La Paz – Death Road

Well, I stopped my posts because I wanted to access the pictures from the CD that came along with the death road package. Unfortunately I scratched the CD and it no longer seems to work 😦 I’m slightly disappointed that the mental images I have in my mind when I browsed them on the computer in Loki Hostel are gone, and may come to fade. But it’s alright, I still have some of these memory triggers:

Biked down Death road, supposedly the world’s most dangerous roads. It got its name because .., now it’s filled with hoards of tourists daily. Was pretty nervous the night before but honestly, the bus ride back down the mountains – the dust smog that clouds the windscreen and its visibility – is worth greater anxiety.

My October self: I was so nervous the night before though, questioning if I made the right decision. I had to wake up groggily at 6am or something so the bus could pick me up in the wee hours of the morning. I was cold and rather nervous, and I remember being the only Asian in the male-dominated bus, which if I might add, actually made me feel rather sheepishly proud of myself. Lame, but it’s true.

On hindsight, I’m glad I went for it. I’m almost glad I faced the wave of nausea, that resulted in my abandonment of the city tour, and the extra time to look for the tour operator for the next day. I’m always curious about how things work out the way they do. Of course, this is me, happily uninjured, safe, and I’m glad, just glad I went ahead with it. It’s exaggerated though, this whole ‘death road’ thing, considering there was a German father (athletic, if i might add) who brought his 16(?) year old daughter along. She was volunteering in Bolivia for a year. Such a life-changing year it was going to be. I’m truly envious. I wonder if the rest felt nervous like I did.



The night before:
Death road – I walked along the streets of Santa Cruz and found several tour operators. I settled on the second as 310 bolivianos was reasonable enough. My bus ticket to Copacabana is 35; from 345 I negotiated to 335 for both. Pretty reasonable for the middle standard bike. With only front suspension. Good enough I think….
The first section was that of paved roads, pretty smooth, I did not have to peddle, just allow myself to roll down the mountainous roads. Reminded me much of Da Lat’s motorbike day.
Lunch – a banana, a bun with egg, a chocolate bar and a bottle of coke
Second and third sections were a little more rocky; we rode past waterfalls and cobbly streams that splashed up my jeans and soaked my socks. Despite my annoyance, I grinned. This was pretty fun.
Dusty road
Nothing particularly frightening, I hardly peddled in the first and second sections. We just rolled down, I only needed to grip my brakes.
The third section needed a little more physical energy. We needed to peddle up at some points. As I grunted, pushing one foot and the other down in rhythm, I was reminded of my days in the gym on the cycling machine. I remember that self gritting my teeth and persistently trying to get the best timing, and I rode a little faster. This is just my gym day, the ones I missed for far too many weeks. It’s nice to think that there was that version of me last semester, working physically for this. In moments like this I do feel proud of myself, I like working for things. But then I think about the times I slack and I wonder if I over credit myself, or if I under credit myself because of my Asian mentality. Qian xu, my Chinese teacher once told me. That’s important.
At some points as I rode down I thought to myself, is this me? Is this the person I am now? When did I become this?
What I mean is, I have a conception of my timid self that does not quite match this activity. But does this activity necessarily mean I’m not as timid as I think? Maybe everyone does it. I mean most people do it, it’s that touristy. But I carried a lot of fear last night, questioning my decision (as usual). And now I’ve completed it. It was easy, once again another example of mental-fear. As with paragliding perhaps.  Sometimes I wonder about the person that I am becoming. When did I become so calm about taking risks? What am I doing to myself?
And the other side thinks, what are you talking about, I think everyone does this. More interestingly, I am alone and hence the decision was mine and solely mine to make. I wonder if I opted for the tour because I was curious about the person that I am – maybe I want to opt for new standards to measure myself. What standards? The other side thinks.
I suppose you can bargain, but today I found that the average wage of a Bolivian is truly meagre, so I do try not to be too obsessed with every penny.



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