La Paz And An Island Initiation

We arrived at the Casa Ciclistas, La Paz on 22nd August, that was 3 weeks ago.   Nathan and I knew we were tired but I am not sure we planned on staying so long but time has been easy to fritter away, getting up to date with blog posts, bike repairs and hanging out with other cyclists.  It has been great to be in the centre of a city but most of all I have enjoyed having a house for a bit, and a kitchen to cook in- it has been a long time since I ate fruit and vegetables.

My friend Charmian arrived on a flight from London (via Brasil, Chile, Peru) and she spent a week doing Spanish classes.  We have been out on our bikes a bit too, we even went on a mini tour to Lake Titicaca to help acclimatise her to the altitude, she is managing really well.

The casa has at times been overcrowded and stressful (reasons include French families with small children and a racist Italian) but overall it has been a special place to be and to meet some incredible people.  Thousands of cyclists are indebted to Cristian for running this place.

Here are some of the friends we made…..

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No, this kid is not Argentinian! Spud hails from the English Lake District and is one of the best people I have met for ages. He powers his pedals by selling juices he makes using his pedal powered blender. To quote Spud ‘cycling is so mint that I have been kidnapped, and mugged twice and I still love it’. What a legend.

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Sebastian from France broke his finger and had to stay at the casa for ages, waiting to get the metal pins taken out. A cinema projectionist by trade he was always slipping away to events at the French Institute. I didn’t see him eat much apart from biscuits and cereals with chocolate milkshake. Special talents include diligent toilet plunging.

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Pol a recumbant rider from France. This guy made things happen, he cleaned, he shopped, he partied, he smoked, he just never sat still.

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Kathrina from Germany and her boyfriend Bram from Belgium. A sweet and positive couple. Bram’s smile and laugh just made me so happy. Great guys.

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Who are these goofballs? It’s Cass of whileoutriding.com fame and the one and only Miguel the Yorkshireman.

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In white overalls is Crisitian, the guy who runs the casa. Right is the wonderful and kind Daina and Robin from Litchenstein.

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The walls are adorned with quotes and blog addresses of other cyclists, Cass adds his.

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Someone is taken by Mike’s fat bike             

                                                                                                            In the city

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Charmian and I head out on her first bike ride. We cycle up to El Alto at 4100m altitude.

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Dried llama foetuses at the witches market.

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The government building, La Paz. The backwards clock is said to show that Bolivia operates in the opposite direction to U.S imperialism.

                                                                                                                       An Island Initiation

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We catch a bus to Copacabana and then a boat to Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca.  Incans delieved that the sun began it’s life on the island.  Local people still speak Aymaru.  The boat drops us off at the edge of the island to save us having to go up the hundreds of steps by the port.

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Views from the island are stunning but the place is overrun with backpackers and pizza joints.  A local person tells me that no one works the land or keeps animals any more as people all tent to be involved in the tourist industry.

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On second thoughts a ‘hike and bike’ along the walking trails of Isla del Sol was probably a bit of a baptism of fire for poor old Charmian

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…. So we ditch the bikes and go for a walk around the stunning island instead

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Full moon below Isla de la Luna (Moon Island) taken from Isla del Sol. Cordillera Real in the background

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The following morning we head back to Copacabana on the boat.  This was best thing I saw in the town.

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Our bike ride around the lake takes us into Peru for a few hours, then back into Bolivia. We fill one page in our passports in one day.

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Fast flat riding along the lake, our Charms is flying and I struggle to keep up!

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We travel light to be fast so do not pack camping stuff. We spend the night in the tiny village of Guaqui, we find the only accommodation available. Charms squeezes on to this Bolivian sized bed with an over sized mattress,we wear our clothes to avoid skin contact with the sheets questionable sheets. The unfriendly restaurant doesn’t want to serve us so we eat bread and jam for dinner.

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The raisin faced sweet lady who gave us a bed for the night

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We leave Guaqui and speed the 20km to Bolivia’s most important ruins, Tiwanaku

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The ruins date from around 1500BC and some of the stone work is impressive. A large amount of the site however is in a real state. So much has been pillaged from the site and most of the artefacts are now in foreign museums. I feel quite sad and disillusioned. There is also the sting of the 80Boliviano entrance fee which is like the cost of 5 dinners!

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Stone Sun Calendar

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Obelisk holding a wooden pipe used for smoking hallucinogenics. We have lunch in the village of Tiwanaku and then ride the remaining 70km into La Paz. Traffic gets heavier and it is not a fun ride, but still good training for Charmian.

Just one more day until we get back on our bikes, the whole of Bolivia ahead of us.  I can not wait!

4 thoughts on “La Paz And An Island Initiation

  1. Liisa Sirkkola

    Hi, Cherry!
    Wonderful pictures, again! Hope all goes well until the very end of this fantastic tour of yours! You wont be the same after all these experiences… Nobody can avoid growing older and wiser after meeting all these kind of people and seeing all these places , especially when travelling so close to them, by bike…
    I´m trying to get on with my life after having my husband Taisto, whom I married in 2001, buried a week ago. He died of cancer at 71. I´m full of sorrow but also thankful for the 13 happy years together. I´ll be 64 this autumn and realize I have had a long and happy life myself, too. Anyway, womwn live longer than men and I`m looking forward to at least 30 more years to go..
    Love,
    Liisa

    1. Cherry Post author

      Liisa, I am so sorry to hear of your loss but your outlook is inspiring. I am so lucky to be experiencing this trip, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to live my dream. I will see you in Finland one day I am sure. x

  2. Pingback: When Two Become Three Become One: La Paz to Sabaya via Chile | Velo Freedom - Cycling South

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