3 Weeks in Bolivia makes the hard man humble
06.07.2007 - 15.07.2007 5 °C
When a stray dog takes its chances and chooses to lie down in the middle of a main road to take a nap, its a sign that La Paz and its inhabitants are not your average city slickers.
3 months into our marriage, my husband, otherwise known as the Minister of Finance.. had recently updated the travel budget and announced that our days of clean sheets, warm showers and decent food were over.
And so into Hostal Gloria we walked, signed up to the room on the 3rd floor conveniently located next to a heaving disco by night and overlooking the unofficial black market by day. Aah peace and tranquility!
And oxygen deficiency seemed to be a common theme running through our experience in Bolivia. It seems to make people a little loopy to say the least.
If it wasnt the stray dog taking a nap in the middle of the road it was the village lunatic who went round telling people he had just got out of prison and needed some money to see him through the next few days.
We signed up to cycle "The Worlds Most Dangerous Rd". It goes from La Paz to Coroico and is a single lane dirt road with a sheer 500m cliff drop to one side of it.
Its claimed many a victim. Politicians running for government have been known to deposit their opposition over the side of this cliff, busses have overturned killing all their passengers, and cyclists admiring the view have lost control of their bikes and high tailed it off the edge.
Perhaps it was the little 94% alcohol toast to Pachamama (Mother Earth) at the start of the ride that had the gods on our side, but to be truthful, if you are cautious about the speed that you go, you will most likely arrive alive at the bottom. That said, there are some sections of it which are a little hairy, and a moment of lost concentration would add you to the roads list of victims.
I guess the scariest part of ride is not on the way down, but rather the trip back. Having already reached for the oxygen mask once that day we found ourselves with sweaty palms, gripping the seats, closing our eyes and attempting to think happy thoughts as the tour combi weaved in and out of traffic, overtook on blind rises, took corners on two wheels and narrowly missed people walking across the street.
The thing about Bolivian drivers is that they dont get upset with each other when they cut each other off. Its all just a hoot and a wave and we all move on .. heartrate and blood pressure all still in tact.
Upon arriving back into the "loving" arms of our hostel, we spent the next week lying in bed and hugging the toilet. One drop of Bolivias water (even on your toothbrush) will bring the hardest man to his knees. Lets just say it was altitude sickness at its worst. When Drew turns down food, and opts for herbal tea, you know the man is at an all time low.
But the mood quickly took an upward turn as we headed out of La Paz and south to Uyuni to start our 3 day tour of the Salt Flats.
We stayed in a Salt hotel. Literally all made of salt, Salt chairs, salt tables, salt floors, salt walls.. get the picture? It was one of the coldest nights I have ever experienced..we put every bit of clothing in our backpack on before going to bed. And with that, high fived each other, climbed into bed and said goodnight to the other 4 people sharing our dorm with us. Honeymoon sure has its little ironies some days!
It has to be said that the Salar de Uyuni was photographic wonderland. Train graveyards, pristine white salt flats, green lakes, blue lakes, red lakes (yep, when the sun shines on certain types of algae it can make the lake look red), pink flamingoes, a desert crossing and nights spent drinking red wine next to a bonfire with a sky full of more stars than we will ever see, add to that a couple of cacti and a woolly llama and you got yourself a pretty good travel recipe.