Flat, flat, flat

Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
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102
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Trip End Apr 20, 2013


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Flag of Bolivia  , Oruro,
Sunday, March 3, 2013

We had a slow start, which was probably due to our long and tiring day yesterday but stove repairs and a need to clean the bike chains further added to our snails pace. We finally made it out onto the road at 9.30 and instantly stopped to pick up some Saltinas for the road and to eat a couple for second breakfast. Thankfully making our way out of the city was much easier than finding our way through the maze of streets last night on the way in.

As we joined the main highway again, we saw a big off-road car race preparing, which was already drawing lots of spectators. We could see families walking along the hill to find a good spot to view the race and to settle in for a Sunday morning of entertainment. As the race looked nowhere close to starting we didn't stop.

The map showed that there would be three fairly big towns along the route today, before we arrived at Challapata, which would be our destination for the day. It should be 110km and we hoped to complete it as soon as possible and finish the day in the mid afternoon. As we cycled along the flat road, we were again surrounded by a flat plateaux. There were occasional farms and small villages with two or three houses. We saw farmers walking herds of alpaca and sheep along the greener landscapes and herds of dairy cows grazing on the grass.  At times we could see Lago Poopo, which continued for as far as we could see at times. We noticed some salt deposits, as some of the flat land was white, with an appearance of snow.

We soon realised that our maps for Bolivia aren't as accurate as our other maps have been. The three towns we passed through were all tiny villages, with no facilities, no food, drinks or water. We were really grateful for having some snacks with us, as otherwise we would have been having an oatmeal lunch. We were unsure what this would  mean for our destination for the day, as there was every chance we would arrive into a tiny village, with only a few houses and no restaurants or hotels.

The road was mainly flat but had a few rolling hills to make sure that we didn't go too fast.  However, the weather was amazing, with blue skies all day and a warm sun, which allowed a perfect cycling temperature. There was a slight head wind at times, which we mainly had to battle for the last hour but on the whole we couldn't have asked for better weather.

We finally arrived into the small town of Challapata, and although it was the same size dot as the other none existent towns which we passed today, it actually had a couple of restaurants, hotels and a petrol station. As we pulled into the town we saw a chicken and chips stand, by the side of the road. As we waited for the chips to be cooked, I chatted to the older lady, who had her 9 month old grand-daughter with her. She lived a few hours drive away and clearly was loving spending time with the baby, who seemed to be attached to her hip.

We then started the difficult task of finding somewhere to spend the night. In all of the other counties this has been a fairly easy job but it is a daunting one in Bolivia. We arrived at one hotel, but no-one answered the door, the next two seemed to be closed, we passed a couple that seemed really, really basic and last resorts, then another that didn't have anyone around. Finally we found a place that was basic but fairly clean and the owner was available to let us in straight away. The whole process took over an hour of cycling around the town and knocking on doors. It was the last thing we felt like doing at the end of another long day on the bikes.
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