ACROSS THE ALTIPLANO

Energy somewhat restored, we set off the next morning on rolling terrain, with the odd brief sprinkling of hail or rain along the way, the road by now having reverted to dirt…

That afternoon we were faced with some pretty ominous storm clouds…

As we neared the clouds, the winds picked up and we decided to find some shelter to at least wait it out or possibly camp.  Not far from the road was a small abandoned church that was just the ticket…

There was a house reasonably nearby so I went over to see if there was anyone around to ask permission to camp.  Finding no-one, we relaxed to see what would happen with the storm.  However, after half an hour or so of sheltering from the wind, a lady shepherd turned up and rather coldly told us we would have to be on our way!  No end of negotiating would convince her otherwise, despite it clearly being abandoned and effectively only used now as a rubbish tip!  She was worried that her boss was supposed to be returning that evening and, once again, didn’t want to let two gringos camp there.  I couldn’t stereotype all Bolivians into this same group – we’ve met some very friendly and hospitable people along the way – but there’s definitely a certain warmth lacking with many that was much more prevalent in Peru.  With the light fading, a strong headwind, washboard surface and weary legs, we pushed on for another 10km to the village of Vichaya where, having located the right local official (who would only identify himself as ‘El Director’), we were allowed to camp in the Casa del Gobierno (town hall).  With her stove on the blink, I introduced Antonia to the world of beer can stoves (the best part being that it requires drinking the beer first!)…

The next day the washboard continued, but fortunately there was single-track alongside the road in quite a few places which was much smoother…

That afternoon, with Antonia struggling again, I pushed on ahead to find a campsite.  However, the afternoon clouds soon formed again and a large rainstorm lay in our path.  Having raced a local kid on a bike, I set about finding some shelter…

Continuing my run of luck, I found an abandoned small building…

Once the rainstorm passed and Antonia had caught up (having taken shelter under a bridge), we pushed on and found a nice little spot up a hill to camp…

The next morning we headed up the rest of the small climb we’d started the day before to the high point of this leg at just below 4300m.  The view at the top was a taster of the volcanic things to come…

Antonia, having started her trip only about 6 weeks previously in southern Peru and not having the strength in her legs that those of us who had traversed Peru had developed, wasn’t much enjoying the climbing…

Shortly after, she told me that it was stressing her out that I was waiting for her at the top of every climb and that I should push on ahead and ride the final 40km on my own.  We planned to meet that evening at our destination of Charaña, before crossing the border the next day.

So, I headed off through increasingly impressive terrain towards the Chilean border.  What promised to be a nice, gentle ride soon deteriorated, however, as a fierce headwind sprung up.  Most vehicles that went past didn’t slow down at all, covering me with dust and prompting me to have to hold my breath, not an easy proposition when you’re doing full-on exercise at 4000m!

6 Comments

  1. Incredible pictures – can’t wait to see them on a big screen. And the nights on the Salar must have been extraordinary. Hope the few days’ rest has helped your knee Xxx

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