Tag Archives: rain
05. Feb, 2010

Traveling Across Bolivia by Bus

Traveling Across Bolivia by Bus

After saying our goodbyes to Vanessa and Jesse, we headed towards the bus terminal. Of course, it started raining along the way. Or maybe I should say pouring! And lucky us, it even started to hail too! What this means, is that streets are totally flooded and traffic comes to a complete standstill at certain points. The city bus we were on, was never going to make it in time for us to catch our other bus to Santa Cruz. So we hopped out of our bus, flagged down a taxi and got to the bus terminal with about 2 minutes to spare. Drenched and soaking wet, we rain into the bus terminal hoping to catch our bus on time. Turns out, the bus had been delayed another hour because of the rain. So we still had plenty of time to kill.

Once on our to Santa Cruz bus, the ride was basically uneventful. Paying an extra 10 Bolivianos to get a semi-cama bus was well worth it. Approximately 18 hours and 130 B’s later, we arrived in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz has a very large and nice terminal. You can take the bus or the train into Brazil from here. Everyone wants to help. Or maybe I should say, everyone wants your business. This may be intimidating, or it may be good, depending on how you look at it. Since competition abounds, prices get competitive. We found the prices ranging from 130 B’s to 80 B’s to get from Santa Cruz to the border town of Quijarro. We opted for the 80 B bus which left at 5:30pm. We had 7 hours to kill. So we checkout our bags in and decided to explore the town.

Santa Cruz really has nothing to offer. Right across from the bus terminal is what looked like a very nice hotel. A beautiful reception room, a pool, restaurant area, and more. We asked, and the price was 35 B’s per night, or $5USD. Gotta love Bolivia and it’s prices. This was obviously upper end, because you can get hostels in La Paz for 10 B. Continuing our journey, we walked a couple miles and found a Grocery Store with all the modern conveniences of home. I knew we had another long night ahead of us, so I bought some water, peanuts, yogurt, and a donut. Half was for lunch, the other half I would save for my overnight bus trip.

It was hot, finally! A nice change from being cold, and at altitude for so long. The walk back to the bus terminal found me pretty wet with sweat. But I wasn’t complaining. Once in the bus terminal, I still had another hour till the bus was to depart. Sitting on a bench, with 500 other people around me, eating peanuts, INTERPOL police picked me out and decided to check my documentation. Why I was targeted, I have no idea. But lucky for me, it was an uneventful 15 minutes of interrogation. Soon, I was out of the INTERPOL office and boarding the bus to Quijarro.

This bus was a little different. Right away we knew why it was only 80 B. It was closer to a chicken bus than a real bus. If you know what an OMSA is, it was a little like that. The seat I picked out was specifically for watching the TV. Except that there was no TV there. Instead, there was a speaker tied above my head with strips of an inner tube from an old tire. Oh well, the price was right.

The night was long and rough. The road was muddy, full of water in some places, not paved, and bumpy as can be. Time after time we would stop, or even back up, to allow other oncoming vehicles to pass. And when the road was good, we stopped again and again. This time by drug enforcement agency. Most the time they just wanted to see the documentation of the bus driver and check the baggage. But once, we all were required to exit the bus. They checked everyone’s bags, then checked everyone’s documentation as well. Talking to one of the drug enforcement agents, they explained that along all the roads that exit the country they set up these spot check road blocks. They are looking for coca, marijuana, or other ingredients used to make cocaine. Thirty minutes later, we were on our way again.

Finally we arrived in Quijarro. From that bus depot there, it’s another 5 B taxi right to the border. The border of Bolivia and Brazil is where you get your passport stamped for exiting Bolivia. You still must continue on into the town of Corumba, Brazil to go through passport control and eventually get checked into the country of Brazil. After Quijarro, we walked across the border and waited for the local bus to Corumba. It was a 30 minute ride to Corumba and the immigration office. One bus takes you to a main terminal. And from there, you need to catch another bus to the immigration office and main bus depot.

It was a long 2 days full of sleepless nights, bumpy roads, and sleeping in bus terminals. But finally, we made it to Brazil. Another 2 days or so, and we would finally be in Rio de Janeiro.

31. Jan, 2010

The Death Road

The Death Road

There’s a road located in the mountains above La Paz that was once, or still is, the most dangerous road in the world. Because of this, it has earned the name “The Death Road”! For between $70 and $85 USD, local tour companies are more then willing to drive you up there, and take you on a guided tour down this 63 kilometer road. Obviously, this is something I cant pass up.

I choose a company called “Madness” for a couple of reasons. One, their prices were pretty damn good! Second, they have top notch equipment and their bikes rock! Third, Beatrize and Fernado the owners, are really really good people.

Leaving La Paz very very early in morning, you start by get fitted for all your equipment. Pants, reflective jacket, gloves, bike, and of course your helmet.

We arrived at the top of the mountain somewhere after 8am amidst a snow storm. Yes, at 4700 meters, it was snowing outside! This was going to be a fun day. Not exactly what I signed up for or was expecting, but fun nevertheless.

Because of the conditions, I was unable to take as many photos as I wanted. So I’ll try to describe as best as I can, what happened that day.

After a brief introduction of how to ride a bike, we were off. Riding single file down the first part of the mountain, the road is paved. Not 500 meters into the ride, CRASH! Down goes our guide. The first victim of road rash! Ouch! Nothing bad. But if our guide goes down, and he has to be the most experienced and best rider by far, I’m wondering what the rest of the day has in store for us!

Remember, its a combination of rain and snow falling pretty heavily on us now. The road is wet and slippery, and everyone is soaked with freezing rain all the way to their skin! There are buses and cars everywhere, and this section of the road is pretty busy. It’s a main highway.

Without much effort at all, you can easily do 60-70 kph on these mountain bikes. In better conditions, and with a road bike, I know I could easily hit 100 kph or more. It’s a pretty damn fun road to ride!

About 20 kilometers later, we stop at at a checkpoint where you have to pay 25 B’s. From this point forward, the cars continue on down the “new” paved highway. We leave the pavement in exchange for the “old” gravel road where so many have died!

I’ve never really ridden a mountain bike. Well, not like these. I bet they have 18 inches of travel in the front forks alone, with more suspension in the rear. They are probably impossible to use for ridding uphill, and a real pain in the ass to ride over level terrain. But for downhill, these bikes kick ass!

At first, I was trying to cut my path by choosing the safest and flattest route, avoiding rocks and potholes as much as possible. After awhile of getting used to the bike, you can haul ass and choose the straightest line possible. Regardless of any rocks, potholes or other obstacles they may be your way.

As we descend in elevation, the terrain became very tropical. With ivy, ferns, and waterfalls everywhere. In every way, very reminiscent of the movie “Jurassic Park”. Infact, there were a couple comments made from others that if they were to see a dinosaur appear, they wouldn’t be surprised at all.

Along the way, we stopped at a couple of areas that were marked with plaques or crosses, to remind us of others that have died biking the same course as we were on.

About four hours later, we made it to the coca fields at the bottom of the mountain, and the end of our adventure. My shoes, sock and rest of my clothes were still wet from the rain and show that morning. But overall, it was a pretty damn good day!