To get to La Paz, it was another bus. The road is 200km just like the road to Oruro and so just as unappealing to ride, especially as there is nearly always a headwind and while they’re building a new road, the old road has a very narrow shoulder and plenty of traffic passing by on a remarkably straight road – no thanks. Our bus was meant to leave at 11:30, but at noon we were still waiting near the terminal waiting for more passengers. This didn’t bother me too much, but plenty of the other passengers were busy shouting VAMOS VAMOS, especially pointless when the driver was outside and definitely couldn’t hear them. This lack of patience continued along the journey, as the bus stopped to pick up passengers from the communities along the road, until after the 5th or 6th time when I replied to them that of course it’s going to stop. It’s a bus. It’s not full, and pointed out how if they lived there they’d want the bus to stop along the way. Thankfully that seemed to stop the louder complaining and so it was a semi-peaceful drive with just constant muttering from the lady behind me.
La Paz is a ridiculous city. It was founded because some gold was discovered, and so with a giant flat altiplano to build on, they decided to construct in a steep-sided canyon. This of course grew to be the capital, and so you get the situation where El Alto is at 4100m, the bus terminal and ‘downtown’ around 3700m, and the zona sur around 3200m. You can guess where we stayed. We got off the bus and had a steep drop down to the home of Linda and Raul, our Warmshowers hosts. Linda is from Canada, where they met when Raul was at university there. 44 years ago Linda moved down to Bolivia, and they’ve been there since. They run a foundation to help children get education, and are a thoroughly lovely couple.
We arrived late-afternoon on the Thursday, and so didn’t have lots of tourism time. On the Friday I spent 3-4 hours hanging out at X Bike Store, chatting with the main mechanic Carlos, and the other people there, while adjusting a few things on my bike. I’d have had Carlos adjust my bike, as he was a great mechanic, but he was incredibly busy. The following weekend would be the Race to the Heaven, a 64km that starts at 1200m and goes up to 4700m, up the so called Death Road. For those who don’t know, the Death Road (Estrada de Muerte) used to be one of the most dangerous roads in the world because as well as being steep, a long stretch is very narrow and unpaved. It is barely wide enough for two vehicles to squeeze past each other, and so the inevitable happens, especially in the rainy season. It’s been replaced with a paved alternative and now is mainly a tourist attraction for those who want to go down by bike. Part of me considered riding down one day, and back up the next, obviously leaving a good amount of stuff in La Paz, but I changed my mind and was lazy instead.
The morning of our other full day off, Saturday, was spent in the kitchen. Linda & Raul’s grandkids would be coming over for brunch and there was fresh orange juice to squeeze, bacon to cook, pancakes to prepare, tables to set and so much more. It was all worth it, as their three grandkids, Bria (8), Nina (12) and Salvador (16) were lovely. Bria and Nina were very talkative, Bria in particular, and their energy was contagious as they explained the joys of gymnastics and their other hobbies. We had planned to stay one more night, but Sunday was election day and so instead we headed up to the casa de ciclistas, cyclists house, a must-visit for any cyclist passing through La Paz. There were four guests already there, a pair of very taciturn Russians, a lovely Brazilian and an English girl who I’d read about before! Leo, from Brazil, had been in town for about a month, and thought La Paz fantastic, at least until he’d been pickpocketed a couple of days earlier. Charmian, a friend of Cherry, whose blog I read, had flown over from the UK to ride from La Paz down to Ushuaia and a week in had an accident meaning she needed up to a month off the bike. She’d been using the time hanging out in La Paz, learning Spanish, and chilling out. They were both fantastic to chat with, and so while I didn’t do much by the way of tourism in La Paz, I still had a good time – topped off with Korean for dinner.