6th November 2003
Not fancying the idea of driving in La Paz ever again, we took the bus into the City from Mallassa - a 30 minute ride for a few pennies. First stop, the Instituto Geografico Militar to buy some topographical maps of the Uyuni Salt Flats and a road map of Bolivia. The maps there are very good photocopies but you have to buy quite a few if you want to cover a large area and they aren't that cheap.
Maps in hand, we then had the fiasco of trying to obtain a permit to drive in Bolivia - a Hoja de Ruta - which according to the guidebook was a legal requirement. We went to the transit police - they seemed to have never heard of it and sent us to another police office a block away. This office then sent us to another office which again proved fruitless, and they suggested we went to the transit police! The tourist police were really helpful and typed out a letter in Spanish to the transit police explaining what we needed, but when we returned to the transit police with the letter in hand, they sent us to yet another office. We thought this was it and we would finally get the document. But no, they had sent us to an office that deals purely with diplomats and people living in Bolivia. Patience is a virtue, but by this stage this was one virtue we no longer possessed. We decided to give up and take our chances if we were stopped by the police.
We then went to Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking to book our ride down the "World's Most Dangerous Road" (so named in a report by the Inter-American Development Bank, due to the number of accidents and fatalities). Gravity are the most well known people for running this tour and have been going the longest. They are more expensive than other tour companies but they have the best reputation, with safety a priority. (Gravity are the only ones to take rescue equipment with them in case anyone were to go over the edge....).
Karin at Gravity, when we told her of our frustrating day chasing the hoja de ruta, kindly rang her lawyer and got him to check the situation for us, promising to let us know the outcome the next day.