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The Big Trip. Stephen, Laura, James and Sinead head for an epic adventure: 17 weeks in South America 8 weeks in New Zealand 2 weeks in Fiji 11 weeks in Australia 14 weeks in South East Asia.

Monkeys on the death road.

BOLIVIA | Sunday, 19 July 2009 | Views [1865]

We returned to La Paz from the jungle and decided to spend a few days chilling out. We checked back into the Wild Rover for four more nights of good food and drink. That Thursday myself and James done the Worlds Most Dangerous Road (WMDR) cycle.

At 6:45 we headed for the Alexander Cafe in the centre of La Paz. Here we had breakfast and met our cycling buddies for the day. At 7:30 we boarded the bus for the hour long journey up to wind swept La Cumbre at 4,700 meters to start our day's cycle. The cycle consisted of 64km divided in 14 segments. Over the journey we descended 3,600 meters into the jungle below. The first 24km is asphalt, then the famous "World's most dangerous road" follows. The journey ends at the Sende Verde animal sanctuary in the jungle below.

After instructions and safety checks from our guides, Duncan and Gus, we geared up and hit the asphalt. Going was slow at first. We were getting used to the bikes and were all a little cagey.
The hazards of the paved section were the uphill segment and traffic. The cars here did not care for the ten in orange making their way down the hill. Once a bus passing another bus coming in our direction pushed us all onto the gravel. We got the feeling the Bolivians didn't care much for us gringos. Then we hit the uphill segment. It was only for a couple of kilometers but at that altitude it was no joke. It hurt. My heart was pounding. My lungs felt like they might collapse. The whole group finished the stage successfully without needing to get on the bus. Afterwards we took a well deserved break whilst the guides explained the WMDR section. Here the hazards were traffic, killer butterflies and the 1000 meter sheer drop to our left. On the decent out guide showed us the wreckage of a bus in the valley below. 40 people had died when the bus went over the edge. The driver was drunk when the accident happened.

We reached the bottom without anyone falling off. We were in for a real treat. Lunch and then time to chill out by the pool watching spider monkeys and capuchin monkeys play nearby. At 3:30 we boarded the bus to ascend the WMDR and return to La Paz. Along the way we noticed crosses every half a kilometer or so erected for the people who had died on the road. The number was astonishing. We had missed them on the way down as we were watching the road so intently.

Next day we day we left the Wild Rover and La Paz behind to head back to La Sende Verde. We got a private transfer rather then squeeze into a hiace with 12 Bolivians. Big Mistake, our driver was a feckin maniac. He was determined to pass every car that blocked his path, even if this meant passing on a blind bend on a mountain road. A number of times he would have to slam on the breaks whilst passing a vehicle so as the avoid a collision. We were relieved when we arrived in one piece.
We soon forgot about our journey as we checked out our lodgings for the next two nights. La Sende Verde is an animal refuge. Animals rescued from the black market are sent here to live their lives out in piece. Among the animals are black spider monkeys, capuchins, squirrel monkeys, nocturnal monkeys, a red howler, a spectacled bear, a number of macaws, cowaties, an oclet (wild cat) and a few other animals I've forgotten about. The monkeys were free to roam about. We lazed by the pool for two days as the monkeys came to play with us. The black spiders were like children; they would come up to you, sit on your lap and go to sleep. The capuchins were cheeky. They would rob wallets, sunglasses, hair clips etc.
We visited the Andean bear at feeding time on the first day and got to hand fed him peanuts. On three occasions on the second day a spider monkey came to visit us. Each time it would gun straight for the bathroom. Once he got away with toothpaste, another time shampoo. We were sad to leave on Sunday afternoon but time for Bolivia was running out. It was time to head for our last Bolivian destination, Lake Titicaca.

Lake Titicaca was disappointing. We found it to be a dirty over priced tourist trap. We only planned to stay two days. On the first day we browsed the stalls. Then in the evening before sunset we climbed the hill over looking the town to watch the sunset. Next day we got the boat to Isle del Sol. After returning from the island we went to buy bus tickets for next day, only to be told that due to strikes in Peru there would be no buses to Puno for three days at least. We spent three days hanging about waiting to cross into Peru. We had spent to much time in Bolivia so decided to skip Puno and the floating islands and head directly to Cuzco to see Machu Picchu.

Tags: bolivia, la paz, la sende verde, lake titicaca, worlds most dangerous road



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