La Paz and the Death Road

Reading time ~3 minutes

We arrived in La Paz late one evening after a three hour bus ride from Copacabana. We had only booked one night at a hostel, but ended up staying in the city for four days to explore and bike down Death Road.

Although La Paz is not technically the capital of Bolivia (it’s Sucre), it is considered the highest capital in the world since the country’s executive and legislative branches moved here years ago. At 3,650 m (11,975 ft) above sea level, you could definitely feel the altitude while walking around the hilly city. The first day we explored the Witch Market, where vendors sold all sorts of remedies, tokens, and more llama fetuses (see the Arequipa post for more info). We also checked out two local beer bars, including one that had three of its own beers on tap.

Llama fetuses at the Witch Market.
Making sure we check out the beer scene!
Some of the street art around the city.

Another day we rode the city’s new Teleféricos (cable cars) to get some aerial views of La Paz. It was super cool and super cheap! It was interesting to see the different parts of the city from above, and you could clearly see the differences in wealth as we passed over huge mansions and crumbling shacks. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, and it was definitely visible from our aerial view.

Seeing the city the best way possible on the Teleféricos.

Besides wandering around the city, we also did a day trip to Yungas Road. Known as Death Road because of the hundreds of people who have died on it, Yungas Road is an extremely narrow gravel road that is now a popular mountain biking attraction. It is a bit expensive, so we debated about doing this until we found a cheap enough price. It was SO pretty… and terrifying. Laura ended up with blisters on both hands from a death grip on her handlebars, so it was good that Vesper had the camera and enjoyed the scenery. It is obvious why Yungas was such a dangerous road: it is super narrow at points - definitely not wide enough for two cars to pass in opposite directions - and has a sheer cliff on one side. We only saw three cars going up while we were coming down, and it was crazy to imagine traffic going both ways. There are memorials all along the road for people who have died, and our guide told us there are still accidents with bikers going too fast or losing control. After the ride, we enjoyed a nice lunch and relaxed poolside before taking the new Death Road home with pavement and guardrails galore!

Getting suited up!
Views from along the road.
A famous picture point.
Woo! We're not dead! (This one is for you, Derek.)
A random aside for all you aspiring electricians out there: this is how you power!

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