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La Paz Photos

Posted by Jason del Sur in Photo Albums, South America 2012
April 26th, 2012

Here’s a full photo album of my time in La Paz including Lucha Libre and Death Road.

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And a little insight into my time in La Paz.

“do you have any plans for tomorrow? because I don’t know about you, but I plan on getting ridiculously drunk tonight.”

5 minutes later: “this is going to sound ridiculous but I have to be up tomorrow at 7 to be on Bolivian television”

 

The Most Dangerous Road. In the World.

Posted by Jason del Sur in South America 2012
April 26th, 2012

North Yungas Road, leading from La Paz to Coroico, Bolivia has been christened “the world’s most dangerous road”. It’s affectionately known now as “Death Road”. It winds down the side of mountains rarely more than a single lane wide and even more rarely with guardrails. The road goes under waterfalls, over streams, with the sheer dropoff just outside the window. In the past, over 200 people died on the road every year. It’s the one road in Bolivia where you drive on the left hand side of the road. The idea is that when two cars meet, the one going downhill will move to the outside. They will then have the best view of how near their tires are to the edge. I highly recommend the Top Gear Bolivia special (available on Netflix streaming) for a great–although slightly contrived–experience of Death Road.

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Nowadays, they’ve built a new road that practically all cars use instead. This significantly decreases the danger on the road making it perfect for downhill biking. You still have the steep dropoffs, the lack of guardrails. Just no cars to avoid.

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The views of the valley are spectacular. Once you get the hang of your fancy, incredibly expensive hydraulic brakes, there are plenty of stretches where you can just cruise. (You did pay the extra money for a reputable company with expensive, well-maintained bikes, right?)

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The full adrenaline rush combined with the natural beauty of the area is nearly ineffable. I highly recommend it you’re ever in La Paz.

After the bike ride down, we did the biggest zipline I’ve ever seen. It’s three lines, the first is the highest: over a kilometer over the valley floor. The second is the fastest: reaching speeds of 85km/h, and the longest: 587 meters taking over a minute to reach the other side. Also highly recommended.

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Then we had the pleasure of 3 hours back up the same road, this time in a van. I think that was actually scarier than biking down.

Oh, here’s the waterfall the Top Gear guys got stuck under head to head with another car. The odd part is that there’s a turn-off to let cars pass about 20 meters away.

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¡Lucha Libre!

Posted by Jason del Sur in South America 2012
April 25th, 2012

And now we come to what has definitely been a highlight of the trip. While many visitors to La Paz go to the touristy cholita wrestling, I had the opportunity to attend a truly local luche libre “match” (“show” might be more correct, however).

My good friend Nell has been living in La Paz for the past few months writing her doctoral thesis. One of the components of the thesis involves Lucha Libre (best simply explained to my friends back home as Mexican wrestling in Bolivia). Over the course of her research she has been adopted into the community and now goes by the moniker “Lady Blade”. And I happened to be in town for her second–for lack of a better word–performance.

We arrived several hours so she could practice and warm up. The arena was a community center gym. I’m not sure I enjoyed watching the luchadors assemble the ring. Seeing the makeshift pieces fit together did not inspire confidence in the structural integrity. Shortly thereafter, I was evicted from the main room so as not to get a sneak peak of what would later transpire.

In the meantime, an elderly Bolivian cleaning lady struck up a conversation with me. It began like so many other conversations I’ve had with older people in Bolivia and Peru.

“How old are you?” “32”

“Do you have children?” “No”

“Are you married?” “No”

“¿Por qué no?”

In South America a single 30-something is an abomination and a thing of mystery.

The conversation then turned a little political as she asked me if we have a woman president in Los Estados Unidos. I told her, no, but he’s black. “Noooo”, she said, affronted by the prospect of a black man in power. Racism clearly exists in Bolivia.

Finally, it was time for the match. A large crowd arrived, about 250 people. And out of that total, only one gringo: yo.

Then began the insanity. Flips, piledrivers, and chair throwing.

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Then Predator arrived. A mummy showed up (wins the prize for staying in character best: no emotion, no reaction to pain). Even Chucky stopped by (played by a son of one of the luchadores).

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At intermission, children took over the ring.

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And in the final bout, Lady Blade arrived.

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And an epic 7 minutes it was, ending with smashing florescent lights and victory for Lady Blade and her partner.

Salty Uyuni

Posted by Jason del Sur in South America 2012
April 24th, 2012

I’m now pretty far behind on my posts, so some of these next few may be on the shorter, did-this-then-did-that, side as I try to catch up.

Sunday 25 March–Thursday 29 March

After a quick reunion over a lomito (steak sandwich with egg and everything) with Victoria in Iguazu, it was off to the airport for an overnight layover in BA. My flight the next morning  was early, so there wasn’t a lot of partying I could do, even though it was Saturday night in Buenos Aires. But I knew there would be a shot waiting for me in La Paz.

I had been called by my airline a couple days earlier informing me that my connecting flight from Santa Cruz (Bolivia) to La Paz had been canceled and the only option was to spend a 7 hour layover until the next flight. Thankfully, the Santa Cruz airport was incredibly nice. Free wifi, lovely weather outside to enjoy the observation deck, and of course, cheap beer. There are definitely worse places I could be stuck for 7 hours.

Upon landing in La Paz, I immediately felt drunk. The sudden change in altitude was affecting my brain. When my friend Nell from Chicago met me at the airport, I was having trouble even forming coherent sentences. The next two days were basically acclimating and getting my first taste of the Loki hostel experience.

Based on Nell’s schedule we would only do a one day tour of the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. An overnight bus down, a day exploring, then an incredibly bumpy overnight bus back.

Salar de Uyuni

The Salar looks like a giant white desert going off over the horizon. The sheer size and whiteness is astounding. You can see the damn thing from space. Proportions get skewed leading to some silly pictures.

Salar de Uyuni   Salar de Uyuni

All of the salt processing is done manually–just shovels.

Shovelling cocaine--I mean salt

Also, we explored the train cemetery full of rusty retired locomotives. I was just happy my tetanus shot was up to date.

Train Cemetary  Train Cemetary

In the middle of the flat, there’s an old hotel made completely of salt. It was shut down because there was no way to handle the human waste in an environmentally safe manner.

Salar de Uyuni

Overall, I definitely recommend a trip to Uyuni, but I would advise spending at least 2 days there so you’re not rushed on the overnight buses (and pay the extra money for the tourist-class bus–they should be quite a bit more comfortable).

Why Michael Jackson is on this sign I don't knowLocal band: Maria Juana. Subtle they are not.Train CemetaryTrain CemetaryTrain CemetaryTrain CemetaryTrain CemetaryTrain CemetaryLlama made of saltSalar de UyuniShovelling cocaine--I mean saltSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniFumar te va a matar.Fumar te va a matar.Salar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniSalar de UyuniNot quite sure what this sign is trying to say.

On Lima

Posted by Jason del Sur in South America 2012
April 22nd, 2012

Me: Lima is definitely not the same Peru I’ve spent the past two weeks in.

Ross: how so?

Me: I can name several specific differences, but it basically boils down to: there’s actually money in Lima.

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