Bolivia

Day 96/164: Bush camp in Taipa to La Quiaia – 117km

1,560 climbing and 1,313 down

It was really cold in the night. When I went to bed it was quite warm, but at 4:30 am my sleeping bag was so cold it felt like it was wet. However, once the sun came up it was quite warm. Once again beautiful skies.

There was a little dog hanging around the camp last night that was fed left over steak by Adrian and me, so it was no surprise to see him this morning. He has the most tangled hair I have ever seen. There are great big knots and the hair is so matted and tangled it is restricting his walking, plus he has thorns matted around his ears. So April the chef and I give him a haircut, not all the matted hair just enough to give him full movement and remove the thorns around his ears. He is a really good natured dog, and tolerated it quite well. Afterwards he raced around seeming pleased with his increased range of movement.

A picture of the dog with tangled hair

A picture of the dog with tangled hair

Cutting some of the really big hair tags off the dog

Cutting some of the really big hair tags off the dog

The first 25 kilometres was dirt, thankfully not all of it corrugated! There was some beautiful scenery.

First half of the day was a gravel track (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

First half of the day was a gravel track (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

amazing scenery. Taipa Bush camp to La Quienca

Amazing scenery today

I had bad asthma, the worst I have ever had riding, and have to stop a few times to use the reliever. Plus coughing a lot. I am looking forward to continuing to drop in altitude.

The ride to lunch at 70 kilometres was quite scenic. We had a big climb to lunch and I had to get off my bike a couple of times due to wheezing. After lunch we headed into a head and side wind which was really strong and I nearly got blown across the road a couple of times. I was riding on the gravel at the side so was hoping if I got blown it wouldn’t be onto the road. The last 25 kilometres were unpleasant, a lot of uphill with dust and dirt blowing into your face, plus wind (like being back in Wellington with a strong southerly).

Good news however, we are staying in a hotel tonight, just across the border so yay a shower.  The hotel was about 3 kilometres from the border.

Hello Argentina - Ushuaia is 9 weeks away (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Hello Argentina – Ushuaia is 9 weeks away (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

There was a problem with getting the trucks into Argentina, it turns out they don’t have the right insurance and it took until mid evening to sort it. Given there was no dinner truck to cook a meal we got taken out for a meal instead. It was a set menu with either chicken or steak schnitzel with ham and cheese. I had the steak, it was quite nice.

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

On the road today 

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Categories: Argentina, Bolivia, South American Epic | 2 Comments

Day 94/164: Uyuni to Atocha – 104km

The plan was 95 kilometres, climbing 560 and down 490, and staying in old mine site at Chocaya but we ended up 103 kilometres and staying at school soccer field in Atocha.

I woke up this morning in a bad space, I really did not want to ride – in fact I had had enough of the trip. I was not looking foward to 6 more nights of bush camping. I am sick of having asthma and being at altitude, the cold and the wind, and suffering altitude related symptoms.

Also contributing to my lack of joy is my daughter Shellbe arrives home from an overseas tomorrow and I am not going to be there. I am suffering from acute homesickness missing family and friends. Usually when one of the children arrive home from overseas I am busy organizing a family feast of favorite foods and looking forward to a family celebration. Instead I am heading off to ride 100 kilometres of corrugated dirt and sand. If I had known just what a horrid day of riding it was going to be I may not have got out of bed. I was sad thinking about home, and rode the first couple of hours with the occasional tear and sniffle.

It’s hard to describe riding over a corrugated surface (not on a mountain bike), you feel like your whole body is being shacked apart with the vibration and jarring. This went on for kilometre after kilometre, interrupted by thick deep sand that you were unable to ride through.

A sand trap to catch out the unwary (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

A sand trap to catch out the unwary (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

This was interspersed with speeding cars, trucks, and buses that blew clouds of sand up around you. I came off in one sand pile as I did not realize how deep it was and did not manage to unclip in time, but was not hurt. The scenery in the morning was uninspiring and all in all I was not enjoying being in the moment.

Lots of dust when vehicles go past

Lots of dust when vehicles go past (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Off we go after stopping for a snack

Off we go after stopping for a snack (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Me riding today

Me riding today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

At last some downhill to really enjoy

At last some downhill to really enjoy (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

In the afternoon we went through some awesome scenery with deep gorges and some steep descents. Unfortunately I hit a rock the wrong way near the bottom of one descent and lost control of the bike. I managed to fall onto the bar of my bike and land with my shoulder against the cliff. Overall a lucky escape, but a long 25 kilometres to camp especially over the continuing corrugated surfaces. So I did lots of riding standing.

On our way to camp

On our way to camp (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

On our way to camp

On our way to camp (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

At 95 kilometres we were meet by Sharita who advised we were no longer staying at the planned site as it was too exposed, and there was some chemical run off from the old mine. So we biked another 8 kilometres to the next town where we were staying on a schools soccer field. Thankfully this was following a river and much smoother riding. I noted the dinner truck sitting at the previously planned site, but did not really think about it. When I got to camp I found out it was stuck there.

It was quite late when I got to camp so I only had enough time to get my tent up before it was time for rider’s meeting. The dinner truck hopefully would be pulled out that night, but it looked like it needed repair so TDA staff were looking into the options for tomorrow. A huge amount of work by the TDA staff transferring all the gear out the dinner truck into the lunch truck and ute and ferrying it back to here, along with setting up camp and cooking dinner as usual.

Eating dinner at our school campsite

Eating dinner at our school campsite (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Tomorrow the ride is 85 kilometres with a corrugated surface, sandy, and a lot of climbing . I will see how I feel in the morning but currently I am sore from the fall and not sure if I will be riding.

Dinner was barbeque chicken, salad, salsa and rice.

Amazing track to our new campsite

Amazing track to our new campsite (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Bolivia, South American Epic | Tags: | 8 Comments

Day 93/164: Rest Day in Uyuni

It’s 3 months since the tour started today. In some ways the time in Colombia feels like a different tour and seems such a long time ago. We are over halfway gone of this ride, but still a lot to go.

Riding on the salt flats

Riding on the salt flats

I had breakfast in the restaurant with Dan and Shirley, and then headed up to the town to look for a few things. There are a lot of tourists here as this is where most of the tours to the salt flats start. As usual a lot dogs roaming around. One thing that is different in Bolivia is the dogs mostly have ribbons around their necks. I wonder whether this is a sign that this dog belongs to someone.

Not a lot to do in this town and I am about 10 days behind with the blog and have a few emails to do so I head back to the hotel. The Wifi only works down stairs in the hotel reception/ lobby . A number of riders have commented that the Wifi is super slow so I decide to write the updates and emails and send to my out box for later. The afternoon is spent blogging, emails, and dozing.

I had dinner in town and one of the numerous pub type places and a drink with one of the younger riders John. 2 for 1 cocktails so had a couple of Tom Collins, which made a nice change from wine or beer.

Back at the hotel and packing for tomorrow, always take longer than expected given how frequently it is done. Then downstairs to send emails and photos etc.

I log on and the emails and updates go from my outbox saying ‘sending’ just like they always do. Then I spent a while sending photos. Then I noticed I had an email from Kelly and as it was getting late I decided to try skyping rather than emailing back and managed to get through.

Had a good chat, with catching up on family news until Kelly mentioned she had got all the photos but no blog updates for 10 days. Look again I said, they must be amongst the photos, no luck.

I am not sure what has happened but all 10 updates and emails to friends and family have just disappeared! No longer in my outbox and not showing in sent or trash or all email, and no idea why. Not good as we are about to go on another 6 day riding stretch where I won’t have Wifi, so will be seriously behind. Not to mention having re write ten day’s worth. I just hope they are in internet cyber space and turn up.

Me on the salt flats on the way to Uyuni

Me on the salt flats on the way to Uyuni

The work nevers stops for the TDA Staff (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The work nevers stops for the TDA Staff (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Bolivia, South American Epic | Tags: | 4 Comments

Day 92/164: The Island to Uyuni – 97km

Climbing 560, meters down 540.

I was relieved when morning came to get up and move around. Fingers crossed the prednisone makes a difference as after the clinic in La Paz I don’t have a lot of confidence in the medical system as in going for medical help in Bolivia.

Very cold this morning, minus 4 degrees, and where we had breakfast was on the edge of the salt flats so quite exposed. Had a quick breakfast and got moving.

Looking over the salt flats in the early morning light (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Looking over the salt flats in the early morning light (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

The first 70 kilometres was riding across the salt flats. Thankfully the wind does not pick up until late morning. While riding on the salt flats because it is all the same you seem to ride for ever before anything starts to become closer. I am riding with my silk balaclava over my mouth and nose to stop the cold going directly to my lungs, as this can set off an asthma attack.

Riding on the salt flats

Riding on the salt flats

Quite a few tour groups out already, apparently there are about 70 tour operators in Uyuni alone (the town we are heading towards for the rest day). Stopped and took a couple of photos of the scenery.

At 70 kilometres we got off the salt flats and the terrain turns sandy, corrugated surface, dirt and lots of vehicles coming past whipping up wind and dust (again bad with having asthma symptoms already).

Thankfully after 5 kilometres we turned right and were basically on tarmac with a tail wind most of the way to Uyuni. A few areas where there were road works but because it was Saturday there was no actual construction happening.

The town on first look was pretty bleak and uninviting looking. Lots of dust and rubbish in the streets. We are staying at the Sumaj Wasi Hotel. Most of us arrived about midday and were not able to get into the rooms until 2pm. A few people went into town but most of us milled around the reception area waiting.

Thankfully this hotel has a lift as I am on the 4th floor! After getting into the room and having a shower and sorting out the laundry (luckily just had to drop off at the hotel reception) I headed up town to check out the local supermarket which was closed (hopefully due to siesta), a number of other shops were also closed. I got some water and snacks from a small shop and decided to try again later.

About 2 hours later I went back up to town and the supermarket was open. It is the smallest supermarket I have ever been into, about the size of NZ 4Square. About 4 short aisles and a very limited range. Hopefully there are other suppliers in town otherwise TDA will struggle to feed 40 plus cyclists for the next 6 days.

Feeling pretty tired I got takeout pizza and back to the hotel for an early night.

Categories: Bolivia, South American Epic | 4 Comments

Photos from the last few days

Photos from the Meteor camp to Uyuni

Salt flats with Tupuna in the background

Salt flats with Tupuna in the background

Marina and Guillaume

Marina and Guillaume

Me on the gravel road

Me on the gravel road

The gravel road

The gravel road

FullSizeRender (8)

Meteor camp to conquenca

The Island Isla Inca Huasai

The Island Isla Incahuasai

Another view of Island

Another view of the Island

Cacti on Island

Cacti on Island

Cacti on Island with salt flats (Salar de Uyuni) in the background

Cacti on Island with salt flats (Salar de Uyuni) in the background

Categories: Bolivia, South American Epic | Tags: | 3 Comments

Day 91/164: Conquenca to Isla Incahuasai – 38km

In the morning it is hard to believe it is the same place, as there is not a breath of wind anywhere and bright blue skies. We have a later start at 7am for breakfast, as a short ride today so the sun was out already with the day warming up by breakfast.

The ride is only 39 kilometres from the side of the salt flats to an Island we are staying on in the middle, called Isla Incahuasai.

Unfortunately I am in the lunch truck again as I have been constantly coughing and wheezy all night. I am disappointed not to be riding on the salt flats but there is another day riding on the salt flats tomorrow. The wind seems to kick in each day about midday so if I ride tomorrow I should be able to ride on the salt flats without the wind.

At the camp just before we are leaving a herd of about two hundred alpaca are let out of their night enclosure and wandering down to  the vegetation (would hesitate to say grass) in front of the camp and start happily munching. There are also a flock of flamingo at the edge of the salt lake, all very picturesque and difficult to believe this idyllic looking setting is the same windswept bleak cold camp of the night before.

Alpaca in their enclosure for the night

Alpaca in their enclosure for the night

Alpacca on the shore

Alpacca on the shore

There is gastro going around the riders again with about 12 riders currently affected. Halfway to the island we have to turn back to pick up Rolf and Sue who have got it again. Thankfully I am now day 2 without.

I am meticulous about hand washing so am sure I am not passing it around. I think our dish washing facilities need to be looked at. We don’t have running water to wash our dishes, and we have 3 oblong trays of water: one with soapy water, one to rinse, and one with water and bleach. However it is normally cold and does not get changed during a meal period, so once 40 plus rider’s dishes have gone through, and staff, it is pretty disgusting.

The salt flats are amazing, they stretch as far as the eye can see. It looks like a great big sea of ice.

The island is a spot that is very popular as a stopping point for tourists. There must be about 500 a day to the island. At $10 Boliviano to use the toilet they must be high return toilets. Thankfully they are clean and have paper.

We get to the Island at about 11am but due to the number of tourists visiting and it is a small island we are not allowed to put up our tents until 530pm! There is no wifi, and the island takes half an hour to walk around!  Then there is nothing else to do.

There are lots of cacti again, some up to 3 meters tall. From the top of the island is a good view of the salt stretching off in all directions.

The island on the Bolivian salt flats (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The island on the Bolivian salt flats (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Luckily there are some limited room options and I manage to be at the right place at the right time and get one. Very basic with a cotton mattress on a concrete frame, dirt floor, and cardboard where the window pane was. However it means that rather than spending the next 6 hours waiting to put my tent up I can have an afternoon nap.

Sharing a table at lunch, at the salt tables, just before the winds picked up! (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Sharing a table at lunch, at the salt tables, just before the winds picked up! (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

The wind once again picks up at midday and there is a howling gale by dinner time. The TDA staff have cooked in a small cave like an enclosure. It is really cold, thankfully we are able to sit in the hotel restaurant to eat. That is until there is a disagreement between the bar manager and one of the riders, about whether he has paid for a beer or not. We know he did as we saw him pay, but he bar manager loses the plot and decides no one else can come into the restaurant and shuts the bar down!

It is freezing and I am pleased to have an inside room, but each time I need to go to the toilet I have to go out into the cold. My asthma is getting worse and I am getting concerned. I end up using my reliever about 15 times during the night. At 4am I decide I need to start the prednisone. Overall I think I would have had about 30 minutes of sleep. Things always seem worse in the dark and I am pleased when it gets light.

The island on the Bolivian salt flats (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The island on the Bolivian salt flats (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Bolivia, South American Epic | Leave a comment

Day 91: Meteor camp to Conquenca

Today looks like a short day as only 76 k and climbing 590 meters and 650 down, however this is because there is going to be dirt and sand and corrugated surfaces.

The first 13 kilometres is on tarmac and then a dirt road and sand for 35 kilometres, then about 5 kilometres of salt flats, dirt for 10 kilometres, and sand for another 10 kilometres.

Once again lots of deserted villages and kilometres of old rock walls. The first 35 kilometres of riding there are still lots of construction trucks and dust, and my asthma has deteriorated again.

We spent most of the morning getting to the base of Tunupa volcano. After lunch we had to climb up and then down 8 kilometres over volcanic rock. Slippery and steep, and I had to get off a few times. I was careful on the way down but still nearly came off twice.

Salt flats with Tupuna in the background

Before lunch with Tunupa in the background

First view of Tunupa volcano

First view of Tunupa volcano

Heading towards the volcano (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Heading towards the volcano (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

On the way down I got the first real glimpse of the salt flats. These are called Salar de Uyuni. These are the world’s largest salt flats, at 12,106 square kilometres.

The first view of the salt flats (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The first view of the salt flats (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Once I got out onto the salt flats they were flat but I had to battle a strong headwind for the remaining 7 kilometres to camp.

On the salt flats - TDA orange tape to guide us (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

On the salt flats – TDA orange tape to guide us (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Once I got to camp it was really windy and cold. A number of the tents were getting blown around. There was the option of getting a room in the nearby hostel (which was made of salt), so I did. The room was pretty run down, with a sagging ceiling and a sagging bed, but it was out of the wind. As an added bonus there was a hot shower and the first cold beer for four days.

The campsite was very windswept and the awning on the truck started to rip. The TDA staff had problems with the wind blowing the cooking equipment around, and sand got into all the food. There was a problem with the gas they use for cooking, with a small explosion, but thankfully no one was hurt.

I started taking probiotics yesterday and thankfully today I have no gastro. My asthma is not good and I am constantly coughing. There about 200 Alpaca grazing along the shore of the salt flats, and flamingo at the edges.

The dinner was beans and mince and salad.

Alpaca at camp in Conquenca

Alpaca at camp in Conquenca

Flamingo on the salt flats periphery (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Flamingo on the salt flats periphery (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Rolph and Mark on the salt flats (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Rolph and Mark on the salt flats (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Marina and Guillaume

Marina and Guillaume

Categories: Bolivia, South American Epic | 1 Comment

Day 89/164: Challapata to Crater – 107km

Once again it was cold during the night, but warm with the new blanket. The worst part of getting up each day is having to take down the tent.

Today we were cycling 107 kilometres, and climbing 930, and down 930.

Today I also have stomach cramp which is making it hard to ride. The asthma has improved but still have the cough and breathless.

The first part of the ride was straight road with a gradual climb, then a steeper climb up to a village.  The countryside is still quite bleak, lots of small farmlets with the same small herds, mainly alpacas and some sheep, and someone there watching the herd.

A lot of the countryside has ploughed fields, although it is hard to imagine what would grow here, but then we haven’t seen it in the rainy season so could be very bit different then? There are lots of deserted villages, lots of old rock walls. It is very dry.

Stone walls are nothing like those at home (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Stone walls are nothing like those at home (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

The last 15 kilometres was not paved and had construction vehicles, lots of dust and was steep, sandy, rocky, and not at all pleasant riding.

We are bushing camping again and staying at a crater site where a meteor landed. The camp is just past a large crater and is rocky and windy. The wind blows until about midnight. The wind makes it really cold. As soon as we have eaten we are all in our tents. Day 4 with no shower! I guess we all will be smelling as bad as each other.

First sight of the meteor impact crater (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

First sight of the meteor impact crater (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Dinner truck at crater camp cold and windy (I accidentally posted this on yesterday's blog)

Dinner truck at crater camp cold and windy (Editor’s note: I accidentally posted this on yesterday’s blog)

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Day 88/164: Oruru to Challapata – 132km

It was cold getting up this morning, and ice on the tent! The first part of the ride was getting through a crazy town in rush hour traffic, spotting flags, and making the tight turns in the chaos! The traffic has no regard for traffic rules, and certainly no one considers cyclists.

There is a weird system where the traffic can either go on a side road or straight ahead so you constantly have buses and trucks, plus of course the usual mini vans, driving straight at you. A few cyclists got lost in the chaos and ended up spending even longer in the city.

Once out of the city the countryside was pretty much the same as the last two days, so not much to comment on.

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Lunch truck on the side of the road

I am still coughing and breathless due to the altitude, but the asthma seems to be settling. Feeling nauseous and have a lack of appetite still due to the altitude. At least we are staying about the same evaluation which hopefully will help.

I got to see the first small patches of salt today. I am looking forward to seeing the salt flats. Not a lot of energy and enthusiasm for riding. Thankfully the last 30 kilometres had a bit of a tailwind and a slight down gradient.

We are bush camping again in a field, so once again no shower or toilet facilities.

Dinner was Chicken, pasta, broccoli, garlic bread, and water melon and feta salad.

Dinner truck at crater camp cold and windy

Dinner truck at camp – cold and windy

Our campsite tonight (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Our campsite tonight (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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Day 87/164: Pazacamaya to Oruro – 113km

I decide to ride this morning as I am longer vomiting and I kept dinner down.  It is a cold morning at minus 1 degrees.  The sun comes out by 7 am so starts to get warmer rapidly and there were blue skies most of the day, a few fluffy clouds later in the day.  As we are quite high up in altitude (about 3900m) the clouds look like you could almost reach out and touch them.

I am a bit breathless so having to take the ride quite slowly, thankfully no steep climbs.  We have long straight roads most of the day with a slight up gradient and a strong head wind after lunch.  Once again quite barren countryside with tussocks, rocky hills, dry river beds, and lots of small farmlets, with people out watching small flocks of animals – sheep, cows, and I saw one with a few alpaca in the mix as well.

View of scenery

View of scenery

View of scenery

View of scenery

When I got to camp I had completely lost my voice and lightheaded, due I realized to being dehydrated. Usually I am really good at drinking water, but today not sure why I did not drink any. So I drank two bottles full then dozed in my tent for a couple of hours, after which I felt a lot better.

Once again bush camping. To go to the toilet it is a 5 minute walk across the field, to a mound of dirt visible from the main road. Thankfully not too busy – not a great situation with gastro.

Two rider's tents at bush camp

Two rider’s tents at bush camp

Bush camp tonight 10km outside Oruro (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Bush camp tonight 10km outside Oruro (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

There was a hungry looking scrawny dog hanging around camp all afternoon, being shoed away by a number of riders. The dog’s patience however was rewarded. The TDA staff were barbecuing meat for dinner, and took their eyes off it for a moment. The dog was last seen heading off at great speed with a very large piece of steak hanging out of its mouth.

At the riders meeting the question was asked as to why, when we are next to a town of 250,000 people, are we bush camping with no amenities . We understand bush camping when there are no other options, but we are not convinced in this case that there was no other option. Also there are a number of people with gastro, and the lack of washing and toilet facilities is unpleasant, and potentially leading to further spread. No real reason was given other than it is hard to find camping options for this amount of people.

We had steak and salad for dinner.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid finished up in this area. Oruro was the last place they were seen jumping off a cliff into a lake.

Also Max from TDA told us at the riders meeting that there was a belief that the surrounding area is where Atlantis was. Will have to look into this on the next rest day.

Wonderful skies tonight (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Wonderful skies tonight (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Sunset in Oruro (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Sunset in Oruro (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Bolivia, South American Epic | Tags: , , | 1 Comment