This past week, the 11 of us departed into the wilderness for our second trek. This time we were accompanied by 3 mules, their leader, Don Luis, and OUR beloved leader, Pedro. We trekked up and down mountainsides, passing waterfalls, many llamas, and lakes. One time we even needed to take off our hiking boots to cross a freezing cold river. We ended each day’s 6-hour hike in a different stunning campsite, leaving us with the cold evenings to ourselves. By the second day, we had achieved an altitude higher than that of Mount Blanc, or any point in Europe, and by the third day we had hit the snow line. We also climbed a “practice” peak, reaching 5250 meters- our first Andean summit! On the fourth day we had a morning of rest within walking distance of the glacier we would climb the next day. Our mountain guides arrived with tons of equipment, bringing crampons, helmets, boots, gloves, gaiters, harnesses, ice axes, and snow gear. We were up the next “morning” at midnight to have breakfast and walk to the glacier, the starting point of the morning’s climb. We survived a blizzard, leaving vomit and even a head torch behind. By 6AM, we had all successfully reached the first peak, Pico Tarija. From here the most Questies in Quest history were able to ascend the second peak of the day. The 6 of us fought our way to Pico Pequeño Alpamayo, where we had an incredible view above the clouds. Although it was only lunchtime when we arrived back at base camp, we all collapsed in our sleeping bags for the rest of the day and night. We woke up to snow the next day, and packed up everything before making our way to the bus that would take us to La Paz. To our dismay, the bus was not where it was supposed to be. After walking for an extra hour, we got on the bus and were quickly delayed once again by the bus getting stuck in the mud. The perfect remedy for our exhaustion was digging and pushing that bus out of the sticky road.
We finally made it back to La Paz in time for a well-deserved steak dinner. We were joined by Pedro, our gear outfitters, and the one and only Jon Cassidy. We were up bright and early the next morning for a day of mountain biking. The Gravity Biking bus met us at the hostel with our Aussie guide in tow. Marcus explained to us that Death Road was built to connect La Paz to Coroico, the second largest producer of coca leaf in the world. It is said that one third of the produced coca goes unaccounted for. Prisoners of war from Paraguay built the road, which drops at least 500m off the side, and thousands of people have died on it, one of which was a motorcyclist 5 days ago posing for a picture. We passed several gravestones, crosses, flowers, and could even see the remains of buses and cars when we peered cautiously over the side. Regardless, we had one hell of a time! We biked down for at least 5 hours, stopping for stories and photos ops along the way. Wet and spent, we ended our day with a zip lining adventure in Yolosa (because You Only Live Once- heh). After that, we bussed up to Hotel Esmeralda, where we all swore we had died on Death Road and gone to Heaven. We were ecstatic to find a delicious buffet waiting for us, which we devoured in minutes. Now we are playing the waiting game, expecting our 20-hour bus journey into the jungle to be an absolute blast.