14th till 20th of July 2019.
Have you ever been in a cable car (teleferique) with your bike? Stay tuned to find out about the do and especially the don’ts.
After the rocky border crossing into Bolivia of last week and the first nights in a new country, where there are no visible differences yet with the last days in Peru, we are wondering what this country will bring.
As fifth largest country in South America we will not cross it in one week. Bolivia is 29 times as big as the Netherlands. (1,098,581 km² versus 37,354 km²). With 11 million people compared to 17 million, we expect some empty spaces.
Our first aim is La Paz, financial capital of Bolivia. Mainly to rest and search for a new bike pump (our old one is no longer working well, only 4 months old and hardly used).
Early Sunday morning, leaving the small village of Ancoraimes, following a tranquil main road around Lake Titicaca. Some very steep climbs (+15%) where we already miss the Peru gradient of conquering mountain sides. Benefit is less kilometers to cover for the same distance from A to B.
Up on the roof.
At 14:30 we reached the last possibility for a hostal or we need to decide to continue and camp next to a very busy road (as the road from the South side of Lake Titicaca joins here). We call it a day and even if the hostal is nothing (cold and shared facilities) we prefer a secured environment as opposed to camping in a busy area.
They still have some unfinished floors which offers us some great relaxing time in the sun with a nice view on the very end of the lake.
One of the first nights there are other guests in the same place we are staying, it seems they have quite some problems with the altitude or one drink too many.
Our quiet road has changed today to a very busy 4 lane road. The South loop has joined the North Loop of Lake Titicaca. What is definitively not better than in Peru are the old cars, trucks and buses. The closer we get to La Paz the more smog in the air. We even start to bike with our buff, trying to filter the air . This is what I hate about entering a city, the noise, pollution and lack of respect for cyclists.
I love a parade.
At one moment the 4 lanes of oncoming traffic are squeezed all onto our side. Oncoming 4 lanes are used for the procession of the 15th of July, the day of Carmen. The day before the liberation of the Spanish. Beautiful parade with live music. Frank stays with the bikes when I enjoy taking a few pictures. Would have loved to stay longer but we still have to look for a place where we would be happy to stay at least 2-3 nights.
We approach La Paz with its almost 2 million people via El Alto, the higher part of the city. Colder, higher, flat and with many less fortunate living here. We found a reasonable hostal on iOverlander as we did not want to bike down to the city centre, since La Paz is located in a canyon. Very steep cliffs in a huge city. La Paz is so steep that 5 years ago a network of cable cars (telepherique) has been installed to reduce traffic jams and pollution, ensuring people can get on time where they need to be. They have installed the longest aerial cable car system in the world. It carries one million passengers every month. Seems that now 33 km of line is available. I found this article in the Vienna Post (you do not have to register to read it!) https://www.vindobona.org/article/bolivia-doppelmayr-completes-the-worlds-largest-urban-cable-car-network
When we find the hostal it seems they only have shared facilities and no heating. Sometimes you long so much for some home comfort you agree to spend some more money. The owner is so sweet to let us use his WIFI to browse the internet and look for a different location (as we have not yet been able to buy a new SIM).
I find a medium priced hotel close to one of the exits of the yellow Mi Teleférico line. As it is already after 16:00 we decide to give it a try and use the Teleferique to transport the bikes, see if it is allowed or not. We are allowed to buy tickets for bike and us (only 3 bob (1,70 euro) per person and per bike). Nervously we try to find our way.
The elevator is not large enough to take the bikes and again we are grateful we can do this with the 2 of us. While Frank carries the bikes two stairs up, I take the luggage in the elevator. If you ever been on a ski holiday and if you ever have been in those elevator eggs from Doppelmayr, well those are the ones we took. Just enough space for one loaded bike and one passenger. I go first and enjoy the breathtaking trip down to the city center. Whauw, this is amazing. Stop two is where we have to get off and here I learn a hard lesson. Never try to push your bike out of the cabin without somebody lifting the back-end out. Definitively don’t stand next to your bike. The cable car keeps moving, but the bike stands still! I get squeezed and am lucky one off the guards is there to help otherwise my leg would not have been just blue. Frank is wiser and stands at the front of his bike and waits until somebody is there to help him. He get’s out without blue bruises.
I wanna go back.
We use the WIFI of the teleferique to check for the last time where we are heading and see that 1 block further than the hotel there is the possibility to rent an apartment. As we don’t pre-book with our bikes (we need to be sure there is a secured space or enough space for the bikes) we decide to check the apartment. Located in a very quiet side street we stand for a closed door. After a few minutes looking around and knocking/ringing, a car with the caretaker arrives. They still have an apartment and we can get it for the same price as listed on Booking.com. What an heaven. 1950’s building beautiful renovated with eye for detail, keeping the original details where possible, alternated with modern paintings or design.
Every color you are.
They used at least 10 different colors, each wall a different vibe. Heaters in each room; meaning kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom. Feels like coming home “a la maison”. Best is the easy access to the teleferique and only 2 blocks away there is a good supermarket. We will not bore you with stories of long breakfasts, great cooking, hanging on the couch, reading, staying inside and once we finally decided to go outside to discover the city and search for a few items we had to buy, we discover that on the 16th all shops are closed. Almost nobody around. So back to our little haven for some more cooking. During the night I don’t feel so well and in the morning halfway my shower I am happy the toilet is just 1 meter away. A few hours later Frank gets sick. This is the most funny thing. We have eaten at the most diverse food stalls, eaten the most strange things and never got sick at the same time. Now that we have been cooking ourselves we are both flat-out. Could it be the tap water we have used for coffee which we only have boiled for less than a minute? Luckily we can book an extra night.
Some more working, planning and discovering that we still have to bike a lot, finding a solution to still be on time to return home for Christmas. Back on our feet we go search for the pump replacement which we find in La Paz Sur. The new high-end side of La Paz. We don’t feel like discovering more of the city. Ps. First time in 3 months we spot a Porsche. What a difference between El Alto and the centre. The houses are immense, shops we have not seen in a long time and cappuccino. The gap between wealthy and poor is much larger here than in the Netherlands. Must be a bummer to have your million dollar house now next to one of the pillars of the telepherique, each time an cabin passes it makes quite some noise. Sober remark of Frank: at least they have insulated glazing and walls, touche!
Splashing on a perfect dinner 8 blocks away: at Ludo’s. Discovered him through TripAdvisor. Entering the restaurant it feels as an extension of our little heaven. Coincidence does not exist: the chef is also the owner of our apartment block and was the creative hand behind the renovation. Same colors, same artist on the walls. And most important, great honest food.
Feeling better we leave the next day. Back up the 400 vertical meters with the teleferique. We now know the do and don’ts and within less than an hour we are back in El Alto. What a difference with the La Paz. We notice the holidays are over, long lines of commuters wait to enter the teleferique.
We miss the last chance to have a real cappuccino as we are eager to get going. Biking out of La Paz was easy. Following the main road and there we are on F1 going South. Suddenly we see an other biker in our mirror. Nils from France biking from Columbia to Brazil.
Expecting the strong ,young fellow to speed off after a short chat, we are happy that he does adjust his speed to ours. Spending some fun riding time together with Nils, enjoying longer roadside lunches with real coffee.
Together deciding which of the two hotels on offer we will choose in two street city of Tolar. Next day same routine, can you get a routine in two days??
Speeding to out-ride the oncoming snow storm.
Finding shelter in the roadside town of Konani. First impression was negative due to bare mattresses on the first floor, maybe the economy class? But all-in-all it was a very clean hostal (with some lowe doors) and good soup next door’s. At least we were inside when the snowstorm hits the town.
In the morning the storm has draped the mountains with a thin layer of snow, looking like angel hair. More about this in next week blog as this is Sunday morning.