The slog to La Paz: Oruro to La Paz (with Leroy)

Cycling days: 146, 147 & 148

Oruro to Vilaque

We lingered in the hostel for a few rounds of the complimentary breakfast before leaving at around 09:30. It was pretty easy exiting Oruro and we were soon on the motorway heading to La Paz. We began making very speedy progress on a dead flat road, with a very wide shoulder. We chatted amongst ourselves all morning.

To our dismay, however, the wind picked up (a headwind of course) and we slowed right down. The road also started to undulate more, which didn’t help our progress.

In the afternoon, the sky became very grey and moody. We were all sure that although it looked like rain, it probably wouldn’t – how wrong we were! It rained quite heavily for a short period – enough for us to get the waterproofs out. It was actually quite nice to experience rain – we hadn’t had any for ages.

It was a day of hard slog, with not much in the way of interesting scenery to keep our minds occupied. At about 16:30, after cresting one of the many hills, Leroy suggested that we should stop and camp at the edge of a village. Freddy wasn’t having any of it though as the next 10km were downhill and pushed for us to continue – which we did. Leroy continued to search for sheltered camp spots along the way until we reached a small collection of houses, the village of Vilaque. Freddy thought this might be a good place to stop and we soon found a large open-roofed shed that was clearly used by animals, but it would give us shelter from the wind. We both went to see if we could get permission from the owners and found some cute kids who said it wasn’t a problem.

When we had just about erected our tents, Elizabeth (the cute kid’s mother) appeared. She was adamant we wouldn’t camp and she showed us to her house and our very own room! It was so warm and we even got a bed – poor Leroy was on the floor. Leroy and Freddy played football with two of Elizabeth’s NINE kids (yes, nine!). Once Dad was home from work everyone piled into our room and we had a long chat over a bowl of delicious soup. Such kindness from people yet again.

 

Vilaque to Tolar

Elizabeth gave us some bread for breakfast, accompanied by a delicious hot milk drink spiced with cinnamon and cloves. It was yum!

After a quick photoshoot (squeezing all 11 of the family and us into the frame), we left the house and went to visit Elizabeth’s husband at his welding workshop in Konani (just down the road). Having had the tour, we picked up a few supplies in town and then hit the road.

The road to La Paz was lined with a lot more villages today. Unfortunately, this meant a lot more chasey dogs. One managed to rip Sarah’s other rear pannier. Blast!

It was a pretty uneventful day apart from that. The wind was up and in our faces again and the route was quite hilly. Another hard earned 70km day.

At the end of the day, we found a place to camp in a field on the outskirts of Tolar, hidden within some small animal pens.

 

Tolar to La Paz

It had been a pretty warm night – which had been a very pleasant surprise but it did rain a bit. A quick breakfast and we were on the road by 09:00.

We were all feeling pretty tired – but Sarah in particular really lacked energy. It was a really slow 57km to La Paz.

We reached El Alto (the sprawling city located above La Paz) just before midday, but it took us ages to pass through because of the amount of traffic and number of traffic lights. Every light seemed to turn red for us. The pollution was terrible. Dust and smog filled our lungs and Freddy (rather dramatically) said he felt his life expectancy diminishing with every moment we remained in the city.

La Paz itself is located in the valley below El Alto, so once we reached the edge of the ridge we had a pretty long descent into the city. This would have been lovely, but unfortunately this section of road was undergoing roadworks. This meant the road was extremely narrow and hard for vehicles to overtake us – we got tooted a lot!!!

We decided to stay in a hostel for our first couple of nights (before moving to the Casa del Cyclistas) and arrived at the Adventure Brew Hostel at around 2pm.

That afternoon, we visited the city’s main markets, filling our bellies with deep fried pork and an enormous fruit salad with ice-cream.

There was a table tennis competition that night in the hostel which Freddy backed himself to win. Disappointingly, he lost in the semi-final to the eventual winner having spurned FIVE match points. He definitely got the yips there.

With the help of Sarah (more like a reliance on Sarah), Freddy attempted to redeem himself in the following night’s beer-pong competition. Sadly, despite Sarah’s heroics, we bowed out in the semi-final, losing by a solitary cup.