I am still in and around La Paz and here are two more items of the list of things that you can do there. Those are either day- or multiple day trips… The Yungas and Corderilla Real:
Death Road (World’s Most Dangerous Road/Yungas Road/Ruta de la Muerte)
Riding down the “Death Road” (65 km) in the Bolivian Yungas is on of the most famous things to do around La Paz. The road is connecting the city with Coroico, a small town in the Yungas region. That region is a small band of rain forest on the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains from Peru to Northern Argentina.
Today there is an alternative road, so the Death Road is almost only used by tourist mountain bikers. However, the occasional van or lorry still uses it. It’s estimated that yearly 200 to 300 people had died traveling on this road. Regarding to our guide it was 80000 people in total. The road is pretty curvy, narrow and drops down up to 1000 meters at some parts.
To bike down the Death Road is actually lots of fun, and if you use some common sense, not really dangerous. We rode 65 km and stopped a lot to take pictures. The total vertical drop is 3600 meters – basically from the Altiplano in 4700 meters down to subtropical 1200 meters (where I almost got biten to death by mosquitoes). Anyway, great fun to ride down, over rocks, through waterfalls and around curves with breath taking views. We all survived – no one even fell.
The Pico Austria is an apparently unpopular and easy-to-climb mountain that belongs to the Condoriri Massif in the Corderilla Real. At least if you believe what they say online. It is 5320 meters high. Well, today I climbed it (without even knowing that I would). We started at about 4300 meters, so the ascent was more or less 1000 meters. It pisses me off that you can read things like… “easy mountain”. Same counts for the 6020 meter high Huayna Potosi which is “the easiest 6000 meter climb”. Just saying.. I am sporty, I hike a lot… that stuff ain’t easy.
You can feel how it gets harder with every 100 meters ascent. I didn’t feel like suffocating this time, but in those altitudes everything is very exhausting. Even eating. Or taking a photo. I had to stop all the time to catch breath. It’s very frustrating, especially if there are people that seem to have it a little easier. The last hour I literally counted out 20 steps, then took a break of like 20 or 30 seconds. Then another 10 steps until I felt like dying. 10 more and catching breath. Worked quite fine for me, but not sure if it’s fun. It took us 3 hours, I think, from where we parked to the summit. Those 3 hours were a bitch.
One tends to forget that pretty easily. Of course, once you’re done it hasn’t been too bad. But I tried not to forget the pain. Even my legs hurt. Still do. So I really do not want to hear people on the internet tell others how easy those climbs are. I have not met anyone in person who did it, that said “easy-peasy”. Sure, it’s not the Everest but it’s still tough and it’s fair enough to feel accomplished. Well, I do.
The summit was very rewarding and cool though. On top you have a 360 view on other peaks of the Corderilla Real. Pretty breathtaking and worth the struggle. Our guide had prepared some lunch (pretty hard to eat in this altitude), we took some pics and enjoyed the views before we slid back down in the snow on our shows, and I pretended to snowboard. Great fun.