Friday, August 12, 2011

Paragliding and Quadbiking in Bolivia

After recovering from death road we decided to go paragliding in the morning and quad biking in the afternoon. I was paragliding earlier on this trip in Mendoza so I knew what to expect but the setup in La Paz wasn't near as good as Mendoza. It took us about an hour to get to the jump site, the later half was on very steep gravel paths up the side of a mountain. This would be fine if you only had to do it once.

View from the jump site

Niall was first to run off the cliff for his 15-20 minute flight. They were tandem flights and there was only one instructor so we all had to wait for Niall to land and the instructor to drive back up. When I went in Mendoza we all went at the same time which meant we could fly close together and take photos of each other, plus there was no waiting around. All of that said it was worth the wait the flight and the scenery was amazing.

Me paragliding!
Nice view

Next was the quad biking, they wouldn't let us hire them by ourselves we needed to take a guide with us. Initially it was a bit strange driving on the road passing out cars on a quad bike but you soon get into it. After about 10 minutes on the road we went offroad going up the mountain and stopping at various viewing points. Our guide was getting frustrated with us at times as he wanted us in single file and didn't want us passing out, speeding, skidding, having fun or doing anything that wasn't driving in a straight line. He said it was too dangerous. This I thought was a bit odd as I felt his driving through traffic, passing out cars, taxis and busses blindly was more dangerous. He'd catch us passing out, he'd tell us to stop then he'd catch us again and this cycle was repeated.
We stopped at another "view point" which was a gravelly ledge with a seriously steep drop on either side, its the sort of thing that would be cornered off and you wouldn't be allowed anywhere near if it existed in Ireland or anywhere outside Bolivia. Our guide encouraged us to walk out on it, take photos and at the end he even drove one of the quads to the edge and suggested we pose for some photos.

The view from the ledge

Posing for photos on the quad bike by the edge!

Don't look down

After this he explained how the next section was dangerous and that we must go slow in single file with no passing out. Meanwhile Anna had just discovered that she could spin the wheels when taking off so she was was practicing this and as soon as we left she ran into the back of our guide. Luckily neither were going too fast so there was no damage.

No fun allowed

We were well behaved for the next few minutes until Niall decided he had enough of being in last place and that he wanted to be at the front. He shot past me on the outside as we were approaching a u-turn, Anna realised this and went as fast as possible on the inside, at which point I decided I wasn't going to be left behind so I picked up speed and got back into the race. At this point our guide looked back and saw the 3 of us side by side coming straight for him as we were entering the u-turn. He started shouting. Niall turned off to the right and hit the brakes. Anna sped up and decided she was going to win, thus passing out the guide. As soon as Anna passed out the guide he braked hard as did I but obviously not hard enough as I went crashing into the back of his quad. Second crash of the day, just after he told us to take it slow. He wasn't happy and all we could do was laugh. Luckily there was no damage to the bikes and he mellowed out after we bought him a bottle of coke. I get the feeling that we were possible more well behaved compared to some of the groups they must get.

Group photo after the crash