Very frustrating week, broken back wheel, lost power pack, limited signal and several trips across borders. Now safe and well in Santa Cruz with a new wheel.
Army hospitality, wizened old lady and a bumpy ride
I was really grateful for the hospitality showed by the Army lads (although technically I believe they are Air Force) I was fed and watered and made to feel like the place was my home. They were a nice bunch of guys.
I wanted to get away early to try to take advantage of the cooler morning hours so skipped taking the breakfast offered as it would have meant waiting a while, hence I cooked my own porridge but did partake in the coffee that had been kindly made for me.
So Capitan Jorge Gomez, if you ever do make it over to England then please contact me so I am able to offer the same hospitality for you.
I was not looking forward to going backwards but needs must, I had 7 hours of hard graft, the initial stages was like pushing the laden cycle along Weston’s soft sandy beach. I had no choice but my body was really suffering (blood in the wee type, yuk).
I thought I had an early salvation when a 4×4 came from behind me from the Indeginous camp, but other than nearly running me over as they went past they were no help.
I passed the coke ovens again but got a better look, they are actually brick kilns for the firing of new bricks.
I found the same wizened old lady selling her wares under a tree, this time I bought 2 litres of water and sat with her offer of Comer(food) dinner was a tin of moist meat (looked like dog food but tasted great) and small hard bread balls, the meal may not sound good but I was really grateful for it. She was chatting away to me even though she knew I couldn’t understand her, she is positioned in just the right place for a weary cyclist.
7 hours later, the track was far improved and I was cycling more than pushing (at this stage I can see why I had carried on as the road wasn’t to bad), but a waggon was coming from behind me and I waved them down for a lift. They took me the rest of the remaining 31 miles to Le Patria, a very bouncy 2.5 hours in the back of a flat bed lorry. I spent most of it in a Judo back fall position as I was been tossed around, as unpleasant as this was it meant I reached Tarmac and a town by 4pm.
The weather is blowing a bit and I only have an hour and a half before sunrise so after a shop and fizzy drink in the company of a cow in the process of been butchered I moved on, but found a Ranch motel 100 yards down the road so promptly stopped and got my tired out old body a room to sleep in.
Managed a FaceTime with Ginette, looking forward to reaching Sucre but still along way to go
The air con in the room was a bit half hearted but kept the room just under roasting. I had to rig up the mozzie net as my little friends had found me again, sleeping on my back and I noticed the bruises from the lorry ride.
I had breakfast of toasted sandwich having ordered omelette
The cycle ride out was really easy, I had smooth flat tarmac and a fantastic hard wind pushing me along so I needn’t cycle sometimes. Just as I was thinking how I would stop early today so I could cross the border in the morning the back wheel started making some nasty metallic noises, I didn’t have a radio that I could turn up so the noises continued , I figured sand had got in the bearing I had the tools I needed so stopped and stripped the back wheel by the roadside, I am missing a couple of ball bearings and have metal swarf. I did consider pushing on but as I was only 10 miles out of town I headed back. Now I have an awful headwind that pushed me off the road a couple of times.
I found a mechanic and he let me strip the wheel again and try to clean up the remaining bearings and the chain, he helped where he could and was kind enough to do this for free. The result is the back wheel needs yet another set of bearings
Some locals have tried to help me and it looks like I may be able to get a bus tomorrow at 6am, a taxi would be 100 dollars and I am at present very low on ready cash (I have about £20) as no one has been taking credit cards.
I was shown a shed area with some picnic tables and told I can stay there (or at least I think that was what was implied). I did look at staying at the hotel again but they don’t take credit card and I need the little cash I have for the bus( if it exists)
This shed turns out to a focal point for the village, I was playing my Ukulele and ended up entertaining some kids then being fed steak and potatoes and cold coke all for free. I was planning on sleeping there but as it got dark more locals turned up and the music system was turned on, I sneaked off and set up camp in the dark in what I hope is a bit of wasteland.
The plan is to get up at 5 pack up and try to catch the bus, if not then I have the rest of the day to try to hitch a lift in a lorry
Today has felt like another setback and to be honest did upset me, having Net on face time helped and she has done some research for me on cycle shops and buses. I must admit I would have preferred that she was with me so she could cuddle my low spirits away
But it’s not all bad, I have enjoyed meeting the locals and made to feel welcome.
It’s just not going to plan
Up and ready for the bus at 6am. The first bus driver looked to have enough room in the luggage hold but wasn’t particularly keen to load my bike in and asked for money and wasn’t impressed when I showed him all that I had. The second bus driver was happy to take me but not the bike.
I hung around all day trying to thumb a lift, there was not a lot of traffic and the lorries that went by were either tanker drivers or wagons that were fully sheeted down.
By late afternoon a motorcycle tourist pulled over for a chat, he was a Russian guy and had very good Spanish, he did the same circuit as me trying to help me get a lift but the only response was for me to take the bus in the morning. I could do this with just the back wheel if the next days buses don’t have room for bike, but I am also worried I won’t have enough cash to pay. The nearest ATM is 70 miles away and no card machines in sight.
My Russian friend offered to take me and the wheel, so my bike and all my kit has been left next to the Police station in La Patria. We had 130 miles to cover, I was sitting on his top pannier and holding onto the cycle wheel.
Bolivian customs are a bit of a rigmarole but we got through. The road now started to undulate and twist and turn a little which made a refreshing change. There was a 15k stretch of gravel road with loose gravel piled on ruts from the buses etc, I was feeling vary vulnerable sitting up on the back of the bike whilst my Russian friend manoeuvred over the rough surface, we had to stop as the chain came off so this had to be repaired involving removing all the panniers.
We arrived after dark in Villamontes, headed for an ATM (horray I have cash again). We are now in a budget hotel at £6 a night and have eaten for just over a pound.
Smelly Gary only as I only have the clothes on my back, wallet, phone and passports.
I have showered but as there was no towel I used a corner of the bed sheet to tap myself dry.
Repairs done – and free of charge
I was up early, so went to the bus station to try to sort out a bus back to Paraguay, but I was too early as all the offices were still closed.
My Russian friend Kirill was up so after breakfast we went off to purchase Bolivian SIM cards, this is much easier when one of you can speak some Spanish. Then we went to the bus station were we where directed to a notice about the bus to Ascension with a phone number which we will call when I am sure my wheel is repaired.
Kirill had a few jobs to do so we went our separate ways.
I didn’t leave my wheel at the workshop I had aimed for, I have problems using mechanical old shacks as they are often skilled but this was a bit ropy even for me.
I headed for a store that an internet searched had shown me called Villamontes racing. Andrew had excellent English and told me he would help me repair the wheel and to come back at 10.30
On return he had been tied up elsewhere and I was asked to leave my wheel and come back at 3 pm
So I had a day wandering around markets and a couple of museums mainly about the Chaco war 1932 to 1935.
I also drew out some more cash and Dollars, it wasn’t a nice feeling being stranded and broke.
On return to Villamontes racing store it was all locked up for siesta, I was a little worried I had done the wrong thing leaving my wheel, but Andrew turned up cycling his own bike with my fully repaired wheel. He would take no payment even though he had to search around town for the parts. He then was kind enough to call the bus company to book my seat for me back to Paraguay, so my bad memories of the last few days are turning into good ones again. People can be so kind.
I have booked back into the hotel but will be up early as the bus leaves at 2am.
Up at 1am to catch the 2 am bus which turned up at 4am. Met a young lady from Scotland who is backpacking on her own, she was short of currency for the bus and the ATM is a long walk so I lent her £20, hopefully this will be paid back.
Back through border control into Paraguay and dropped at around 8am at the now very familiar La Patria.
A quick breakfast and reassembled cycle then for the ride back to Bolivia, I have 75 miles to the border and managed 50 in wet wether and temperatures ranging from 5 to 7 degrees with a headwind so Not a good cycling day.
The back wheel is not great, I suspect the cup and cones are worn out and destroying the new bal bearings. When I think on it this wheels has done over 18,000 miles.
I am camped under a phone-mast and have no signal on either the Paraguay or Bolivian Sim, how frustrating, I got the tent up in a dry spell but it’s raining again now
My Plan is to limp along to Villamontes, (as long as I can past the border and even get a few more miles under the belt then if the wheel fails I should be able to hitch a lift) I will get the bus to Santa Cruz to a known cycle store and order a new back wheel, I dare say this will take a while so I plan to bus up to Ginette in Sucre whilst waiting.
Up early , the tent was soaking so removed the inner and packed away
Adjusted the back wheel bearings to remove some of the play, fingers crossed on getting to Villamontes.
Through the Bolivian border again, first obstacle achieved, if I broke down it will be easier to get a lift, however I have managed to cycle 70 miles and have approx 25 to go just as well as there have been very few cars and trucks.
The birds have come to entertain me again, not in the high numbers in parts of Paraguay but today I have spotted the following;
Some small birds with Red mohecans and a range of other smaller and some larger birds
There a loads of loose livestock wandering by the road, cattle, horses and pigs. The pigs are in family groups and totally oblivious to me, but the cattle and horses don’t know what to make of me and often run off in all directions including right across my path
I am camping again and have found a hidden spot in the woods by the road, it’s still close to the road so the ear plugs will be going in again.
26th July arrived in Villamontes
27th July arrived in Santa Cruz – bike fixed and bus booked to see Net tomorrow am.