thunderstorm appeared. The thunder was so loud and were happening so close together we knew that it was above us, all we could do was hide ourselves and our bags under rocks.
We did however see the most electric thunderstorm ever and even witnessed a full rainbow and double rainbow, quite impressive even though we were pretty soaked!
The next day we laid our wet clothes out and took a dip in the perfectly round volcanic lake that was like a bath, it was really good but didn't quite sooth both of us as Son started to feel pretty ill and we only managed to ride a hour or so away before having to set up camp and letting her sleep off the illness, maybe the ride was taking its toll or maybe it was our campsite cooking!
Well rested and Son feeling better we pushed on as we were losing time and not really going anywhere. We had a choice to take with the roads, either beautifully smooth and perfect tarmac that went around the outside or secondary dirt road (the dirt road being direct to Torotoro) and guess what we chose?! The dirt road of course!
It was a good choice as the road was in a half decent condition due to the lack of use and we were travelling thorough once again diverse landscapes and through small rural villages. It ended up a 7 hour riding day but the weather and ride was so good neither us (or our bums) seemed to notice it. Finding camp was a satisfying end to a glorious day of riding.
The next day was another long day as we tried to head to the only town marked on the map we had. We were constantly asking people 'donde esta Acasio' to which they all replied 'lejos' which means far even though we had travelled for hours. The roads were getting even more mountainous and we found ourselves going sideways more than forwards as the road switched back across the huge mountains to get over them. It was still good fun but it was starting to enter our heads as to how much further we needed to go. The tops of the mountains were cold, we didn't know how high but the chugging of the motobikes and are shortness of breath in our helmets told us it was high, possibly 5000m. Then to make things just a little more difficult the sky turned ominously black and the wind
picked up... it was going to rain... but it didn't rain it started to hail, large white pellets started to shower us in large numbers. We had to stop and dive for emergency cover which was a mountain run off drain. It was feezing and the claps of thunder sounded like the ground was cracking apart and sometimes lasted for up to 8 seconds long! We had to take everything off the bike and our hands were freezing, a sensation we've not experienced for a long time! The wind was biting through our shelter, we could see our breath.We tried to plug it using all our bags, helmets and everything else we had. The mountain at this point was blanketed by dark black clouds and it was still hailing thick and fast. We had even planned that if it never eased we'd get into all our clothes and climb into our sleeping bags, wet or not and hold there for the night! As we had everything ready to cook up some soup the weather eased and we grabbed the opportunity to make a dash for it in the hope to find lower and warmer ground!
The riding was now really difficult in thick mud made us and the bikes really unstable. Eventually we made it down to the other side and we had to hastly find a camp ground as more rain came, this time drenching us.
The morning was clear and we made it to Acasio, finally which as it turned out was tiny, like a village and with noone about. We stocked up on food and road on having been told it was only four hours to Torotoro. At last someone knew our final destination!
^The roads were like riding the alps but on dirt roads, hairpin after hairpin but the road was pretty good and we made it to our camp for the night in close proximity to the national park, which we were visiting the next day.
As it was possibly the last camp on the trip we had to have a fire and marshmellows (we forgot the wine!). The weather was really hot and we both slept well that night, dreaming of the prehistoric times that we were close to embark on!
So we finally pulled into the village of Torotoro at lunchtime and what a pleasant suprise two dusty little streets with not another gringo in sight. The local people were all milling around eating street food and every person we passed said hello and good afternoon to us. The young children were bolder and came up and stared, breaking into smiles and saying hello. It is supposed to be Boliviaīs remotest village but I think we had been to remoter! Itīs at the end of the road though so 3 hours one way and then 3 hours back, even though the surrounding area has a lot to offer not many travellers come down this way as itīs so difficult to get to. We were so glad we had, it had a lovely feel to it and we were allowed to stay in a hostal with a shower and everything! Don't get me wrong, I loved camping but every few days I need a shower (even if its freezing cold)! We quickly found a hostal and washed our clothes and ourselves, it didn't even matter that the electricity went down and we had to spend the evening in candle light. We did find it quite noisy though with donkeys braying and cockerels crowing - this sleepy little village definitely wasn't the middle of nowhere for us.
The next day we went out with one of the national park guides, just Tom and I. It was good to be out walking but a long, tiring, hot day. I had really been looking forward to Torotoro its seeped in geological formations and fossils....ok not everyones cup of tea! First stop was huge dinosaur footprints and tracks that led away from an area that used to be a lake 50 million years ago. We could clearly see huge herbivores that mustīve been over 20m in length, the footsteps were about 8m apart and smaller three toed carnivores running after their prey. There were even footprints from where a Pterodactyl had hopped away from the water. We walked down into the valley trying our best to understand our guide Pablo, who only spoke Spanish. We stopped at the top of a mini grand canyon where an earthquake had ripped the ground apart, dropping 220m. We slowly walked down the 500 steps to the bottom to where an underground spring emerges halfway down the canyon to create a massive waterfall.
The hike back up was tough, but I can still remember Borneo. When we reached the top we treated Pablo to an English classic and made egg mayonnaise sandwiches from the eggs we had boiled up the night before. He said he liked it and it got us thinking about home and the food we miss. We stopped to see some 2000 year old cave paintings, Iīm sure if I knew more about them Iīd be impressed but they looked like a childīs scribblings! The ones we saw in France a few years ago are loads more impressive. We made Pablo take us off the usual route and 3km out of town to the marine fossil wall in the afternoon and I was in heaven, scrambling over rocks and picking at fossils of shells stuck in a huge wall.
I found a beautifully intact oyster-like one and gave it to Pablo as a present... he later tried to sell it back to us for 100B! It was very fragile....we wouldīve never have got it home. Plus we hadnīt seen a bank for days and were down to our last couple of hundred Bolivianos. Not too much of a problem what with all the camping and stove cooking we had been living off 50B a day between us.....thatīs about 3 quid!
We left early the next day thinking we had a long days ride to Cochabamba ahead of us. We had left dirt road for the last time and within 3 hours left cobble road and hit tarmac. The only reference we had was that the buses take 7 hours; we got to Cochabamba in four! We stopped briefly at a man made lake and ate fried trout - one of our favourite dishes! Even though the dirt roads had at times caused us such heart ache, they had also been so much fun as well and thinking we wouldn't be on them again made us realise the bike trip was coming to an end.
Blown away by the mines in Potosi our next destination were hot springs! A good soaking in a volcanic pool could do nothing but help our souls and plus the locals swear its medicinal so who are we to argue. A quick repair to Son's bike and we were off again... and on asphalt which was bliss to Tarapaya where the springs were. We'd no sooner got there and were hunting for a good camp area when the clouds pulled over the sky and the biggest