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Cindie's Bolivia Daily Journal
Travel Writing, Blog, Travelogue

Copacabana to Villazon, Bolivia
(November 1 - December 8, 2003)

WB01618_.gif (290 bytes)  Previous Journal Thumbnail Photo Page for this Journal

Tim's Letter for this Journal

Next Journal  WB01620_.gif (288 bytes)
Nov 1 Copacabana.  The weather was rainy so it was a good day to curl up with a book and read all day.  Tim worked on his letter all day.

I half expected people to be hostile or just not really liking tourists here because of the recent protest. On the contrary, we have not encountered any hostility and people seem to be very mellow.  In contrast, the people near the border on the Peruvian side were very aggressive about asking for money.

 
Nov 2 Copacabana.  Sunday is a special day in Copacabana, it is the day to get your vehicle blessed.  Yes, a priest will bless your vehicle, including a bike, the price, I am not sure.  The cars were lined up.  They had flowers on the hood, the owner would pour beer or champagne on the tires, giving the area the smell of a bar, and pray over their vehicle.  Tim and I got into a heated discussion of why people do this.  He says that it is just for fun, I say it is steeped in superstition, a fear of what would happen if they did not.  I guess it depends on the person. I personally would have my bike blessed for fun.

Went to the cemetery to see what Day of the Dead was like here in Bolivia.  We arrived with everyone else, the mood was very somber, people were visible mourning and I felt like I was intruding on their privacy.  There is a cross at the entrance to the cemetery, at the base it says, today me, tomorrow you.  It certainly humbled me reading that.

 
Nov 3 Copacabana.  Tim is still writing and we are still waiting for a package from the USA to arrive in Cusco.  I am beginning to think that it is lost, stolen or just plain gone.  We will wait another day or two and then move on to La Paz.  
Nov 4 Copacabana.  We received an email from the South American Explorers Club.  Our package has arrived at the post office.  
Nov 5 Copacabana - I took a bus to Cusco today.  First we stopped in Puno for 4 hours and switched buses for our trip to Cusco.  I met Megan, from England, and Bertrand and Roli from France.  The Frenchmen were extremely entertaining and always in a good mood, they were really fun to travel with.  Megan was on her way to Guatemala to help with human rights, they really need the help, although I think it is a bit of a dangerous mission.

While in Puno we watched a parade to celebrate the towns 350 year anniversary.  The streets were lined with people, the entire town was watching.  Dance troops of all ages paraded by in cowboy outfits, cats, and local indigenous dress.  Oh how I love a parade.

 
Nov 6 Cusco - Copacabana.  I arrived in Cusco at 5:00 am, yes I have been here before, almost exactly a month earlier.  I had breakfast and then went to the South American Explorers Club to pick up my package slip.  I arrived looked for my paperwork and it was not there.  Finally it was pulled from the back room.  Immediately I noticed that the package had arrived on October 25.  Hey why didn't you contact me.  The young man who gave me the slip was dumb founded obviously he did not know anything about it.  Boy was I upset.  How difficult is it to send an email.  I raced out of there to the post office, only to find out I had to wait until 2:00 pm for customs to open.  Finally I got my package, I had to pay a storage fee of 1 sole per day for 12 days because the South American Explorers Club took their sweet time notifying me that my package had arrived.  It really made me mad when I realized I had called and talked to Ross the office manager on October 27th and my package had arrived on the 24th.  What was he thinking anyway.  I certainly feel that my membership was a waste.

Back on the bus to Puno, a long 7 hours.  I was lucky enough to have a farmer sit next to me.  He smelled terrible, so bad it made me ill.  The combination of his smell, he had bugs all over him, and the windy road made me extremely ill.  I can now relate to how terrible Tim must feel when he gets motion sick.  Terrible.  I could not wait to get off the bus in Puno.  I got a hotel room and a ticket back to Copacabana.

 
Nov 7 Copacabana.  It is always a mistake to buy a ticket from a travel agent. I was charged double.  When I complained to the women she ran away.  Oh I do not like traveling by bus, to many con artists.  When two Dutch girls heard me complaining they said, it is only 10 sols ($3.00). I said yeah this time next time they will try for more.  It does not sound like a lot but if you do not insist on a fair price then no one will get a fair price, this is why foreigners are charged double all the time.  Letting it happen only makes things worse for the next person.  The young students did not think that far ahead.

While on the bus I met three American students.  Kristen, Spencer, and Kerby.  They are going to university for a year in Quito and were traveling around Peru and on to Bolivia.  It was great to talk Americans, we meet so few.  I fear that I may have talked their heads off.  sorry.

 
Nov 8 Copacabana - Huatajata.  Ah it was great to get back on the bike again.  We are in for a treat today too.  Today a UCI sanctioned bicycle race in coming to Copacabana.  We will be able to see them along the road.  As we road out of town we could here the race being announced over the radio, every farmer along the way had their radio on and were listening to the race.  We climbed out of town and into the mountains, still dry but beginning to turn green because of the recent rains.  It was so pleasant everyone along the way was friendly and did not call us Gringo. The road did not have much traffic and we had a tail wind. What more could you ask for.

We made our way to Tiquina where we would catch a ferry across to the other side.  When we arrived in Tiquina we met the bicycle mechanic for the race.  We talked to him for a couple of hours before the race was to start on this side.  Today's race is actually two races one from La Paz to Tiquina San Pedro, about 100 kilometers.  The other starts at Tiquina San Palo to Copacabana, about 40 kilometers.  We stayed for the start of the race and caught a ferry, a flat bottom boat that looked like it had seen better days, to the other side.  It was already late in the afternoon but we decided we wanted to push on.  The mechanic told us that they were going to close the autopista (highway) in La Paz for the race that was going through tomorrow.  We wanted to ride on the autopista without any traffic.

We arrived in Huatajata, we were having a hard time finding a cheap room.  On room was 30 Bolivianos and it did not even have hot water.  The hotel owner said the next hotel was $80 per night, we did not believe him.  Well he was right, we asked about another hotel and everyone told us Hotel Titicaca, it is cheaper.  So on we rode.  It was getting dark and the moon was rising over the mountains. It was getting cold.  I man came riding by on his bike, he had a jacket on that said Hotel Titicaca.  Oh dear, this is not a good sign.  It was getting dark, to late to set up the tent, plus there was no where to go.  We arrived at Hotel Titicaca and realized that we did not want to stay there. But we had no choice.  The cost of the room for one night was $35. Ouch.  We did however have an excellent dinner of steak and chicken.

ascend 835 m (xx feet), descend 840 m (xx feet)

75 km

45 mi

Nov 9  Huatajata- La Paz, Bolivia.  We knew if we could get to Al Alto before the cyclists did the autopista would be closed.  The weather was windy and clouds were building up over the mountains.  At one point we had to take cover under a half built house because of the rain and blowing sand.  We pushed on to Al Alto and the traffic began to get heavy.  Everyone on the side of the road told us that the race was coming soon.  Finally the road was closed, it was a great relief to get out of the traffic.  As we were climbing the hill some people thought we were the racers and cheered us on.  It was great fun.  Finally we reached the autopista just in time for it to close. Normally we are not aloud on the road but today we had the road all to ourselves.  We dropped into La Paz quickly, I was slower then Tim, he was so far ahead of me that I could not see him.  Later he told me that the racing fans thought he was the race so the cheered him on.  How fun.  I just waved as I went by.  I felt like a bit of a celebrity.

When we landed in La Paz I went in search of a hotel room.  I checked out 7 or 8 hotels.  Finally I found the one and came back to get Tim. I guess it took a long time to get back because while I was away Tim had an attempted robbery.

ascend 425 m (xx feet), descend 580 m (xx feet)

75 km 45 mi
Nov 10 La Paz.  We went to the fancy grocery store today and realized just how big La Paz is.  It will be a challenge to ride out of here.  
Nov 11 La Paz.  Went to a Burger King today. I could not resist, it turns out it sounded better than it was.  
Nov 12 La Paz.  Went grocery shopping.  I decided to dye my hair again.  Of course I could not find the color I used last time this time I used Nutrissa, Oro number 83.  I thought that it would be to much blonde but it turned out alright.  
Nov 13 La Paz.  We went shopping for alpaca sweaters today.  We met Michelle and Erin from the USA.  They had recently quit their jobs at Yosemite to go traveling.  They were on a Christmas shopping spree, they were going home in two weeks.  We decided to go out to dinner together.  They told us about Brazil and Argentina, sounds like they had a great trip.  
Nov 14 La Paz.  Sent the day running around trying to ship our package home.  First we went to FedEx.  They charge $45 just to send a box and about $11 for each kilo (2.2 lbs).  So our box would have cost us $89 dollars.  This was a bit steep so we went on over to UPS.  We stepped in the office of UPS and knew right away that UPS was for cargo and not little boxes.  We met and extremely elegant lady who spoke fluent English.  She explained that the minimum charge to Miami was $60 and then on to Indiana another $30.  Well I guess we will not be using UPS either.  The women went on to explain that she grew up in Argentina and that the night life was wonderful there.  She said that you can go out to eat early, catch a show, then eat again and see a show at 1:30 in the morning.  I did not have the heart to tell her that we are in bed at 10:00 pm.  Maybe we will change our sleeping habits in Argentina. Finally we went to the Bolivian post office.  The cost to send our 3.5 kilo (7.7 lb.) was 159 Bolivians $20.65.  Now that fits in our budget a little better.  It will take 15 to 20 days to get to Indiana.  By the time we finished sending our box the day was gone.

We saw that Matrix Revolution was playing at the theater and we could not resist (more like I could not resist).  The last movie we saw in a theater was Bourne Identity in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and that was last February.  We went to the 3:30 show and it cost 22 Boliviano $2.85.

 
Nov 15 La Paz.  We were suppose to leave La Paz today.  Tim woke up with a cold so we decided to stay one more day.  Boy are we moving slow, we need to be a move on.  I fear we have adopted the manana attitude.

I went out in the afternoon and went to the Coca Museum, while I was there I ran into the French boys I had met when I went to Cusco.  I then wonder around down by the main street looking for sunscreen in the farmacias.  While I was heading back to the room I stopped in a pizza place to pick up dinner.  While I was in the restaurant I bumped into Fritz the German cyclist we rode with in Peru.  He had just arrived.  We went back to our room and had dinner.

 
Nov 16 La Paz - Pocohata.  We climbed out of La Paz back up to El Alto, about 500 m (1500 feet) the only way out of La Paz.  We finally found the road out after pushing our bikes though a crowded street market, not the best thing to do because of the potential for crime.  Tim always had his eye on our things, he kept the thieves away because he was alert. 

Up we climbed, along the way we had an old man point us in what we though was the right direction.  It was not the best way to go, it may have been shorter but it certainly was steeper.  Tim was not feeling well when we left but he insisted that we leave La Paz because we had been there a week.

We finally made it to El Alto and Tim looked and felt bad, he felt weak had a cold sweat and nausea.  We had our lunch in a gas station and decided to push on and camp as soon as possible.

10 kilometers down the road we found an old abandoned building with two of its walls blown down, we pitched the tent between the two standing walls.  We had a beautiful view of the the mountains and it was pleasant place to sit and watch the world go by.

ascend 835 m (2740 feet), descend 840 m (2755 feet)

32 km 20 mi
Nov 17 Pocohata - Patacamaya.  Tim was feeling better although I was not.  I think he passed his cold to me.  We rode for two hours and stopped in a little town looking for a restaurant.  Nope no restaurant in sight, only a store.  We had crackers and sprite for lunch, we bought some bread for tomorrows breakfast and rode on.

In the Andes the sun is intense, as intense as the sun in the deserts of the southwest USA.  Yet we are at 4,000 m (13,000 ft) so it is cold in the shade and the wind cuts through you like it was winter.

We passed some construction around Ajo Ajo where they were paving a new road.  Once we made it past the construction the road was new and smooth.  Great riding.  As we were riding through a small town before Patacamaya we passed three young girls on the highway.  Just as I passed them I was sprayed with a hand full of rocks.  Tim and I did a U turn and rode back to the three young girls on the side of the road.  Of course, one took off running, hmm I guess she was the culprit.  We asked for her name and where she lived.  The other two girls were not talking.  Why this young girl threw rocks at me, who knows, lucky for me she threw like a girl.

In Patacamaya we stayed at Hotel Santa Elenita for 50 Bolivianos ($6.50), it was a small room but we had a private bathroom and hot water.

ascend 315 m (1033 feet), descend 420 m (1370 feet)

44 mi

71 km

Nov 18 Patacamaya - Vira Vira.  The day was sunny and warm again.  We climbed out of Patacamaya until Sica Sica ( I am noticing that many names here are repeated twice) and then we rolled up and down.  The towns were few and far between and when we did see one they were very quiet and without a store in sight.  No commerce takes place out here.  Imagine your whole life and never buying anything, just trading.  We started to look for a place to get water, we saw a women take a drink from a stream that was choked with algae.  All I could think of was, there must be fecal coliform in that stream from the cows standing near by.  I would not even filter that water.  Would she get rushed to the hospital with e coli? Scary.

In a small town we finally found a place to get water.  The man at the side of the road told us to get it from the fountain, just go where everyone else is going.  We could see that getting water from "the fountain" was a kids job because 5 of them were standing in line near a PVC pipe coming out from under a bridge.  They could not believe that we were there to get water too.  Tim filled up our 10 liter bag, tied it on top and we were off down the road.

We took a dirt road off of the main highway and found a place to camp.  No one was around when we arrived.  Within thirty minutes we were surrounded by sheep and a couple of burros.  I guess we were in the way.  The sheep herders walked around us, pleasantly waving to us but never coming to close.

We made dinner, put up the tent and went to sleep for the night.

ascend 460 m (1500 feet), descend 365 m (1190 feet)

46 mi 74 km
Nov 19 Vira Vira - Oruro.  We were up with the sun and decided to take our time leaving today, we only had 51 km to go to Oruro.  As we were having our breakfast of bread and coffee, two young girls came riding down the dirt road.  At first we thought they were passing through but they pushed their bikes into camp and starting chatting.  They were on their way to school, they were well dressed and each had a backpack full of school supplies.  Unfortunately we had our stove out and a number of other things.  They marveled at our lighter and water filter.  We looked at their school work too.  These girls were 13 or 14 years old yet their school work was something I though a much younger child would do.  Tim, the teacher coming out in him, said he thought that their school work was at a third or fourth grade level. Counting, adding, identifying objects, in the States they would be doing fractions, beginning algebra, and writing stories.

One girl looked around and saw the bread I had put in the sun to heat up, she asked me if she could have some bread, I decided to give them each a piece of bread.  After I gave her the bread she showed me her lunch, which was better than our breakfast that we had just shared with them.  Then I asked them if I could take their picture with their bicycles.  They said yes.   Suddenly, after I took their picture, they were asking for money.  We politely declined.  They insisted that we give them money, asking three or four more times. Tim said, No, we gave you bread, that is all we are going to give you.  Still they insisted and were becoming quite rude.  Finally, Tim said, Go to school, call the police and tell them I will not give you any money.  They stormed off, but not before one of the girls cussed us out as she was riding away.  We just smiled and waved good bye.

After they left Tim and I discussed why relatively economically stable kids would behave this way.  We have seen what poor kids look like and these girls did not fit.  They were well dressed, well fed, going to school and even had bicycles.  Poor kids herd sheep all day long, do not get to go to school, and usually wear old and dirty clothes. 

We are not sure why people keep asking us for money here in Bolivia and Peru while they did not ask for anything in Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua (equally poor countries).  We wonder if this is the result of irresponsible tourists handing out gifts every where they go or a foreign aid group who does not consider the destructive nature of giving out hand outs.  There must be better ways to help people without removing their dignity and respect for others.

We had a nice down hill out of Vira Vira.  The road was flat from Caracollo to Oruro.  We also had a good head wind all the way into town.  Tim always gets the brunt of the head wind, I get behind him and draft out of the wind as much as possible.

Town was much bigger than we expected.  We stopped at a restaurant and had lunch. Then we went to the plaza.  Tim stayed in the Plaza and I went in search of a room.  When I returned Tim was in a panic.  Three immigration officers asked to see his passport.  I carry our passports and he had no idea where they were.  As he was digging through my bags the officers told him to come to the immigration office when I returned.  When I returned we immediately went to the immigration office and I showed them our passports.  They wanted to make sure our tourist visa was current, it was, so I left.  Tim has had a tough job watching the bikes lately.  In La Paz they tried to rob us and here immigrations wanted to see our passports.

  We stayed in Hostel Gloria for 40 Bolivians ($5.20), shared bath. A pleasant old building.

ascend  125 m (410 feet), descend 270 m (885 feet)

32 mi 51 km
Nov 20 Oruro.  Tried to find a lavenderia (laundry) and had no luck.  Finally, the women at the hotel said she would do our laundry for us.  Oruro is a larger town than I thought it was, it is also filled with kids going to school.  At 5:00 pm the streets were filled with kids getting out of school.  The average age here is about 16.  So this made the town lively.  
Nov 21 Oruro.  Tim had a lot of web work to do today.  
Nov 22 Oruro.  We were packed up and ready to go today, well almost.  Tim had a flat tire that we had to change twice before it would hold air.  By then it was pretty late.  Tim was feeling sick again only this time he was nauseous too.  I went to the Pharmacia and picked up a round of antibiotics, Tim has been sick way too long.

I decided to send Fritz an email, I knew he was not that far behind us.  At 8:00 pm Fritz showed up at our door.  Yeah, we are going to go through the Salar de Uyuni together.

 
Nov 23 Oruro - Prezna.  It was Sunday morning and the streets through the market were very crowded.  We head south east with the plan to camp somewhere between Oruro and Challapaya the end of the pavement.  We made good time in the morning when the wind was not so strong.  We passed a few towns and did not even find a store.  We followed along Lake Poopo but it was mostly dry, at one point we could smell the strong smell of sulfur. 

We stopped for the day near the town of Prezna, there happen to be a hot spring just before town so we camped behind it.  We actually camped between the two springs that fed the mineral baths.  It was 2.50 Bolivians for a 30 minute soak.  After dinner Fritz and I went in for a soak while Tim stayed in camp and watched our belongs.

ascend 265 m (870 feet), descend 220 m (720 feet)

80 km
Nov 24 Prezna - Challapata.  We took our time in the morning because it was a short ride to Challapata.  We knew from our guidebook that there was a hotel in town and we could get water before our trek to Salinas, 150 km away.  From a distance Challapata looked huge and I had dreams of a nice restaurant and hotel.  No such luck, the town was dusty, dirty, and it was difficult to find a hotel at all. We finally found an un-named hotel for 10 bolivianos per person.  Little did we know that the water would be turned off an hour after we arrived.  Water is a tough thing to come by in these parts.

We studied all the maps we have to figure out our route to the Salar.  We decided we needed to carry two days of water from here. I hope the water is on tomorrow or we will have to buy a bunch of water.  We are now off the pavement and it is a dirt road from here on out.

ascend 130 m (425 feet), descend 105 m (345 feet)

40 km
Nov 25 Challapata - Quillacas.  We rode to Huari and planned to take a side road from there to at least Quillacas.  We each had two days of water with us, Tim had 15 liters, I had 6 liters and Fritz had 4 liters plus Pepsi.  At first the dirt road was fast and we traveled quickly.  Then we came to an intersection and had to ask which was to go.  We were now very close to Lake Poopo.  We came to a small village with adobe walled houses and grass roofs.  Because it was moist in this area there were mounds of moss all around.  The village had a surreal feel to it.  The people were friendly and pointed us in the direction of Quillacas.

We traveled across the flat Pampa occasionally getting stuck in the sand.  It was difficult for me to steer my bike because of the extra water on my front rack, I bogged down in the steep sand and quickly got tired of pushing through the deep parts.  Llama herds were everywhere.  I am amazed how quickly they can run on these flats, I mistaken one for a car numerous times.  It was quite a climb up to Quillacas.  We could have gotten water there.  We camped soon after.

51 km dirt
Nov 26 Quillacas - Tambo Tambillo.  Gravel road with some good parts we also had a strong head wind at times.  I had a stomach ache in the middle of the day that lasted the rest of the day.  I think it was the water.  As we were climbing a hill up to Tambo Tambillo Tim broke his chain.  It is a new chain, only about 1000 km (600 miles).  We arrived in the small town of Tambo Tambillo, it had a nice well with good water.  As Tim was moving from the well to the bike with the water he pulled out his back.  He hurt so bad he could barely get back on his bike.  He rode for about two kilometers and we decided to camp.  Tim laid on the ground and could not move at all.  I have never seen him in this much pain.  I fear that he may not be able to ride tomorrow.

We camped just past town.  The entire time I was setting up camp and cooking dinner we had visitors.  They were friendly people mostly just curious about the three foreigners camped on the side of the road.  We had no trouble through out the night.

47 km dirt
Nov 27 Tambo Tambillo - Salinas.  Tim decides to ride.  He took a few aspirins before we started out, he is doing well until we take the wrong road into town and found ourselves pushing our bikes through sand again.  We rode around the edge to the salt flat, it was a little wet in places.  Tim rode through some mud that smelt awful like a rotten egg, it was probably gypsum salt.  We also saw a herd of Vinacus run by at top speed.  The side road eventually made its way back to the main road to Salinas.  The road was bad with washboard and dusty when the huge trucks went speeding by.

We finally arrived in Salinas and the main hotel (hotel Salinas) was closed, went to another hotel (no name). They said they had a hot shower, but they did not.  We had to make our own shower with our solar shower.  It has been at least three days since any of us had a shower and we were over due.

We ate dinner with a party of about 30.  They were celebrating a graduation.  The custom is to bring a gift, when you arrive you get a pile of confetti put in your hair.  There was confetti everywhere.  Some how Tim managed to get the stuff all over his fleece pants too.  Dinner for 5 bolivianos.  pretty good.

47 km dirt
Nov 28 Salinas. Rest day.  Tim pretty much rested his back, I know these things take a long time to heal, it may be weeks until he feels better.  Fritz and I visited every store in town in search of chocolate.  We found some, enough for Fritz's ride through the Salar.

This town like many towns in Bolivia, looks like it has seen better days.  The buildings were once painted, there was once a road into town, now it is dirt, they use to have electricity here now they have solar power.  The hotel we are staying at does not even have a name, it is about 3 blocks east of the plaza.  It is run by an older women and she has two young women as assistants.  They feed the local salt mine workers and serve beer to all the men who like to drink after work, and it appear that a lot of them drink too much. The women here serve some of the best food I have had in Bolivia.  Soups with vegetables and creative dishes with potatoes and pasta.

 
Nov 29 Salinas - Middle of the Salar.  Finally we are going to make into the Salar today.  But first we had to go around the Volcano south of town.  We rode south of town and when we came to the fork in the road we took the left fork.  This took us over a low pass and on into the Salar.  We asked direction in the little town at the edge of the Salar. We were told that Isla de Pescador (Fisherman Island) did not have anyone there but Isla Incahuasi had a restaurant and small hotel.  We rode into the Salar for 2 kilometers and then rode south towards Isla Incahuasi.  We stopped for the night in the middle of the Salar.

When we stopped to camp it was sunny, warm, and calm.  Tim had a flat front tire.  After we made dinner the wind came up in an instant and suddenly we had gale force winds.  I thought our tent poles were going to break.  Fritz's tent was flattened to the ground and he had to tie it to his bicycle so it would remain upright.  The wind did not stop until sometime around midnight.

250  290

55 km (25 km on the Salar)
Nov 30 Salar - Isla Incahuasi.  Repaired the flat tire and then the side wall of the tire blew out.  I did not like that tire anyway.  Luckily we had a spare tire with us.  It is a skinny tire so we decided to put it on my rear wheel.  After changing tires two more time we were ready to roll.  Not 5 kilometers down the Salar, Tim had another flat, this time on the rear.  He pulled a thorn out of his rear tire. I think it was a record 4 flat tire changes, all on Tim's bike. 

We arrived at the cactus studded island of Incahuasi with a huge appetite.  It turned out that the food for the island did not arrive when it was suppose to.  Consequently, there was barely any food on the island.  Tour groups came to visit but they all had their own food with them.  After hours of waiting we had a simple meal of rice soap and noodles.  Luckily for us she had any food at all.  We were all still hungry after we ate.  Robert a tourist was not hungry so he gave us his food, ah that topped us all off.

In the evening a jeep pulled up to the island with a couple of bikes on top.  Martin and Isakson from Basque, (north of Spain) arrived from San Pedro de Atacama.  They decided to ride with us across the Salar and on to Uyuni.  When they pulled their bikes off the truck Martin noticed that he had a broken spoke.  Tim said he would fix it in the morning.

20 km
Dec 1 Isla Incahuasi - Salt Hotel.  First thing this morning Tim is fixing a broken spoke.  He had all his tools out and everyone crowded around to see what Tim was doing.  We packed up and started east across the Salar towards the Salt Hotel.  We covered the 70 km in 2.5 hours.  It was some of the easiest riding we have done on the whole trip, we also had a tailwind that pushed us along. 

We sat on the windless side of the Salt hotel, we asked if we could camp there, they said yes, at no cost except it cost 5 bolivianos to use the toilet.  They had two little girls who were into everything.  They particularly liked Fritz who let them in his tent.  Martin and Tim, both being school teachers, drew the line and kept them out of their tents.  The salt hotel was interesting, the blocks, seats, beds, and tables were all made of salt.  I think it cost US $15 per person to stay there.

70 km
Dec 2 Salt Hotel - Uyuni.  We were told it was 20 km to the edge of the Salar but it actually was only 10 km.  We rode through the town of Colchani and then turned south towards Uyuni.  The road was washboard, for the most part we rode on the road next to the main highway.  It was a bit sandy but much better than the highway.  The closer we got to Uyuni the sandier it got.

We stayed in Hostel Marthi.  We had a room with one large bed and a private shower for 60 Bolivianos.  Fritz got the best deal, he paid 15 bolivianos for a room without a bath.  It was nice, ground floor, a place to do laundry, and when the water worked a great hot shower.

40 km
Dec 3 Uyuni.  Started cleaning the endless supply of dirty clothes, pans, and gear.  The water shut off at about 11:30, so showers were missed and may dirty articles remained.  We found a nice restaurant that served menu of the day for 7 bolivianos as opposed to the tourist restaurants that charge an arm and a leg for a pizza (60 boliviano for family size, more like Tim size).

Martin and Isakson plan on riding to Potosi from here.  Fritz plans to go to San Pedro Atacama and we plan to take the train from here to Villazon, the border of Argentina.

 
Dec 4 Uyuni.  Tim spent a good 4 hours at the internet cafe today.  I wandered around the market, a good market with just about everything.  We noticed that a protest in town started this morning.  At first it was quiet and then the protesters started increasing in size.  The guy who runs the internet cafe explained that the protesters were miners.  These miners mine the borax in the area.  The borax is sent to Chile by rail to be processed.  Then it is sent back to Bolivia processed and more expensive.  The miners want the processing to be done here in Bolivia, so they stopped the train and buses in the area.

This protest is suppose to last two days.  Great, we were planning to leave tomorrow for Villazon, on the night train.  When I went to the train station they had posted a sign saying that service had been interrupted.  No, I want to leave, I went to the bus station and the next bus in the direction of the border leaves tomorrow at 6 am.  It is probably blocked too.  There are no buses from here directly to Villazon, they all go through Potosi and add an extra 10 hours to travel time.

I am upset, Tim would rather stay anyway.  We go out to dinner with the Basques and Fritz.  We meet another German, Andy, at the restaurant.  He is cycling too.  Isakson is not feeling well, she has a terrible cough and sore throat.

 
Dec 5 Uyuni - Villazon.  Martin and Isakson have decided to leave for Potosi.  I will miss them immensely.  They have certainly improved my spanish these last couple of days.  Fritz decides to stay another day.  He may have trouble because he wants to follow the railroad tracks and they are most likely blocked.  As we walk down the main road we see protesters marching again.  As they go by someone throws a quarter stick of dynamite in the road, boom, wow, it was a huge explosion, definitely not a firecracker.  These guys are serious.

We went to the train station and there was a new sign that said the train would be leaving at midnight. Yeah, we are out of here.  I bought two tickets for the night train.  Tim was sad to leave, I just want to keep moving.

 
Dec 6 Villazon.  The train finally left the train station at about 12:30 am.  We had nice seats with plenty of room.  They took our bikes and all out bags at no extra cost, that was nice.  I had a great view out the window, it was practically a full moon and I could see everything.  I am not a good sleeper on these kind of trips so at least I had something to look at.

We arrived in Tupiza around 7:30 in the morning.  The area reminded me of Sedona, Arizona with a beautiful rocky landscape.  This area is famous for the demise of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  They robbed a train close to here and were run down and killed.  We might as well be in the American Southwest, arid, farming by irrigation and high desert.

We had breakfast on the train, it was included with our ticket.  We retrieved our bikes from baggage and set off looking for a hotel.  I was feeling awful, I thought it was because I did not get much sleep on train.  We decided to stay at Hostel Buena Vista, just down the road from the train station, it has a nice big room, shared hot shower, and is 50 bolivianos per night.

We took a short nap when we arrived and I woke up feeling very ill.  I had a monster head ache and upset stomach.  Two hours later I was vomiting and my head was swimming in pain.  I slept to 5:00 pm.  We ate and then back to bed.  Every time we travel via bus or in this case train we always lose a day.  I do not know how other travelers do it.  We met some people from England and France who were jumping on a bus to Salta after the train.  It takes 7 hours to get to Salta from here.  Hardened travelers I guess.

 
Dec 7 Villazon.  Sunday a rest day.  We will work on the web page and book today.  I am feeling better too.

Quote for the day: Bikes are just tools for self expression.

 
Dec 8 Villazon. A day to pack and look for any money that is stuffed in a pocket, more than once I have found money from a country after I have crossed the border.  This border is packed with little stores.  They sell mostly clothes, shoes, and candy.  I spoke with a women who works in a beautician shop and she said in years past, before the peso crash, Argentineans would come over and by the most expensive items, now they can not afford them.  The exchange rate in the casa de cambio is 2.95 pesos to the dollar before December 2001 the Peso was equal (pegged) to the dollar.

Good bye Bolivia, Hello Argentina.  I am a bit sad that I did not see more of this country, like Potosi and Sucre, but I will have to come back again.  I predict that there will be much unrest in this country for years to come, there is to much of a difference between the very wealthy and the very poor.  I just hope that the changes that lie ahead for Bolivia are peaceful ones.

 

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INDEX #2: South America
6-3-03 to 6-17-04

1North and
Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03

2 South America
6-3-03 to 6-17-04

3 SE Asia / China
11-22-04 to
9-15-06

4 Australia
9-15-06 to 9-15-07

5 New Zealand
9-16-07 to 5-2-08
6 Alaska, Canada, and the USA
5-3-08 to 4-30-10
7 India. Nepal, and the Subcontinent
5-1-10 to present


(see all 3 book)

June 4 -  July 8, 2003
Ecuador #1
Quito to Riobamba, Ecuador

Cindie's Daily Journals
Ecuador #1

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Ecuador: Riding on top of the Southern Hemisphere

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Pictures in Ecuador #1

Full size Picture Pages

- Quito The Old City
- The Equator "Mitad del Mundo"
- Volcano Tugurahua, Backpacking
- Banos, Ecuador Natural Hot Springs
- Quito to Latacunga, Ecuador
- The City of Latacunga, Ecuador
- Latacunga to Riobamba, Ecuador
- The Village of Mocha, Ecuador
- The City of Riobamba, Ecuador
- Other

 

July 9 - Aug 4, 2003
Ecuador #2
Riobamba to Macara, Ecuador
( Peruvian border)

Cindie's Daily Journals
Ecuador #2

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Ecuador #2: The Magic of the Andes

The Fastest Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of  Pictures in Ecuador #2

Full size Picture Pages

- Riobamba to Alausi, Ecuador
- The City of Alausi, Ecuador
- Nariz Del Diablo - Train Ride
- Alausi to Cuenca, Ecuador
- The City of Cuenca, Ecuador
- Cuenca to Loja, Ecuador
- Loja to Macara, Ecuador

 

Aug 5 - Sept. 14, 2003
Peru #1
The Ecuador border to Huallanca, Peru

Cindie's Daily Journals
Peru #1 JOURNAL

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Peru #1 Riding Between The Extremes

Best Place to see Pictures
Peru #1 THUMBS

Full size Picture Pages

- The Ecuador Border to Chiclayo, Peru
- Chiclayo to Trujillo, Peru
- Casa De Ciclista, Peru Cyclist House
- The Ruins of Chan Chan
- Ruins - Temple of the Moon and Sun
- Trujillo to Huallanca, Peru
- Huallanca to Huaraz, Peru
- Huarez to Pachapaque
- Pachapaqui to Huallanca

 

Sept. 15 - Oct. 31, 2003
Peru #2
Huallanca, Peru to
Copacabana, Bolivia

Cindie's Daily Journals
Peru #2 JOURNAL

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Peru #2: Been Doing Some Hard Traveling

Best Place to see Pictures
Peru #2 THUMBS

Full size Picture Pages

- Huallanca to Huanuco
- Huanuco to La Oroya, Peru
- Arequipa, Peru
- Cusco, Peru
- Tambo Machay, Pucapucara, Qenqo
- Sacsayhuaman, Inca Ruin
- Machu Picchu #1
- Machu Picchu #2
- Machu Picchu #3
- Cusco to Santa Rosa, Peru
- Santa Rosa, Peru to Copacabana Bolivia
- Uros, Peru Lake Titicaca

 

November 1 - December 8, 2003
Bolivia
Copacabana to Villazon, Bolivia

Cindie's Daily Journals
Bolivia JOURNAL

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Bolivia: The Calm After the Storm.

Best Place to see Pictures
Bolivia THUMBS

Full size Picture Pages

- Copacabana, Bolivia on Lake Titicaca
- Todos Santos - Day of the Dead
- Copacabana to La Paz
- La Paz to Oruro
- Oruro to Quillacas
- Quillacas to Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
- Salar de Uyuni Salt Lake to The City of Uyuni

 
(December 9, 2003 - January 22, 2004)
NW Argentina
La Quiaca, to La Cueva, (border with Chile) Argentina

Cindie's Daily Journals
Cindie's North West Argentina Daily Journal

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Northwest Argentina: The Wrong Way In the Right Country 

Best Place to see Pictures
Pictures of  North West Argentina

Full size Picture Pages

- Quiaca to Tilcara
- Tilcara to Salta
- Salta to Cafayate
- Cafayate to Belen
- Belen to Mendoza
- Parque National Talampaya
- Valle De Luna Provincial Park
- Mendoza to La Cueva
- Aconcagua National Park

 
January 23 - February 29, 2004
Chile
Portillo, Chile to Bariloche, Argentina

Cindie's Daily Journals
Cindie's Chile Daily Journal

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
coming!

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnails of Chile

Full size Picture Pages

- Portillo to Los Andes
- Temuco to Parqua National Conguillio
- Conguillio National Park to Villarrica
- Villarrica to Playa Pucara
- Playa Pucura to Puerto Pirihueico
- Bariloche, Argentina Velodrome

 
March 3, to 23, 2004
  Patagonia, South America
 Argentina and Chile

Cindie's Daily Journals
Patagonia

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
coming!

Best Place to see Pictures
Patagonia THUMBS

Full size Picture Pages

- Southern Patagonia Birds
- Perito Moreno Glacier, (Before rupture)
- Perito Moreno Glacier (After rupture)
- Torres Del Paine National Park #1
- Torres Del Paine National Park #2
- Torres Del Paine National Park #3
- Torres Del Paine National Park #4
- El Chalten  - Fritz Roy
- Cuevas los Manos, Rock Art


- My First Jewish Passover
- Ski Argentina Cerro Cathedral
- Fall in Bariloche
- Cerro Campanerio
- Cerro Lopez
- Nordic Cross Country Skiing Bariloche, Argentina

1North and
Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03

2 South America
6-3-03 to 6-17-04

3 SE Asia / China
11-22-04 to
9-15-06

4 Australia
9-15-06 to 9-15-07

5 New Zealand
9-16-07 to 5-2-08
6 Alaska, Canada, and the USA
5-3-08 to 4-30-10
7 India. Nepal, and the Subcontinent
5-1-10 to present
Where am I  now

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