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(104) Well seasoned cyclists

May 15, 2015


After returning to where I had lost Sharon and saying goodbye to Rafeal and his family I knew I had to get stronger. It had been good for me to spend time on my own all be tough. Meeting up with Yang was amazing and a good person to be with while I waited for Andy,Jules and Sara. It was amazing they were coming out to join me but a shame Sharon wasn’t there to enjoy their company. I knew the route I had for them would not only be spectacular but also tough. I couldn’t have them return to the Uk telling everyone it was easy 🙂

Saturday 4th April

I woke to the alarm and got up and headed for the bus stop. I was joined by a small dog that followed me through the streets until we reached the bus stop. I sat down with my new companion and waited for about 10 minutes when I thought I would have a look around. I noticed along a side street there was an unlikely looking bunch with yellow and red panniers laid everywhere and bright shiny metal paintwork lighting the street. I tried to creep up on them but it was so great to see them. It’s so mad seeing as I hadn’t seen them for almost 2 months and yet it felt like yesterday. As I greeted them we were all aware Sharon wasn’t with us in body but knew she was within everyone of us.

 

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They’re here 🙂

With the bikes built up we headed to the hostel where they quickly made themselves at home. As we arrived at the hostel I told them we needed to get the supplies from the room. I lead them to Yang’s room at which point he was meant to appear saying supplies!! I think the joke was lost in translation and took Andy a few seconds to realise it was Yang.

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It was so great to have them all there and I wanted them to relax for the day as I knew what lay ahead wouldn’t be an easy ride. I went of to get bread while they settled in and came back to have breakfast. With breakfast spread over the next few hours it gave them the chance to tinker with their bikes and catch up with home. Before long it was lunch time and so we headed off around town to the local cafe where Yang and I had been going to have llama and soup which was a great novelty for them.

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 Enjoying our Llama stew

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After lunch we headed off around the markets to buy fruit, a few supply’s and for us all to practise or Spanish before heading back to relax headed back to relax. It was good to give them time to rest after a long few days getting here and once they’d had some time Andy Jules and I went off to the garage to get fuel. We followed the a long Street east through to the edge of town where the road turned from tarmac to a fine reddish brown dust. We reached the garage on the outskirts and a approached one of the workers who was a bit reluctant to sell us petrol but once we explained it was for cooking with he filled our three bottles.

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Taking a different road into town we decided to head back via the park as Jules wanted a go on the slide which in the sun looked like you could fry an egg on it. Luckily by this time it had cool enough with the local kids using the bit in the shade to make sure.

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As the sun was slowly reaching the horizon it was time to head off on our bikes to the train cemetery to watch the sunset. As a little test run we left town with the five of us reaching the outskirts where Yang hit the ground on his bike. non of us knew what happened and I don’t think even Yang knew.

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Yang taking one for the team

With the Train yard close to the edge of town we soon reached it and started to look around. It was really good fun hanging out around these old wrecks and watching as the light and the colours started to change.

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Sara and Jules in Training

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Andy getting into the swing of his training

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Uyuni The starting point for the guys

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We sat and watched as the sun started to set and I think everyone had someone on their mind which in a way it was nice that we sat in silence for it.As the light faded and the blue and orange faded from the sky and the dark crept in we headed back dropping our bikes off and headed into town for food. At ÂŁ1.50 for chicken chips and rice with a drink everyone was happy. By this time we were all feeling tired and so headed back for a cup of tea and to bed excited about our big day on the salar.

Sunday 5th April

Being Easter Sunday we were all up having breakfast surround by mini chocolate eggs that the guys had brought out form the UK. It was great to have everyone there and even greater to be surrounded by chocolate in fact if I had my way every breakfast would be surround by chocolate eggs.

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With all the bikes out of the room it was time to load them. It took a while to fit all our things in the relevant bags but everyone was keen to get on the road. With Andy not having much luck finding a long sleeve top he managed to buy one in the market that was to small cut the arms off and safety pin it to his t-shirt. He looked amazing and the talk of the town.

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With no maps on the GPS it took a while to find the right road but were soon heading north on the right street. We made our way on to the new road that was being built and probably the only Tarmac in the whole of Bolivia.

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Enjoying the tarmac, little did they know 🙂

We reached Colchani where we would turn off to the salar. Spotting a lady cooking large bits of meat it was our last chance to get a cooked dinner which was really tasty. It was meat, rice and salad which was really tasty although a little worrying when Andy said his piece was to boney so she put the bit he was chewing back on the bbq and gave him another. The food just what we needed before heading out on to the salar but hopefully not food poisoning.
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Well it looked good and tasted great 

With our water bags now full we took the road west and headed out to the salar. It didn’t take us long to reach it and were soon in amongst loads of tour groups. Once we had taken some pics next to the salt piles we headed out and on to the lake.

P1020583After about five miles we reached an old salt hotel and looking back it felt like we had gone miles but at least we were having fun.IMGP1362

With just under 40 miles until the island and only having covered 20 we needed to get going to give a chance to find a good place far enough out on the salar. The entrance o the salar was soft and sticky making us wonder weather the rain had affected it but as we headed further out the surface got harder making it amazing to ride on.P1010129

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We rode into a slight headwind but were covering 8mph. It was amazing and the longer we were riding the more impressive the salar became.

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Sara leading the way

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Our bikes are this big

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I found a way of adapting my go pro mount to a standard one 🙂

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Taking a break

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After Sara had shrunk a little dance was called for

Sara was feeling strong went off into the distance and almost out of sight. With Sara way ahead we thought it would be fun to ride with nothing on which thinking about it now feels a little strange. Yang how ever was more then happy to take pictures but we knew there would be a lot of editing to be done afterwards. Once Jules had folded his clothes into a neat pile we set off riding around in circles laughing probably in the only place we could have got away with it and knowing you’ve just got to do these things to make life more fun.IMGP1434

With Sara almost out of sight we quickly put our clothes on and got going. With the sun getting ever lower the shadows became longer and more impressive. The shapes on the salt were awesome and I felt so pleased I had people to share this experience. We played a game to see how far we could cycle with our eyes closed which was really strange by using the sound of the person talking next to us as a guide of direction.

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 Jules entertaining us during a lunch break


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Andy heading on the salar

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Sara enjoying the sunset

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As the sun set the patterns became more vivid

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looking on to see the moon rise

With the sun now set and the pinks of the sky were coming out we knew it was time to camp. We picked a spot away from the main jeep tracks and cooked omelette while Sara made a crumble. It was great sit and enjoy the changing colours and watch the first of the stars start to twinkle. With the sun now set and Sara walking off in the distance to the lady’s area we sat around chatting when a few minutes later Yang came to me in a panicked voice. “Tim there’s a bear on the salar look” as he shone his torch in the direction of Sara who was in a black jacket way off in the distance. “Yang its Sara stop shining your torch” He said “no its an animal look” in desperate effort trying to focus on the shape, when Andy said “Yang Sara is going to the toilet stop shining your torch” to which we laughed as Yang look embarrassed and Sara would now be known as the bear.

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Our camp for the night

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Having a play with the camera

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It was such an awesome spot and with the moon coming up we would soon be totally lit up. It had been such a good fun day and I felt lucky to have such great company. And this was just day one.

Monday 6th April

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After an amazing evening with a stunning full moon we all headed to bed ready for a big day on the salar. As it got later the wind picked up shaking our camp. It got quite wild at one point but must have settled as I dropped off into a deep sleep. I woke from having a dream to suddenly figure out where I was. The sun was just rising and it looked incredible.

Andy made me a cupper while I got up and packed away my things and then joined them for some Crunchynut cornflakes. It just felt surreal being out on such a vast salt flat surrounded by friends and eating my favourite cereal. With the bikes packed we set off on an amazing surface. Sara was once set off at mac speed while we pottered a long weaving in and out enjoying the surface. After about 10 miles the surface changed and our back wheels started to sink into the salt.

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Seeing open pools not knowing how deep they were and knowing my stick went into one up to a metre yesterday it was a little nerve racking. With 10 miles left to go the Isle Inca Huasi started to appeared  ahead of us giving us a point to head for. It seemed to take ages to reach it and as we did seeing the island rise above the salt it felt more like we were riding on top a frozen sea which felt so strange.

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Isle Incahuasi rising out of the sea of salt

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I’m Yang really wanted this flag

As we approached the island we could see that it was covered in massive cacti. we reached the shore and made a cup of tea and a look round. We rode around the island to find a touristy bit where Yang got hooked up on a Chinese flag and set off in the direction of the volcan Co Tanupa and the village of Tahua. As we headed north the surface of the salary changed and felt incredible, we covered another 10 where we stopped to have a play with our cameras.

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Both Andy and Jules were starting to realise his bike was a couple sizes to big

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And so was his water bottle

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Enjoying a cupper

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With the pictures we wanted we set off and covered another 8 miles before stopping for another cupper. From this point surface started to get bad and felt like riding on hundreds 2” stones set in concrete. The volcano was getting bigger but being 1,800 metres above us we knew it was going to take a while to reach the edge. As we got closer we were all starting to get tired from the rough surface and the constant exposure to intence sun that reflected off the white surface.

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We all had factor 50 on but it was still burning us. We reached the island and went in search of the salt hotel. After arriving in the tiny village that sat right at the base of the volcano we were given a few directions which lead us back down the hill and up to the left of the village. Spotting a lovely building up on the hill we climbed finally arriving at a lovely hotel. We were told the price which shocked me as I was on a budget and the thought of staying in such a nice place was never an option but Julian and Andrew’s mum had said she wanted to pay for us to stay which was incredible and so generous. It was so nice to have somewhere lovely to stay and rest after a couple hard and fun days on the salar. We had an amazing dinner,shower and a good rest ready for another day in the sun and in the salar.

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looking out to the salar from the hotel

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The volcan Co Tanupa that over shadows the tiny village

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Enjoying luxury and some time out 

Tuesday 7th April

After having another night of weird dreams I woke up and enjoyed a lay in, in my comfy bed. I got up and started sorting my stuff and putting into my panniers. I heard the others and went down for breakfast and just enjoyed the little bit of luxury that was soon to end knowing that soon we would be back on our bikes in the sun, covered in salt and hungry. We set off around 9 and made our way down the winding track to the main gravel road complete with a steam and headed for the salar.

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heading out

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It was a little soft to start with then seemed to have a layer on that was like riding on the road in two inches of snow. We headed between 2 Islands where we could see a truck on the salar which was strange as it looked more like it a boat.

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From this point it was directly west in a straight line for about 30 miles. It was strange riding the 30 miles to the north west shore and feeling like we weren’t going anywhere, traveling at 10-15 mph on a white surface with the land far off giving the illusion of standing still.

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We could almost ride as fast as we wanted reaching 22mph on fully loaded bikes and having the energy to weave and ride in any direction was awesome. By the time we drew close to the shore everyone was feeling tired and sunburnt.

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Even after constantly applying factor 50 it was getting all of us. Jules, Yang and Sara all covered their faces with material while Andy made a nose guard from duck tape making him look like a Cartoon penguin.

We stopped after 20 miles one because if my GPS had reset itself so I knew what to add on and second we were all shattered and needed a cupper. It was 12 by this point so once we’d had a rest we rode on until we reached land. With a mile to go the salar became soft and really hard to cycle. We started to push and after a while we found a track we could just about Ride in. Once on land we decided to have dinner and so cooked mash potato with raw onion and peppers washed down with a cupper. It was perfect. Andy commented on how well we were all doing and I just had to laugh. We had been on the cycling for 2 days and everyone had sunburn, were all knackered, peeling lips and he had a blistered nose covered in duct tape that made him look funny.IMGP1983

Jules and Andy after two days

I did know what he meant and he was right we had done well and we’d all had fun. We packed our things and headed on along the road the few miles to llica. The road was sandy and hard to ride on with deep corrugation and sand traps.IMGP1740

looking across as the next storm formed over the mountains

 

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With the odd short steep hill to add to the mix we arrived in the town shattered. Andy brought us a coke at which point Yang showed us that his bike was broken. The steering tube was now lose from his forks and was convinced it would be ok. We brought supply’s and headed out of town to look for a camp spot. While we were discussing weather to get water we looked again at Yangs bike. We were about to head out on to a deserted salt pan miles from anywhere with a broken bike. This was to dangerous and put all of us at risk. Seeing our concern Yang decided to ride back to town get it fixed and meet us in the morning. We weren’t going to go far but the thought of staying in the town wasn’t great. The road out was terrible and made us pleased he hadn’t returned.

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looking for food in town

We rode on for about 3 miles towards a huge volcano and found an old quarry that was sunk into the ground. It was a perfect place out of sight and out if the wind. We decided in the morning we would put a bike at the top for Yang to see while we had breakfast and just hoped he would be ok. We knew he would be ok as it was Yang. With the tents up we cooked rice with fried eggs and green beans another healthy meal to prepare us for another day on the road and another salar

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Wednesday 8th April

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I heard the others get up so with a few extra minutes in bed I got up and joined them. I had slept really well but still felt tired. Looking at the others so were they. We kept a look out for Yang but saw no one. I did miss him and wondered weather we did the right thing leaving him but with him having not long left on his visa and the guys wanting to cover the distance back to la Paz it was something we had to do.

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Andy was looking a little worse for ware with a bad stomach and feeling sick and just hoped it cleared up. We pushed the bikes up the bank and loaded them on the top. We set off around 9am and slowly made our way towards our first village.

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After navigating sand traps and rocks we reached the tiny village Challacollo which had a pretty church and yet very little sign of people other then a large courtyard with fresh meat drying in the sun. We looked around and managed to find water before we set off again towards the salar Coipasa.

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We could see tyre marks ahead that were fresh and so kept going trying to catch who ever it was, hoping it was Yang. The road followed the edge of the salar on quite a good surface with the odd sand trap and watching the clouds form over towards the Chilean border. The road then turned towards another village and as it did the road got worse. It was about a mile of soft sand that was so hard to push/pull in it sucked all the energy from us. We reached the village and picked up a few bits.

I had been taking pictures of storm clouds over the high mountains and by this time had now started to merge forming one massive storm cloud.

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Worried we would get stuck where we were we had a light snack and carried on the track to tres cruces. It was slow going and it felt like we were never going to get there. Spotting a road off to the salar and fierce wind that would blow us out we all opted for the salar.

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 The sand roads made for slow going 

IMGP1788Slowly making our way out to the salar at the storm built behind us

We covered the first mile easily and then came the soft salt. It was impossible to ride on and so we pushed through the soft sticky mud stopping to have lunch and build up enough strength to keep going. Knowing that I had pushed my bike 10 miles out of 20 through this mud and had taken 9 hours to do the whole distance I knew if we stuck at it we could cross the 46miles in the soft mud in a couple days. Not realising how shattered the others were and the thought of 46 miles in mud wasn’t their idea of a holiday we sat looking at the volcano way off in the distance. we pushed on anyway and after about 2 miles we finally reached a hard surface that we could finally cycle on which improved the further we went.

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It was amazing and almost felt effortless riding in this incredible landscape with then sky changing around us and a wind that was making our life easier.

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Jules pleased to be back on a hard surface

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P1010190As the storm raged around the mountains on the edge of the salar we pushed on but as we moved further into the centre the wind changed to a head/cross wind. We decided to ride in formation and take in turns to be at the front. It made it easier riding like this having to ride for a couple minutes in the wind then rest in the shelter of the others but even with this everyone was shattered and so we stopped to take a break. The wind by now was gusting up to 30mph and after 10 minutes we knew we couldn’t camp so exposed on the salary. We pushed on which was tough going in the wind and wasn’t the magical salar we had expected but it was in another way. To be fare the thick clouds and the brutal headwind took any chance of that away but for now we had to reach the volcano to have any kind of shelter.

IMGP1827The sun started to set and we stopped for another short break and to check how much further it was.  Being on a large flat expanse was so hard to tell distances and being in front of such a large volcano with the light fading and knew all we could do was keep going. It felt strange heading for the shore of a large black silhouette not knowing if it was 100 metres or 5 miles away. It was about 8pm when we reached the edge of the salar and stopped before the mud.

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Three very tired cyclists

The ground was still hard as rock but with the cracks from the salar as it’s formed created a weakness enough to get a tent peg in and secure our tents. We were all exhausted but we shouldn’t have been. It should have been an easy ride if it wasn’t for the sand, mud and wind. we just hoped getting to Sabaya tomorrow would be a little easier.

 

Thursday 9th April

After arranging the bikes and tents to cope with the wind from the west we went to sleep shattered. I woke about an hour later to the wind picking up and getting quite strong. I then heard my bike fall over and went out to check. The wind was now blowing in the opposite direction making the position of our bikes pointless. I moved it again to give my tent a bit of protection but not enough to stop the sides pushing in. It lasted for about an hour and then all was silent. We woke to a dull cloudy day that with being on the salt pan looked more like a low sun on a dull polar plane.

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ready to go

With Andy still not feeling great and almost going to the toilet in his crocs and the rest of the team disappearing off to relieve stomach tension we packing up and headed off around the volcanic island. It felt strange following what was once a shore line with a huge volcano in the middle imagining at some point a dinosaur would appear. We passed some Vacunia out on the salt who looked totality out of place on this white expanse then rode onto the ramp and onto the island.

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Heading towards the ramp and the Island

 

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We arrived in the small town and picked up water before riding north west and back onto the north part of the salar. It took a while to reach but were soon heading back on to the salt and across our last salt flat. Although the salt was slowly destroying our things we would miss it, it’s beauty and flat expanse was incredible. The feeling of gliding across it with ease was incredible. Although it was hard going in the wind there was no getting around it’s beauty, the shapes, the whiteness and the volcanos that surrounded it’s shores.IMGP1857

Heading back to the north part of salar coipasa

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Coming to the last part of the salars

We would now be on the gravel roads and they tough. We came off the salar and reached a small salt mining settlement and started following the shoreline. The going was ok but with the short climbs and not eating anything for lunch was taking it’s toll. With storms now surrounding us and rain falling in the mountains and on the salars it made us pleased we were on dry land.

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The last 10km were the hardest with the wind picking up heading into feed the next storm and of course giving us a head wind was slowing our progress further. With 3km to go we reached a concrete highway that lead towards town. It was amazing to be on a good road and other then the headwind it took us into town with less effort then if it was gravel. We reached town around 5pm and not a moment to soon.

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Finally on a good road

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We found a closed hotel and a small shop when a guy walked along the street calling out Andy Jules and Sara’s names. It was Charlie who they had met in la Paz and had ridden here from there. It was great to meet him and also find out where he was staying and so soon we were in a hotel washed changed and ready to go out. We needed good food and a lot of it. We found a nice place where the police were eating and couldn’t imagine a policemen wanting a dodgy belly before a high speed pursuit we knew it would be a good place for us. It was great and just what we needed but with the team all suffering with bad stomachs I wasn’t sure how they would be in the morning and there was only one thing for it and that was a good nights sleep.

 

Friday 10th April

We got up around 9am and decided to go and have breakfast to see if some of the team could keep it in. It was a nice day and a perfect time to clean all the salt off our bikes and fix my puncture.

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The salt had really built up over the last salar

With breakfast out the way and all our bikes now sparkling. Charlie headed off towards the salt flats and about 40 minutes later we were ready to go  purchasing a few packs of biscuits as a pick me up for the journey ahead. we headed off to ride anti clockwise around the volcano that would rejoin the road north. As we had covered 4 miles on the lovely Tarmac road something wasn’t right and we soon realised we were going the wrong way.

Well sort of the wrong way but we were defiantly on the wrong road which we could have continued on but it would take us a lot longer to get to where we wanted to be so we turned around and rode the 4 miles back to town and turned off onto the right road. The surface was ok but like any ripio road it slowed us to about 5mph. On our way to the climb we passed more small mud towers with tiny openings.

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A few of the many tombs that line the road

Andy went over to take a photo with his bike and noticed human remains. We checked the others and noticed they to had the same. We came to the conclusion that that were ancient burial tombs and left them in peace. We soon reached a short climb  but once at the top we descended a little and sat on a bend in the road to have lunch. Being a bit higher we could look right out across a flat green salty plain. It was a great spot but with massive storm clouds building above the mountain range we would be heading along and the rumbles of thunder getting louder we needed to get going. The road around the volcano was ok apart from a few large deep sand traps which made it hard and tiring going.

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Having spent some time the night before with Charlie trying to work out the formula for how to convert decimal degrees to hours minutes and seconds our navigation I was now better at navigating and checking if we had reached the correct junction. As we neared the junction between both roads that circumnavigated the volcano we could see the massive storm that had developed over the mountains in front and was heading straight for us.

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With flashes of lightning and booms of thunder we were going to get wet. Luckily we had time to dig through our bags and pull out full sets of waterproofs which were things that we didn’t think we would need. We waited while Andy found his and with the wind picking up and driving rain we cowered behind our bikes as it battered us.

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We set off across the stretch of salar on a new ripio road. By the time we had reached the bridge the storm was now behind us and was incredible to see the contrast between the dark sky and the blue that was starting got appear. With the sun now out and rain falling behind us it left us with an incredible really low rainbow.

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Andy

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Jules

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And Sara all enjoying the rain 🙂

We followed the edge of the mountains slowly working our way along but everyone was shattered. All we could do was take it steady and make sure we ate more at lunch times. With the clouds rolling in once more we reached the tiny village of Tunapa. The place was deserted and with the rain starting to fall and the light going we needed to find somewhere. I went to look around and the only thing that was accessible that had a roof on was a second floor of a building site but with rubble strewn everywhere we decided to look else where. Andy found a girl in the only house that seemed occupied making her jump as he said hello which made him jump in return and she had got over the shock suggested we could go in the church but with out her mum she couldn’t say and would have to wait. We sheltered under the village bandstand and all the time we were all getting colder and colder. We knew we couldn’t stay like this for long and so we made a bolt for the construction building and started to carry our things up stairs. Once our things were upstairs we cleared the floors for our tents and made ourselves at home. It was perfect and out of the elements. It was still really cold but we all knew once we had eaten we would soon warm up. Having picked up ingredients for a crumble Sara set about making that while we set about making dinner. It had felt like a long day not covering much distance but we were happy comfy and safe and thats what mattered.

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Building our own camp

Saturday 11th April

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Our view from the second floor in the morning

As the rain rattled on the roof it felt great to be curled up inside in the tent. There was movement in the camp during the night as various people would disappear off into the bush form their various dodgy tummy which seemed to continue as the sun rose. It was hard to see them all suffering and just hope it wasn’t effecting their fun to much. We sat around having breakfast and I sadly finished the last of my crunchynut cornflakes. It was a cloudy day with no rain and still cool. Andy was trying to get everyone motivated to cover 60miles but knowing how far we had covered the last few days it was very optimistic. We carried our things down the steps and were soon on our way north. The road was corrugated again which slowed us down to 4-5mph and so after a couple hours we arrived at Negrillos after 12 miles and found a few kids in the centre.

They showed us to the shop where we brought a few bits and went back to the square to take a break and chat with them. They were great kids and nice to chat to but with time getting away and not having covered that far we got going. The next section was a two and a half mile climb to 3,920metres. It was a steady climb but after a restless night even they were struggling. It wasn’t just that fact that they all had bad stomachs but riding at 4000 metres on a corrugated gravel wasn’t easy.

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We rode on wanting to get at least 20 miles covered before lunch but with a steady climb back up to just under 4000 metres we decided to stop at 17 miles. It wasn’t just the lack of good food but the ability to keep it down and try and get some energy from it. We rode on slowly climbing and I reached Andy who was waiting ahead with Jules and Sara arriving shortly after with the sky’s in front getting ever darker from the next storm.

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The scenery was spectacular with fresh snow capped mountains around us and more to come we kept climbing to the summit. We reached the highest point and rounded a corner to look out over a massive plain with storms brewing in all directions.

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As we descended bolts of lightning hit the ground around us and way off in front of us with one that lasted a few seconds. It quite scary but was incredible to see and to hear the thunder rattle through the mountains. We stopped halfway along the straight road to put our waterproofs on and let the worst of the storm pass in front of us just as the hailstones started to hit us.

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With the constant flashes we wondered weather we were safe where we were but being so open there was nowhere to hide. As the storm moved east in front of us with the wind and hailstones blasting us and our bikes we noticed another storm move in behind us. It was time to move before we were engulfed by the next one so we mounted our freezing bikes and slowly descended on the wet muddy road which wasn’t easy as the ground was now sucking on our tyres slowing us down. The air was freezing with white hailstones covering the ground around us. My hands became numb and tried to warm them in my pocket but with a soft sandy road surface it was almost impossible.
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The temperature dropped rapidly after the hailstorm

As with the last few days the wind picked up and once again giving the amazing headwind that every cyclist looks forward to. The going was hard in the wet mud and the small town of Julo which was so close and yet seemed to take forever to reach. I arrived at the army checkpoint about 10 minutes after Andy and got chatting to the guards. They were brilliant and while we waited for Jules and Sara we looked over their military maps of the area. They told us they would take us to the shop to get what we needed and that we could camp in the barracks so we could get out of the elements. It was perfect and with Sara and Jules arriving we headed for the shop and brought all the nice things they sold. It was a good job it wasn’t a super market because with 4 hungry cyclist we would have cleared it. We headed back to the barracks and the guys had organised 4 beds. It was great and with the bikes inside we got the stove on the go ready for tea. It took a while to cook, eat and clean up but we were grateful to be inside out of the freezing wind and rain. By the time we were ready for bed the storms had passed and the rain had stopped but we were happy we were warm and inside. The guards were really helpful and kind although a little strange when two of them pulled their beds together and giggling at their mobile phones most of the night. After Andy having a strong day on the bike today he was now sick again. Not knowing if he had a bug, eaten something contaminated or just pushed it to hard we may never know we just hoped he didn’t get to sick.

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These guys were brilliant and made the end of the day fun 

Sunday 12th April

After a good nights sleep other then Andy waking Jules up to stop him snoring only to find it wasn’t Jules who was snoring we all got a good rest. We woke to the soldiers playing their ringtones and giggling again and so got up and made breakfast. The soldiers hung around and were keen to have lots of pictures taken.

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We said our thanks and the one in charge kindly took us down the road to point us in the right direction. The road was a better surface but with so much rain we had to negotiate a lot of large puddles, streams and rivers.

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We noticed Andy was again feeling strong as we watched harmed on ahead when I noticed he was struggling at a puddle not realising he had almost come off I arrived a minute later and almost lost control in the same spot. With Sara right behind me I then heard a scream and looked around to see Sara performing a superman dive into the very large muddy puddle in slow motion. I almost grabbed my camera but not knowing if the water was freezing concern was my first thought. Once she had started to laugh i said I had to take a picture.
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Sara looks at ease in the water

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maybe not

The image of the dive kept me chuckling for a little while after but did feel for her having had a soaking in a cold salty puddle. The road remained good with little climbing but a few river crossings. It was great and everyone seemed to be in the spirit of things. On one crossing I spotted 3 very pink flamingos.

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They were stunning and managed to get some great pictures. Looking at our route we should have been in Macaya but with a beautiful lake with more flamingos in front of us and almost lunch it seemed a good place to stop. It was such a stunning spot and a great place to rest and just stop and enjoy our surroundings.

 

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Still wanting to cover a few more miles we got going and started the short climb around the corner. As we reached the top the small town of Macaya came into view.

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Heading away from the lake

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We stopped at the army checkpoint but saw no one. We called out a couple times when 3 guys appeared bleary eyed and asked where we were going. I replied Sajama and then asked for documents. I asked if they could open the gate so I could get out if the large puddle I was stood in and after the guard asking his mate 3 times to open it they gave up and let us continue. From this point the road turned north and climbed steadily to 4,000metres. Sara was struggling by this point but dug deep and kept going. It was hard with sand traps and the ripio making the going slow.IMGP2147

Jules trying to blend in with the Llamas

 

As we climbed higher the more the mountains came into view making the ride surrounded by snow capped mountains and wide open plains amazing. Once at 4,000 metres we reached a junction and took the left road cutting off a short section that would have involved more climbing.IMGP2185

 

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Still smiling

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The next town we were heading for was much higher then we were so we continued on slowly climbing with the scenery getting more and more spectacular. We kept an eye on the clouds as we had seen them getting bigger earlier but it looked like the weather was breaking.

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With the skys clear we knew it would be cold night but at least we wouldn’t be wet. I felt for Sara as she pushed her bike in many places trying to make her bike lighter but knowing that when your tired your tired. She kept going and slowly we all reached the town of Chachacomani at 4,270metres and an incredible view of volcano Sajama.

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“Hello whats going on here then”

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having ridden on ahead to find food we spotted a shop with a table we decided to eat. We ordered fish and chips and as the few chips came out with either a head or a tail we knew It wasn’t much but with the sun setting we knew it would save us time. We picked up a few snacks mainly because there wasn’t anything else to buy as we didn’t think the 4 stuffed armadillos were for sale.

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Heading out to find a camp spot

I asked if there was anywhere to stay in the town and with a definite no we rolled out on our bikes in the dark and descended to the river before the start of the climb to the next pass. Spotting a nice flat spot which was a little to close to the road that we preferred we knew it was already late and so shouldn’t be disturbed. We were all shattered from a hard day and knowing we had a short day to the Village of Sajama tomorrow and a day off seemed everyone happy and relaxed. With the stars lighting the sky and the silhouette of a huge volcano in the distance we knew we had camped in an awesome spot.

After 9 days on the road being battered by the intense sun, high winds, thunder and lightning I thought I had broken them but I knew they were stronger then that. They all kept smiling and kept going. It was hard going and on the ripio roads, the mud and on the climbs and yet they were doing it at four kilometres above sea level where the simplest things are hard and yet here they were after arriving from sea level and peddling their loaded bikes over high mountain passes with dodgy tummies.  I was proud of them and what they had done and so happy they were here to share my experience and find out for themselves how strong Sharon was and the fact she never stopped smiling.

Thanks for reading xxxx

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mum and Dad Pitts permalink
    May 16, 2015 10:36 am

    Wow what adventures you have . Sorry to hear about dodgy tums, you are all so brave and strong. Thanks for super pictures with some VERY dodgy looking cycle tourists !!!LOTS of love from Martin and Wendy XXXX

  2. Tracy Pickard permalink
    May 16, 2015 4:31 pm

    you all have done amazing job and had lots of fun well done guys xxxx

  3. May 17, 2015 7:41 pm

    The photos on this entry make it look like a fantasy land! Low rainbows, lightening, pink flamingos, hailstones,strange islands in the sea of salt… I love the photographs of your tents lit up like Chinese lanterns.
    And tough cycling too. I bet the last thing you’d want out there is a bag of salty peanuts. Yeesh! Couldn’t believe the amount of salt caked onto your bikes.
    Take care, Love Anna x

  4. Rafael permalink
    May 22, 2015 4:59 pm

    wow !!! —- what a amazing pictures, places and firendship!!!
    Tim, one question ?

    did you wash the seats after a hard day ciclying without clothes?
    ja ja ja

    Best wishes

    Rafael

  5. Bridget Charity Rendall permalink
    May 29, 2015 10:29 am

    I have seen it all now (ha ha ha) could not resist. I did write a long comment but alas it was lost in the ether, so this is a rather watered down version. I think what made me laugh in this post were the soldiers pulling their beds together, playing their ringtones and giggling. OOOerr! Wow you have all done so incredibly well considering you have had to contend with the sickness bug and all. Lots of love.

  6. May 29, 2015 4:03 pm

    Wow! I need to start persuading W that we need another year down south . . . So much exploring to do!! R*

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