Thursday, March 26, 2015

I'm a Death Road Survivor

I'm not sure if you have heard about the Most Dangerous Road in the World. This sounds silly because how do you know is the most dangerous? Are there many accidents? Did a lot of people died there? To be honest, so far, I never seen more dangerous roads then Nepal's. The kind of road that is so tiny that you wonder how is it possible 2 cars passing thru at the same time? Or the ones with many deep holes. Or worse, that ones you look thru the window and you think "We are going to fall anytime" Then you close your eyes, you take 3 deep breathes and start thinking about something else. It's an adventure riding buses in Nepal my friends, but so worth it!

But today I'm not here to talk about Nepal. I still have a bunch of South America stories and tips to tell you about. During our trip I didn't hear anything about The Death Road close to La Paz, Bolivia. One day I was bored in a boat trip and asked a backpacker his Bolivia Travel Book. I found out there was a road from La Cumbre until Coroico that we couldn't miss, because of the high green mountains and beautiful scenery. I kept that in mind.

To be honest, I thought La Paz would be a cooler city since so many travellers said such awesome things about the place... In fact, I wasn't impressed. There are a lot of Travel Agencies there and I could see big posters outside with pictures of the death road and this idea came out again. I discovered that you can't go there by yourself so you have to book a tour and this tour includes a bike :) We took a morning just to look at prices and we didn't find anything cheaper then 40 dollars. We thought was insane spend all that amount of money just to cycle in a beautiful place. By this time we had no idea how wonderful would be this experience. We were so excited that we said to eachother "F#ck, let's do it!".

The lady we booked our tour tried to made us choose a better bike because it was really dangerous and there were rumors every year there are about 300 deaths. So, let me explain to you: The price of each tour depends on the bike quality you choose, it could go from 40 dollars until 100 dollars. We didn't care and picked the cheapest thing.

I guess what really made us book this tour was the great stuff included: Breakfast (in the best coffee shop in town), snack, buffet lunch in an hotel, bike, all bike gear, a cd with our pictures during the tour, a t-shirt saying "Death Road Survivor", transportation (also, there was a van following us in the end all the time), going to the hotel swimming pool and an hot shower. We never take tours like this because it's luxury for us budget backpackers but who knows if we ever will come back?

We went by van to an altitude of 4700 metres (it was soooo cold, you could see snowy mountains) and would descend until 1100 metres to Bolivian Amazon Jungle with an extension of 64 kms total. The first part you cycle in the road, which is quite easy, the view is already speachless. We made a break every 10 minutes, checking if everyone was alright. The guides were super fun and made us feel comfortable with the feeling we are friends for a long time. One of the breaks we ate a great snack: egg sandwich + chocolate bar + banana + water + coca cola. We rode the van again, this time to go to the place we would start the real adventure. When I saw the small rocks in the pavement I couldn't believe... I really thought I was dead :) In the beginning I cycled super slow, I was afraid to go downhill out of the road, if you know what I mean. But after 10 minutes I got into it, Bruno passed me veryyy happy and I started enjoying myself.

Warning: It's an extreme adventure experience, so you if you don't like radical sports this activity is not for you. A Peruvian girl wanted to come with her boyfriend but she was afraid of biking downhill, so she participated in the whole tour in the van. I asked her if she was bored and she answered "Look around you, so wonderful, I'm enjoying the landscape, I'm glad I came!".

And so do I. It was one of the highlights of this trip for sure! And so much conditions. In the end we had to go a bit up but seriously you don't need to be all fit to attend the tour, I know it sounds crazy cycling 64 kms but actually you are mostly of the time  (97%) going downhill and the bikes are super good with suspensions.

In the agency they gave us a small list of  what to bring:
* 25 Bs, for Unduavi National Park Entrance
* Extra change of clothes and shoes
* Towel
* Sunglasses
* Bathing Suit
* Sun Block and Insect repellent
* A lot of fun :)

Please guys, if you ever come to Bolivia promise me you'll book a tour to The Death Road, you will have so much fun, I guarantee ;) I'm so addicted now that I'm looking for other places to do same thing hehe

Have you experienced this tour? Or have you tried something similar before? 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

My last trip moments in pictures

Hello beautiful people!
I feel like the worst blogger in the World, being silence for so long, when I have so much to tell you and amazing travel pictures to share. No excuses but I really wanted to enjoy the very last weeks of my South America trip, so yeah, I'm back in Portugal after 6 months backpacking the Americas. Also I don't have a computer so I couldn't type anything during long bus trips to copy/paste into a blog post.

I have zillion ideas for blog posts and they are all written for later with great tips for your South America adventure one day and stunning nature and colonial cities to show you but the next days I'll be focusing in my migration to wordpress. Like I said before, blogspot is not enough anymore, I have this big need of organizing my content to be more visible and easy to find. Get ready because I'm super excited.

Today I'd like to share some photos of this last month of travelling. I can tell you it was pretty intense, we'd stay max. 3 days in the same spot. Basically we were in Cuenca (Ecuador) and had to arrive by land São Paulo in less then 6 weeks! If you go to a map you will see the large distance :)

This was our Welcome to Bolivia, wow couldn't be better. A lot of travelers I met on the road said their favorite country in South America is Bolivia and now I understand why! In the other hand these travelers told us about the rudeness of bolivians and we felt it in the first hour in Copacabana.

From Copacabana you can get a boat to Isla del Sol (Sun Island) where Inca civilization used to live before. Titikaka Lake is for sure the most stunning lake I ever seen in my life. It's giant and has this wonderful blue water. 

 Uyuni in South Bolivia is the house of the biggest salar in the World! Basically it's a desert, but instead of sand it only has salt. I can tell you it was a beautiful experience but it's overpriced.

I can't believe I made it to the most dangerous road in the World :) As you might figured out already South America has a lot of "the most... in the World", "the biggest... in the World". We got bikes and went downhill the mountains in a rocky pavement with high mountains all around. I was scared like hell the first minutes but as soon as I got into it I can tell you it was the coolest adventure sport I ever tried in my life. More about this day later!

 I wasn't sure if I'd be crazy about these falls because I've been in Niagara Falls in Canada before but what?? Iguaçu Falls are so much better!! This place is heaven, really. You will find a group of falls in to two levels! The pictures cannot show how powerful they are.

We managed to leave a week for Brazil which is very little for such huge country. We visited Curitiba because it was in our way and we fell in love with the city. Never been in such an eco city with so many parks. What a pity there's no ocean there, would be a perfect place to live. Then, some brazilians told us that would be Florianopolis. Should I move soon? 

We also been in São Paulo 2 days only. There's not much to visit in the city but we made the most of it. It's a really busy city with more then 20 million people but I liked the vibe of the place... weird? :) 

Hope you are feeling like packing to South America now hehe More pictures are coming soon! Have a great Thursday xxx Marta

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cultural shock part II - Peru and Bolivia

The Death Road downhill biking. I will tell you more about this crazy experience soon :)

Oh Bolivia. We have been in Bolivia for a while now and if in the very beggining I felt like packing all my stuff and get the first flight back to Portugal, now that we are leaving soon, I don't want to. I wanna stay longer, exploring the corners of this incredible country.

In this whole South America trip, I was super excited about Peru and Bolivia, I don't really have a reason for this, I guess all the pretty places and indigenous people I used to read and watch in National Geographic caught my heart.

These are not easy countries at all. When we were volunteering in Cuzco, we'd have serious troubles ordering dinner. As a good portuguese (common portuguese people out there, you gotta admit this), mostly of the time I wanted to change something in the dish from the menu "No rice, salad instead" or "Insert bacon in my vegetarian pizza", easy requests right? Nop, not really. Peruvian minds can be narrow and any change is just the end of the World. Me and Bruno had hard time in the beggining and we simply couldn't understand how hard would be to just change a freaking ingredient or pay extra money for more ingredients. "No, if it's not in the menu, you gotta order what we have". A double dose of patience makes everything better, if we started leaving the restaurants super frustrated, in the end we were negotiating with the restaurant owner. The trick was a deep breathe and ask for the owner, instead of talking with the waiter/waitress, they were usually confused and didn't help at all.

First day in Bolivia we couldn't believe how closed mind bolivians could be. This time we were prepared, I read in few blogs and travelers who were doing the opposite way trip in South America (from South to North) that bolivians were mean, narrow minded, didn't like tourists. We know we can't make this a general concept of an entire population so we thought they just had few not-so-good-experiences. Not really.

So first, me and Bruno went to take a shower together to save time and water. Do you believe 10 minutes exactly during our shower the hostel owner went to knock the door and said "You only have 5 minutes!! I'm going to cut off the hot water", hmmm? During evening we were walking in the market and we found olives (We are crazy about any kind of olives) and Bruno was mixing them with the spoon provided in order to get the ones in the button (the olives in the top were dried full of pollution from the cars) and the old lady started screaming he couldn't touch and even hit Bruno with a stick. What??
The next day we went to get some breakfast, and again, we wanted two eggs instead of only one and we said we would pay extra, no problem. Do you know what the restaurant owner said? "If you complain you have worse service". He said this. We weren't complaining at all just ordering our breakfast with an extra egg because one is not enough. We left really disappointed and thought "What the hell is wrong with this people?" You see, in touristic places like Copacabana you survive because of tourism so you gotta be nice with tourists so they will come back the next day. Sometimes bolivians have a pround attitude that makes me feel not welcome. The usual expression is: "No, we don't have, go next door."

We all know this is culture and we are the ones traveling in their country so we have to adapt. It's ok with me, I respect that. But doesn't mean I'm happy about it. When you spend more days in the country you will learn mechanisms on how to deal with the people and being extra patient (and not touching their products) helps a lot. Now that we traveled a bit Bolivia and visited stunning places I think the country deserves a second chance. And hey! I met so friendly and caring bolivians as well. It also depends in your attitude, if you ask something and think already "Grrrr I gotta talk with a bolivian", you won't go any far. If you go positive with a smile and call women "Mamazita" or "Mami", you get better chances of a good response.

Have you been in Peru or Bolivia before? How did you feel about the culture and people? Any other advices to make Bolivian and Peruvian experience even better?
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