While i'm getting my life back together, please look at a fine selection of my photos:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bolivia - Careterra del Muerte!!

My route so far: La Paz - Coroico (Death Road!!) - La Paz - Cochabamba.

La Paz. Spend way to much time there. Despite the the traffic congestions, polution, cold nights and hot days, i liked it. Met a bunch of expats who lived and worked there. For me it's interesting to talk to those people about their life. Maybe to help me decide weather or not to emigrate. And to where.

The "Deathroad" trip was quite interesting. I met my buddy Graham in La Paz and we did the road together. We shot some great footage with his videocamera(s). Hope i can upload that to youtube soon.

Here he is, at the toll booth on routa 3 with his totally reliable F650 Dakar (after 60kkm).

The first 50km winding roads on good tarmac with the occasional unexpected bit of gravel to keep you awake...this kind of scenery.

And this.

This stretch, on 4500 about altitute really, really reduces the few horsepower i have to almost none. Next time i take a bike with fuel injection. they suffer less.

Although... For example, a F650Dakar has starting problems on altitude. My TTR has not. FI engines compensate for lean air and use less fuel whereas a carburated engines just throws too much fuel in. It seems.

Just one more then...

El Careterra del Muerte! A 50 km narrow unpaved road with steep drop-offs and great scenery. If the weather is good....which wasn't.

Since the new road is in place there's hardly any traffic except from mountainbike touring groups, which, in particular are dangerous when you go back up i noticed... Almost run in to one of those guys.

The golden rule that you go where you look at sure is applicable here, so as long as you look ahead instead of left or right, there's nothing to worry about. Sort of. Despite all that, it do think this road is actually the safest in Bolivia. Mainly due to absence of other traffic. Man those Bolivians really can't drive! So far i could relate to some extend to the lack of traffic sence i encountered so far, in Bolivia they really pushing the envelope.  So yes, i do tend to hit mirrors these days if a dumb-ass taxidriver pulls up in front of me. I keep my music on in cities to ignore the useless honking. And pretend not to see other cars when manouvring through city traffic. In short, i behave like a local. With the big difference that i am  consious of what i'm doing. Usually. I like to believe. Some days i really look forward to be back in the overly regulated traffic in Holland with lines, lights, speeding cameras and in general intelligent traffic behavior. Anyway.

I was quite happy with my new MT21's, but less happy i took all my gear.  This road is more fun with less luggage, definetly.

Oh, the last few km to coroico is paved with cobblestone. Way worse than the unpaved part, actually.

The death road ends in Coroico, a pleasant village where time stands still and the concept of customer service is not yet common. (Imagine this. You go to a restaurant. You wait. Finally you get the menu. You look at the menu. You ask for food. Guys says there isn't any. And that we should go to the neighber....WTF!?!).

It seems that tourism here came to a halt since the new road opened, allowing touragencies to make the trip without spending a night in Coroico. Pitty. But also, the locals don't do much to market the place for weekend tourism from La Paz. I found some nice chilled out hostels, good food so you can easily spend a few days hanging about. Which i did. And there's some great trairiding to be done in the surrounding hills.

Made it back to the pavement without a scratch!

I write this post party from a Paris style Café at the corner Plaza 16 Sieptembre, with really excellent coffee (best so far in weeks).  Cochabamba is great. I am forced to hang around here for a day or two. I hit a rock on the road with my right foot and despite the fairly good boots i wear my big too is all swollen up. Limping around Cochabamba i found several cool places in this fairly big regional city with a great historical colonial center. I finished this post in Café Casablanca, nice bohhemian vibe. Slightly off the beaten track this city is not spoiled by tourists. It has a great climate and is economical well developt, resulting in an interesting mix of traditional and modern Bolivian culture. One can observe an indigenous girl breast feed her child in public while modern SUV's and hip and trendy youngsters passing by. As a 'gringo' you still stand out in the crowd. I like these cities. Not much to do touristwise, but more authentic than metro-poles like La Paz, Lima etc. (what is authentic?) And it's still cheap! And there's always an protest march or two a day to inform you about current problems in this country. After Colombia Bolivia is the next South American country which gets to me. It's diversity: 1/3th is Andes highlands, 2/3 is (semi)tropical lowlands. And the lowlands want to separate from the highlands. A bit more serious than the separation in Belgium though. For me a big supprise, i did associate Bolivia with Andes highlands only. This country should be very rich and developed based on their natural resources, but for years it's ruthlessly exploited by corrupt local government and western companies and (equally corrupt??) western governments. Lots of money goes out of the country to foreighners owning companies, or rich Bolivian families living abroad. I cannot do otherwise than sympathize with the current political direction. People are fed up with the exploitation. Hope they won't go the same radical direction as Venezuele though.

All Bolivia picture can be seen here.

Next route: Go to Sucre, then Potosi and finally Uyuni for the famous salt flats!