to be cutting edge; to serve food in such a way that would leave you awe-struck but what they gave you in novelty they lost in flavour. However, it was a great evening spent in great company, and the waiter was probably the best I've ever encountered so he absolutely deserves a special mention. Oh and myself and Scott were more than merry by the end of night so all was not lost. That was until we got back to the hostel! They didn't provide keys for the front door but we were promised someone would always be at reception to answer the bell. Which we rang. And rang. And rang. It was pouring with rain and we were soaked to the skin and really not happy campers it this point. After nearly 15 minutes of bell-ringing and door-banging a young guy eventually comes to door (who'd clearly been sleeping) shouting at us asking why we just simply didn't ring the bell and wait? He is definitely not on our Christmas card list!!
One final adventure which must be had whilst in La Paz is a trip down the famous Bolivian "Death Road" - on a mountain bike no less! I'm not sure if you've ever seen the Top Gear episode on it but please YouTube it and enjoy the results. This road is INSANE! It's 10ft wide in places and still used today by crazy truck and bus drivers. Some sadly never make it to the end due to falling to their deaths. A thousand foot drop greets you if you are unlucky enough to take a tumble so it was with a stern face that Faye continuously warned me to "BE CAREFUL!!" We drove to the start and were given our briefing: No peddling as it's downhill all the way and the first 30km is tarmac. How hard could it be?? It was a very cold and damp day and all a little terrifying at first so I obeyed my very sensible better half. Not for long though!! Scott and Ang were again our companions and after a very sensible first few kilometres Scott flew past me which put my nose well and truly out of joint. Given my extra bulk and my now childish determination I tucked my elbows in and put my head down and slipped past Scott with relative ease. We came to a stop and he immediately proclaimed "That's the last time you'll get past me Arris" - Game on!!! Safety now out the window we entered what was the genuine Death Road. The very rocky and very narrow part of our three hour epic ride. Faye, bless her heart, continuously read me the riot act, but it fell on deaf ears if I'm honest. I became a man completely possessed and to anyone else it seemed like I had a death wish. Not the case of course, I was just simply hooked on the adrenaline rush. Speeds of 50kph were topped as I chased down the lead guide. On occasions myself and Scott were trying to pass each other on the narrow roads, desperate to avoid falling to our deaths! Eventually though, I think even he gave up as there was just no stopping me! We've done some truly incredible things on this trip, but nothing has come close to the adrenaline I've felt that day! I gave Faye such a scare and I can't imagine how worried she must of been, praying that she'd see me waiting by the side of the road each time we took a break, and for that I'm very sorry. Well sort of! Luckily though it all worked out ok!! From that moment on, if we meet anyone going to Bolivia, the first thing I say to them is you have to visit Death Road. The only thing I regret is not having a GO-PRO to film the action!
Our visit to La Paz was sadly too short. Due to our exceedingly busy schedule we had to move on. If we did this trip again we would have definitely allowed ourselves more time here as we fell in love with it immediately and due to its vastness there was still so much left to explore. But for us it's on to Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca for a bit of R & R in our own little slice of paradise!