Stunning SW Bolivia – Atocha to Tupiza (106k/20,816k, 5,500 ft)

(September 16 – written by Nancy)

Okay, this will be a very short post as we are both bushed from a long day on the bikes.  We left Atocha this morning at just after 7 am and rolled into Tupiza just after 5pm.  While the total kilometres today don’t seem all that much, we had a lot of up and down for the first 60k and about 25k of unpaved roads.  Those things, together with the wind (wow does it blow here in Bolivia) and the river crossings we had to make toward the end of the day to get to Tupiza, all made for a long and hard day.

But here are the highlights:

  • Freezing cold morning (okay, not necessarily a highlight but it’s amazing how cold it gets here overnight)
  • Stunning scenery – lots of colours, rock formations, gorges, mountains
  • New pavement – most of the road was newly paved over the last couple of years so was very smooth.  Thank goodness, as we had so many ups and downs that I think I would have put my thumb out to hitchhike if it had all been gravel!  We did have a bit more gravel than we expected though, including on one very steep hill that had me pushing for a bit.
  • Lunch behind a steam roller – it was the only place out of the wind we could find to eat our PB&J sandwiches.
  • River crossings – the final 20k or so into Tupiza was crazy, as we had to cross the river twice – and I mean cross it not on a bridge but in our bare feet pushing our bikes across the water.  The water wasn’t too deep, but deep enough that you couldn’t just ride through it.  So off came the shoes and socks twice.
  • The wind – thankfully we mostly had the wind behind us today, but because the road was full of so many twists and turns we did feel the brunt of it several times.  Even when it was behind us it was a force to be reckoned with.  I was very glad not to be going the other way, that’s for sure.
  • A nice hostel at the end of the day – we’ll write more about that tomorrow as we are taking a day off to recover before we make our final push to the Argentina border.

Junior editor’s note – too many photos today but the scenery was stunning, photo overload follows:


View of Atocha in the morning

Rock formations 1

Badlands of North Dakota perhaps

Rock formations 3

Our nice new road – a ribbon of smooth asphalt most of the day

Rock formations 4

More badlands

Nancy cresting

Nancy cresting

White mesa 1

A white mesa

Nancy riding 1

Nancy on the long road south

Red mountain 1

A lovely red mountain

Nancy riding 12

More nice new smooth pavement


Lunch – wind coming from behind the equipment

Red rocks

Red rocks on the hillside 

Red rocks in the afternoon 4

Down near the river – red rocks everywhere

Red rocks in the afternoon 2

A nice red mountain

We love this sign

We love this sign when we see it

Red rocks in the afternoon 1

Another red mountain

River crossing 1

River crossing 1

River crossing 2

River crossing 3 – no photo of the number 2 with shoes off

Rock formantion in the afternoon 1

White hoodoo

Rock formantion in the afternoon 5

More hoodoos

Rock formantion in the afternoon 9

No idea how this one stays standing

Sunset from our hotel

Sunset from our hostel – ready for sleep and no alarm!!!

14 thoughts on “Stunning SW Bolivia – Atocha to Tupiza (106k/20,816k, 5,500 ft)

  1. Hi Dave (and not-met Nancy), I’m following your trip as your posts are evocative of a trip I did in 2011 with a friend. We travelled from Peru, thru Bolivia to Argentina. A trip of a lifetime. Like yours is I guess tho longer. Wonderful posts and photos, reminding me of the rocks, rivers, gravel, cold and grand mountain ranges folding into the ground like very large elephantine feet. Dave I met you when you were helping out on a SthAus Bike trip. I was travelling bikepacking style. Stay safe and thanks for the vicarious living. B

  2. Great photos of the colorful desert! Okay, so I remember once when you, David, were in my classroom (at my other school) and you purposefully said something wrong to see if I would catch it. That’s the only reason I’m telling you that the Badlands are in South Dakota, not North!

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