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The land of death in Bolivia, Part 1

How would you want to die? Fall from a cliff or die of dehydration?

So.. where did I leave off? Ahh yes, getting stranded alone at a border crossing because your American passport requires you to pay $125 reciprocity visa fee and submit bunch of other paperwork while people from other countries just need a visa on arrival stamp... But the crossing between the llama kingdom and the land of death wasn't too bad, I was able to run fast enough to catch the slow crawling buses going past the border.

Travel tip# 21: If your mom is the type who read about all the horror travel stories of solo travelers getting murdered and kidnapped, don't call the country you are visiting the land of death.

(Click on the photos for bigger version and even more photos!)

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So, what's a better way of experience the end of life by actually traveling on a road called the Death Road on a bike? Why on a bike you ask? I would much rather prefer feeling the wind in my manly, full bearded face while roaring like a wild beast than entrapped in some metal can as I fall to my death. And why do they call this the Death Road? Because people died while traveling on it.... yeah....

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With certain areas that are only 3m in width (10ft for us American folks), it makes you wonder how they actually get large transportation trucks across the road. Actually, they have a set a clear right of way where the vehicles going down hill goes first when it comes to a stand off... or was it vehicles going uphill? Meh, probably wasn't that important anyways.

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I have to admit, the view of the descent from the snow capped mountains tops of 4700m (15,400 ft) to the humid and misty rainforest at 1100m (3,000ft) is quite magnificent. Make sure though that you wear layered clothing and bring a pack with you so you don't end up freezing at the top and drenched at the bottom. Things takes forever to dry in the rainforest (literally, it never dries).

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After not dying from falling off a mountain, I decided to try my luck braving through the world's largest salt flat desert... in a 4x4, with a local driver, 5 days of food, water, and fuel. Looking back, I do not know how I could have survived such conditions. The only thing I was missing was a camera crew. Although, if you do get lost there, no one can hear you scream, or see you for that matter, due to the blinding white salt. Your rescue mirror will do you little good there...

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On my grueling trek through the desert, I have found previous fellow travellers that tried to do the same. These poor souls has attempted to wander through the desert only to find they had nowhere to go but to live the rest of their short lives there. When the last breath escaped them, they were buried within stone mounts, in honor of their bravery. Of course, this happened a few hundred years ago, before the advent of internal combustion engines.

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At the end of the third day of surviving through barren terrains, poisonous waters, less than friendly wildlife, I could tolerate no longer. I succumed to one of the harshest environment known to mankind, no hot showers. You can imagine my elatedness (try saying that word fast 5x) when I saw a shower poster. However, I was also confused by it. "Showers you publish"? How do we publish our showers? Why are there different lights on the showers? But by then, I was suffering so much from lack of hot showers, I didn't care. I stripped down and went in. The last thing I remembered was strobing colored lights in a dark room with hot mist spraying on my face....

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Posted by btang 16:14 Archived in Bolivia Tagged death bike bolivia salt la_paz south_america uyuni salt_flat

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