(September 6 – written by Dave)
We’ve escaped La Paz, woohoo. It wasn’t easy. We had to ride about 2k to reach the teleferico station and what fun those 2k were. It was rush hour in central La Paz and one of the roads was very steep. So steep in fact, Nancy walked up the sidewalk – which turned out to be just as fast as us three others were able to ride. We were slow and we had to dodge parked cars and buses on the street. Anyway, we made it to station safe and sound.
At the station, we knew that we’d have to tackle four short flights of stairs – there is a lift but it is too small for the loaded touring bikes. We worked as a team and managed to get all the bikes up to the platform without issue, and without having to take the bags off the bike. Philipp was a champion again helping out with all four bikes. The station folks didn’t seemed at all fussed by our big loads. They simply stopped other passengers as we approached one of the cars and helped us on. We each had a private car until the halfway station where one or two folks joined each of us. At the top, they helped us get off the tram as well. It was a great way to get out of the central La Paz traffic.
Once at the top, we exited the station and discovered that the El Alto Thursday morning market was in full swing. We hadn’t planned on this but managed to get our fully loaded bikes through that circus as well. By now we were fully alert and ready to tackle Highway 1. It was crazy for the first 3k with bumper to bumper white minivans and us competing for the one lane that was moving. All of the right lanes were complete gridlock full of parked minivans trying to load or unload passengers. Eventually we cleared bulk of the snarl where Highway 1 turned into 4 lanes each direction. Two of the lanes were more or less a frontage road but they were safe enough for us to ride. We only had to go through a couple more snarled minivan stops. The frontage road eventually disappeared but the shoulder for the rest of the day was super wide.
The road was more or less flat and the scenery pretty boring. Tine even commented tonight that she didn’t want more than a day or two that stuff before she’d grow weary. We didn’t mind it that much as we could ride along at a pretty good pace and we didn’t have to think about too much. For us anyway, that sort of riding is hypnotic – in a good way.
We stopped for lunch in Tholar. We had given some thought to calling it a day there but it was only 1PM and were all feeling fresh. There were 6 vans with 20 bikes parked at the restaurant we stopped at – nice looking bikes too. The riders turned out to be part of some sort of corporate event with locals – great to see them out on the roads. South America needs more people on bikes.
We had a headwind the last 30k but it wasn’t too bad. At the base of one small rise, Nancy and came upon Jean Pierre and Natalie, the French couple we met about a week ago near Puno. We stopped and chatted for a while with them. They are still thinking about their route but we could end up riding with them down the road.
We reached the town of Patacamaya about 3:30 and began the hotel search. We had very low expectations and they were certainly not exceeded. We tried out a number of places before ending up in the Alojamiento Potosi (alojamiento means hospedaje). It is far from fancy. We had to get a two single bed room because all of the larger beds were bowed up like giant bananas. I’m not sure what was happening there. Perhaps the straw mattresses warp over time – yes, the bottom layer (box springs) is a straw mattress wrapped in what looks like bags to hold grain or rice). There is no hot water, no wifi, no doorknob (just a lock/latch that is locked with a padlock) but there is a toilet seat. And we are both pretty tired so it doesn’t really matter anyway.
For dinner we walked down the main road and ended up at a – you guessed it – chicken place where we had the usual chicken and chips dinner. But we did stumble on yet another party of some sort in the main park, with groups of dancers dressed up and waiting their turn. And we had a new treat from a little old lady sitting on a corner selling her wares – a kind of empanada rice ball that was nice and warm and very delicious.
Today was our last day riding with Philipp and Tine. They are going to take a more circuitous route through Bolivia and head west tomorrow morning. We are heading south and more directly to Argentina. We’ve really enjoyed having their company on and off for the last 2.5 months. Our riding paces are just about the same and their positive attitudes are great to have around. Good luck guys, see you in Germany some day, or perhaps Oz.
We have a longer day planned for tomorrow, so I’ll cut this off here. Off to bed to dream of tailwinds on the Bolivian Altiplano. And oh yeah, we passed 20,000 trip kilometres today – the adventure continues.