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A collection of tales from the road #9 - Bolivia

bicycle touring bolivia

Bolivia has a lot of things going for it, but a coastline is not one of them. There are however red, yellow, purple and green deserts, high altitude salt lakes, wonderfully quiet hikes and mountain biking that makes you feel like a contented explorer.

I always knew that I would one day visit Bolivia because at around the age of 7 or 8, Juan José Salinas joined our class at school. I’m pretty sure that he was the only foreign kid and I remember being fascinated to hear his stories about his family and their farm.

The wildlife here is unique; the ubiquitous llama, the graceful vicuna and the picture perfect alpaca on Copacabana beach, no, not the one in Rio de Janeiro, this one is next to the 3812m high Lake Titicaca. It is in fact the highest navigable lake in the world, although I’ve no idea how that can actually be a fact.

The capital city La Paz is the highest in the world so it is particularly breathless at the bustling roadside market stalls. There is certainly some tough cycling to be had around here, which is why I took an organised 5 day 4x4 tour instead, to the Atacama desert and the areas surrounding the 12,000km2 salt lake of Salar De Uyuni. In the middle of this lake is a small island and on that small island is a small salt hotel, open no matter the seasoning. Yes, a hotel made entirely of salt. From the beds to the bar, it was a bit grainy but actually rather pleasant. I could be more condimentary about the place, but I shall not.

Our tour also took us to the desert-scape home of Dali rocks, which I am sure you can imagine was pretty far out. I remember eating meatballs in a canyon with llama grazing nearby. I later found out that they were llama balls. They were exceedingly good though.

Near the town of Tupiza, in the south of the country on the road to Salta, Argentina, lie the canyons made famous by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Many people come here to ride horses, shoot and shout at each other, but I slowly rode a squeaky old town bike adapted for gravel. Off into the sunset, in peace, with a smile on my face.

#bicycletouring #biketour #bolivia

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