We survived the Death Road and only have one more pass to get to La Paz. Google plans an hour and a half for us and we look online for accommodation with warm water and internet. However, one should never rejoice too soon.
The mountain scenery is fantastic. The Andes present themselves to us in full force. Steep peaks rise far out of a gorge. The slopes are bare, we climbed well above the tree line and the walls are rugged. We fight our way further and further into the mountains with the trucks.
Suddenly the display in the car comes on, showing that something is wrong with the engine, I hear, smell and see steam and then the engine says goodbye. I roll the car to the side as far as I can and stop. White and black smoke comes out of the engine.
Sara exits the car with Leon under her arm and I open the hood to speed up the cooling. I hear the bubbling of the boiling coolant. But we are cold and have to put on our jackets until the engine is cold enough to continue.
We reach the mountain pass “La Cumbre” and I measure 4603 meters there. I stop the car and see that the temperature needle is back to boiling point. Again we wait. Sara signals that she doesn’t feel well. It must be because of the altitude.
We look at a small lake around which, amazingly, black-headed seagulls are circling. It’s time for Leon’s dinner. We prepare a small meal while we continue to cool the car. Then we continue.
I’m hoping to get the car over the crest and simply be able to roll to the next workshop in La Paz on the other side. But the end of the mountain pass is not in sight and despite the slight incline with a slight up and down, the engine quickly gets too hot again. I find a place next to the road and we try to find help. Luckily we have a good internet connection. My altitude meter shows me 4703 meters at this point.
I’ll try the AvD in Germany first, which I’m a member of. I quickly reach someone there who, however, tells me that the association does not have any contacts in Bolivia, despite the offer of “worldwide” help. Or any other country in South America. Or any country in any America. Thanks for nothing. Sara tries the ADAC and finds out that her membership only applies to Europe. So we are dependent on ourselves.
I search google for towing services. All numbers have a Whatsapp contact. This helps as it allows me to describe our problem better and give our position better. A service provider offers to help. For an outrageously high price. OK, what are we left with? Then he wants us to transfer 40% of the price in advance.
Like doing online banking on my broken car in the mountains. Aside from not having a Bolivian account, I don’t want to either and the guy is leaving us hanging. Sara and I take our anger out on the tow truck through Google reviews.
I keep looking for garages and towing services, but since it’s late I don’t get any answers and we get our camp ready for the night. In Santa Cruz we got another thick duvet for the situation, which we can really use now. Leon is wrapped up in his fleece onesie and we snuggle under all the blankets we have. The night is still not comfortable. Leon seems slightly nauseous and Sara has a headache.
And then there’s a knock on the window in the middle of the night. The police again. With their labeled high-visibility vests, the three men really do look like officers. I push the window open a bit and briefly explain that we are a family and just sleep here. The flashlights shine briefly on the woman and baby, then they wish us good night and ask us to take care of ourselves.
The next morning starts with a hangover, but with bright sunshine and a wonderful view of the mountain landscape. Too bad Sara is still unwell and can’t appreciate the view. We make breakfast and I look for garages and towing services. Either I don’t get an answer or I’m put off to another day.
In the end I get a positive answer and even a note that English is spoken. This helps. I can describe the problem in detail and get the promise that they will be there in half an hour. The price is also significantly cheaper and at what you would expect in Bolivia.
It takes an hour, but I don’t want to complain. However, instead of a tow truck, a thick Dodge RAM arrives with a steel cable. An elderly gentleman and a young man introduce themselves. The old man’s name is Felix and he greets us warmly.
Felix listens briefly to what is missing from the car. It also does not start, but this can also be due to the temperature. Then our car is tied to the rope and pulled onto the road. The further plan is to let the car roll into the city. Now I understand why the towing costs are so low. The workshop assistant takes the wheel.
I swap the wheel with the boy at the toll station and police checkpoint. Having someone push the cart isn’t a problem, but pulling it through a rope is apparently highly illegal.
In the city there are always artificial bumps that we push the car over together. Otherwise the plan works and the car arrives at the workshop. There the car will stay for the next two weeks, while we have enough time to get to know La Paz, the highest administrative city in the world.
The breakdown on the La Cumbre mountain pass was very unfortunate. The car spends the next two weeks in the workshop. After replacing a few parts. I’m doing test rides back to La Cumbre and the behavior at altitude is improving, but not ideal yet.
On these trips I can really enjoy the mountain panorama in the bright sunlight. I even pass a herd of llamas grazing at the edge of a stream.