Its a ´ High´ life in Bolivia.
I must apologise for the errible pun in the title there. My only excuse is that I happen to be in a country which has the ability to offer just about the highest of everything. In Bolivia you will find the world´s highest capital city, highest and largest salt flats and possibly some of the highest people too, considering that I have found alcohol here at 97%. Imagine being present at one of their drinking sessions?
So after that piece of useful ( or useless ) information, I feel its about time I told you a little bit more about some of the things I have been doing to amuse myself here in Bolivia.
After enjoying one last killer sunset at Lake Titicaca from the ´ coastal ´ town of Copacabana, I caught a 4 hour bus to La Paz, suprisingly comfortable considering that the ticket cost under 1 pound! The highlight of the short journey was taking a small ferry across a narrow Strait, whilst our bus and all of our prized possesions floated across on a rickety barge, which certainly looked like it should have been consigned to the scrap heap years before.
Somehow, the barge survived and by late afternoon we caught our first glimpses of La Paz, a city I had heard many times, occupied a superb location and my first views of the city certainly didn´t disappoint.
La Paz is situated in a huge bowl at an altitude of over 3600m, with the Andean Altiplano or plateau completely encircling the city at an altitude of nearly 4100m, with distant snowcapped mountains exceeding 6000m in the distance. A twisting and sometimes scary decent is the only way in and out of the city.
My home for the next four nights was to be Loki Hostel, a famous chain, which had been recommended to me by various people who had got stuck at the equivalent in Cusco. I found my bed and later enjoyed my best burger and chips of Soutth America so far, in the bar upstairs over a beer or two and some ripe conversation with people from as far as Japan and Alaska.
I spent the remainder of that weekend dancing very badly in various discos and in between managed to squeeze in some more sightseeing. Exploring the city by foot, proved a tiring and soul destroying affair though, with the cities crazy altitude, coupled with the fact that many of the streets looked like they had been taken from San Fransisco and transported here. Steep is not the word and with many cars and taxis being in a state of disrepair, feared for the breaks many times!
After the weary eyes of the weekend had cleared, I eventually managed to book myself onto a bike ride down the so called ´ World´s Most Dangerous Road´. I for one thought that a 4 hour decent down a mountain, with 400m sheer cliffs along the road was a good enough reason to do it!
I ended up getting a very good deal and went with a small tour operator, recommended to me by a very friendly British chap named Phil, who i found rather inspirational from the start. I soon discovered he was in the process of writing a book and when I enquired what it was about, he told me that he had been involved in a severe mountain accident in the Nepalese Himalaya a few years previously and had only just learned to walk again. I for one will buy his book when he eventually finishes it.
Well I need to tell you all about my bike ride, but will save that for the next post as i have to make a dash for my next bus journey.