Cochabamba, La Paz: The lands of danger

Cochabamba

According to the guide book Cochabamba is divided into areas ranked from “you will get mugged” to a slightly more dangerous “certain death” rating. Outside the bus station was a “certain death” zone so it was forbidden to leave the bus station before sunrise. After all other buses in Bolivia had arrived late, we thought we were safe getting an overnight but that was scheduled to arrive at 7am in Cochabamba. It turned out to be the first Bolivian bus we have taken that arrived early. 5am early. So we had to sit around for a few hours at the bus terminal until it was safe enough to leave. We then had to bribe a prison guard to let us stay at the prison which was safer than any hostel. We got shanked a few times but it could have been worse. We could have gone to the Jesus statue on the hill rated the place most likely to die in the world. OH WAIT WE DID!

Talk about an effective advertising campaign for the chairlift!

Maybe we exaggerated a little. OK a lot… but the amount of warnings we heard about Cochabamba was a bit disproportional to the actual danger. Maybe it used to be worse. The chairlift was broken so we had to walk up the hill and expose ourselves to the staircase of muggings.

Jesus welcomes even the alleged abundance of muggers.

The Jesus at the top is slightly taller than Cristo redentor in Rio, Brazil. According to the a plaque it is also the world’s biggest statue. Not sure what qualifies as a statue as I would have thought that the ‘statue’ of liberty may be slightly taller. We got to climb up inside the Jesus and take photos out of his airholes.

I think this is looking out of Jesus’ sleeve.
That’s one dangerous helado.

I think I got the dud ice cream.

The most dangerous thing about Cochabamba.

On the way down we saw people crouching in the bushes. Our hearts were racing, were these the muggers the sign was talking about? We slowed down, merging seamlessly with a gaggle of tourists. Meat shields if you will. We reiterated our plan: shove the other tourists into the muggers and run. Time seemed to stand still as we approached the bush. We took a deep breath and stepped past the bush to see our worst nightmare: university students in a surveying course measuring the height of the hill.

We then decided to hunt out some local entertainment. We were shattered that we missed this amazing looking show with some sort of hairy, pot bellied man in a skirt.

We didn’t spend much time in Cochabamba so we don’t have much else to say about it. We would have liked to find the good food that it apparently has but it was not to be.

La Paz

Some things that La Paz had:

– A witches market that sold baby llama foetuses (naw!) that give you good luck if you bury them under your house.

– A prison in the middle of the main square that is completely self governing. Inmates buy a house inside prison, bring their family, start businesses, make and sell drugs and can even use the free wifi from the neighbouring fancy hotel.

– A wine and cheese bar that seemed too Melbourne to be true. Then we met the owner who was a hipster from Fitzroy.

With maps like these on the walls, you can never get lost in La Paz.
La Pazians walking along.

As La Paz in in a huge valley, it was actually quite hard to get lost. The main road runs over the top of the river along the lowest point in the valley so if you get lost you only need to head downhill to find the main street.

 

A La Pazian party bus.

La Paz is also the starting point of the “world’s most dangerous road” made famous by that Top Gear episode. You know the one. The number 1 attraction in La Paz is to mountain bike down this road. Disclaimer: We didn’t take these photos, the tour company did.

It was a really fun ride all downhill and was quite fast in some sections. Luckily, the day we were riding it, the road was closed to traffic due to a landslide. As the road was generally quite wide for bikes, the most dangerous part is usually the oncoming traffic. A few cyclists have died stepping off the edge giving way to oncoming traffic. Most of them, however, died stepping backwards to take a photo or simply riding too fast and shooting right past a corner.

The tour guide showed us the parts of the road that Top Gear used to “fake” the episode about the road. The road actually has turn offs so you never have to cross another car on a single lane part of the road. A few years ago they opened up a new paved road up the same mountain but the old dangerous road is still popular with the locals because it takes the same amount of time and the new road is constantly having roadworks done to it.

After only getting the slight wobbles once while riding under a waterfall, we made it to the “bottom” which was still at 1,100m altitude. The total descent was over 2000m and some parts of the road had 1000m sheer drops.

At the small town in the valley  we got to do a huge 3 part zipline. Each part was around 500m long and was hundreds of meters in the air over a valley. We got to do it in the ‘superman’ position which was suspended lying flat, face down. Definitely worth it. (I went first and could hear Sean screaming from the other side of the valley…I don’t know what happened over there because he won’t tell me but the guide couldn’t stop giggling at Sean after this first zip line).

After the zip line we visited a wildlife reserve for animals rescued from traffickers.

Welcome to La Senda Verde
A giant parrot wanted to say hello.

Quite a large part of the reserve was dedicated to rescued monkeys. They wouldn’t survive in the wild so they just hang around the reserve in colonies. We took a heap of photos but they all came out blurry. (Ahem Sean took all the blurry photos please). This was also the home of millions of sand flies and both our legs were smothered in bites. Looked like we had chicken pox.

Back in La Paz, Sean decided to take on the “Worlds most dangerous vindaloo curry”. We’re serious! He has the shirt to prove it! The t-shirt was well worth the intense pain, and 2 day sickness that resulted. It was quite evil because the dangerous curry was about twice the size of the ordinary curries.

Finished!
Finished!
Some hard earned foam after a dangerous time in Bolivia.

Most dangerous things now done:

  1. Most dangerous city.*
  2. Most dangerous staircase to Jesus statue.*
  3. Most dangerous road.
  4. Most dangerous curry.

*T-Shirt not included

 

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Catherine Dawson says:

    Great update again happy to know after the events Love the photos and commentary stay safe

    Like

  2. Sue Rogers says:

    Yikes! Again!! Excellent comment Catherine. Signed ‘the other mum’.

    Like

  3. Karen Mill says:

    Once again, I hope your tummy has recovered Sean. Athena is shaping up to be the most sensible partner of the trip. Then again it’s wise to take turns when risks are beckoning. Your turn next, Athena!

    Like

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