Road to the jungle

Delayed by a day of rainfall, or in the case of El Alto and the passes - snowfall, we were pleased to be taking the road that led to sun, warmth and lush vegetation. The 'camino del muerte' or 'death road' down into the Yungas gets it's name from the scary amount of people who have died on it's precipitous path. Now 'mostly harmless' with the introduction of a newer, bigger tarred road it is still popular with tourists hiring mountain bikes out for a day trip of 3000m in altitude in an amazing 60km.
After battling our way out of La Paz via busy market streets we crossed the 4700m pass with it's snowdusted peaks and descended through rapidly changing vegetation zones. The smooth yellow of Altiplano grassland and it's craggy peaks blended to hardy mountain shrub which gave way to delicately ferned cloud forest. The single track follows a narrow valley and is literally carved from it's near perpendicular slopes, snaking in and out of every spur while mist clings photogenically to crooked trees and undulating ridges. Hard to imagine that this used to be the main route to the Yungas but we were practically alone on the road that afternoon with only the occasional busload of returning tourists with a roofrack piled high with mountain bikes.
As our valley merged with others Coroico came into view, a sweet, little town with marvellous views onto the converging valleys below and the glistening peaks in the distance with flocks of screeching green parakeets racing past. The main plaza was filled with a mix of traditionally dressed cholas (mestizos), afro-bolivians and a few hippy styled travellers. That night we ended up in the only place that unknowingly sold illegal beer (along with a delicious spatzle and sauerbraten) due to the referendum the following day. It seemed ironic that we were leaving the high altitude Evo Morales stronghold for the lowland 'Oriente', crossing the dividing line of modern day Bolivian politics on the very eve of a contentious vote.
The Recall Referendum, set for Sunday the 10th of August, was a vote to legitimise or oust Evo Morales aswell as the nine departmental prefects. Evo is Bolivias first indigenous President and joins the league of the South American social-leftists like Chavez and Lulu. However his social programmes and his planned constitutional changes (which make him hugely popular with the campesinos (peasants)) have come under heavy fire from the lowland states where much of Bolivias wealth and hence financial muscle is concentrated. The outcome of the vote? ... Evo stays with 67% but so does his most vocal opposition, the departmental prefect of Santa Cruz! Bolivian politics is so complex...  
So while people were off voting on this historic day in Bolivia's political history we cruised along a fantastically traffic free road. The scenery varied between steep jungle-clad slopes with glimpses of a river far below to broader valleys checquered with banana, coffee, coca and staple food crops. Constantly descending we finally reached the end of the Andes, and Evo's, domain. One last lonely arm of hills stretched out into the sea of green and somewhere in that green was our destination in the jungle: Rurrenabaque.