Now is the dry season in Bolivia but tell the weather gods that! Our rain in the Yungas forced a bus ride up to the paved road that climbs over La Cumbre (4700m) to avoid the sticky wet mud. We got dropped off in Unduavi, a row of eating stalls and no accommodation until the 3 person road rescue team (combo of fire fighter/police and paramedic) took pity on us and let us use their spare room. The bus ride had been quite scary – narrow muddy roads, massiove drop offs, oncoming busses,trucks and cars and passing one bus that was on its side in a ditch and people climbing out the windows. We were within cooee of the road named the worlds most dangerous road (used to be approx 200 deaths a year on the 50km stretch of road)and the rescue team were responsible for a huge area.
Our gamble paid off and the next day was a stunner. It was a long but scenic climb to the pass that dropped us down to La Paz for some urban biking challenges. La Paz is the worlds highest capital city (at 3500m) and is contained within a canyon whose walls are 500m high. We had heard bad things about La Paz but we enjoyed finding our way down into the city, getting accommodation, venturing into the inner city for dinner and getting back to the hostel without getting lost or mugged. Next day we biked up to the rim and the city of El Alto where our friends Gregg (Biesley) and Sal and their 3 kids are living. El Alto has grown from 100, 000 to 1.5million in approx 15 years, is super poor, has little government support and has many social issues.
Gregg and Sal are aid workers primarily working with youth in the city and their philosophy is to live among the people and find our what they need and help provide it. Gregg’s background is as a mountaineer and one part of their work is to take the youth into the close by and spectacular mountains. We were treated to their hospitality and on our two days in El Alto joined them for a fund raiser street lunch, climbed the Muelle Rock overlooking South La Paz and had a day wandering the mountains with the family and climbing Chacaltaya at 5400m (and our highest point on the trip). Unfortunately the dry season was behaving more like the wet season months of Jan/Feb and we didn´t get the spectacular views of the Cordillera Real and down to the jungle but it was a great day out and the traverse of the 3km of aquaduct was a highlight.
It was sad to leave the family the next morning for our onward journey as we had enjoyed the short family time, good coffee and even marmite. Thanks heaps guys – we owe you!