Cusco, Peru > La Paz, Bolivia...Finally I say "chau!" to Peru!
Aug 27, 2005
|My goodness people, can you actually believe that I finally left Cusco?? Well, I did it, and this time, there was no phantom bus at the terminal... it was rather for them, more of a case of a phantom passenger who almost missed the bus. The bus was less smelly this time, but it was much colder!! Hence, a new theory - smelly is warm!! I had put on more clothes this time, with a jumper and a jacket, but at about 2am, I woke up cold, literally chilled to the bones!! Luckily my sleeping bag was handy, and I slept under some more warmth! Couldn't sleep very carefree though, as the conductor repeatedly warned me to cuddle my backpack, as there are thieves. That gave me some warmth at least!
So, I left Peru with mixed feelings... It's been a country full of ups and downs, where I had some of the best experiences (e.g. Isla de la Ballestas), and yet some of the worst (e.g. having my camera stolen, then all my CDs full of pictures from my trip), hence some of the most villanous people (including those who repeatedly try to rip me off!) and yet some of the most kind hearted ones. But it was definitely time to leave - have been in Peru for almost as long as Costa Rica! and maybe I have left a little late, so that I carried a lot of bad feelings and disappointments (see previous entry on "Grand Opening of Paddington") with me onto the bus. However I had an excess of 8 soles, which could have almost bought me a tube of pringles...
Getting to La Paz did not take as long as I had expected. I had cunningly made the mistake of taking a combi to Desaguadero, a border town closer to La Paz - hence I no longer had the option of staying an extra day at Copacabana, even if I had wanted to. The immigration office on the Bolivian side was so well marked that I almost walked straight past it, and onto a bus without an entry stamp in my passport!! But all worked out well, and I sat next to a well dressed and well spoken middle aged Bolivian woman called Teresa, who periodically pointed out the various sights out to me.
The landscape was surprisingly flat, as it's on a huuge antiplano. There were also some cyclists when we neared El Alto - the new suburb-city of La Paz. So much easier (and less scary!) than going downhill!! My first impression of La Paz from the top of the mountain was that it was huge and sprawling! Up steep mountains and all! It was also dusty, but with some newer and taller buildings infiltrating through. At the terminous, Teresa asked to share a taxi, as we both needed to go to the same place. The fare was 8 Bolivianos (less than 50p, $1.10), and she wanted to split it 5 to 3, to me. Great!! The trait continues, I see!!
Anyway, I checked into my hostel, and my dorm-mate was Nida from Salisbury, UK. Unfortunately she was feeling sick, so I explored the city by myself. Actually I didn't get very far, as I was tired from the night bus ride, and being Sunday, many places were closed. So simply explored the few blocks around the hostel, looking for somewhere to wash my now peasant-smelling clothes from the bus. Also managed to try out more international food - this time falafel again, at an Arab place. My last night at Cusco was at a Korean place - quite pricey, but I didn't mind getting rid of the last of my soles! Besides the food was soo good, it was worth it!
Today woke up feeling much fresher, and tackled the task of popping into the various agencies to enquire about biking down the most dangerous road in the world. When I had first read about it two years ago, I had immediately wanted to go and do it. But in the last month, when various friends had attempted it, survived and recommneded me to do the same... I wasn't quite so sure anymore!! I AM SCARED you know!! Besides having fallen off my bike twice only a few days ago doesn't do much to increase the confidence.
Nida had already done it, and said I should be fine - despite having seen the cuts of my arm, and the bruises on my legs. She said as long I followed the instructions and not be silly, I should be ok. Well, I thought I should go and speak to the agencies and see what they say - surely I am not the first nervous and bad cyclist on that road!!
The first few I went into had no clue of what they were talking about. By lunch time, I had shortlisted to three agencies which made me feel more reassured. One was really lovely, and had even met the guide, but the bikes didn't have hydraulic brakes - which I would prefer to reduce the stress on my hands permanently squeezing the brakes!! So in the end, I didn't allow the price to make the decision for me, but the design of the free t-shirt (joke - but they do have the best design out of the three!)...!
So guys, tomorrow, I will be braving down the most dangerous road in the world - so called because of the number of fatalities each year. Though there are more than a hundred deaths a year, it's most dangerous going by bus uphill, as the road is so narrow many buses crash around the bends and tumble to their deaths down the cliff. It's been said that it's safest going by bike - so I hope that my guides will protect me!! If it gets too hard, there is always the option of jumping into the minivan following behind!
Will spend a night at Coroico (the terminous of the ride) before catching a bus the next day to Rurrenabaque, the gateway to jungle and pampas tour. Will spend a few days in the jungle, where internet is expensive and sloth-like... but will put a little message up for you, if I survive!! :p