Archive for the ‘Bolivia’ Category

Ruta del Che

Posted: January 26, 2012 in Bolivia

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Once the bikes were ready, Uwe and I both wanted to go south so the best road to take was of course Ruta del Che.

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About 2 km from the town where Che was killed, we met these 2 Argentinean travelers who are using a 2 Cheveaux for their adventures.

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Camping in the town Che was killed in, La Higuera. This is the Telegraph house.

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The chair he was killed on

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After visiting the town and museum, we headed south again.

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At some point on the road we separated as UWE was heading over to Sucre and I was heading for the Bolivia/Paraguay border.

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I made it to the border. It didn’t look like much. A couple of signs, and a small shack where a guy would pull out a dry stamp and try to make it work on your passport. The Aduana for the bike paperwork was another 80km further and then the Paraguay Immigration offices along with the Aduana, another 220km.

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Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Posted: January 26, 2012 in Bolivia

Sucre was nice and I had a really great time there but I had a bit more to see of Bolivia. The thing about this country is that it’s the cheapest place in South America. You can buy a 3 corse meal for 1-2$, stay in a hotel for 5-10$ and even gas is cheap at around .50$ per liter… at least that’s what nationals pay. There is a new law that forces tourists or any other nationalities besides Bolivians to pay about 1.20$ per liter. I didn’t pay the tourist price a single time, although they did try to force me. The trick is to ask them if there is another gas station close by which will sell you gas at national price or if you can park the bike and come back with the jerry cans alone. The problem is your license plate which shows that you are a foreigner, so if there are no cameras in a gas station, they will usually sell you gas at national price. Another trick is to ask them if they have a receipt. Many gas stations don’t have a receipt book so they can’t charge you more than double for gas. There are many tricks you can use to pay national price, you just have to be a bit creative and really nice to the people there.

So anyway, the idea is that Bolivia is super nice and cheap, therefore I wanted to ride around this small country as much as possible.

From Sucre I rode up to Cochabamba and then to Santa Cruz.

On the way, I met a Brazilian with this bike… it’s a Suzuki DR800, single cylinder. I have never seen one before. Looks like a pretty sweet travel bike.

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The road

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The sun was going down, and I wanted to stop in this town. I couldn’t find any hostels so I kept going. Rode all day on bad dirt roads but I still have much energy left. I kept going through the night and made it to Cochabamba.

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The city of Cochabamba isn’t that great but I spent an extra night just to relax. I found a nice little hotel after much looking that had a garage for the bike.

Pictures in city taken with iPhone:

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On the way out, I noticed that my break pads were gone on the back. Trying to get the 2 nail like screws out with a hex key, I messed up the screws as they were way too tight. I went to see this mechanic on the road. Really nice guy, but he messed up the screws even more by rounding up the hex hole. Luckly, he knew a welder not too far so he had them welded out. We then welded other screws on top of the existing screw and it worked better than the original set-up.

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Back on the road. It sure felt nice to start going downhill and get some heat in. I had spent over a month in the mountains and the cold was really getting to me.

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Stopped somewhere in a small town and went to check out this park

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Crossing the river

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Can you recognize the plant?

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It’s Coca! Yes, it’s just a harmless plant. I walked through a whole field and I’m still alive… I didn’t get killed by this green leafed monster… 😉

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This plant looks seriously dangerous! WTF are the Bolivians thinking by keeping it legal?!

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There were some caves there with 3 types of bats. These I think were the ones that eat fruit.

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In a cave, there was this rare bird

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I believe these bats were into insects

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And then I made it to Santa Cruz. This city blew my mind a bit because if felt more like Miami than Bolivia. It’s a city that was built and still is on the Bolivian Cocaine trade. Santa Cruz does offer anything and EVERYTHING. You will see some of the nicest cars in South America here, some of the best restaurants and any type of luxury adult entertainment you want. Prices are also a lot higher than in the rest of Bolivia. They also have every type of dealer you’d want. If you have a BMW or a Ducati and need some parts, come to Santa Cruz. I only took a few iPhone pics though so don’t get all excited. If you visit Bolivia, you’ll have to come to Santa Cruz to see for yourself.

This is a 4X4 hang out. BTW, these buggies are road legal in pretty much all Central and South America.

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This KTM ran the Dakar before. It had 5 gas tanks. I found it in the back yard of a bike mechanic who changed the fork seals and the fork fluid on my KLR.

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At the mechanic shop I also met UWE who had his KTM 990 Adventure worked on. What you see him sitting on is not the KTM, it’s a motorcycle/bicycle made in China with a 50cc motor.

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Potosi and Sucre

Posted: January 25, 2012 in Bolivia

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From Uyuni, I headed up towards Potosi and Sucre. The road was a mix between gravel roads and in parts, pavement. As in most dirt roads in Bolivia and actually most of South America, in order to keep the ride somewhat smooth, you have to go around 70-90km/h or else the grooves going sideways on the road will shake every bone in your body. Having good tires helps for sure as parts of the road can be quite sandy too.

On the way, there are a few places with nice scenery.

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On the way I met Joel, who was waiting on his friends to come back with a set of bearings for his wheels. He had just replaced them and I’m not sure what went wrong but the new ones had split up and broke as well.

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Streets in Potosi

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Although Potosi is a nice calm touristic town, it’s also one of the coldest places I have visited on my trip. At night, I had 7 blankets and I was still freezing. This is also the place where my laptop started having memory problems. I only found out about a month or so later in Paraguay that one of my memory slots had fractured. I guess that the Bolivian dirt roads really put some stress on my equipment.

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I only stayed a couple of nights in Potosi and then I headed for Sucre where there was going to be a huge National typical Bolivian festival.

On the way to Sucre, in smaller towns they also had their own little festivals. This car was all decorated with some of the best materials they had along with lots of silver cutlery.

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I made it to Sucre on time for the festival. It had already been going on for a day but I had to spend the extra night in Potosi to fix the bike. I had problems with gas not going through right so I had to have the carburetor cleaned. It turns out that it was the fuel filter that I had installed in Colombia that got all dirtied up. We replaced the filter with a smaller one that was available and I thought the bike was fine. The same problem started happening on the way to Sucre, the bike was choking. So after many different tries of different options, I removed the small fuel filter and the bike ran fine, or almost.

Here are the pictures of the festival. I think it’s the Festival of the virgin of Guadalupe, but I’m not 100% sure anymore of the name. It’s a type of carnival where groups of people from the different cities in Bolivia come to show off their folkloric costumes, music and dances. The music to me sounded all the same but I guess that my ear is not used to that music. There were thousands upon thousands of people all over the streets from morning to night. It was an incredible festival that I’m really happy to have come across…

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Salar de Uyuni

Posted: January 22, 2012 in Bolivia
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After spending a few nights in a nice 3 star hotel (which had an elevator, TV in the room with 200 channels, and hot water not just in the shower but sink as well) for 12$ a night in La Paz, I was ready to take on Bolivia’s dirt and sand roads and head down to the largest salt lake in the world. I didn’t expect that much as I have seen salt lakes before… but this is not ordinary salt lake. It’s a mind blowing place and one of the highlights of my trip. It should be added to the few wonders of the world, but then it would attract too much tourism. Either way, this lake will mess with your brain… it’s salt but makes you think it’s snow, islands look close but they are 100s of km away… and you start thinking that if your bike breaks down or anything happens, you might freeze to death having to spend the night in the middle of nowhere. Going in with a SPOT localizer is a good idea, or staying on the 4X4 trails. Also, make sure you fuel up before heading in onto the lake.

The road to Uyuni.

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Animal crossing… they of course have priority everywhere in Peru and Bolivia on the main or secondary roads.

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And finally on the lake but only 1 km in as it was getting late. I was lucky to come during the dry season so I could ride on the lake. During the wet season, there is a layer of water and you can only go in with a 4X4. I didn’t feel like going to town 20km away so I started asking around there where I could sleep…

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… it turns out that there is a luxury hotel there which will cost you about 80$ per night or if you ask around you might get lucky and find the same hostel I did for about 5$ per night.

My hostel looked something like this:

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And yes, everything is made of salt. The tables, chairs, walls and even the beds! Pretty cool for 5$ a night!

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If your food is missing salt…

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And here is what the luxury hotel looked like. I went there early next day to check it out. It’s also all built of salt.

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And we’re back on the lake. Filled up the bike, asked for directions…

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… and somehow still got lost. I ended up on the northern shore in a small really cool town. Getting lost is always good when your traveling.

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There were some mummies there and a cave a few KM away but the road was a bit rough even for my bike and I didn’t feel like walking. This is what the sign says so be prepared before going…

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So if your drunk, you should avoid going…

In the town I asked for directions to the Isla del Pescador. A nice gentleman showed me the direction and at a speed of about 120km/h riding in a straight line it would take about 40 min… and true enough, I was there in about 30.

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On the way back, I found this house someone was building on the lake.

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This French gentleman was a bit lost. A few of us finally convinced him that it was a bit late to go bicycling in and that the island was too far away for him to make it before dark. He finally listened and still a bit lost turned around.

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La Paz and Death Road

Posted: January 22, 2012 in Bolivia

Before heading over to Uyuni, I spent a few days in La Paz, one of the 2 capitals of Bolivia. La Paz is located in the mountains and well above the sea level at an altitude ranging between 3000 and 4000m. It’s that highest national capital in the world. It’s also not what I was expecting of the capital of the poorest country in South America. The city is not that dangerous and over all it’s pretty clean. It features like most of America many colonial buildings and has a bit of a European feel to it because of the architecture. Traffic is insane and really loud. La Paz offers many churches, markets and modern stores down in the center. There is a witch market but it doesn’t compare to Iquitos, Peru. There are a lot of museums as well, but one really unique is the Coca museum. The Coca plant can only be legally grown in Bolivia up to this day and has an incredible history. I will at some point dedicate a whole post to this plant that most people know so little about, but drink in their Coca Cola up to this day.

La Paz seen from above.

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On the week-end that I was there, it turned out that is was a special holiday called “Dia de los peatones”. What that means, and I had no idea either till I went outside to see it with my own eyes, is that motorized vehicles are not allowed on the downtown streets. It’s an intense feeling as the day before there was so much traffic that it took me an hour to get from one side of down town to the other.

Photo showing people walking the streets. Absolutely no vehicles were allowed, and that included taxis, busses…

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Bands were playing in the middle of the road

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Close to La Paz is also located the well known “Death Road“. Inside La Paz, you will find many tour operators offering down hill mountain biking for this road that has killed many, many people in the past. Finding a good and cheap tour operator is no easy task. Prices range between about 50$ and 100$ for the day ride with lunch at the end. Bicycle quality also ranges dramatically. I took the cheapest operator with front suspension only and hydraulic brakes. The thing is that a single suspension bike is lighter and will go faster than a full suspension so I saved money and got a faster bike.

The death road is nice and it’s probably one of the longest downhill fast trails in the world. It’s name on the other hand doesn’t do it justice anymore as all the traffic that once was dangerous takes today a different road, therefore all you will see on the “Death Road” will be bicycles going downhill. I raced the guide all the way down and the only problem I had on the way was a blown tube from jumping a rock at high speed. I also wish I could have gone faster, but the incline is not that steep. At the end he looked at me and asked how many times I had done the road before… 😀 Either way, the road is a tourist trail blown out of proportion as I would rate it a 3 in a danger scale of 1 to 10.

The views were at least nice…

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Our bikes

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The road is there on the right

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And the bike I used. Well, for about half way, as I blew the tube and the one they replaced it with blew up right away too, so I got a red bike after wards that had almost no more fluid left in the front suspension.

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Tiwanaku archeological site

Posted: January 20, 2012 in Bolivia

The border crossing between Peru and Bolivia resembled a lot with Central America because of it’s chaos, but was still really civilized when it came to the paperwork. It took me about 30 minutes and I was in Bolivia. I didn’t take any pictures of the actual border, just of the town view from the end of the border town.

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Shortly after, I headed over to the Tiwanaku archeological site. These ruins are of great importance, they are somewhat the Machu Pichu of Bolivia. Although there isn’t much left to see, excavations are still taking place and the Bolivian GVT is slowly building some nice structures around there.

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History of the ruins.
No need to re-write any of it since wiki does such a great job already. 😉

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Gate to the sun… but since the sun is just too hot, maybe the gate was used to other directions?

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These guys seemed pretty deep into gates… like many other ancient civilizations. I wonder why…

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