THE ROAD TO BOLIVIA
In my last post i was hanging out in Cusco, Peru after some big mountain riding.
In this post I team up with a bunch of other cyclists as we say goodbye to Peru and mountains for a while and head towards Bolivia and get salty. Enjoy – Tom
I rolled into Cusco, Peru hoping to catch up with james who i had been in contact with since Nicaragua. Hostel Estellita was full of cyclist – about 10 of us were relaxing and having a nice break from the Peruvian mountains. Mateo, Barbra, James and I were ready to head to Bolivia
But first we needed to fuel up
Mateo filling up for the next few weeks of camping
We were heading for the Altiplano – which pretty much translates as a really high and flat piece of landscape. But we were still a few days away with some small climbs to get us there. This is the quick way up hills. We would all wait at the end of town and wait for a truck, semi or tuk-tuk to come pass and grab hold for the ride up
This little guy was only 11 years old cruising round town. PERU!
A few days in and we had made it to the start of the Altiplano. we celebrated with Cocacola and a little dance
Llamas and bikes
The Altiplano – Mateo opening it up and saying goodbye to the mountains!
It had been months for all of us since we had seen flat and straight roads. music cranked and loving it
No more demonised dogs or overly enthusiastic drivers honking horns and passing within a whisker. it was just us and a little cemetery in the middle of nowhere
But we did bump into this guy camped on the side of the road one morning. we picked up Andreas from Switzerland and the mob became 5
Waiting for Andreas to pack up and posing for railway photos
We rolled into town and when searching for food.
The local market
food for days
Peruvians love their Jelly. The next few weeks we would roll into town squares for lunch breaks buying these little beautys from women with three teeth and huge grins. the lack of teeth and soft jelly may have some correlation.
Back on the road.
Mateo and his Adventurer face
We were aiming for Juliaca – A big dirty city. here is the local laundrymat
We stayed at Giovani’s Casa de Ciclistas. he put a roof over our heads and gave us little Llamas as gifts
Mateo the travelling chess player
We were one day from Bolivia but somehow Peru didnt want us to leave. we woke up and all hell had broken loose
Fuel prices had gone up over night and the people where mad
Road blocks all the way to the Bolivian border
One of the easier roadblocks to pass
Bumped into Nick and Nick – two aussies heading north. good luck with the protests lads
This bus stop was too good to leave out of the post
And so was this guy….A crazy Frenchman walking through South America
I cant really describe cycling in Bolivia. It was raw and desolate with an unforgiving landscape. It felt so far from everywhere i had been on this trip. What made it even better was sharing it with some incredible people which elevated the next three weeks into an epic adventure.
Hello Bolivia! We made it to the border and rolled into the hippie town of Copacobana on the shore of Lake Titicaca
A perfect way to begin our stay in Copacobana. Photo: Andreas
We hung out for a few days and took a trip out to Isla del Sol
Checking out some of the Inca ruins
indigenous families still live on the island and we stuck our heads into the local school for a stickybeak – Photo: Andreas
It was sports day. and in Bolivia they make human pyramids
The sun was going down so James caught the last boat back to main land and Mateo and I spent the night on the island making friends with donkeys and staying up past our bedtime playing music and sharing some rum with some Argentinean vagabonds
This guy wanted to eat everything – including cameras
The next morning we made it back to mainland just in time for our bus ride to the big city of La Paz. James had been talking with some friends he was riding with before so we all decided to go and meet them and skip a couple of days of bad roads
The bus ride itself was a pretty interesting adventure. floating across the last section of Lake Titicaca
The driver orderd everyone of the bus and we crammed onto this sturdy vessel to take us to the otherside
We arrived to the Casa de Ciclistas in La Paz and were greeted by cyclist from all over the world
Some of these guys had been here for weeks. A relaxed environment and good people can do that
The house was like a Museum of past cyclists. the walls were covered in messages, cards, helmets and bags of shaved facial hair…
With James’ friends a few days away we decided to head of for the infamous ‘Death Road’
At the summit
Doing some last minute maintenance on my brakes
On our way..the first few kilometers were a nice paved surface to warm up on
Then we hit the fun stuff
wrapping around the mountain
having a break and shedding some layers as we drop into some warmer altitudes
it was a long way down
We all had a blast and on the way back to town we stopped off to soak in the view
INTO THE DESERT AGAIN
For me this is where the real Bolovian adventure begins. we leave the big city and head towards the Salar de Uyuni (the Uyuni Salt Lake). Cycling south west in South West Bolivia – through desolate landscape with the majority being on small dusty back-roads that thread their way into nowhere.
We finally caught up with James’ cycling buddies – Marko and Anja from Germany but said goodbye to Andreas and Barbra as they headed towards the salt lakes a few days earlier. Filling up for the next few weeks of bolivian cycling.
enjoy the youth
We knew we were in the right place
South West Bolivia – it will eat old buses
James trying to get lunch
We had no luck chasing a llama down so we found this little spot and ate our egg sandwiches
getting further and further away from big cities. Im not to sure what this stuffed man hanging from a power line means so we kept on riding
Riding through this section of Bolivia was incredible. sparsely populated with tiny towns just like this. the people were warm and took us in each and every time
water was hard to come-by so we took advantage of every water source we could find.
The honeymoon suite – when we arrived to this town we asked if we could put our tents down for the night. At first we got a strange look from one of the elderly men and then he walked away with out saying anything. we thought were in trouble until he came back five minutes later and opened up two buildings for us and said it was way to cold for us to be outside tonight.
Back on the road the next morning
Bolivia kept on getting better and better
Every town we passed seemed deserted
This was a fancy one. Imagining what this place would have been like when it was first built
the bumpy road stretched across the landscape and we were loving it.
This was the reason for coming to Bolivia. The Salar de Uyuni is the worlds largest salt lake and we all wanted to ride across it, camp on it and taste it.
This is what we had been looking for
wheres the pepper at
making our way to a floating island
Making it to the first island for a bit of lunch
and some shade
The plan was to camp on the first island but we arrived ahead of time and decided to head of towards the main tourist island and check it out
The main island was full of people coming out on day trips. complete with a restaurant and cold beer. The owner came out to us and asked if we could write something in his book of visiting cyclists. and look who i found. Carlitos! i gave him an A+
there was a camping area on the island but with a hefty price tag. so as the sun was going down we cycled to the backside of the island and pitched our tents
and cold feet
Cycling on the salt lake is up there with one of the best rides of the trip so far. but i wouldn’t want to do it for more than a couple of days, the blazing sun and disorientation can start to play tricks on you
small bike or big human?
on our way out of the salt
and back into the desert
things had a rustic touch around here
Late one afternoon we rolled into town and again asked if we could spend the night somewhere. The locals opened up the school for us but we could only camp if we accepted their offer of a basketball game. Bolivians may be short but they can jump
These two were stinky men. wash your clothes!
After the basketball game the locals said we could sleep inside the classroom for the night. you little ripper
The mornings climb looking back on last nights accomodation
Even with marko’s precision and gps we still had to take guesses with some of the turns. right or left?
we went right
It put us on the right path but it was time for break
A few weeks and it was already love
We were looking for a railway that we would then follow to the Chilean border. found it
We stumbled across this abandoned village in the afternoon.
Next to the railway and getting pretty wild west around here
We had some food and started looking for a place to sleep
these little guys came from nowhere as soon as we started making sandwiches.
Mateo and his dogs
James having a poke around
After exploring more we came across this
these space-pods just added to the bizzarness of this abandoned village. after a few minutes checking them out two figures apeared dressed in military uniform. they had been posted here for the next year to control the passing trains coming from Chile.
They invited us for the night. one of my favorite bedrooms so far
James and his executive suite
and a pretty good sunset to cap of our last night in Bolivia
The next morning we set of for the border
following the railway
getting our passport stamped at the immigration office
Welcome to Chile!
Oh Bolivia, I will miss you
But up next……
Figuring out that one week in Chile is enough and making a detour up and over a mountain to Argentine for Birthdays and Christmas with good people, cheap wine and big steaks
next post…heading to the promised land
next post… peach quidich