So far so good here in La Paz, i’ve settled into a great routine and I feel really comfortable. My work has taken up a lot of my time as of late so it has been harder to keep up with interesting blog posts. I decided to wait a while and build up some stories and experiences before writing. Currently I am working on promotional booklets and videos for pro-rural to put together an information package to entice financiers to support pro-rural’s work. But i’m in my last 30 days and I still have lots to do, though I managed to scratch some adventures off the list:
The Road of Death
For anyone visiting La Paz, this is THE thing to do; biking down the Road of Death. Formerly the only road between La Paz and Coroico, it is a single lane - dirt road - hugging the side of the mountains. They call it the road of death for obvious reasons: there were/are so many deaths on the road because of the little to no protection from the dead drops and wet/muddy conditions. Though a bypass has been built the road is still used by communities who do not have access to the newly constructed highway and year after year, locals and tourists continue to fall and suffer serious injury or death.
The ride started around 8 am just outside the city limits of La Paz, our destination was Coroico, about 4 hours. We started on paved highway but soon found ourselves on the dirt, passing cross after cross marking where people had fallen to their deaths. It was an adrenaline pumping experience! It was all down hill and fast as hell. Even though we were with a guide, and even though tourists bike the road all the time, it is still very dangerous. One of our biking companions, and even our guide, fell off his bike. I made it to the bottom, safe and sound, had a great victory lunch and took the bus, another 4 hours back to La Paz.
Grave of an Israeli rider.
I took a very interesting tour of El Alto, it is the city above La Paz (for all the Torontonians it is like the Missussaga to Toronto). We toured the witches market - the REAL witches market, not the touristy one - saw some spectacular views of La Paz from above and learned a lot about the ‘Gas War’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolivian_gas_conflict ). El Alto has a culture entirely different from La Paz. It population is almost entirely made up of indigenous peoples and is the fastest growing city in Bolivia with more and more people moving into the city from rural areas in search of work and opportunity. The city feels like relative chaos compared to the (some would argue) order you find in La Paz. With insane traffic conditions and thousands of people everywhere all the time, it brought back memories of the chaotic streets I experienced in India. Related Story: on our way to climb a glacier, approximately 2.5 hours away from La Paz, it required a trip through El Alto - the traffic problems in the city delayed us 2 (two) hours.
Dried baby llama fetuses in the witches market
A statue of Che Guevara or ‘El Che’ stepping on a bald eagle representing the United States.
Communist-esc artwork at the University of El Alto
After getting out of El Alto I, along with about 50 other young people, headed toward a receding glacier with an environmental group studying the effects of climate change on the mountains surrounding La Paz.
NOTE: The snow and glaciers of the mountains surrounding the city are important as they provide fresh water and electricity to the populations. As the effects of global warming increase, the rate at which the glaciers are melting pose a serious risk to water supplies for the surrounding cities. This is a big, BIG problem especially for a landlocked country.
The busses stopped at a near by village and we embarked on a 3 hour hike to the Glacier. The terrain is rugged and challenging, but absolutely breathtaking. Upon arriving at the foot of the glacier, we stopped for a snack and made our way up, each step taking more energy, with our bodies screaming for air to aid our tired muscles. We climbed a little further and picked a spot to take pictures and enjoy our accomplishment. The walk back to the bus: 1.5 hours downhill. What topped off the trip was the night of the Super Moon. pictures below.
The foot of the glacier
The Glacier used to be so large it extended out to where those lakes are.
Me and Pablo
THE SUPER MOON! (yes that is the moon not the sun)