Today is 17 September. We woke up in Tarija, a southern city of Bolivia. Our goal today was to travel up north and go half towards Potosi. Although the city was only 300 km away, we were told it takes 12 hours driving to get there. The rather long drive was a curious case since we were told by several locals that the road was “asphalt”. The following is a time capture of our day – yes, it’s a long one, so you might want to grab a cup of tea before continuing.
7:30 am – Woke up and went for the included breakfast. We were rather disappointed with it considering we splurged on the *4-star” hotel room – it was USD40 per night, five times what we paid for the previous night. The room itself was quite a luxury relatively speaking, even though we never got the fridge working and the toilet seat kept on snapping down on our backs the moment one sits down, but just some minor details.
10:00 am – Finally finished packing and left the hotel. To replace the broken GPS unit, Q tried to get one of our cell phones working instead. A moment of excitement when we thought it worked, only to realize later at the end of day that it wasn’t configured correctly and so the day’s driving was not captured, but excitement was good while it lasted.
10:16 am – The joy of asphalt only lasted 15 minutes, we were told at the check point there was a 50 km of mountain pass that will take us two hours.
10:57 am – The road ascended quickly and continuously. It was tough, but still much better than the ones we encountered in the first couple days in Bolivia.
11:04 pm – We were in the Andes! Gorgeous view of the mountain range with some abandoned civilization trace.
12:05 pm – Ascending for 2000 m later, we have altiplano and asphalt! Q sends a big MUAH to the road.
12:19 pm – We stopped to replenish food and water. I picked up cocoa leaves and tried to use them as the locals do. They are supposed to reduce fatigue and effect of high altitude.
12:32 pm – The altiplatos (high planes) opened up to us. It is hard to believe we were cruising down at 3000 m in altitude.
12:39 pm – Heading into another mountain pass, which means the road becomes unpaved again.
12:42 pm – Again gorgeous view and by some miracle the road turned paved.
1:31 pm – Stopped for lunch and fuel. The gasoline was only available from container, and cost 5 Bolivian pesos/liter (about 70 US cents), about 30% more than service station. Fuel is subsidized by the government in Bolivia.
1:56 pm – A curious villager got Q into a half-understood conversation during lunch.
2:11 pm – Unpaved road after lunch. Blech! But at least we aren’t walking!
2:22 pm – The sign announced “Pavement in 5o m”!
2:46 pm – Q was lo-lo-loving it!
3:19 pm – Came to a village that is half way to Potosi, and entertained the idea of staying for the night, but nah, we felt pretty good and wanted to make some extra mileage, so we got back on Casa and marched on. It turned out that was a bit of mistake – we should’ve quitted while we were ahead of game.
3:23 pm – Yikes.
3:41 pm – There was a detour that was even worse than the unpaved road if you can believe it.
4:03 pm – Back on pavement.
4:09 pm – …And we were off again.
4:50 pm – Finally came to another village and tried to find accommodation – but no luck! Had to continue on and with the sun start setting, we started regretting not stopping earlier.
5:10 pm – Another detour and this time it was wet, muddy and slippery from construction. The effect of high altitude was already quite notice-able as I panted from a short walk-up.
5:19 pm – The unpaved turn looked so evil and cool. Should we love it or hate it?
5:40 pm – We stopped at another village, considering camping out, but was told by a villager that there was hotel half an hour down the road, so we continued on, anxious about the sunset.
6:04 pm – Discovered one of the two screws holding head light in place was gone! That’s what the Bolivian roads do best! With time being the essence, we quickly derived a temporary solution with a smaller screw and some rubber. It worked and we are on.
6:13 pm – Told by a small construction village that we came across that there was hotel another half an hour away. No choice but to continue. No sight of any village or hotel as we were told.
6:34 pm – Accommodation at last. It was behind a small shop/restaurant in a village, but it will do. Plus, it cost just under 3 USD. Q said it’s possibly the cheapest he’s ever done.
As we started unpack, we discovered more broken things: the chain guard has been knocked out of place, the right pannier (the big metal luggage things) has a loose locking mechanism, AND our portable hard drive is making funny noise. I think Bolivian roads shake loose every nuts and bolts that we can or cannot imagine.
So this is our day 3 in Bolivia and it is one of the better ones. To be honest riding in Bolivia is a lot more challenging than we expected, but we are adapting, taking it easy, and most importantly keeping our spirits high.
No dull moments here! Wanna join us? :)