Now they’re coming thick and fast, keep it up guys!
Our next blog entry finds us on a long bus from Ambue Ari to La Paz, having finished the project phase of our trip. It was strange to leave the now familiar confines of the rainforest and be thrown headlong into the ways of city life, although many of us were craving a warm shower and a good feed. Having made it through the pitches of a man attempting to sell us some sort of anti-parasite powder, we arrived in La Paz at around 9am to greet Rob, our leader for the expedition phase. After a quick pep talk about what we were to expect in the next few weeks, we went out to lunch and gorged ourselves on a delicious curry, something we had seen hide nor hair of in all our travels. That evening, after getting kitted out for the next few days we had a Mexican to utterly finish off our spice free taste buds and then took an early night.
The next day brought an activity that a few of us had regarded with a little concern. Cycling the worlds most dangerous road with very little experience on a bike was the main issue for a few of us. However, we were reassured by our guide, Justin, that deaths were not a particularly common occurence. All but one of our group donned our hard hats and made it down, passing through much differing terrain and with only 2 or 3 falls in total. The general concensus was that it was thoroughly enjoyable, and well worth doing. We ended up at an animal reserve, where we had lunch and took a quick swim in the pool. Then we headed back to La Paz and made preparations for the next evening, which was always going to be a big one: Pete´s birthday.
Before we could engage in our festivities however, we had an early start and a bus ride to go ice climbing. After being decked out with crampons and ice axes, we took the long walk to the glacier. Some of us felt the change in altitude, and it did not bode well for later in the day. The ice climbing was most enjoyable, and even those who were apprehensive about the height powered on through and made impressive climbs, although the getting back down the ice face was perhaps more challenging for the timid. On the way down we lost a few of our group to illness, a result of dehydration and the altitude. One person who shall not be named vomited out of the bus window onto another bus full of passengers. That classic moment made the sickness well worth it.
After some of us had had a nap and recovered, we made last minute preparations for Pete´s birthday dinner. The venue for the start of our festivities was an American steakhouse, where we filled ourselves with huge amounts of meat, coupled with many a tequila shot. Pete received a brand new chicken head (after Morocha the monkey had destroyed the last one in Ambue) among many other gifts, some of which were not destined to make it through the night. We headed to gringo Mecca, Oliver´s Travels for drinks and dress up and then on to Mongos to finish the evening. Many of the male members of the group went chasing Bolivian girls, and one female member wisely contracted a nasty chest infection and promptly spread it to the others over the next few days. Another never even made it into the club.
The next day had a slow start, sorting out our tent teams and buying the food for the trek, which took the food team all day and caused a fiasco about the number of bread rolls we were suposed to bring. We had a last supper at Oliver´s and then had an early night given the horrific timings of the next morning.
We boarded the bus to Charazani at 4am and arrived some hours later, at the start of the trek. We had Pedro giving us a hand, as well as a dog, aptly named Bitemaster 3000 by Rob, who finished any leftovers we had from cooking. Our first day trekking was around 5km long and the weather was fairly hot. We were slowly acclimatising, as we walked past numerous herds of llamas with pink tassled ears and set up camp next to a beautiful lake, on which the mist rolled in at night and became a little eerie. Pete and John constructed a toilet out of rocks, but alas it did not last long for illness had struck the group again.
The second day saw us chowing down coca, as we began an ascent that would have broken us the previous day. At the highest point we were 5100m, and the wind and rain set in as we ate our peanut butter and jam sandwiches. the day was a long one, and spirits at times flagged, but we managed to pull through and gladly spent the night in a small house, out of the storm that brewed outside.
Our final day of trekking was the wettest by far, and took around 5 hours. We were accompanied by a dog for the last part, which some thought we had managed to get lost. We finally pulled into Charazani and had a relaxing few hours in the thermal baths there, resting our aching muscles. We had ´dirty chicken´ for dinner, served by a charming old lady, then packed up ready for the next day and went to bed.
As and old Nepalese teacher of mine used to say: This much for now.
RHG and Crackers