Friday, June 28, 2013

Three very different and colorful days

Day 1: Mishaps, mountain biking on the Surlys, worst hotel experience in Challapata Day 2: Wonderful ride from Challapata to Oruro, 77 miles at 12,200 Ft and no wind! Day 3: Oruro sightseeing, bus ride to La Paz, a spectacular city. On June 26 we left early from Coqueza after a wonderful hostal experience, the best of the previous 4 days for the real Bolivian dirt road experience. You may know or not, but I hate mountain biking and had done very little. Well the 27 miles of dirt road from Coqueza to Salinas Garci Mendoza were AWFUL, with deep sand coming from the quinoa fields, big river rock, up and down hills, and the road disappearing into a “llama path”. So about 30 min into the ride, Steve wanted to be ready to take pictures of the cute llamas crossing the road to go to the fields and put his camera in the front pocket of the handlebar bag, and in one of the many bumpy areas the camera jumped out of the pocket and fell in front of him so he could run it over with both the front and back wheels… end of Steve’s camera (I gave him mine so he would not be deprived to take pictures). Then we were about 2/3 into the ride when a bunch of dogs came after us and one bit Steve, thank god for the double socks he was wearing because of the freezing weather. Finally we can see the town we were going to, Salinas (first town to take the bus to the pavement), and I am so happy to end my mountain biking experience on the loaded Surly that I relaxed my concentration and went down on my right side. I thought I heard something snap in my knee but fortunately I only tore my tights and skinned my knee. So not everything was bad, the weather was beautiful as well as the scenery, going around the volcano Tunupa, no wind, and blue skies. We found out the only bus was leaving at 5 PM which gave us time to have lunch and for me to go to the health center to get my knee cleaned and dressed for 5 Bolivianos or 75 cents. The bus ride was slow and dusty and we got to Challapata (beginning of the pavement) at night. We struggled to find a decent place to sleep and we settled for a residencial ran by a crazy woman. It was only 9 dollars and we had a private toilet and sink. On June 27, we had a wonderful long ride from Challapata to Oruro and we were happy to leave the crazy woman’s residencial. It was cold but calm and sunny. By now we are used to riding above 12,000 ft and the road was relatively flat with some 1-2 % hills. We had a nice traditional meal for lunch at a mining town called Poopo: vegetable soup that had rice and a piece of beef in it and “Th’impu”: Potatoes, Chuno (frozen dark potatoes), rice, beef and a yellow sauce made of onions. We got to Oruro after 7 hours of riding during rush hour but maneuvered to find a really nice hotel for 45 dollars with a buffet breakfast, and the best hot shower we had in weeks. We went to have pizza by the plaza and tried to catch up on email, posted yesterday’s blog and we were so tired we fell asleep almost immediately. June 28 today, the road between Oruro and La Paz was under construction, and since we are DONE with Bolivian dirt roads we took the bus. We had a great breakfast at the hotel, they even had scrambled eggs… papaya juice, pastries, bread, cereal, etc. We had a nice walk around Oruro and found the bus station and 15 min and 53 Bolivianos later the bikes, Steve and I were on the way to La Paz. It took longer than usual because of the road construction and we were very glad we were not riding. I saw a movie with Sylvester Stallone speaking Mexican while Steve took a nap. Coming into La Paz is truly spectacular, the city is built on the foothills of the Cordillera Real, big mountains with up to 21,000 ft peaks. The city’s altitude varies between 12,200 and 13,500. A mix of new and old and, lots of people selling everything you can imagine. It was an overwhelming short ride to find the Hotel Rosario, a little upscale from what we have grown used to… but I think well deserved break from the cold, dark and dirt. Tomorrow we are staying a day in La Paz for sightseeing and then no more buses till Cuzco.


  1. Are those little llama looking things llamas, or vicunas?

  2. Are all the dirt roads in South America the same? Looks like Canyon del Pato, but flatter.
    I love the look of the high plains.

    So the $45 hotel wasn't high class enough for you? Can't wait to hear about the crazy lady. What do you think she thought of an abuela on la bicicleta?!

    I love the Llama kiss!

  3. The furry baby is llama, the domesticated camelids are the llamas and the alpacas, the wild ones and with more valuable wool are the vicunas. The llamas are usually not that friendly, probably that baby was abandoned by its mother and that is why it came running after me and wanted to be so close. The vicunas are property of the community, there wool is shared by all while the llamas and alpacas belong to certain people. There were some up and downs on the road but since it was altiplano there were not huge.

  4. Pretty rough-looking road in photo #2.... puts the 5 mile ride into Kentucky Camp to shame! Good luck on smoother roads from here on out!