Cactus everywhere!

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

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Flag of Bolivia  , Potosí,
Saturday, March 9, 2013

I enjoyed a beautiful, if cold, start to the day.  The sun woke me up before our 6am alarm, so I hauled myself out of the tent to get the camp stove fired up and the coffee brewing.  As the water heated up I entertained myself by trying to capture the sun lighting up the cactus covered valley.  The views were beautiful, the valley floor extended for miles and I could see mountains in the distance.  I could hear cows had wandered into close proximity but couldn't see them in the cactus forest. 

We enjoyed the views whilst having breakfast and I was pleased that the air was warming up as the sun raised higher in the sky.  At 8am, as we carefully pushed our bikes back to the road, I realised that my front tyre was a casualty of the beautiful views, and had picked up a prickle from a cactus.  We quickly repaired the tyre and hoped that we didn't have any other slow punctures, which would impede our progress for the day.

We took photos as you could see the road snaking down to the valley floor and then making its way up the other side.  This represented a long, slow climb for us, which took us about an hour to complete.  We happily plodded up the hill, with very little traffic around us and a smooth road beneath our tyres.  The rest of the day continued in much the same vein, with long downhill and even longer up hills.  As we had descended slightly over the previous day, we noticed the air seemed hotter and we were building up a sweat as we climbed up the long hills.  The desert air was still and humid.  We continued through similar landscape to yesterday, with red soil and hundreds of cactus around us. 

As we pulled in to the only town on the 300km stretch of road, we hoped to get some lunch and to fill up our water bladders for another night of camping.  We had no idea that we would leave the town, with neither water or lunch, but would only gain an increased sense of frustration.  We entered two restaurants, ordered food with the waitress and waited, only to be told half an hour later that they had no food.  Why this could not have been conveyed as we entered the restaurant we have no idea.  Why the waitress listed a choice of meals when we asked her what they had, we don't know.  When we asked them both if we could get some water we were refused.  We asked at numerous establishments, including the public toilets but they all shook their heads.  It was one of those infuriating instances that only happen in Bolivia.  We considered staying at the town, to sleep in a hotel for the night,
but were eager to cycle further and the town didn't seem that appealing
for an over night stay.  We left the town peeved and unsure about where we would find water.  It didn't take long for me to be able to put things into perspective again, we were in a desert after all, so we should have expected water to be a hot commodity.  I doubt anyone would want to decline two cyclists of water if they had an excess, therefore I can only presume that they had no water to spare us, even if they wanted to.  I have to presume that they had no water or food and that times were desperate for these poor people, otherwise I will quickly hate this country.  As we left the town, we spied a few taps by the side of the road and in the garden of some of the houses.  None of them worked, which made me consider that they may have limited supplies and only receive water at certain times of the day, hence not being able to cook either.  We saw similar difficulties in Peru, where residents only received water for two hours in the morning and again I was left considering the tough life these people have.

As we plodded on I started to daydream about ways to get water out of a cactus Bear Grylls style.  Thankfully it didn't come to that though, as we came across a small collection of houses at the end of the day, which had a working tap.  We didn't ask anyone, in fear that they would say no, but parked our bikes and filled up our water bladders.  One of the houses had a collection of drinks and chocolate bars for sale and we bought a couple of things from him, in what we thought was a kind of thank you for the water.  I doubt he sells more than one drink per day, as the rate of traffic is so low and most people probably continue to the larger town.

The day was a lot more up hill than down and we were only able to cover 100km.  We started to look for a place to camp at 5.30 but struggled to find a spot that was hidden from the road, and the occasional farming communities.  We also had hundreds of cactuses to contend with, and didn't want to pick up any more punctures.  After about half an hour we found a flat spot, but involved a long walk in with the bikes and the bags.  We were exhausted by the time we carried everything to the camp spot and to make matters worse it started to drizzle before we had the tent up, which led to a soggy camp spot.  Thankfully we managed to keep up spirits up and made a delicious dinner of rice, veggies and a packet sauce. 
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Gramma on

Man those cactus are big!!!! No wonder the needles punture your bike tires...... Do hope the rest of your journey goes well, or better at least. Do hope you's find a good resting place at night, too. Love and hugs.... on

Oh my sure glad you found water! You just never know what kind of trouble to expect! Beautiful pics though! Can't wait to read the next blond to hear u are OUT of Bolivia...and onto easier times!

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