Groundhog Day

Back in La Paz

I decided to stay around the corner of the main bus station. At the Adventure Brew Hostel is always something going on, but there are also enough places where you can avoid the activities and make your self homelike. My party switch was ‘Off’ and so I spend my time with walking around the city, reading and my daily visit at the English pub, the only place in La Paz with solid wifi.

Still alive – Death Road Survivor

I also had a little action as well. Finally, I did the Death Road downhill. Safe and sound, I started the tour on Sunday. The start is at approx. 4.700m high. So it is really cold at the beginning and I had to put all my warm clothes on, I could find in my backpack. In the 1st part you have a proper street, so it is pretty easy to bike down. Only the coldness makes it kind of hard. Your fingers freeze and stiffen…

After a while you bend off to the real death road. No asphalt, no securing. Only you, the road and your bike. You need a sort of basic trust to your breaks, my best friends for the next scarce 4 hours.

Lots of rain showers in the previous days made the street muddy. In combination with the waterfalls along the road, it was a pretty wet affair. About half the way the road was blocked of a mudslide. It was impossible to move on. Most of the tour groups stopped and drove back. We decided to wait for the excavator (who arrived pretty fast for South America). 2 hours later we were able to continue the “hell ride”. The condition changed slow but steady. From the coldness at the beginning we rolled hotfoot into the tropical heat.

And then it was finally over! Survived! 😉 All wet, we drove to a hotel to change our clothes and take a shower. Afterwards we had lunch before we went back home to La Paz.

Adios La Paz – or not?

I planed to take a bus to Santa Cruz de la Sierra the next day. The city in the middle of the country should only be a “transit place” on my way to Paraguay. So I bought a ticket for 8pm to get there, 16 hours later the following day. So far, so good. I didn’t envisage with the demonstrating Bolivianos. Apparently they wanted to take advantage of the pre-carnivalesque time and the fact that a lot of people want to travel to the epicenters of carnival, to call attention to the increased taxes. They blocked the roads in the whole country. Impossible drive to Santa Cruz.

The only option was to stay another night at my hostel and try it the next day again. I hoped it would be just a flash in the pan. Far from it! I got stuck in a version of “Groundhog Day” till I finally give it up 3 days later and bought a flight ticket to Santa Cruz. With the advantage to be in the air for just 1 hour instead of sitting in the bus for 16h, though.

Finally some live soccer

What to do in my extra time in La Paz? I went to the soccer stadium again with the hope to be able to enter it this time. Even better! When I passed a ticket counter at the arena, I saw that Club Bolivar, one of the 2 teams in La Paz (the other one is The Strongest), will face Real Potosi that day. Sure thing, I bought immediately a ticket (dead cheap: 5$). The match was meagre. The quality was as lean as the air in the Estadio Hernando Siles, one of the highest stadiums of the planet. But I finally saw my first soccer match in South America on this trip and that more than worth it. By the way, a commanding 2:0 win for Bolivar with 2 goals by Juanmi Callejon.

Confusion in Santa Cruz

With the altitude of La Paz the weather changed radically. Blazing heat and high humidity in Santa Cruz. I took a collectivo (sort of a minivan) to the city center. From there I had to walk with all my stuff about 3km to the main bus station. I didn’t want to loose more time and move on straight to Asuncion in Paraguay. For me it didn’t make sense to stay a night in Santa Cruz. I only went there to get a bus to Paraguay and anyway there is not much to see. For sure, I still didn’t know if there would be buses or if the roads are still blocked. When I arrived in front of the bus station, I immediately got offered tickets to Asuncion. I wanted to check out the prices at the official ticket counters first. But I wasn’t able to enter the bus station. Because of the demonstrations, the police didn’t let anyone go inside. Blockade, already my personal winner of the ‘ugliest word of the year award’. But I still absolutely didn’t want to stay in Santa Cruz. So I took the risk and bought an “unofficial” ticket in front of the station. When I bought the ticket, the seller had to hide from 2 policemen, which took fotos of the illegal sellers. The older guy who sold the ticket told me to do not speak with anyone about it. The bus was supposed to leave at 7pm. I should show up half an hour before. Not really sure if it was a good idea to take the risk and move on “illegally”, I killed the time in a restaurant and granted myself 1 or 2 cold beers for my nerves. 😉

Then the time had come. I went to the meeting point, from where the other passengers and I were split in different taxis, which drove us to a secret place, where the bus was waiting for us. Unfortunately, my taxi driver didn’t know the exact location and we strayed more than half an hour along the streets of Santa Cruz. After a few hectic telephone calls we finally found the backyard where the bus was waiting for us. In the meantime, the taxi driver ran out of money on his phone, so he had to find a store where he was able to put money on his sim card.

A day in the bus

The bus ride took a full day. I had to renounce any comfort this time. If the air cons in the official buses normally groaning with exhaustion, our bus was more like a sauna. Plus, the roads were terrible and the “dessert dest” invaded everywhere. Like a free sauna entrance and gratis full body massage. Luckily Anna Carina and Jessica from Cologne, as well as Max and Paula from Nuremberg were also in the bus. So I got distracted a bit of the hell ride.

When we arrived at Asuncion, I shared a taxi with Max and Paula to the hostel (btw, they also write about their travel; have a look here). Anna and Jessica were visiting relatives, who live in Paraguays capital.

Insufferable heat in Asuncion

Everything about the disaster in Asuncion and how I solved the yellow fever problem in Sao Paulo in my next report. The last one from the American continent.

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