September 25, 2003 GMT
Pillion to La Paz

Demonstrators were out on the streets and roads into La Paz were blocked by protesting campesinos. Away from Plaza de San Francisco, where protesters were rallying, the city centre was quite, more so than usual. The Prada, usually 6 lanes of gridlocked traffic, was a delight to wander along, as were the streets near our Alojamiento, equally peaceful without the buses and collectivos, which had stayed at home in support of the demonstrators.

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The streets of La Paz full of demonstrators


We were in La Paz for a week, while waiting for the spare parts we needed to fix the XT. It turned out to be a city of renewing old acquaintances, we bumped into Ian who we had met back in Guatemala, and also saw by chance Sascha and Monique, Swiss overlanders we’d met in Santa Cruz. Dieter, the HPN sheep killer also turned up. It was good to see him and his bike fully recovered from that accident.

We had ridden up to La Paz via Iquique and Arica, on Arno's bike, stopping off at Putre to test out the hot springs – no disappointment this time! Again the scenery on the Altiplano was amazing, especially around Lago Chungará near the Chilean border.

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Lago Chungará with one of the many volcanoes behind

The city of La Paz – highest capital city in the world, was amazing, approaching from the south, you see nothing of the city until the autopista winds down from the sprawl of El Alto, then suddenly there it is, an enormous canyon filled with a city! The centre is a good 500metres lower than the rim, but still almost 4km above sea level! It’s a busy and very colourful city, our accommodation was close to Plaza V J Eguino where a multitude of stalls sprang up every morning.

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Arno getting the bike out of our Alojamiento

After a few days of demonstrations, some roads out of La Paz were open and so we took the opportunity to take a ride down the so called “most dangerous road in the world” to the village of Corioco. This is the main route down to the Yungas and to the jungle lowlands of Bolivia and until recently the only road. The road itself is not too bad, it’s the fact that it is, in most places a single lane, and clings to the mountainside, with a sheer drop of at least 200m.

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One of the many buses we met on our way to Corioco

There are few safety barriers, many blind corners and one moment of inattention would prove deadly. This fact is clear as you descend, passing the crosses that mark the many places where vehicles have left the road. The most recent accident was less than a month ago.

Sitting behind Arno as we rode towards Coroico, I had more than enough time to look over the edge, it was pretty scary and I wondered as we came face to face with yet another truck, why more traffic doesn’t make use of the new road, fully fitted out with safety barriers and tunnels?

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Time to pull over as trucks speed past

We survived the most dangerous road, but still ended up lying in the street that day. As we rode over La Cumbre pass, on the way back to La Paz we met rain, the first for awhile. It had rained in the city too, making the cobblestones very slippery, the bike just slid from under us, it was even difficult righting it again.


We got to Arica a few days later, lucky not to have encountered any roadblocks on the way down from La Paz. Back down the coast in Antofagasta, I was relieved to find my bike still where we’d parked it and the arrival of the new piston etc, meant Arno was able to start working on my bike.

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Not a sight I expected to see on this trip – my bike in bits!

It took 4 days in all, from the morning the postman delivered the parts, to restarting the bike after taking the engine apart, having the cylinder redrilled and putting all back together. We had a lot of help from the guys at Motosport, and owe them a big thank you for letting us work at their place and helping out when we got stuck!

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Mechanic Luis and owner Jaime Rios at Motosport, Antofagasta

The coastal route to Iquique is amazing, but as we rode it for the third time, the impact was somewhat lost and we were glad to get to the city. We didn’t bother with the Zona Franca this time, having discovered on our previous visits, the ‘Zofri’ is only interesting for camera film, absolutely useless for anything to do with motorcycles. There is however a very good welder in the city, so we spent a day in his workshop getting Arno's panniers and rack sorted out.

Everything on the bikes now fixed, checked and run in, it was time to leave Chile and head to Peru.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at September 25, 2003 12:14 AM GMT
Comments

Still keeping up with your travels, and enjoying your running commentaries very much.Sorry to hear about the XT but now its good for many more adventures.Have just arrived back from Australia after a weeks holiday, and looking forward to when time permits to take the old PD across and circumnavigate.
The weather here is now getting better and a ride to the sth island at christmas is getting closer. New head bearings in the old PD this week and shes ready. Look after yourselves, and look forward to catching up with you both..


Regards
Malcolm and Sue Sargent

Posted by: malcolm and sue sargent on November 7, 2003 04:25 AM GMT

Hi you two! Great to hear from you again though it wasn't only pleasant news. However, even without your bike you seem to have a lot of fun and with your bike repaired you will probably have even more.
I'm also still fine in Munich and very happy here as lots of my friends are close and one of my best friends has just moved in with me and we're having a great time. if only Munich weren´t so expensive! But maybe it's my own fault complaining about money as I bought a car last month. Though in the city you don`t really need one, I wanted to be more independent to go away, since I'm at war with the German Bundesbahn and don't have a bike like you. Well, I have, but it's just a trekking bike, which I use a lot as well and even today, which was a beautiful autumn day. So, early in November, we can't complain.
Not commuting from Augsburg any more also brings me a lot more spare time, which is absolutely fantastic.
What is more, I finally handed in my application for my Sabbatical in three years. My headmistress was a bit surprised, but wants to let me go, however only under the condition that she can find a substitute for me.
So let's hope the best and meet up in Australia then! :)
Have a nice trip and take care.
P.S. How much longer are you actually planning to stay in South America and when are you going to Australia?

Posted by: Karin on November 9, 2003 05:35 PM GMT
Sorry, due to heavy form spamming, Comments are OFF.
 
 

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