Sucre – Uyuni

8th August

Finally both well and the independence celebrations are over so we are back on the bikes.
Ginette is not happy, we were only 4 miles in and she was already thinking of heading back.
We continued through the mountain road, we had a fair bit of downhill interspersed between the ups. The weather was nice and clear with the temp reaching 38 degrees at one point.
Ginette’s still not liking the cycling, at the 16 stage she was considering going back. She decided to try to make it to the next biggish town of Potasi.

By 4pm she was really struggling mentally and physically, we had a fairly long and steep climb that took us to 5pm (it’s dark by 6.15) so we stopped at a small village and asked about staying the night. We was pointed up a gravel track but only found a small school, hence we are now camped behind a school building.

A young lad of 14 came and befriended us, swapping stories via showing photos and videos on our phones. He took us to his small home (Ginette was already tucked up in the tent at the time) and we were fed rice egg and chips by the family (he had told us earlier that his mother doesn’t live here) so a real nice treat and a kind act from his family

Ginette – the night before we set off, I convinced myself i could cycle the route to the salt flats, it would only take a week but within 4 miles of cycling my heart sank. My confidence has taken a real bashing from the accident, I find my self jumping at everything, dogs barking at us as we cycle by, ladies throwing water into the road and lorries passing by. Instead of relaxing, I ‘m rigid on the bike, waiting for something awful to happen. I’m not sure whether it is this fact or the new Brook saddle we bought for this trip but every time we start a new trip, I have saddle sores within 20 miles of riding, which making peeing excruciating but I know if I don’t pee I’m likely to get another kidney infection. To reduce the pain, I wiggle a lot on my seat and again I don’t know whether there is a causal link but by mid day I had developed a pain in my knee. Not the knee I damaged in the accident but the knee on the same side of my body as the saddle sores. With all this going on it was really hard to enjoy cycling up the endless hills, in high altitude, in temperatures raising to 35 degrees. Each time I gave into my body and stopped, Gary would sit patiently with me and provide me with words of encouragement, reminding me I can do it. However the reality is I know I can do it, but I don’t want to. I’m cycling to be with him, to please him and it is not enough. It might help if at the end of the day I had a warm bath and comfortable bed to rest my weary body but knowing at the end of the day I will be staying in a tent by the side of the road in freezing temperatures does not help.

It was a hard decision because we hate being apart, but the only thing worse than cycling along when you’re not enjoying it is being the person cycling along with that person and I didn’t want to take away Gary’s enjoyment of the ride.

9th August

Separated again.

It was like sleeping near a dog pound last night all that barking it’s no wonder dogs sleep all day.

Ginette really isn’t enjoy the cycling anymore so she set about hitching a lift to Potasi, the next big town. Now I spent 2 days trying this in La Patria so I wasn’t holding out much hope, however she got a lift within half hour. So now we are travelling apart again but this time it’s only for short hops in this case it should be just one night (2 cycle days).

Ginette – correction it took less than 15 minutes – I have a magic thumb, what can I say…
Two men stopped and kindly loaded me into the back of their van, the ride was pretty uneventful, as my bike was off loaded they indicated they wanted paying. The smallest note i had was 50 boliviano (approx £6) which is about how much it would have cost on the bus from Sucre.

Gary – Today was all about hill climbing, there have been flats and some downs but the majority is climbing at a snail pace up gradients if approx 10%. Later in the afternoon as if it wasn’t already hard enough I had a headwind to deal with. I was a bit weary so set up camp by 4pm. I ended the day at an altitude of 11,390ft. I don’t seem to be feeling any ill effect from the altitude yet unless being weary is part of the symptoms

I only have 19 miles to go to Potasi where Net is waiting but I know this is going to be all uphill climbing, hopefully the headwind will have disappeared.I met two other cycle tourers coming the other way, a Frenchman and a Thai lady. They were dessed up in face masks, hats, coats and gloves. I just had one shirt and cycle shorts on. Personally it still felt pretty warm to me but these guys are coming from the direction I am heading and they both warned me how cold it is at Uyuni and the salt flats, I guess they are still warming up!

Ginette
I arrived in Potossi too early to check in any of the hostels and I couldn’t find anywhere with wifi. Potossi is a big old mining town, the roads are dusty and busy with cars, lorries and buses and the pavements are narrow and uneven. I didn’t like the town, perhaps this was because I’d travelled from beautiful Sucre. I decided as it was early I would find the bus station and enquire about buses to Uyuni and to my delight there was one leaving within the half hour so I booked a ticket (£3 for me and the bike). The scenery on the way to Uyuni is spectacular I am sure Gary will expand on this when he writes his blogs. As I sat on the bus, I had no regrets about not cycling this stretch, it looked very cold (ice and snow on the ground) and windy. There were long stretches up to an hour on the bus where there were no provisions or houses and definitely no luxury hotels.  On a positive note the road was in a good condition and there were alpacas and llamas on route. It is a shame that the last part of the journey was tarnished by the sight of all the rubbish dumped along the edges of the road. I arrived in Uyuni at about 4.00pm and quickly booked into a hostel so that I could inform Gary I had leap frogged ahead. The hostel was cheap at £5 a night but bloody freezing. In true Ginette style once I’d emailed Gary I went on line and booked myself into another hostal for the next couple of nights. Hopefully Gary will arrive in Uyuni in the next 4/5 days and we can cycle together to the salt flats.

10th August

Beautiful mountain views and high altitude.

Chatting with Net on FaceTime last night she has actually gone straight to Uyuni, so no cuddle for me today.

It got pretty cold last night but I did warm up once in the sleeping bag, however in the early hours I was getting cold again but not cold enough to go through the hassle of getting out of the bag and putting on more clothes. The water Froze in the breakfast bowls while I was cleaning it.
Set of with three layers and warm mittens, but still with bare legs, as the sun got stronger all the layers came of to just T shirt and shorts.

Potosi didn’t look very pretty, it’s a silver mining town so all around the outskirts are open mines. The town is on loads of hills and has a dirty industrial feel.
I had a dinner of steak rice and potatoes for £1. But felt ripped off at the local shops when I bought water and supplies. I was a bit pissed off as I am pretty sure I was overcharged, I cycled away then it dawned on me that I now only had £5 left for the next 4 days, so I had to cycle 1.8 miles back up a gert steep hill to get to an ATM

This afternoon has been slow work going up the hills but the views have been great. I have seen Lamas or Alpacas (I am not sure of the difference).
I have been up to altitudes of 13,420ft that’s higher than the 12,000ft that the BPA have restricted British skydiving from.
I am camped in a valley at 12,633ft, (if you tried to skydive from here you wouldn’t get much free fall time) it’s hot and sunny at the moment but I am sure this will change when the sun goes down.

Ginette – I changed hostels and compared to my previous hostel this one is 5 star, however the walls are thin and even with a heater in the room it is freezing at night. I didn’t sleep well and was awake by 1.30am, I was cold, had a very gassy tummy (one of the symptoms of being at high altitude) and of course I was missing Gary. My mind was troubled, we have spent so much of our savings, I don’t think we will last a year on the road let alone 2 or 3 (not if we want to keep some for our much earnt money for our return to the UK). Studying in Sucre has reminded me I like routine, having a purpose to get up and doing something constructive with my day. I still have things I want to see and do in South America but I think I will probably return early in 2020 if not before. I know Gary has had similar thoughts but if he enjoys this stretch of cycling he may decide to stay on the road longer.

I spent the day learning more spanish and exploring the small town of  Uyuni.

11th August

A beautiful mountain day but tiring.

Last night after dark I discovered that the railway track I am near is not disused as the first of a few night freight trains thundered slowly past, having to sound the horn to warn the road users they were coming as there are no barriers or lights at the crossing.

I have had a morning of hill climbing to altitudes of 13,820ft. It was chilly due to a cold wind. The running streams have layers of ice and in some areas were the sun doesn’t reach there are patched ice patches. A family with two toddlers were hammering at the ice to take it away in buckets,

There are lama everywhere now I even was greeted by one as I came out of a little store in a small settlement,

I have taken plenty of breaks today but have called it a day at 4pm , unfortunately this makes for a long night but my weary body has had its say.

I am at 11,725ft and have 65 miles to reach Ginette. Hence two more days should do it depending on the hill climbing.

12th August

Another hill too many but reunited again

Today I didn’t expect to make Uyuni as it was 63 miles away.
The morning saw me having a couple of large hill climbs and then a pleasant couple of long flat stretches  I covered a lot of miles by lunchtime.

The terrain has been magnificent with rock formations of so many different colours, also there were plenty of Alpaca encounters to keep me entertained.

On one of the flat sections the ground was loose soil and the wind was kicking up little dust whirlwinds.

There were road signs warning of crossing Emu’s,  so I spent a lot of time gazing either side in the hope of glimpsing one, no luck but it’s surprising how much ground you cover when you are otherwise occupied.

I stopped at 10 am and had another breakfast of chicken and rice bought from a local top hatted street seller.

Ginette – the street food in Bolivia is pretty good, my favourite are the pappa rellenna’s which are mashed potatoes filled with cheese, egg, or meat (sometimes all three). These are deep fried and served with salad and a sauce of your choice.

By late afternoon I only had 17 miles to go and was at the top of a huge hill, somehow my sister Tracy managed to get through to my phone but we lost the signal very quickly ( I had been trying to contact a Net all day but had no signal).

By this stage, I knew I could make it to Uyuni by the end ofthe day so happily made my way down the next hill.

However my hopes were nearly dashed at the bottom of the valley as I had a huge hill to now climb and 13 miles to go. I had a little talk to myself, I have had this feeling of not being able to continue before when close to finishing long rides at home, I set a target halfway up the hill, stopped to eat jam and banana sandwiches then carried onto the top.
Great but now I could see another bloody up and down to do.
Oh well, I was now only 7 miles from Uyuni so bit the bullet and climbed this last hill.
At the top I was rewarded extremely well with fantastic views across the Saltflats and the small town of Uyuni, plus a long down hill to the town.

Reunited with Ginette, such a lovely feeling, it’s a shame the tail end of the ride was so hard as I was not much company for her as I was so knackered.

Knackered but happy

Ginette – I felt very loved, Gary had to push himself really hard just so he could have a cuddle or was it the thought of a comfortable bed and a warm shower that pushed him on….

13th August

Last night we went for a pizza meal, I had spicy Alpaca meat on mine.

I felt much better today but have big bags under my eyes

Tourist day, we spent the day visiting the train cemetary which is on the edge of town. This is where a lot of the three day tours commence so there were a lot of tourists having their photos taken.

I had been tryng to contact my mum and dad but none of my SIM cards would let me call aboard. My stepdad had just lost his mum who we all called Auntie Glad. She had lived to a grand old age and had a rewarding life. Unfortunately for the past few years she has suffered with dementia added to this she lost her much loved husband, my Uncle Bob a couple of years ago. It is very sad that she has passed away but she had a life that should be celebrated. We can’t attend the funeral but we will make sure we raise a glass in her honour.

I eventually managed to talk to my parents via whats app, who knew my mum would be so modern! It was great to talk to them (and to see them), although we had to keep it quite short as we had arranged to meet two fellow cyclists. The cyclists live close to Bilbao in Spain and had cycled down from Cosco so we spent an hour picking their brains re routes and terrain.

Much to our surprise we managed to buy a new saddle for Net’s bike, it only cost £2.50, it is much softer than her current one which hopefully will mean it will be less painful for her. Her Brook saddle which cost £75 is much harder than mine.

In the evening we went out for dinner I had Trout and Gary had steak based dinner with onionsand tomatoes. Food is more expensive in Uyuni than Sucre but it has a captive audience. As lots of tourists stop here before visiting the Salt Flats, that said dinner and two large beeers cost £15.

Today is the 14th August, we will be leaving Uyuni and heading towards the Salt Flats.

 

3 thoughts on “Sucre – Uyuni

  1. Bob H

    Lamas are bigger and their ears are longer and banana shaped.

    Alpacas have short pointy ears.

    Your journey certainly doesn’t sound like a walk in the park, fair shout to you both for stamina and ‘True Grit’.

    Always appreciate your updates, keep well

    B & S

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