La Paz, Bolivia and Death Road
La Paz is an interesting city, it has a population of 4 million however it’s infrastructure is hardly what you would call developed nonetheless the city seems to harmoniously work (from where I saw it from anyway).
There is traffic and plenty of horn tooting, unfinished buildings and the cities niggling reputation of robberies, high jacking’s and unsafe taxi drivers never actually delivering their occupants to their destination, BUT we survived.
To add an extra danger factor to Rob’s stay in La Paz he opted in for a day coasting down the “worlds most dangerous road”, which is something most backpackers guarantee they will do whilst in Bolivia, for me the adrenalin rush did not appeal to me enough to risk my life.
Rob made his choice of going with local “death road” agency Vertigo after chatting with some fellow backpackers. We visited their office in street and once chatting to the woman behind the desk Rob booked his tour for the following day. It cost $450Bolivianos ($70AU) (on the cheaper side in comparison to other agencies) but Rob felt that Vertigo was far superior when it came to safety. His group was kitted out with full face helmets, elbow pads, knee pads and brightly colored protective jacket and trousers. The bikes provided were also relatively modern with front and rear suspension, wide tyres and disc brakes and seemed to be well maintained, however on two occurrences the chain fell off Robs bike, but guide Marcello was quick to offer up his own to swop out.
The 60km ride begins with a section of sealed public road where the riders can get a feel for their bike with a gentle downhill warmup, then the fun really begins when you soon arrive at the start of the official “death road”. The infamous ride takes about 2-3 hours, with numerous pit stops along the way for photo opportunities, (included) snacks and refreshments along with a bit of history on how the road became so famous. There were a few spills along the way and a couple of guys from Robs group took a tumble however the Vertigo minivan was never far behind and was quick to patch the riders up and send them on their way.
The downhill ride ends in the town of Coroico, where Vertigo along with most other groups enjoy a buffet lunch and swim at a local hotel before setting off on the three hour trip back to La Paz, with free t-shirt and DVD of photos and video footage in hand. Of course this isn’t a day out for the faint hearted but choose the right agency and they will look after even the most inexperienced rider.
We had some unique eats whilst in La Paz, we ate three dinners during our time there eating twice at a British Pub both choosing the same thing off the menu, both times and then trying out a Cuban restaurant on the third occasion. We struggled a little with food in this city, we did plenty of menu reading and discussing the pro’s and con’s on offer, but in the end we made the naughty, and very unlike us decision to go abroad with our food choices and not eat local.
We did however take a big risk for lunch one day visiting a traditional Bolivian lunch restaurant, and opting for the set lunch menu, which is called Almuerzo in Bolivia. You basically have 2-3 options to choose from for a set-price, in the touristy areas this will be about $25Bolvianos ($4AU) and will include a Soup, a main which could be chicken and rice, spag bol or something along those lines and then a desert which could be a crepe with some jam inside, sliced bananas with some chocolate sauce or perhaps a scoop of ice cream, small portions but still pretty good value. BUT if you visit a local version of one of these restaurants you can pay as little at $10Bolivianos ($1.60AU).
We had a traditional Bolivian soup and because we had arrived so late, we ended up with a mixture of both available mains, the meat balls from the spag bol and the rice from the chicken and rice meal – meat balls and rice it was! The dessert was some sort of chocolate goop, so we left that behind. However for $1.60 our soup and rice and meatballs was a good deal!
The day Rob went off for his death road trip I visited a vegetarian restaurant, and once again chose the set menu, it was a completely vegan four course meal and included a vegetable soup, bulgur tabouli, a lentil moussaka and a small egg cup of juice with three cubes of kiwi fruit for dessert. The food was beautifully presented also came with a big bowl of bread and salsa, however after all the ginormous meals we have been eating of late, I did leave a little hungry as the portion sizes were pretty small. The set menu was $23Bolivianos ($3.60AU) and changes every day, I think I would go back to try more variations however lucky Rob wasn’t with me that day.
We stayed at Sol Andino Hostel in La Paz, which was more like a hotel than a hostel and we even had a TV in the room which we were able to catch some English news, something I do miss waking up to in the mornings whilst traveling. We opted for a private room at this stop as Bolivian prices allow it, where we had Wi-Fi in our room and the breakfast was one of the best on our travels so far, so I went a little made taking advantage of it. Yoghurt, three types of fruit, milk (not just powder), quinoa puffs, rice puffs, eggs, delicious bread that even I indulged in and of course coffee and various types of teas.