22 Dec 2015

El Camino de la Muerte - Death Road Special

The Road of Death in Bolivia was reckoned to be the most dangerous road in the world, but now it is just a myth. We drove down it a few days ago and the only real danger nowadays is of knocking one of the cyclists (that come hurtling down) over the edge. A few years ago a new road was built and now the main traffic on the Road of Death are cyclists, their support vehicles and the odd over lander. Having said that it is easy to imagine how bad it was when this was the only road for buses, trucks etc especially seeing the way they drive, with no-one willing to give an inch.

As far as the road goes, we have probably been on at least a dozen roads in the last few months that are narrower, with tighter bends and drops just as long, but would never have had the amount of traffic that the death road once had.

It is quite a challenge for cyclist though, when we came up (the cyclists go down) there was torrential rain at times near the top, there are also a number of waterfalls that actually fall on the road and cascade over the side. Some of the cyclists we saw were really going for it, but there were others by half way down were going quite slowly and still clinging on for dear life. Officially, my excuse for not doing it myself is that Chris would not drive back down to get me. But in reality I have been in situations where I have ridden downhill soaking wet and so cold I couldn't keep the handle bars straight so was happy to stay driving the car.

Prior to the Death Road we drove from Copacabana to La Paz, through a hail storm which left the road completely white for a few hundred meters. La Paz is a huge city in a Canyon, one end is at 4000m, the other at 3,200m and the buildings tower up each side of the canyon. Driving through is a nightmare as nothing makes sense and the roads climb up multiple hairpin bends on each side, made considerably worse by the insistence of my GPS that I drive the wrong way up one way roads!

We staid in La Paz for 2 days prior to going to the Death Road in order to get insurance for the rest of South America and another 2 days after when we met up by chance with a number of Overlanders from France, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.

When we set off from La Paz for the Death Road we decided to take a wider sweep, via a Gold Mine in the jungle (which is apparently just like the wild west, including taking gold for payment in shops) but on the way we stopped at a police check point where they told us there was no road through (we heard later it was closed because they are building a new road). Not wanting to drive back through La Paz we went Mongolian style, completely off the map and the GPS, by following tracks we could see  joining roads in the next valley and eventually made it to the right road. But only after a number of dead ends, a 3 point tun on a really rough road at around 5,000m and another after we realised that we were on bulldozer tracks for another new road, where we had to use low box, initially to get through and then turn round and go back to find the right road.

We are now in Cochabamba for Christmas after the longest drive of this phase so far (240 miles) at 2.500m a little lower than recent times so a little warmer (tho it has been pouring with rain most of today).
Whilst in La Paz we visited the Charango Museum,. we bought (eldest daughter) Sarah a Charango back from Peru 11 years ago (and she still plays it) so this next selection is for her.
Charangos were originally made from Armadillo shells
And here are a couple of examples
And have been developed into all sorts of weird and wonderful instruments

Including this one that must be impossible to play


But there was also a picture of someone (apparently) playing it

Full of the most unlikely string instruments you could imagine (or maybe not!)


There was no picture of anyone playing these!!!
I want this picture!!!

After the Museum we found an English Pub
      
We camped a little way out of the La Paz, in the Valley of the Moon. The site was on quite a slope, but fortunately they had some ramps to level us up perfectly, the tent was so low at the back we almost didn't need the ladder to get in.
On the way to The Road of death we had to inch our way through a Market - over a mile long took us over an hour to get through - slower and more dangerous than The Road of Death!



And then back into the mountains

On my favourite roads

The view from our camp site before doing the Death Road      
And finally - The Road of Death (the misty bit in the middle is a water fall
Memorials all the way to those that have perished (usually with numerous names on)
As we go up the rain gets heavier
and at times more like the river of death

More water falls to contend with


and rivers running across the road (with another memorial in the foreground)
The view out of my side window as we crossed the 'river'
And the picture to prove it (unfortunately you had to pay to do the bike ride to get the tee shirt).
 
It looked like there were Guinness stations along the way - maybe these were only for the bike riders too - I really should have done the bike ride!

















































 

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