In the early morning more and more stalls were set up and cars parked around our camper. If we did not leave quickly we would not be able to leave at all. So we left at 8:00 hrs and drove again up the steep streets out of town.
Stopping on the steep street is actually not an option with the camper because even in first gear, it is difficult to get the reeves up so the camper moves. Fortunately there was no other car on the road when we shot up out of the side road on to the main road. We decided to fill up our tank for the first time in Bolivia as there was no queue yet this early in the morning. Locals pay 3.7 Bol (0,44 Eu) per liter of diesel and foreigners 8.5 Bol (1,01 EU). However if you pay cash and do not want a receipt you can get away with 6 Bol (0,71 Eu). We were glad we left in time. More and more cars were coming up the road to Copacabana and they all will be going back on Sunday and take the ferry. We could just drive straight on to the barge and were over in no time. The drive back to La Paz went without any problems other than that the noise from the back of the camper was getting louder. It was not clear what it was. Checking with VWstore in Holland via whatsapp, we came to the conclusion that it must be the right rear wheel bearing. It fortunately was not considered a show stopper so we still plan to drive on to Cordoba which is just over 2000 km away, visiting the tourist sights along the way.
The high plane (El Alto, 4000 m) was again very full and hectic. You always had to watch out for minibuses stopping suddenly in front of you and letting passengers out. In one 4 lanes street the right lane was full with over 30 empty minibuses. They must have all been waiting for passengers. Somewhere along the road there is a turnoff, which drops down into the valley (3500 m) . It is a very steep and winding road.
At the end of it, we could see La Paz which nestles further down in the valley surrounded by other valleys moving up to the Alto Plata. Overall around the city center the hills/valleys were covered with redbrick houses. All roads in and out of the suburbs are steep. Nothing is level. Even in the town center, some streets are very steep. Why this city was ever built and allowed to grow so much in such an unsuitable place is a mystery for me. Especially if Sucre, according to the constitution is the legal capital.
We stayed in the dedicated camper site of Hotel Oberland (Swiss owned) some 10 km out of the city centre in the “Valle de la Luna”. After parking the camper we walked up the hill to visit the Luna Valley. The coarse sandstone layer has been eroded away over time by rain. You walk in between the large sharpened pillars of sandstone. It has a bit of a eerie lunar feeling were it not that there are a lot of others walking as well, following the same route.
We stayed here for 3 nights. A Californian couple (David and Rachel) with their V8 Toyota Land cruiser with roof tent joined us there. It was good to meet some fellow overlanders. They were on their way South but like us, are taking a break from traveling between May and October. We swapped “incredible sights” and “horror stories” till late.
On Easter Sunday, we took the small local bus into town. The drive itself is already an experience. The bus is often flagged down on its route and then it has to somehow get started again on the steep climbs.
In town we were in time (before 13:00 hrs) to visit the 4 recommended small museums which are housed in 3 historical houses (Calle Jaen museums). Nothing spectacular but the modern miniatures and old pottery was worth the visit. On the larger Plaza Pedro de Murillo we dropped in to the Easter service in the Cathedral (1835).
La Paz is surrounded by high hills on which most of the population live. To connect these with the city center, the government has build 6 cable car lines between 2014 and 2018. They float straight over the streets and houses up into the mountains. We spent a pleasant afternoon going up and down on two of these lines. Great views.
Rudy opted not to do the “Death Road” on bike but instead we took the camper to the VW garage in the hope of finding out where the vibrating noise comes from. After waiting for an hour till after siesta time, they took away the camper. They must have made a test drive with it because when I checked to see how it was going it was not in the garage. After 3 more hours of waiting, we were getting a bit anxious as to what was going on. On request we were taken to the camper and the mechanic in rapid Spanish explained to us what the problem was. It was not the wheel bearings but one of the connections in the 3 part drive shaft. We could drive with it to Cordoba but would have to accept the continuous vibrating noise similar to a hole in your exhaust. The noise is at its loudest at 80 km per hour and above that is less. Also, as expected, it appears that the alternator is not delivering enough current (20 amps instead of 60 amps) to charge the household battery. So more things to get fixed before we can start on the second leg of our trip. In the evening we joined our Californian overlanders for a meal in the hotel restaurant.
On Tuesday we had a slow start and at 11:30am drove out of the valley and up to the high plateau again to turn off on route 1 going south. Before Oruro we turned east on route 4 over the mountains (up to 4500 m) and down to Ochabamba (2500 m). Before the city, we found a nice campsite in a EcoTourism park up the side of one of the mountains surrounding the large valley. Large stretches of the winding mountain road are still under construction so regularly you are diverted to the parallel sandy bypass roads where you are stuck behind a truck. Overtaking is difficult due to the dust cloud left behind the truck and the many hairpin corners.