Copacabana -Pucarani - Viachi- Corocoro- Ulloma- Laguna Blanca- Okoruro- Sajama
With our time in Peru coming to an end and our Visas left with little time we opted to bus to Bolivia. With much discussion and many promises we were assured that our bus was direct to Copacabna and we would be fine with bikes. Our direct bus wasn’t quiet as direct as we were promised but at least the seats were roomy. Rather unexpectedly we were told that all passengers for Copacabana needed to get off here, here being a pull in on the side of a main road, and get on a different bus, not great news when you have four fully loaded bicycles in the hold and the bus they are directing you to isn’t much bigger than a car. Still the driver wasn’t concerned and after loading the other rather confused tourists bags on the roof he went ahead and hoisted all four bikes up there as well. This bus then took us to the border where we were once again told to get off and collect our bags, this was the end of the line. Our direct bus had in fact left us 8km short of our destination.
A small amount of faff was added at immigration when they noticed Ryan was 3 days over his visa allowance and was forced to pay a hefty fine, a whole 3 dollars, one for each day he was deemed illegal, the faff presumed when he had to go and find a local bank to pay his fines at. Eventually all four of us made it through and began to kit up ready to ride, it was here we realised our unexpected change of bus had cost us far more than first thought. Our helmets that we have been on our heads for every KM of our journey were still nestled under our seats safely tucked away so that no opportunistic thief could grab them from above us while we slept. DAMN. I started out wearing my helmet through fear of my mother but now, after South East Asia plus almost the whole of South America it just feels normal to have it on, and so abnormal to be riding without one. It’s funny because most cycle tourists we see don’t ever wear a helmet, most of them carry them, which always seemed strange to me as we tend to be conscious of excess eight and bulk.
It was only 8km from the border to Copacabana but it felt much further riding without my helmet. The worst part is I don’t know when we will be able to buy another one, luckily most of our route through Bolivia is going to be on very quiet back roads with little traffic, but still, I’d feel far more comfortable tackling this route with skid lid on my head!
Copacabana was another touristy stop on the shores of Lake Titikaka, Jess played tour guide after already having visited this town on her previous backpacking trip 4 years ago, it wasn’t the most difficult of jobs, there was only one street she had to guide us down!
After one more rest day to get a feel of things we were ready to ride, this time without the helpful aid of the pikes GPS route to guide us. We were back to forging our own trail which added a new element to our riding, it felt like we were truly exploring a country again rather than following in others footsteps, or should I say tyre tracks!
Before leaving we made a quick stop at a café of one of Johnny’s friends, we had heard bad things of the food on the road and good things of the food in said café. After far too much amazing coffee as well as probably the best beans we’ve had in South America we rather slowly trundled out of town. Any other cyclist reading this I can’t recommend the beans on toast enough at El Condor and the Eagle, it’s tourist prices but worth every penny as a last treat before heading out into the barren waste lands of Bolivia!
Our route took us around Lake Titicaca and towards La Paz but before we got swallowed up by the traffic and the hustle we cut off on a back road and began exploring the real Bolivia, slowly making our way towards Sajama National Park, constantly being overlooked by Bolivia’s highest peak of the same name. The roads are notoriously bad in Bolivia and it wasn’t long before the ripio took its first casualty with Johnny snapping a chain link. A quick road side fix we were able to keep going until the afternoon wind picked up causing us to take the first shelter we could find, well at least the boys got shelter, our tent couldn’t fit so had to withstand the full strength of the wind that caused a full blown dust storm to tear through our camp.
The deeper we delved into Bolivia the more we learned what other cyclists meant by the lack of food, Ryan, who eats nothing but potatoes, noodles and crackers has been in his element but those of us with a more normal diet have found Bolivia to be a challenge. We were given a free lunch in a small town with a somewhat less famous salt flat than that of Uyuni but other than that rations have been limited. Many of the small towns we have passed through have offered us nothing more than crisps and fizzy drinks, even our staple breakfast of porridge has been a struggle. Things only got worse when Johnny managed to have a gasoline leak meaning not only was food hard to cook due to his lack of fuel but also his sleeping bag and liner were at risk of putting him into a very deep sleep or turning him into another free lunch due to a rogue flame.
Our route we had planned to purposefully avoid any major town was now beginning to look slightly less appealing. Our appearance must also be conveying how desperate we are getting for real food as a lady in the small village of Okuro took pity on our bedraggled state and set about rustling us up some llama and chips for us to eat in her small store.
With Llama in our bellies we were able to do battle with a head wind and road conditions scarily similar to the ones we conquered in Patagonia. Knowing we were within striking distance of Sajama and hopefully some better stocked shops was the main driving force behind smashing it into this brutal head wind. We camped within a days ride of Sajamba under the watchful gaze of Vulcan Sajama and the next day entered the national park. A quick refuel of egg sandwiches at the entrance gate and off we rode, only to be stopped 10km down the road by a park warden. Turns out we have to pay to enter the park, the problem is the only place to pay was 10km back up the road. Looks like our park warden friend had slept in and was now a little flustered at the prospect of loosing out on 4 entrance fees. After much deliberation it was agreed I would venture back with the warden on his motorbike as long as he agreed to bring me straight back as soon as I had signed everyone in.
With our brief distraction completed and a rather nervous motorbike ride over we were free to ride on into Sajama, unfortunately it wasn’t quite the tourist destination we were expecting. We did find some better stocked shops and signs of some restaurants but other than that the town doesn’t have much to offer. Still a rest day is in order while we try to figure out where we will venture to next.
Danny and Jessica living the nomadic dream.