La Paz was something I was really looking forward to and my expectations weren’t let down. The first day 90% of our group including Alex went on a mountain biking tour down death road. Death Road is the original road between La Cumbre and Corioco that is a 3.2 metre wide gravel road with 600m cliff drops. In 2007 they opened a new road but prior to this it was rated the world’s most deadliest road with about 26 cars per year disappearing off the edge. Since 2007 the road has taken 15 cyclists lives and many more reporting close encounters! As you can imagine I was pretty nervous hearing that Alex was going to be riding a bike down this road but the company they chose, Gravity Mountain biking seemed like the safest option!
As I didn’t do this trip I’m going to let Alex share his experience- The day started out with an early morning drive up the Mountain along the new highway and got fitted out with gear and bikes! Once at the top of the hill we couldn’t see anything but a thick covering of clouds and begun our ride down the hill and ventured onto “death road”. The venture down the road was very intense as we were navigating landslides, loose rocks, waterfalls and other life threatening hazards at break neck speed only a metre away from 200m drops that disappeared into the cloud line. We had a few stops to look out at the view and over the edge of the cliff and to catch our breath. The ride descended 1500m during a 64km ride! Once we reached the bottom of the mountain we were greeted at an animal rescue where a Spider monkey fell in love with me and wouldn’t let go of me much to the workers surprise. All in all it was a wonderful day that I do recommend highly!
Whilst the group enjoyed their day on Death Rd I got to go shopping with a few of the other girls who chose not to do the trip. The shopping in La Paz was extremely good with many options for alpaca and llama knit wear at fantastic prices. They also had cushions, rugs, table runners and so much more. I ended up having to buy another bag for my purchases!
I really enjoyed the witches market with different herbs and potions for all different ailments and to find a potential mate. Disgustingly enough they also had llama foetuses for putting under houses as a sacrifice to Pacha Mama.
There is an urban legend (that appears to be quite real) that the local builders bury bodies underneath larger buildings (as a llama foetus isn’t good enough for Pacha Mama).
For our second day in La Paz we had heard great reviews of a free walking tour run by “Red Hat Walking Tours” and decided to do that. The meeting point for this was at the infamous San Pedro Prison. This prison is well known as it is run as its own society where inmates can run businesses, buy their own accommodation and even have their families live with them inside whom are free to come and go as they please. The prison is divided into areas depending on wealth with each area having a courtyard, restaurants and other services provided by inmates. Depending on the wealth of the inmates they can buy luxury accommodation with rooms, hot tubs, cable tv etc. The prison which was originally designed to house 250 inmates now has 1300-1500 (not including family members). The other unique thing about San Pedro is the production and selling of cocaine isn’t very well controlled by government officials with prisoners popping their heads out of the roof and throwing out bags onto the street to their sellers (we were even lucky enough to see this whilst on our tour). An English drug trafficker who got convicted and sent to San Pedro Prison, Thomas decided to make some extra money by bribing the guards to allow tourists to tour the prison. Whilst officially illegal there are a lot of people that will offer you a tour into the infamous prison. If you want to learn more about San Pedro there is a book called Marching Powder that a lot of people on our tour said is fantastic. Anyway besides the interesting prison stories the rest of the tour was fantastic and so informative.
They took us to many areas and educated us on the Chollitas (the local women), local customs and took us to the Witches Market and taught us a bit more about the llama foetuses and the urban legend of burying bodies under buildings. The tour ended with a beautiful view of the city and the surrounding mountains. It’s easy to say that La Paz is one of my favourite cities in South America so far and I was sad to say goodbye to Bolivia. We ended our evening with dinner and more amazing market shopping.