Travelling for a year is an amazing experience. Hopefully our blog illustrates the diversity of the scenery, the culture and the experience.
Even though we are miles away from home, we still can’t escape from responsibility. There are still bills to be paid, mail to be received, and banking issues to be sorted. In these times, some things can be done online, but with unreliable Internet connections this is not always an option. We could not do this trip without the support of friends and family. The little things people help with can mean so much.
We wanted to take this opportunity to thank our friends Elizabeth and Tom, who are always there when we need some help. They open their home to us to provide a place to stay during our transition times. Liz is collecting our mail and taking care of many of our business issues. We could not do this trip without their support. Thank you!
La Paz was our next destination after our amazing trip across the Laguna Route and the Salar de Uyuni. As you will know from past blog entries, Priscilla had been having some problems. We had heard through the overlander grapevine of an amazing Swiss-Bolivian mechanic, Ernesto Hug, who is the guru of mechanics for 4x4 vehicles. It had always been our intention to have Ernesto work on Priscilla at this half way point of our trip, but with recent issues it had become even more of a priority.
La Paz, the capitol city of Bolivia is home to 1.4 million people. From our last trip 17 years ago, we remember it as being an interesting and bizarre city. The city is literally built in a valley surrounded by volcanoes and very high mountains. The city over the years has crept upwards, now extending up the sides of the valley. The airport is the highest airport in the world at ~ 5000 meters. The rest of the city lies between 3200 meters and 4600 meters. The wealthier you are, the lower in the city you live, as it is a more temperate climate. In recent years, the city has built 3 telefericos or cable car systems, which transport people from the city below to various stops on the way to El Alto, the upper suburb. It is a cheap ride at less than 50 cents one way and a lot of local people use it as a means of transport to and from the city center.
Driving in La Paz is a real test of your driving skills. Not only are the roads steep and curving, but also traffic rules are really non-existent. With the help once again of ioverlander we were able to follow GPS tracking on our ipad to find Ernesto’s. It was a stressful drive as we had concerns about Priscilla, about our brakes and with our heavy load it would not be easy to stop. Mike had his hand on the handbrake all the way in, just in case. He did an amazing job of weaving in and out of traffic, and of anticipating the crazy moves of other drivers.
When we arrived at Ernesto’s the workshop was all shut up and no one was answering the bell. We had emailed Ernesto earlier in the week but had no response. Thinking it may be siesta time we waited. We were very lucky to catch Ernesto driving out to an appointment. They were actually not working that day. He informed us that they would not be able to work on Priscilla until Tuesday. This was now Friday. Ernesto kindly opened up the workshop, and like we had read offered for us to stay in the workshop area. We were so relieved, as finding a place to park and stay would have been very difficult.
So, Ernesto’s workshop became our home for 10 days. There was only a toilet, no shower, but we had a water source. That week we literally camped out in our roof top tent in the mechanics workshop. Most of the time we slept in the vehicle when it was jacked up, amongst other cars that were being worked on. We would pack up the tent as the workers arrived and would be eating breakfast on our chairs in the parking lot as they began work.
During that week, Ernesto and his wife Annie were so hospitable. Keira loved Ernesto and you could hear her little voice echo across the mechanics workshop, as she would greet him every morning, “good morning Ernesto”. She would follow Ernesto throughout the workshop. Keira even had Ernesto calling our car Priscilla and referring to Priscilla’s tires as “Priscilla’s shoes.”
During the week, we explored La Paz. Mike and I could remember little bits of the city from our last trip. We sat in San Francisco plaza and people watched, we explored the “witches markets” (a market where the vendors sell such things as lama fetuses, herbs and coca leaves for medicinal purposes), we did some shopping for wraps and a poncho for me, we sat in cafes catching up on blogs, we explored the supermarkets to restock specialty items, we caught up with some friends Laura and Jake, we got additional vehicle insurance for Peru, and we rode the teleferico. During one of our walks around the markets, we were befriended by one of the vendors and her daughter, Christina and Viviana. They invited us to sit and share some food with them. We returned everyday to sit, converse in Spanish and to have mate de coca. It was a really nice experience.
Ernesto and his team found multiple problems with Priscilla. Our brake pads were again worn down after only 3 weeks -bad parts and poor work. The check engine light and the cold start problems were altitude related and a normal occurrence.
We said farewell to Annie, Ernesto and his team and headed to Coroico in the Yungas ranges.
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION: Annie and Ernest Hug, and Ernesto’s team of mechanics
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- ; Keira- feeding the pigeons in the plaza ; Riss- hanging out with the local vendors
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike- driving in La Paz traffic; Keira- walking the steep hills in La Paz ; Riss- navigating in La Paz
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike-, Keira- huevos fritos (fried eggs) my standard lunch; Riss- honey soy chicken salad at the English pub
BEST CAMPING SPOT: Ernesto’s workshop
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.