Heading across the cactus desert

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


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Flag of Bolivia  , Potosí,
Friday, March 8, 2013

We hoped to get to the Bolivian border within three days of leaving Potosi, but really had no idea how long it would take.  We had very little information about the road ahead, but had gleamed a small insight from a couple we met in the hostel.  They were cycling on a tandem, with a trailer behind them.  They had cycled a couple of thousand kilometres in Argentina and were making their way to La Paz.  They could tell us about some of the road to the border, but not all of it as they had put their bikes on a bus for the last part of the trip into Potosi. 

We set off knowing that there were very few villages or facilities along the way and that we would probably need to camp for the next few nights.  We were well stocked up and ready for the next part of the adventure of cycling across Bolivia.  By the time we had packed up our things, chatted to the tandem cyclists and restudied the maps, we were hungry again, and tucked in to a second breakfast.  We were on the road at 10am, and stopped on the way out of the city to pick up some Saltenas.  The little pasty like snacks cost 1 boliviano each (10pence or 15cents).  A bargain and surely we will miss them when we leave Bolivia in the next few days.  We bought 10 and were on our way.

The road climbed sharply out of the city, and continued to rise for most of the morning.  We made our way over more cobbled streets to get out of the city limits and were pleased when they finally gave way to a paved road.  As we climbed around the side of the Cerro Rico, we could see mining trucks entering and leaving the mine sites.  The landscape was scarred from the years of mining, and we stopped to take a few photos and to catch our breath again.  Potosi sits at 4100m above sea level and now we were climbing an extra couple of hundred meters higher than that. 

It took most of the morning to climb the hills out of the Potosi area, and we wondered how far we would make it for the day, as the start had been so slow going.  We finally reached the turn off onto highway 14 and were relived to see that although it wasn't the main road, it was still paved.  It was a shortcut to the border, which would save us cycling a couple of hundred extra kilometres and we had hoped that the road would still be in good condition

Thankfully the road was paved, and as it wasn't the main thoroughfare it was quiet.  We had the road practically to ourselves.  We cycled through a desert like landscape, surrounded by red rock and thousands of cactus.  The air was slightly warmer, but as we were still at almost 4000m there was little humidity and we were able to cycle hard without building up a sweat.

We stopped numerous times to snack of Saltenas and drink the juice we had packed the night before.  We would usually sit by the side of the road, and have no interruptions to the peaceful landscape other than birdsong.  The prevalent alpaca from the altiplano were replaced by resilient goats, who didn't seem phased by the lack of grass, and numerous cactus.  We would cycle passed hundreds of goats at a time, who were roaming the red soil landscape.

As the afternoon continued we came across a small village which had a big water container, which was collected from rain water.  We filled up our water bladders and cycled on with 8 litres strapped to the back of each of our bikes.  We managed to cycle 120km over the day, which seemed respectable considering we had so many hills.  On one of the downhills I recorded 65km per hour, which I believe is a trip record.  As we made our way up one final hill, the heavens opened and a light rain descended upon us.  It was 5pm and we needed to make it up the hill to be able to look for a place to camp.  As we finally crested the hill, it was still raining slightly and we could see lightening in the distance.  It wasn't ideal conditions to set a tent up but we had no other choice.  We found a flat patch of ground, with a big tree nearby to cook underneath and shelter from the rain.  We knew that we were asking for trouble though, pushing our bikes intentionally into a field of cactus.  Thankfully the rain didn't last much longer and we were able to enjoy our pasta dinner without getting wet.  We just hoped that we don't wake up to find four flat tyres or a goat nibbling on the tent.
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Comments

Karen on

Doesn't look like fun cooking in the rain!

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