30/10/2013 - 01/11/2013
I don't know why but by coming to La Paz I had already some expectations and was sure I was going to like this city, the highest capital in the world, at an altitude of 3,650 meters. Unfortunately, instead of a charming city with tiny streets and market places, I was faced with noise, pollution and crowds like all the other world's capitals. Actually the pollution level is quite impressive here as there is a lot of traffic, especially buses, and as the city is built on the sides of the surrounding mountains, the cars and buses release a lot of exhaust fumes when going up.
But La Paz is not worse or better than the others really, it's just that maybe I had heard or read somewhere that it was a good place to spend some time. And to be fair, I have never been particularly attracted to big cities and also did not want to more than a few days so probably with another mindset, the city could have been more attractive, as many travellers I met afterwards told me it had been for them.
Anyway as soon as we arrived in the city, we decided with some friends to book a bike tour to the "Death Road" directly the next day. Time now was running short and in order to be able to visit all the cities I had planned to until my flight to New Zealand in December, I almost couldn't afford to spend some days doing nothing.
The Death Road, like its name states, is a very dangerous mountain road which has seen an incredible number of deaths over the years because of its really narrow size and steep edges. Nowadays the Bolivian government has built a new road, on the other side of the mountain, wider and safer, and the old road is mainly used by tour agencies to organise bike tours from the top to the bottom of that road - 62km... There is no asphalt here and you start in the clouds with a more or less good bike with suspensions. The road can effectively be dangerous as there is almost no safety barriers but I'd say that it is mainly down to your speed. If you decide to go down like a snail, then you could wonder why people call it the Death Road. However if you decide to down that road like a rocket, using your brakes at the minimum, then yes, the danger is real... But it's a lot more fun that way!!! Anyway no incidents to report that day (I think the last death here had been in 2011) but only good sensations. It is also incredible to start above 4000 meters with almost freezing temperatures to end up a few hours later sweating a lot with 25-30 degrees and finishing the tour by swimming in the river!
This would be the only tour I would do near La Paz and would spend the next days planning my next month in South America and strolling around the markets in the capital, without forgetting a memorable Halloween party!