This green and very hilly route will take you up and over two 4,700m passes as well as over smaller ones in the almost jungle-like vegetation for a total of 10,000m of elevation gain. The people are friendly and welcoming, and the villages are picturesque as they sit atop hills for as far as the eye can see all over the various valleys. We found this route to be difficult due to the heat and humidity, though it was a nice change from the high altitude cold nights.
Though I visited the Salar de Uyuni by jeep on a trip years ago, cycling across was a whole different incredible expedience. The first eighty kilometers were busy with tourists, but after that, we had the other half and the whole other Salar completely to ourselves. It’s really easy cycling across the salars as its flat and hard-packed, though the forty kilometers of sand in between was much slower going. This is definitely a must do route for anyone cycling Bolivia as its just so unique to spend days cycling across pure white salt.
This tough but extremely rewarding route took us through the first hundred kilometers of the typical lagunas route (past Laguna verde) before taking us away from the main jeep route and onto a much less used beautiful jeep track which led us up and over multiple 4,700m+ high passes. This was my favorite route in Bolivia (and one of my favorites in all of the world), and I would highly suggest it to anyone up for a bit of a challenge!
This last year will be remembered by Kevin and I as a year of high highs – from cycling through Patagonia with friends to pushing our bikes up and down rough roads in the Andes – but also, one of incredibly low lows – like when ending our trip early became a reality and I cried for nights on end. 2015 was the year of South America, and all of the wonderful adventures it held, but also, 2015 was the year we began to adjust our thinking from what’s most fun in the moment, to how to accomplish long term goals. It’s been a divided year; a year in which we spent the first six months living in a tent, and the latter half living in an apartment. A year where we had complete freedom for part, and jobs, appointements, and commitments for the rest. A year where we lived in nature, and then a year where we were stuck indoors. This last year has also been the year we lived near family, the year Kevin and I solidified our relationship both on and off the bike, and the year we began to figure out where we want to be in the future. It’s been a year of transitions, and it hasn’t always been pretty, but looking back, it’s also been a hell of a lot of fun.
We began 2015 in Turkey, before quickly making our way down to Ushuaia where we began the South American part of our trip. We spent six months cycling from Ushuaia to Peru, before taking a last minute flight back home where we surprised our families, and started a (temporary) life for ourselves in Astoria, OR. So here it is, our year of adventures from cycling the Andes to canoeing in our own backyard.
2016 will also be a year of adjustment for us; we will be moving again (and are both very excited about this), and with that, we will both be changing jobs as well (plus, I will be going back to school). We are both excited by what this near year will bring, and anxious to start planning our next adventure (spoiler alert, we are in the beginning phases of planning our next three month bike trip). But until then, we are both commited to making more microadventures happen in our attempt to explore our beautiful state. Here is to what 2015 gave us, and to the new year to come.
I’ve decided to take a few of our favorite camping photos from pre-South America and tell a little story about each one. Though the photo sometimes captures the natural beauty of a place, it never really gives the whole story.
Time and money is what stops most people from traveling, and though I can’t help you find the time – except to remind you that whatever you wish to do needs to become your very number one priority – I can give you concrete proof that cycle touring doesn’t have to be expensive. Though I kept very careful track of our spending during the first eighteen months of our trip (check out our money page for more about that) here in South America, we haven’t been so concerned about money as we know that we are on the last leg of our trip, and that even if we enjoy a few more luxuries, we will still make it home.
Though we only spent six weeks in Bolivia, it has easily become one of our favorite countries as the people are friendly, the food is cheap, and the cycling is absolutely spectacular. We cycled up a dozen or so 4,000-5,000m passes, camped in the -20C chilly high altiplano, and passed through and stayed in a multitude of small villages. We struggled across frozen streams, survived steep climbs in the humid and hot Yungas region, and ate the typical “lunch,” and “dinner,” of soup plus a plate of potatoes, rice, and meat whenever we passed through towns. We also got to do a little mountaineering when we climbed Huyana Potosi (6,000m). Without further ado, here it is; Bolivia through the lens.
We have read about cycling families. We have talked about cycling families. But finally, finally, we got to actually meet a wonderful family – meaning awesome parents who really know how to teach their kids to live – on wheels. These forty year old parents and their ten year old boy, and fourteen year old girl, set out two months ago on their first ever cycle tour. They are now headed through Bolivia, before beginning their descend down to Patagonia. We saw them camped at the side of the road and ended up spending the night right next door which was a great way to spend an evening!
Every “Casa de Cyclista” here in South America is run differently, but they all are wonderful for the very same reason; they provide a meeting place for the multitude of cyclists throughout South America who are all going in different directions to get together and stay with other like-minded two wheel travelers. This one here in La Paz is run by Christian, a Bolivian cycling fan who inherited an large multi-roomed apartment right downtown which he lets up to eight tourers stay in at a time. Unlike the other Casas which are listed on warmshowers and are therefore free, this one charges 20 bolivianos (three dollars) a night which I feel is a good idea because it allows Christian to keep this place running self-sufficiently. It’s for the cyclists, by the cyclists, so it’s up to us to clean, cook, and keep this place running as if it were our own home. Though I feel like this self-run sort of set up could easily become disastrous, in general, cycle tourists tend to be conscientious people who are willing to put in a bit of effort in order to leave the place nicer than when they found it. And as its been running for years now, it seems like this concept is working!
Sitting at the top of Huyana Potosi (6,088m/20,000ft), Kevin, John (an American cyclist we met in La Paz), our guide “Super Mario,” and I watched the world come to life. It was 6h30 and after five hours of climbing, we had made it to the top just in time to turn off our headlamps as the dark sky was beginning to glow. The clouds in the distance made the morning light appear bright orange and red before the sun finally hit our snowy cold vantage point. In front of us lay the cloud covered Yungas, and for as far as we could see behind us was the altiplano (including lake Titicaca). To our right the sprawling city lights of La Paz and El Alto shone bright, while to our left the other beautiful snow capped mountains which make up the Bolivian Cordillera Real stood majestically still. Climbing slowly up the mountain just a few hundred meters away were a few groups of other climbers who would arrive shortly and crowd this tiny summit, but for just a few more minutes, we would have it all to ourselves.