La Paz, Bolivia is never somewhere I would have thought to go on my own. It’s a city built atop a 12,000 ft mountain and has the most incredible views. It’s also known for leveling gringos with altitude sickness, but thankfully I was fine. Of the cities we’ve lived in so far, La Paz has easily been the least Western and most foreign, which I loved.
My hotel for the month was Copacabana, which is a 10-ish story hotel in the San Pedro neighborhood. It was a pretty standard room but this time with a closet and bath tub! #smallwins. The biggest downside was that the light and noise pollution were pretty severe, but I can now successfully say I can sleep through anything, including 24-hour firework shows and Sunday morning teenage metal bands. Jk, the real biggest downside was the terrible wifi connection. No TV was watched this month.
The workspace, Cafe Urbano, was converted for Remote Year but still open to the public for a few hours per day. Honestly, it was nothing special and I hardly ever went because the internet was bad here too. And I ate the food just one time and it did NOT end well…never again.
My good girlfriend from Austin was my first visitor of Remote Year and it was SO amazing to see a familiar face from home. She stayed 6 days and we got into all sorts of adventures – Valle de la Luna, food and drink tour, daytime rave, and a whirlwind 36 hour trip to Isla del Sol that involved an accidental hour-long trek straight up the side of a mountain with all of our bags. There were barbwire and donkey obstacles and all. You guys, you could have all of this too if you come visit 😉
Salar de Uyuni
Also knows as the Salt Flats of Bolivia, this 4000 sq mile area was once a lake but is now dried, dense salt fields. I organized a group of 20 Remotes for a 2d/1n tour and we had a caravan of five 4-wheelers traversing through the flats. Highlights include: train graveyard, cactus island, wild llama herds, volcanos, and the most epic sunset I have ever seen. I cried. A lot.
Our hotel, Palacio del Sal, was almost completely made of salt and was a much-needed break from our La Paz accommodations. After spending the previous night on a horrendous 10-hour bus ride and all day in the flats, I walked in a did a little happy dance. I went to bed directly after dinner with no shame.
Please take the name to heart. This road is no joke.
Death Road was originally built to connect La Paz to Northern Bolivia but now is mostly used for adventure tourism. The entirety of the dirt road portion is 1 car wide at best and has no guardrails to protect from the 2,000 ft fall. Best practice in order to, I dunno, not DIE, is to ride the brakes the entire 6-hour, 14,000 ft vertical descent. Ouch!
The first half of the road is now paved and used for real transportation. The first half is where I almost died. During the debrief, it was made very clear to A. not turn your head to look behind you, B. not to slam on the breaks, and C. ride on the outside (death side) of the road to give cars the right of way. So, a car is approaching and I can feel it getting closer and closer. I’m as far to the outside as I can possibly be but they aren’t passing. So what do I do? Everything I’m not supposed to do. I turn around, lose control, slam on both breaks, and fly face first over the handle bars at 40 mph.
I felt the whole thing happen in slow motion. When I came to a full stop and caught my breath, I did a head to toe assessment of what could be broken. Initially this included my lips, teeth, and possibly nose and jaw. By this time, other Remotes behind me had started to pull over in concern. (The car actually stopped, too). From everyone leaning over me, I could see my face in their sunglasses and had a huge moment of relief. My face was mostly intact and I didn’t break my neck! After a few mins of “how many fingers am I holding up?” the guides cleaned me up AND I FINISHED THAT FUCKING RIDE!
Minus having half my face covered in gauze, I had an amazing time. The views from the road are incredible. Because of the huge change in altitude, you see ecosystems from rainforests and waterfalls to high plains.
All in all, Bolivia was an incredible month of outdoor adventure with great friends. It’s been my favorite city so far but there is still so much to come!