Cycling days 196 to 202: La Paz to Oruro
Trip Start Apr 07, 2010
120Trip End Jan 19, 2012
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Day 196 (9/30/11): 0km
Rest Day. We are able to contact Christian (cell phone: 7039-6728), host for the Casa de Ciclista and he shows us where we can stay. We also meet Luisa, who owns Chuquiago Bike Café (address: Linares 903), who invites us in for hot tea and internet. In town, we run into Matt and Matt, two touring cyclists we met back in Nicaragua on Ometepe Island, who let us photocopy their guide for cycling South West Bolivia…score!
Day 197 (10/1/11): 0km
Errand Day. We spend the day researching cameras on the internet and going to "Elois Salmon," the electronics district in La Paz to compare what models are available. We stop by a touring company to sell the guide books we have for Central America and Ecuador (we're one kilo lighter now, yaah!) and 3 Peru maps for 120Bs plus a map of Salar de Uyuni (the desolate salt flats of South West Bolivia). We learn how to say “thank you” in Aymara (“usparamatai”) from a woman selling bananas in the street. As we run around town, we weave our way through marching bands and parades, passing by so many spectators on the streets hanging out and getting drunk! Just before closing time, we go back to the camera shops and buy a Panasonic Lumix TS1 for 1100Bs.
Day 198 (10/2/11): 0km
Maintenance Day. Yannick cleans the bicycles, switches the chains, rotates the front and rear tires, makes adjustments to the fenders, and makes some other minor repairs. Shirley sews patches on articles of clothing that are worn out and getting holes in them. She also hand washes some laundry and make use of the kitchen to make a home-cooked meal.
Day 199 (10/3/11): 0km
We were thinking about leaving La Paz today, but we don’t think Steve will be prepared to leave until this afternoon. He needs to make adjustments to his bicycle to increase his carrying capacity for up to 5 days of food and water to make it through the Salar de Uyuni. We don’t want to rush him through this because it’s better to do a good job with the bike here at the Casa de Ciclista than have a break down out in the middle nowhere, so we plan on leaving tomorrow morning.
Day 200 (10/4/11): 66km
At the grocery store, we stock up on foods we probably won’t see over the next few weeks as we make our way through Southwest Bolivia’s rugged environment. After brunch; some last-minute laundry; and goodbyes to Justin, Melissa, and Paul, we leave the comforts of the Casa de Ciclista. It’s already 1pm, a later departure than planned, but we have to get our foot out the door – we’ve already stayed in La Paz 2 days longer than we anticipated!
Back on the saddle, we make our way up and out of the city center; it’s about 14km and a 500m climb to El Alto and we feel our legs burning and crying for more breaks. We thought we would be stronger after 5 days of rest, but it seems like our bodies are lethargic and lost its rhythm. In El Alto, we weave through heavy traffic and dodge pedestrians running across the street. We are stressed out and wish we were back at the Casa de Ciclista, relaxing and hanging out with our friends.
Outside of the city, things don’t get better. There is only a narrow shoulder that is sometimes covered in rocks, blown out tires, and gravel, making it very dangerous when combis, buses, and semi-trucks zoom by us at high speed without giving us any room when they pass. Steve is also lagging behind a little, feeling more tired than usual and trying to get used to the extra friction from his new mountain bike tire and extra weight on his bicycle. By 6pm, we’ve had enough of the madness and start looking for places to camp. We see a flat area 100m off the side of the road only 15 minutes later and push the bikes over. The wind is strong, making it feel colder than 11⁰C, and making us happy to crawl into our shelters. It’s been 5 nights since we’ve slept in our tents and it feels good to be “home” again.
Day 201 (10/5/11): 121km
A hail storm passed through last night and when we wake up, we find our tents and bicycles covered with a sheet of ice. It is -3⁰C and our water bottles are a little frozen; thankfully, the sun hits us by 6:30am and begins to defrost everything.
Once on the road, we find that the scenery isn’t very interesting – asll day, we just pass by scrub brush, small towns littered with trash, and road construction. The most interesting thing we see are small twisters picking up dirt and sending plastic bags spiraling through the air. The day isn’t all bad though, in Patacamaya, we meet Carlos, a Colombian cycling tourist, and have a good chicken and rice plate in Sica Sica.
Unfortunately, Shirley’s brain has turned to mush by the end of the day and all she can remember are the bad things that happened such as being sold some weird hard beans instead of peanuts and finding out we were only given 7 pieces of bread instead of the 8 we paid for – double-screwed by a vendor. The shoulder of the road is still narrow and filled with debris and the traffic is still horrible – a couple buses passed by us REALLY close and someone even threw a soda cup at Yannick, but missed. Shirley is exhausted much more mentally than physically from all the scares she has had from the inconsiderate drivers and is in tears by the end of the day. We pull off the road when Steve and Yannick discover that she’s been crying behind her sunglasses and set camp just beyond some plowed fields. Not an ideal place to stay the night, but it’ll have to do.
Day 202 (10/6/11): 50km…so far to reach Oruro
We wake up in a better mood today and quickly make our way to Oruro, where we update the blog and buy some supplies. From here, we probably won't have internet access for at least 2 weeks.