Sunday, July 24, 2016

Muslim Hospitality In La Paz

We ride along a beautifully winding road towards La Paz. A new part of our adventure has started and we are thrilled to have David along with us. He is not only a good friend but, having been here before, he is now our official guide.
Camping near a border crossing is never without risks.
Stand off next to our tent this morning. Bring it on you little white punks! This is my grass!
David having a chat with this little girl in Copacabana while making sure the puppy gets some much needed attention.
The only moment in all of our time together where we were the ones waiting for David to be ready to go. ;)

Lake Titicaca
The last miles of joy before we hit La Paz.
Before long we say goodbye to the beautiful vistas over lake Titicaca as we ride onto a large barge to cross the last obstacle to get to Bolivia’s capital city. The barge does not appear to be seaworthy, but we manage to make it across Lake Titicaca without sinking, so we're all pleased. The traffic into town is bad and somehow we get lost and end up riding through a market. People are helpful and point us in the right direction. Soon we are going downhill into the city. The views are spectacular. 
The ferry to mainland Bolivia.
Look at these faces! We are still afloat! The massive barge is propelled by one tiny little boat engine.
Almost there when it starts raining.
We make it to a hostel that is mentioned on iOverlander. David, who has stayed here before warns us that it is a bit like a prison. As long as that means our bikes are safe it is ok with us! Or so we thought… We literally climb over filthy-looking backpackers doing yoga in front of our room, and drop our luggage next to lumpy mattresses on the floor (Azure insists we never put luggage on beds in case of bed bugs - probably a good call in this instance). The walls are covered in graffiti... some drawings, some famous quotes in a variety of languages. It seems that if you have a marker handy, you can leave whatever you like on the wall. It drives me crazy!
David shows us around town and we start to relax. The people are nice and there is a lot to see. La Paz is situated in a valley and it means that, no matter where you walk, you go up or down a hill. 
Witchcraft market in La Paz. Yes, those are dead alpaca babies...
Absolutely exhausted we make it back up the hill, to our hostel where a large group of Argentinian youngsters have taken over and a party is well on its way. With a sign demanding quiet hours from 10PM we go to “bed” and wait for things to quiet down. 10.30PM and the party is getting louder. 11PM. Through the roof now! Azure talks with the night manager and he points at the sign that says the quiet hour began at 10pm, as if he hasn't realized it is 11pm. At 1AM the party is still going and all I can think off is how to get my revenge in the morning…
With a “Stomp style” percussion act I make coffee at 7.30AM. Grumpy party people start grumbling from their beds and I make even more noise. Only after someone starts cleansing the air from bad spirits with a ritualistic “smote stick” I take it down a notch and start packing the bike. We are out of here! It is our mission to find a new and better place. Many hostels and hotels later and battling city traffic we find a gem. A Pakistani man and his Bolivian wife have set up a lovely Bed and Breakfast and we are welcomed in with a fresh pot of coffee. It reminds me of the hospitality I encountered when I was riding in Pakistan. Casa Skyways is fully booked but when we explain our situation he allows us to stay in a room that he is working on and is not yet furnished. We can decide ourselves how much we want to pay him for it. Yes please! We set up our comfy Nemo air mattresses and sleeping bag and with our bikes in a serene backyard we finally sit down and relax.
Safe and clean bike parking. And the homemade Transalp center stand in action. (very lightweight, cut to size walking cane)
David opted to stay at the other hostel but we meet up again to go to the famous markets of El Alto. We take the cable car up and get a spectacular view of the city. We pass over houses and a massive graveyard. On one of the streets there is a parade going on. The people in our cable car point out a car wedged into a ravine. What a way to see the city! With a warning to look after our stuff, we leave the cable car and walk onto one of the biggest markets we have ever seen.  
The Red Cable Car taking us to the El Alto market. A great way to see La Paz.

La Paz's famous cemetery.
We make a quick stop to see this colorful and extremely busy graveyard.

What a city!
Hell of a way to park your car!
Colors, colors, colors.
Restocking electrical parts at the El Alto market.
We have heard a lot of bad stories about Bolivia and La Paz. The people would be very nasty towards foreigners and absolutely not helpful. Yes, the city is very hectic but it is also very lively and beautiful. We have a great time and enjoy having a couple of days to relax. Azure's thumb injury is still bothering her so much to her chagrin, I swap her Sahara 3 rear tire for a chunkier Metzeler Karoo 3 while she looks on. Once her thumb is healed, both she and the Transalp will be ready to handle the sand that is waiting for us in the South. With that, we ride our of La Paz and head for Oruruo. 
Another bonus of riding with the Mosko's in front: A good place to stow a spare tire.
"Roel, could you change it for me this time, please?" How could I say no!

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