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La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz is a crazy, colourful city which is cramped, crowded and spread all over very steep roads. It also smells really`interesting`, and not in a good way. Our stay in La Paz set the scene for further upset bowels amongst the group as we again took it in turns having disabling bouts of Bolivian Belly.We spent the first two days in private rooms in a quiet little hostel (for recovery purposes) and had a little walk around, visited the markets and generally took it easy. We`d like to say that we really looked after our health by starving out the stomach bug, but instead we became slightly addicted to a chain called Alexander Coffee where the smoothies and muffins were to dddiiiiiee for. We visited the stinky witches market which was definately eclectic, and if you`re ever in need of a dried up llama foetus or animal skull this is the place to go. Mmmmmm. Apparently it`s good luck in Bolivian culture to have a llama foetus at your place of work, so if any of you fancy one for your desks, let us know.

Once we had tapped Alexander coffee an embarrassing amount of times in two days and had started to feel slightly better we checked into the Loki Hostel. For those who have never been to s America, the Loki Hostels are renowned amongst backpackers as being the `party hostels`, which would have been nice....except it was election weekend in the city so all bars and clubs were closed and there was a countrywide ban on alcohol. So instead we decided to do the ONE thing our parents told us not to....to cycle down Death Road.

The Death Road links La Paz to Coroico and is notorious for killing many locals and backpackers over the years due to its shoddy, narrow roads and sheer cliff face drops which on average at least one bus a week would hurtle down killing everyone inside.

Before coming away there was a Top Gear Special where Jeremy Clarkson got in a huge Landrover, put it to the test on Death Road and hammed up just how deadly it was causing panic among the parents who insisted we didn`t go anywhere near it. However, it is also the main adrenalin rush backpackers seek out when they come to La Paz, and who are we to resist peer pressure? So we donned protective clothing, helmets and got on board our mountain bikes which had absolutely no suspension and every piece of gravel we hit made our asses and chins wobble everywhere. The first 22km was a downhill breeze and the only concentration we needed was to just sit on the brakes the whole way and try not to be last in line (this was in vain, and we were pretty much bringing up the rear the whole day). Then after the new, respectable section of road was over we hit......THE DEATH ROAD da da daaaaaaah. Which was actually a slight anticlimax because although you were allowed to race down as quickly as you liked with no restrictions on speed, it never really felt that dangerous. Maybe we`re just exceptional bikers, but we always felt fully in control (apart from the occassional moment when a back wheel hit a large rock and there was some skidding and `woah woah woooooah` style exclamations) The views were literally breath taking, but despite the amazing views, the day is tinged with sadness as you ride past roadside memorial after roadside memorial and realise that so many people have died on the road in the past. In some parts it is almost so narrow its hard to imagine even Noddy getting his little car round the corners, let alone a large obnoxious Bolivian bus travelling at full pelt, idiot driver at the wheel.

Despite literally being part of the `slow group` we felt that we did the ride justice and went as fast as we could without face planting arse over wheel. We finished the ride drenched in sweat, covered in dust and completely jelly legged, not to mention nailed by sand fly bites too, bastards. So we got driven to a nearby pool, had some lunch and a dip then made our way back to La Paz. We went for a few drinks in the Loki Bar where we happily ran into Tom and Aiden the bristolian boys from Puerto Madryn and celebrated beating Death Road.

The next day was a momentous one...we said goodbye to Cilla and Kylie and for the first time on the trip we were setting off on our own. Just Jodes and Tay. Mandy Dingle and Vanessa Feltz off on an adventure. Next stop was Copacabana, which sounds like an exotic, pina colada fuelled funtime beach resort, but in reality is a pretty little town on Lake Titicaca, the Bolivian side. We had heard whispers in Loki about a crowd of 15000 people planning to descend on Copacabana for Easter weekend and so we thought perhaps we should book accommodation ahead. The first place in the book had room and we (in terrible Spanglish) booked ourselves in for two nights and boarded a bus, smug in the knowledge that we had acommodation and had booked it alllll on our own with no Roberto and his Spanish lingo to help us. However after a rather confusing bus ride where we had to disembark for half an hour and watch our bus be plonked onto a raft thingy and slowly dragged across a stretch of lake, we arrived in Copacabana.

Unfortunately the smugness wore off when we saw where we were staying....way out of town in a completely deserted hotel which had what seemed like hundreds of rooms and absolutely no guests. Feeling a sense of dread we headed into town and luckily bumped into four hobbits (or just Kiwi guys who happened to look a bit like hobbits) who let us know where they were staying and so we hauled ass out of the sinister Hotel Murder and checked into the lakefront bargain hotel the boys were at. From there a fairly intoxicated evening ensued with a greasy Mexican meal, some awful red wine, some Kahlua, some drinking games and then the piece de resistance....a fairly illegal borrowing of some swan headed pedalo boats on Lake Titicaca in the middle of the night. We`re on a boat! We`re on a boat!

The next day we hit up a day trip to the Isla del Sol which was really pretty even though it involved a little too much hill walking for our liking. The Inca ruins were right at the top of the North part of the island and provided amazing views of the lake. There we met three English boys Ned, Jack and Stephen who we ended up spending the day with and then travelling on to Arequipa with after one more night in Copacabana.


permalink written by  JodesAndTay on April 17, 2010 from La Paz, Bolivia
from the travel blog: Jodes and Tay escape to SA
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Tay - I knew those gym tot classes would come in handy one day! You look as if you are both having too good a time ... but please no more death roads! Mummy T xxx

permalink written by  Pat Taylor on April 24, 2010

Here, here Mummy Tay - just days by the beach now girlies so us Mummy's dont have anymore stress!! Photo's are fab as always. Jodes can you get anymore brown? Think you will be under the shower for days when you get back.
Last leg of your travels girlies can wait till you both get back safe and sound xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

permalink written by  Mummy Cooper on April 26, 2010

Unusually, I found that I had some time on my hands, so I read up a bit on llama fetuses (as you do).

Apparently, 99% of Bolivian houses have a llama fetus buried underneath them. This custom, as well as that of sacrificing llamas, is to placate Pachamama, the mother earth goddess of the Andean people; otherwise, she has the power to cause earthquakes!

Personally, if I were a llama, or a llama fetus, for that matter, I would rather take the earthquake anyday!

Q: How do you alarm a llama?
A: Pachamama mia!

permalink written by  Father O'Doode on April 29, 2010

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