Archive for 'Bolivia'

LA PAZ to MACHU PICCHU

It is 8,205 km from Ushuaia to Machu Picchu.  Neither this number, nor our five month journey, will we ever forget.  South America was the dream and we´ve done it!  But we can´t celebrate too much – we still have Europe, Asia and Australia to go.  Afterall, it is a long way home…

Our climb out of La Paz involved much huffing and puffing – clearly we had enjoyed our time off the bikes a little too much!  Before long though, we were coasting alongside the stunning Lake Titicaca.  Initially, this was as far as we had expected to get in South America. It sure feels good to be here 6 weeks ahead of schedule!

Easter in Puno was a little odd.  They celebrate with cake, not chocolate in this part of the world?  Amazingly, Jess managed to hunt down the only chocolate bunny in town.  The lesson – don’t ever get between a woman and her chocolate, especially on Easter.

Runny noses and upset tummies plagued our last few days of riding.  Why now?  Was it South America´s last ditch effort to break us??  We didn’t give in though, and with toilet rolls in hand, we kept on pedalling.

Peru´s valleys were stunning and a great end to our journey.  The riding was easy, and if it wasn´t for the Belgian couple clapping us in, we would have hardly noticed our last 4,300m pass!  Truth is we were too busy dodging out-of-control buses to care.  Peru´s drivers are by far the worst we´d come across.

Riding into Ollantaytambo was really quite sad – we´d run out of road.  From here, we trained and hiked our way to Machu Picchu. Sure, the famous Inca ruins are a city of gold for Peru´s economy, but pleasingly, they were alot more impressive and not as overrun by tourists, as we had expected. It was a fitting end, to our own “Inca Trail”.

Now, just like the other backpackers, we boarded a bus for Lima.  It was a long nauseating descent, but it gave us time to reflect on our journey.  South America hasn’t been about the “highlights” for us – it’s the bits in between, that has made our journey special.  I guess that´s what makes cycling different.  South America – we´ve done it!

Thanks for the support folks, you´ve been a big part of it too!

Jules & Jess

Stunning Lake Titicaca

Stunning Lake Titicaca

Jess enjoying the views

Jess enjoying the views...

...and not the only one!

...and not the only one!

Told you i would find a bunny

Told you i would find a bunny

Damn you, Lomo Saltado!

Damn you, Lomo Saltado!

Peru´s amazing valleys...

Peru´s amazing valleys...

...great end to our journey!

...a great end to our journey!

We´ve done it!

We´ve done it!

The famous Machu Picchu

The famous Machu Picchu

Glad to be here...

We´re glad to be here...

...She´s earned it...

...She´s earned it...

...hmm, ok and him too!

...hmm, ok and him too!

Its a jungle out there!

ORURO to LA PAZ  (Inc  CHALALAN ECO LODGE)

La Paz – no guide book can prepare you.  Bolivia’s capital is set in a deep valley and sprawls out around you on every side.  How they keep building up the steep slopes is a real mystery.  Overcrowded mini buses choke the streets, hawkers sell everything you could possibly want, and the mix of modern and traditional cultures is quite intoxicating.  Our 600m descent into town was incredible, we’re just not so sure the ride out will be as easy.

 
The hustle and bustle of La Paz couldn’t contrast more with our trip to the Amazon.  A special treat for Jess’s 25th birthday, we chose to stay at Chalalan – a community run eco lodge set deep in the heart of the Madidi National Park.  Like rock stars, we boarded a small plane for the harrowing flight across the Andes and down into the jungle… umm, the brochure didn’t mention anything about a grass runway!

 
Tropical Rurranabaque felt like another world, not just a 40min flight away from La Paz.  Oxygen filled our lungs and our clothes were dripping with sweat before we even reached the small arrivals shed.  There we met Thorsten & Sonia, a lovely German couple, who would be our only company that week.  After a brief introduction from the Chalalan team, we were shown our hotel and the rest of the evening was ours to enjoy.  Tomorrow we would travel five hours up river to the lodge.  Yep, it was going to be just us and the monkeys …

 
The lodge was stunning, set on a beautiful lake and made entirely from traditional materials.  By accident, or luck, we were upgraded to a secluded private cabin.  Not wanting to make a big deal of it, we felt it best, to just lay back in the hammock and forget this small oversight.

 
Andres, our local guide, occupied us day and night with his uncanny ability to spot mammals, birds and plants in the forest.  His eyes and ears really made the jungle come alive, and he was pretty handy with a machete too, when we needed it to cut our way through the vines.

 
The mix of western and traditional food was devine and never seemed to end.  It was hard to choose a favourite, but we think devouring the fish Sonia had caught during our days fishing was definitely up there.  We were sure glad to be doing a lot of walking, otherwise our poor bikes would never have forgiven us.

 
It wasn’t all hard work though – between boating, hiking and eating we did manage to squeeze in a swim or two in the picture perfect lake!  Yes, if you ever wanted a place to escape, then without a doubt Chalalan would be it.  We were very sad to leave…

 
Back in La Paz, we now prepare for our final stage, the ride to Cuzco and the famous Machu Pichu ruins.

 
Thanks again for the emails, comments and well wishes.

Jules & Jess

Amazing La Paz

Amazing La Paz

Jess the Rockstar!

Jess the Rockstar!

By boat to the lodge

By boat to the lodge

We´ve arrived

We´ve arrived

You sure this is our room?

You sure this is our room?

Its a jungle out there

Its a jungle out there

We hiked...

We hiked...

Boated...

Boated...

Crossed rivers...

Crossed rivers...

Fished...

Fished...

Some with more success than others...

Some with more success than others...

Swam...

Swam...

... and relaxed!

... and relaxed!

The Chalalan team made it great

The Chalalan team made it extra special

We were sad to leave

We were sad to leave

What a journey!

SAN PEDRO to ORURO (via SALAR DE UYUNI)

So this is it, this is Atacama?  For some reason we expected more from the world’s driest desert??  Its vast nothingness seemed lost on us. Maybe it was the tiring 25km of uphill and constant headwind we’d battled from San Pedro that had left us a little jaded.  It wasn’t till the next day, and leaving Calama, that it dawned on us.  There is plenty of life in this desert, and it’s all about copper. To take a closer look, we donned hard hats and toured the Chuquicamata copper mine – one of the world’s largest.

And that wasn’t the only amazing thing…  The next day, a thunderstorm forced us to make an emergency camp in a roadside ditch. Huddled in our tent, with rain pouring and lightening cracking all around us, we remembered the last time this had happened – it was the Friday the 13th before – spooky!

So with a soaking tent, we left the driest desert in the world and started our climb to the Altiplano.  Now they don’t mess about in Chile, they build their roads straight up. You don’t pass GO, or collect $200.  It’s over when you reach Ascotan and 4,100m and that’s it.

But at the top, you quickly forget the pain and gasping for breath.  You are surrounded by salars, active volcanoes and the biggest of blue skies.  Every view is one you want to remember forever.  We make it to the mining camp of Cebollah that night.  There is no room at the inn, there isn’t even an inn, we settle for the animal pen and put our tent up in there.  Oddly enough, tomorrow we will leave the luxury of Chile behind and enter Bolivia… it sure has to be better than this… what’s that smell, llama poo??

Now when passing motorists offer you water, biscuits and sandwiches, it’s a good sign you are getting remote.  At the time though, we just thought they were being kind.  So with big smiles and a confident “Muchas Gracias!” we took the gifts and pedaled on.

It was getting late when we crossed into Bolivia, so the border police gave us a room for the night.  It wasn’t much – a mud room with newspaper plastered over the walls – but it did promise a good night’s rest.  Not the case!  A few hours later we woke, itching and scratching. We were being eaten alive by strange “tick-like” creatures.  We somehow managed to erect the tent in the room and hid inside it until sunrise.  Welcome to Bolivia, enjoy your stay…

There are no signs, or roads, you ride across a salar, following tyre marks and keeping one eye on the railway tracks.  The freedom is quite intoxicating – this is the main road from the border to Uyuni!  By lunch, our map and compass suggest heading north was the quickest way to San Juan.  We took the plunge and started making our own tracks.  By late afternoon, and after lots of pushing, we finally see a road sign… San Juan is 13km in the opposite direction?  Hmm, the compass doesn’t lie, we decide to keep heading north.  We make camp for the night, not in San Juan, but somewhere in the middle of nowhere…??

The next morning, feeling a little lost, we meet a small Bolivian man on a rusty motorbike that points us in the right direction.  We work out our expensive map is wrong, but luckily there is a sort of Inca trail we can follow to where we need to be.  What an experience!  It leads through an amazingly green valley, filled with llama and a few small, very basic villages.  To these folk, we must have looked like aliens in our helmets, sunglasses and fluro vests!  Reaching Santiago, the reaction wasn’t much different.  The entire town comes out to watch and stare at us… its strange, all friendly, but still feels a bit like you are an exhibit in a zoo!

Back on track, we follow the main road to Colcha K, and the next day onto Puerto Chubico, the jumping off point for the Salar de Uyuni.  The road was very corrugated and countless “gringo” filled 4×4s wizzed past us.  The whole experience, made yesterday’s detour even more special.  Finally, with oiled up bikes, we were ready…

Being on the Salar de Uyuni was incredible – we both couldn’t stop smiling.  It was like cycling on a pure white ocean, or maybe the north pole!  We pedalled for ages with our eyes closed, there was no need for them – it’s not like you are going to hit anything!  Definitely one of the truly memorable experiences of our journey so far…

After that, the 200km to Challapata was always going to be hard.  The highlight of the trip was behind us, and only corrugated and sandy roads lay ahead.  But it was even worse.  For three days it rained, turning the roads to mud and blocking out any possible views of the Chicas mountains.  The road was so flooded, we even had to push our bikes over the railway bridge to get into Sevaruyo!  Add to that, we couldn’t find anywhere to change our US$ … and that meant only rice & lentils for comfort food!

But it passed quickly and before we knew it… we had the sun on our cheeks, bitumen under our tyres and a pocket full of Bolivianos.  Life was good again, we pedaled hard to Oruro – the tough work was done, and a rest day and some good restaurant food was waiting for us!

From here we now ride two days to La Paz, where we plan to take a break and spend a few days at a luxury eco lodge in the Amazon rainforest.

It’s been an amazing journey the past two weeks, and four months for that matter… and believe it or not, we are now over 7,000km… I think we’ve earned the lodge, don’t you?

Thanks again for all the comments and emails.  They really are a boost!

Jules & Jess

Atacama, that´s it?

Atacama, that´s it?

Chuqi - that´s one big hole

Chuqi - that´s one big hole

A thunderstorm, out here?

A thunderstorm, out here?

Amazing views on the Chilean altiplano

Amazing views on the Chilean altiplano

There is no looking back now!

There is no looking back now!

The hard way into Bolivia

The hard way into Bolivia

The real "Inca Trail"

The real "Inca Trail"

Its like a white ocean...

Its like a white ocean...

...or maybe the north pole?Its incredible...

...or maybe the north pole?

Its incredible…
...memorable

...memorable

... a highlight of our journey so far!

... a highlight of our journey so far!

The next 200km was tough...

The next 200km was tough...

...rain, rain, go away

...rain, rain, go away

The only way into Sevaruyo!

The only way into Sevaruyo!

Sun shines again, Oruro here we come!

Sun shines again, Oruro here we come!