(September 7 – written by Dave)
We said our last goodbyes to Philipp and Tine this morning. And I think this time it could be for real. They borrowed our Aeropress for one last coffee this morning and now they are on their own. Tine really liked our Aeropress and it may have actually been the ultimate reason that they travelled with us for so long – haha.
On our own, we actually had a great day riding. We wanted to be on the road by 7:30 but didn’t get out much before 8AM. We had two options for the day but really had the longer one in our minds from the beginning. In fact, when we reached the short option we didn’t even consider stopping. Like yesterday, the scenery was pretty much vast open valleys and hills covered in nothing more than salt grasses and small brush. It was heads down, bum up riding all day – quite fun really. We had a little tail/crosswind at the start but more or less a slight headwind from 11AM onwards. Luckily, the headwinds were mostly mild.
We stopped at a “no name” town bus stop for morning tea. We didn’t need water but bought cold drinks anyway, just make sure that we kept the liquids flowing. It was a little coolish so we wore our riding vests all day but it was actually pretty good riding weather – it probably never got much above 60 all day.
Nancy maps out about 10 riding days ahead and we print elevation profiles of each day. She keeps the appropriate profile in her handlebar bag map case. The last two days have shown two climbs on each day – all of them over 10k in length. We are so used to the climbs of Peru that when we saw the 10k climbs on the profile we expected to be grinding it out in low gears for a while. Our mapping tool adjusts the scale on each map so that the little rises of Bolivia, look just like the massive climbs of Peru. Not that we are upset, it’s nice to blow through a 10k climb with only a couple gear changes and not that much of a drop in speed. More flat roads make it possible to do distances like we did yesterday and today, and still arrive fairly fresh at our destination. It’s a nice change.
Today we made it all the way to the small city of Oruro. Oruro has a population of over 250,000 people and it sits at roughly 3,735 metres above sea level. It was a big mining region but the major tin mine closed as they tapped out the ore, and now only smaller mines are still operational. At the town’s entrance they have a giant miner’s cap made of bronzed metal. It’s pretty clear that mining is still pretty important here.
There was a bit of gridlock traffic coming into the city and the Plaza de Armas but we were moving faster than most of it so it was safe. There are heaps of hotels around the plaza but the rates are surprisingly high for a “non-tourist” destination. Perhaps they fill up with miners and mine executives. I looked at a couple hotels before we settled on the Hotel Houston. It is not fancy but it has a pretty fancy price. It was supposed to have hot water and good WiFi. It has lukewarm water and “now you see it, now you don’t” WiFi. But all is not lost as there is a heater in the room and we are happy for a warm place to rest after our longish day on Highway 1.
For dinner we headed out to the plaza and the number 1 pizza restaurant in town. It was actually pretty good – I learned a trick, order Spanish chorizo. So far in South America, chorizo has basically been red hotdogs – yuck. Spanish chorizo has some zip, we’ll be keeping an eye out for it as the trip progresses.
And guess what, yup, there is another parade going on tonight here in town. We saw a few bands getting ready in the square on the way to dinner, then after dinner it seemed like there were just random bands walking up and down random streets. Those foolish enough to be driving a car seemed to be pretty much just parked for the night –traffic was mostly stopped. There were heaps of people out and it looks like it could be a crazy Friday night. For sure we are happy that our room is in the back of the hotel.
Tomorrow we will attempt another long day on Highway 1, slightly longer than today. It is nearly all flat so it really comes down to how the wind behaves. We are pretty sure that the town and hotel we are aiming for has no WiFi, so the next post may be delayed. Actually, we may be WiFi-less for the next several days as we make our way to the Salar de Uyuni (the largest salt flat in the world), so stay tuned and we will post when we can.