The big bike adventure begins... or tries to.

Trip Start Nov 26, 2007
Trip End Nov 26, 2008

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, September 22, 2008

I know I know, we havent written anything decent for ages! Maybe its because we have realised we only have 9 weeks left and poverty, work and winter is heading our way! I vow to make the most of everyday until we fly home on the 25th November....or whenever it is. Oh by the way the photos for this one and for some reason in reverse order...must be the camera!
We finally left La Paz on our bikes and after much faffing around drove out of the city at 2pm heading north. We hit a mountain and rain and snow within the first hour and I did think what the hell are we doing?! I was freezing and soaking and we had a long road ahead of us. The cars and lorries coming towards us through the mountain fog didnt have their lights on and I could hardly see Tom who was just in front of me. We left tarmac and rode on gravel strewn dirt roads, cautiously coming down the mountainside. Suddenly we were out of the fog and it was glorious, the road twisting left and right and our clothes beginning to dry out in the late afternoon sun. We rode 83km that first day and stopped in a hostal in Corico with a courtyard to pull the bikes into. It had been a tough first day.
 Day 2, we attempted to leave by noon but we couldnt get the bikes started! We have since found there is a special knack but after trying to get Toms going for an hour and rolling down a hillside to try and bump start it, we were really starting to weaken. I thought we were just going to have to head back to La Paz with our tails between our legs! Again we finally got on the road at about 2pm, the bikes were fine once they were running, good solid engines and built for the dirt roads the tyres slipping and regripping as we wound around a mountainside with a sheer drop right next to us. The scenery was lovely lush and green, turning really jungly. We stopped to take photos and noticed that one of the plastic 5L cannisters we had strapped to the back of my bike filled with petrol had been punctured and petrol was leaking on to my bike! Bad for 2 reasons 1)Because I couldve exploded 2)There is a petrol crisis in Bolivia at the moment. Its like gold dust and we kept passing petrol stations saying 'no petrol today' and we had to just keep pushing on. My bike only has a 6L tank, Toms is 12L which only takes us about 200km. We filled our tanks with the petrol from the punctured tank and carried on. The road had become very dusty and passing cars and trucks made it impossible to see for a few minutes through their clouds of dust. At about 6pm we pulled into Carvanavi, 90km had taken us 3 hours and that was virtually none stop riding. Another hotel and very greatful for a shower...cold which was needed as it had turned very tropical.
Day 3 we had cracked it with starting the bikes! No problems there! It was a tough days riding though, dusty dirt roads at times covered in deep loose pebbles or deep sand or wet with mud. Full concentration riding. We pulled our bikes off the road to a clearing as it began to get dark and we set the tent up. Cooking noodles and fried eggs for our dinner we attempted to sleep soon after it got dark. I kept dreaming someone was stealing the bikes and kept waking up. Of course they were fine and we packed up early on day 4 aiming for Rurrenabaque (Rurre) about 120km away. We first hit problems around lunchtime and they didnt stop! My bike began to splutter and cut out. Tom took it apart and checked everything and thought it was the carburetta. It started, but died as soon as we twisted the trottle. We flagged down a passing truck who told us the town of Yucumo was only 1km away. We began pushing, it was midday and boiling and we got to the town which comprised of about ten wooden huts along the road. Fortunately we had hit the land of the bikes and found a bike mechanic who embaressingly told us that at half a tank we have to switch the fuel to the reserve tank - its not like this on road bikes you just wait till you run out. Tom was horrified with himself I was just glad we could keep going and it hadnt cost loads of money. We ate lunch with a dobermann and were back on the road again. We had 100km to go and it was 2pm (again!). The road was relatively flat and Tom got the camera out to take a few on road snaps...and dropped it. Thats our thrid camera in the last year! Tom hoped we could get one in Rurre I just hoped I could have a shower! I passed Tom about an hour later and asked him to check my spare fuel tank, it had gone! Somehow dropped off the back - 10L of petrol. Again I couldve been a fire ball, I just hope it had stayed intact and a worthy Bolivian had found it. There need is greater than ours. We did go back to look for it but gave up. About 20km from Rurre I felt my bike begin to wobble, could not believe it. My back tyre was flat! It was 5pm I had no fight left in me, we camped in somebodies garden (a field) out of view of the road and washed under an outside tap. Noodles dont taste as nice two nights in a row. Especially when they are made with river water!
Day 5 and we pushed the bike out onto the road and down to the shade of a watermelon seller and ate melon for breakfast. Tom left me there and took my flat wheel to Rurre. I showed the lady selling melons our maps and books, helped her children draw round their hands and attempted to make conversation. My spanish is still terrible. Tom got back 2 hours later and at 5pm after 5 days and only 300km we pulled into Rurre our first stop on our tour and what an adventure it had been just getting there!
Rurre was well catered for tourists with bars, happy hours, restaurants but a nice mix of local places and a good feel to it. Maybe because we were the only tourists there! Most people fly into Rurre but all the flights had been grounded, it was great! We chilled for a day, my bum recovering from the roads and booked a 3 day tour to the pampas. We bought the only digital camera in town - a sony handycam video recorder. Or so it said. 9 mega pixals it also said but as you can see from the photos its more like a camera on a mobile phone! A really good fake, but it wont do!!!! Hopefully the next big town will have something better. Tom Snapply can handle this one! The pampas was amazing. We had chosen a tour operator that actually respected the wildlife and did not distrub it. Some places pulled anacondas out of their homes and held them aloft and let you hold baby camens (aligators). Cant believe people actually still do these things. We stayed at a lovely lodge 3hrs from Rurre with Julien and Leticia (from France) and Francessca (Switzerland) whos photos we stole when we got back to town. It was great swinging in hammocks and eating the delicious food. Marcel our guide took us down the river in a boat not much bigger than a canoe and we saw camens, big adults who menacingly swam towards the boat but it was only because they felt safer in the water than on the bank and nurseries of baby camens, ten or twenty of them with a mother giving a throaty growl if we got too close. The jungle at the sides of the river was teeming with bird life. Metre and half high Yabaru storks, vultures, Caracaras (remember them from Hornsea Pottery O'Connors?)   to tiny brightly coloured birds reds, yellows and greens. There was also the bizarre caprivaras - I cant attempt to describe them, look at the photos. They froze as we glided past and could impressively hold their breathe for 10 mins under water if need be. We were still on the river at night fall as the sky filled with night hawks who were almost as good at catching the insects as the bats were. I slept so well that night and we set off early the next day on a 4hr walk to find anacondas! We walked on a raised footpath through dried up wetlands, it would all be flooded in a few months time. But for now cowboys cracked whips and herded cattle across them. We found a couple of anacondas curled up asleep in holes. Marcel thought they were about 2m long! Beautiful markings. But we shouldve taken them being holed up as a warning! It satarted to pour down as we walked back to the boat - which was an hour away! Soaked and freezing we made it back to the lodge for lunch and afterwards went fishing for priaņas! It was a real eurovision song contest type affair which each represented country goading the other on. Not one to blow my own trumpet BUT I caught the first one, the most (5) and the biggest! We kept 2, mine, and ate them with dinner that night. Not much meat on them but really impressive teeth!
On the 3rd and final day we headed upstream soaking up the surrounding jungle and its wildlife. We got to a deeper pool about 2hrs later and watched 5 pink river dolphins playing. Bizarre animals, long pink noses and pink tails. Julien jumped in with them but it was too cold for us, plus I could still see camens in the distance even if Marcel said they didnt come into the deep water. The dolphins stayed well away but the tiny howler monkeys came up onto the boat. Obviously used to other tourists feeding them. On the jeep ride back to Rurre we stopped suddenly as Marcle had spotted a 3 toed sloth - this for me (and Tom) was really special, they are very rare and people hardly ever see them. Sorry the crappy camera battery had died long before we could take a pic. Plus he was quite far away. Great 3 days though and if you find yourself wanting to do a pampas tour and in Rurrenabaque, go with Bala Tours. A bit more expensive but well worth it.
Today we took the bikes to a mechanics and had them checked over and cleaned they were working on them for 2hrs and it cost us $10!! They are ready to go and so are we. New spare petrol cannisters that I have fashioned  rope nets around them so we can fix them securely to the bike. Noodles restocked and bags packed.
But theres no petrol! Hopefully tomorrow will bring with it petrol tankers!
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