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Sarah's Travels

Death Road!!!!

BOLIVIA | Friday, 14 December 2012 | Views [337]

Ok, so the Death Road was amazing- from the snowy slopes at 4700m at La Cumbre, to the hot humid valley below at 1200m. Despite being the rainy season, we escaped even a drop of rain and once we descended from the clouds, the sun shone all day. We started early from La Paz and once at La Cumbre, we kitted up fully and got on the bikes - with full suspension and brake discs to handle the downhill on the stony Death Road. The first couple of sections were on the new road, nicely tarmaced with lovely sweeping curves descending through the clouds. We were briefed on the terrain of each section and once past the drug checkpoint, we were onto the gravelly old road. The Death Road was built for access to and from the valley which is a big coca producing area, most of which is used for making coca tea, chewing coca leaves and by Coca-Cola (without the narcotic element), although apparently a third of the harvest tends to "disappear" every year, to end up in Cochabamba or La Paz to be refined.....hence the drug checkpoint!!! The views were incredible and if you managed to lift your eyes from the road for a few seconds, you would see 500m drops, lush mountains and wisps of cloud. The concentration required was pretty intense and so the stops between each section were a chance to admire the view, get some info on the road and area and rehydrate!! As we got further down there were new challenges like hairpin bends, adverse camber, waterfalls and streams crossing the road. We had a minibus following behind all  the time with water and our bags so we could take off layers as necessary all the way down. Once we reached the bottom, the bikes were loaded back on and after a swift glass of "Judas" beer, we headed off to the animal rescue centre for lunch and showers!! Some of us even braved a dip in the freezing cold mountain stream. We were welcomed at the centre with a cold beer and given our souvenir tshirts. Once fed and rested, the minibus took us back to La Paz along the new road and we celebrated surviving the Death Road at the Steakhouse followed by a late night lock in at the English pub Olivers Travels, where at some point the dressing up clothes came out and madness ensued!! The following day I wrestled with the bureaucracy of the La Paz Central Post Office and won, though only after a considerable effort and much frustration - apparently addressing a package to Poste Restante does not mean it will be in the Poste Restante section of the post office!!!! And the concept of 'customer service' seems not to have reached this part of the world yet. My afternoon was spent searching for Xmas decorations for the truck and getting more souvenirs and presents from the markets. I also visited the Witches Market with the dried llama feotouses and other charms used by the indigenous peoples. Currently, we are in Potosi, once famous for its abundant silver mines and now a run down colonial city where co operatives mine for tin in the same way they did 500 years ago.

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