Friday, February 02, 2007

Republic of Bolivia .... III

The world's most dangerous road
Yungas - Bolivia
Bolivia, a country of statistical extremes!!, landlocked Bolivia is the highest and most isolated country in South America. Forget your local road with the bad turns, the potholes or the rush-hour congestion. Some people have real road problems. There's that awful road in Russia from Moscow to Yakutsk (near the Yakutsk end) and a scary one in Nepal heading from Katmandu toward Mount Everest, and a few other horror stories from around the world, but the road from Bolivia's capital city of La Paz to the high-Andes region of Yungas beats them all hands down. In 1995, the Inter American Development Bank called it the most dangerous road in the world and nobody argued with them.
For most of the 40 or so miles (about 60 Km) from Coroico to La Paz the road is no more than a winding track carved out of the side of a mountain. Single-lane width, extreme drop-offs, lack of guardrails and sometimes unruly traffic compound the problem. Incredibly, the road, despite little more than 3 meters wide for most of its length, is a major route for trucks and buses. Imagine heading into a curve at night, in rain and meeting a bus coming the other way!
The road drops in altitude from a little over 14,000 feet (4300 M) to just over 1,000 feet, taking it from the high Andes plains down through the rain forests to La Paz. The road was build during the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners of war. A new road has been under construction for more than a decade but that is Bolivia a decade can equal a year or so in our minds.

Because of the extreme drop-offs, single-lane width, and lack of guardrails, the road is extremely dangerous. Further still, rain and fog can make visibility precarious, the road surface muddy, and loosen rocks from the hillsides above. On July 24, 1983, a bus veered off the Yungas Road and into a canyon, killing more than 100 passengers in what is said to be Bolivia's worst road accident. One of the local road rules specifies that the downhill driver never has the right of way and must move to the outer edge of the road. This forces fast vehicles to stop so that passing can be negotiated safely. The danger of the road ironically though has made it a popular tourist destination starting in the 1990s. Mountain biker enthusiasts, in particular, have made it a favorite destination for downhill biking.

The Yungas is an area in the eastern Piedmont of the Andes Mountains, primarily in Bolivia. Like the surrounding areas, it has characteristics of the Neotropic ecozone. It is rainy, humid, and warm. The only Afro-Bolivian community is concentrated here. Coffee, citrus, and coca are important crops, and the Yungas Cocalera Revolution is based in the region ( they provide the coca leaf to the coca tea companies Windsor, Lupi, MacMate and Frutte). Its name derives from the one applied for the same mountain level by those who study the economic system of the prehispanic Andes. Yungas is the only region in Bolivia were coca is legally grown; coca is produced for licit domestic and international markets, including pharmaceutical cocaine, flavor extracts used in Coca Cola, Coca Tea and a handful of other products.

I promised to a customer to write a review today about all the different brands of coca tea that we sell and the difference between them. All the Bolivian Coca Tea companies use Yungas' Coca Leaf only, from the Yungas Cocalera Revolution; so... all the tea bags have the same quality of coca leaf. The difference? ... The presentation, boxing, package and the most relevant thing..... The customer's taste! Some love Lupi and do not want any other one, Frutte seams to be the choice for unstable weather regions, others are fanatic of Windsor and right now MacMate, our new kid on the block, is our top seller.

By mid February , we will introduce Bolivian Coffee, organic, fresh from Yungas, home of the world's most dangerous road with love.



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