Thursday, 5 May 2011

La Paz times

Hola chico´s

I´m currently corresponding with you from the highest city in the world called Potosi on Bolivia. Go on look it up if you dont believe me. Its 4200 metres up and the altitude here is pretty bad though I m a bit more used to it after being at this general altitude for so long.

The last email finished off in lake Titicaca and let me tell you I felt like a right titicaca after asking around for Lola for the guts of 3 hours. Turns out she worked in a bar called Copacabana not in the actual town. An easy mistake which I´m sure has been made numerous times. Barry Manilow - what a w@nker! Anyway I met some Irish girls on the bus to La Paz and it was nice to be able to talk at normal speed again. My spanglesh is pretty awful. We arranged to meet up for dinner and we were joined by 3 lads from Cork and a nutter from Cavan. We ended up playing some drinking game whilst waiting 2 hours for our steak to arrive. A very sensible and quite conversational evening was had . I only think we are barred because someone dropped their napkin on the floor...

Anyways, moving on as they say, La Paz is a much nicer city than Cusco. The entrance to it is the most impressive of any city I´ve been to. Its basically in this huge hole so its fairly stunning when you get your first full glimpse of the place on the road in. I´d recomend it for that alone. Luckily there is more. The taxis here are a hoot. They dont know any street in the city and just take off in any dirction. Even with the language barrier I´ve made so many taxi friends - "You´re going downtown even though I want to go uptown, O you are a kidder, muchos gracias"

Theres riots here everyday in the main square and the miners let off sticks of dinamite for kicks which make quite the bang. My army shorts selection for an evening stroll was quite the topical fashion choice. Still I got to shoot 5 infidels before anyone copped so fun times. It is a nice city in fairness, lots of squares and mad markets like the witches market. Theres a lunar valley above the city which is supposed to be way cool but I didnt get a chance to see that. Like evey other city I´ve been to its buit on a hill so every walk is a struggle but thats the proce you pay in these parts.

My second day here I met up with the Dragoman tour crowd and its a nice bunch again. 14 in total and a big range of ages but the majority have English as their first language which I must admit was a major relief. Theres 4 Irish people in total as well which is new to me. I´ve always been the sole "token" Irish person so I guess now I´ll have to share the limelight   We just had a minor briefing the first evening and I booked my trip to death road for the next day. It would be me and 3 others from the tour.

We set off at 8 the next morning and headed high up in the hills to do death road. It was fairly cold and windy out but after a briefing from our guide we hit the tarmac road on our way to death road. It was grand and the only main scare was seeing the remains of a van over a cliff. We had to cross a checkpoint because death road happens to be in Bolivia´s second biggest coca plantation - niice. We got to death road at about 11 and started the decent which took about 3 hours. Its real shit when you get on it as in the 40k´s of road there is about 5 barriers on all the bad turns so its pretty much up to you. We would stop every 20 minutes or so and the guide would tell us about the bad turns ahead and how and where people died on the next stretch which fairly focuses the mind let me tell you. After about 7 stints out of 10 I felt confident on the bike and decided to move up front with the big boys and I lasted only that stint. They were flying it and after a high speed scare in a hairpin turn I decided I was up a level too far and went back to the pack.

Ironically enough I thought the stories the guide was telling us on the last few stints was just to keep us wary and vigilent of the road but on literally the last turn of the cycle in the village where we were stopping one of the lads in our group came of his bike and broke his arm. I wouldnt mind but he literally bombed it down death road and then a puddle in a village undone him. Very unlucky but just shows you dont even realise the speed you are doing until someone comes off the bike.

After he was carted off to hospital we went to this animal santuary for lunch and after seeing the amount of bites and the general crustiness of the volunteers I decided to avoid the monkeys and happy I was too. Then we got the final treat of the day in that we had to drive back up death road to get back to La Paz. In the dark. In the rain.In a full van. Going uphill. Luckily we had a game of movie tennis in which my movie buffness(?) came to the fore. I think they were more impressed with my movie knowledge than my bike skills - some achievement.

Anyways thats all for now. I´m in a town called Uyni where the salt plains are. It was amazing. Update will follow.

My name is U-L-T-A-N


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