Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 100 of 113
  1. #1
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002

    Cruizing on the Bolivian Altiplano (long)

    Here are some ramblings I've been working on about my recent trip in south america.

    So here is part one I suppose:

    In short, I rode into Bolivia from Peru and had my sights set on the remote high altitude deserts of the southwest portion of the country. After spending a week around La Paz doing other fun rides it was time to get down to the business. I bussed 12 hrs overnight south to the town of Uyuni where I was hoping to meet up with a pair of Aussie Cyclists that I had met over the new Year in a remote valley in Peru. Turns out their plans had changed and I was on my own.

    With a certain nervousness I walked around the bleak dusty town trying to get information about water availavility, track conditions and distances from 4x4 tour agencies (there are lots) Then after filling up 15 liters of water I headed out onto the Salar de Uyuni - the biggest salt flat in the world. The salar was a place I had dreamed of biking across for years and I was super excited at funally getting out there on my own. I first entered the salar at a spot recommended by a truck driver, turns out to be totally bad info, the salty mud quickly reminded me of the winter biking currently going on in alaska as I pushed for a few miles into a flat mirage of endless glaring white...

    My foray on the Salar was cut short however after an overnight camp on the salt, and hearing reports from 4x4 drivers that the western portions were covered in "mucho agua!" The though of being out there alone walking my bike through 80 miles of salt water quickly made me retrace my route back to Uyuni. Little did I know that I would be back in a few weeks to cross the salar in its entirety from the opposite side...

    I headed southeast through desert country, eventually really heading into no-man's land near a little village of Alota. The Ayrama indians that live out in these parts of the Altiplano are some of the toughest people I can think of. They live in adobe huts and heard llamas and sheep which provide much of what they have. Quinoa - a hearty high protien grain- is grown where there is enough moisture. Even looking for simple things like onions are non-existent.

    Continuing on, 200 miles out from Uyuni, brought me in to real volcano country, were I climbed up to 13,000' and didn’t drop back down for the next 8 days. The track (not road) conditions varied from horrible to unridable, the volcanic sand at times too soft, or so deeply washboarded that it was less abusive to walk. A full day's effort netted me about 30 miles, 40 miles and I was destroyed. At one point I passed a small spring, realizing that water is gold in these parts I filled up 17 liters, it the last source of water for 2 days and 2 nights. Amazingly enough the lakes in these areas are so full of minerals that they are not-potable, however they take on wild red-white colors which provide the feeding grounds for 4 different species of Flamengos. Seeing the bueatiful birds on brackish lakes at 15,000' in the middle of the desert is something to be experienced!

    After an all day climb of the Ramada Pampa I entered a bit of a canyon as black thunderclouds brewed above. I stopped to consider my options, ate some peanuts and put on warmer clothes, waiting sounded like a cold idea and turning around was out of the question. I continued on hoping that the cloud I was seeing was just an isolated event. Wrong – As soon as I crested back on to the flat expanse I was surrounded by nasty black thunderclouds. Nothing scares me now more than lightning! There was absolutely no shelter anywhere to be found. Surged by adrenaline, pushing the middle ring at 15,500’ with a loaded bike on a horrible track I found strength in myself that I had not known. Watching a mini tornado among the lightning strikes over my left shoulder I made my way into a broad drainage of sorts and down into safer ground pushing my bike most of the time through the loose gravel. Adrenaline back to a more reasonable level I suddenly had a very sharp pain in my left knee, couldn’t even turn the pedal over without doubling over in pain! Mother****ingShit! Now what have I done! Guessed I pushed a bit too hard dodging lighting. Feeling beaten I popped 4 iduprophrin, hoped I just inflamed something and continued to hobble down the sandy swale. Anything to get further away from the black clouds of death .

    Reaching what is known as the Stoli desert, I began to test out my injured limb. To my surprise and joy I could actually bend it and complete a pedal rotation. Gradually as I reached ridable track did I put a bit more pressure into strokes. As an hour ticked by I was able to stop thinking about walking and just ride the vast rolling terrain ahead of me. The storm that scared the crap out of me was still brewing off to my left and I kept yelling “you cant get me Ha Ha!!” while flipping it the bird. It felt good..

    The following day I pulled out of camp at 15,200’, frost was everywhere and it took my toes about 2 hours or riding to thaw out, I was heading to Laguna Colorado this day, where there is a park ranger station, and water source to fill up my bags. Reaching Laguna Colorado was a tough and rocky 18 miles in 4 hours. Upon sighting the enormous red lake in the distance, the winds began to blast, simply blast. It was the strongest headwind I’d ever had, by this point I was really learning that nothing out here comes easy and I was being tested daily it seemed, to see if my skin was thick enough.

    Pulling out of Laguna Colorado the winds continued as I walked my bike along an unridable section. Then the thunderstorm game began again… did I have enough energy to ride fast across the next pampa to outrace some brewing clouds? After wavering a bit I decided to go for it, fueled by adrenaline again I starting cruising (9mph that is) across the next vast expanse of volcanic pumice in front of me. Just when I was starting to relax a flash blasted over my right shoulder and I immediately spun around for a hasty retreat. I still had a few more hours of daylight but there was no way in hell I was going to put myself in the same situation two days in a row. Made camp in a marginal depression and listened to the booming around me.

    This trip was my third big international mountain bike touring trip, Indian Himalayas in 2000, Patagonia in 2001 and now northern South America. If I was asked to sum up the one thing that I enjoy most about these trips it would be the feeling of waking up in the morning and saying “Lets see what happens today!”. The unpredictability of days or weeks on the road or trail make up for months or years when the outcome of each day is already known.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    reaper
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    43
    Words fail me. Looking forward to part dos. Thanks for sharing...awesome.

    e

  3. #3
    Reviewer/Tester
    Reputation: Rainman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    6,191

    Good job! Amazing.......simply amazing..

    Please post more ...


    R.
    It is inevitable ...

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Reputation: burner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Posts
    813
    damn, you got big freaking balls man... great reading, looking forward to the next installment.

  5. #5
    The Weatherman
    Reputation: Pawndream's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    304
    Awesome passion hit!

    Your trip is the sort that takes the term "epic" to a whole new level.

    The thing that is amazing to me is that you just went out there and did it, all alone. And I assume that should something have went wrong, you were pretty much left to your own devices. That's some crazy stuff. But way cool.

    Looking forward to Part 2 as well!

  6. #6
    Cheezy Rider
    Reputation: Rufudufus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    1,684
    The pics are phenomenal! Amazing trip, can't wait for part 2.

  7. #7
    mtbr member
    Reputation: et_mtb's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Posts
    95
    You are one cool nomad. I am intrigued by your adventure. It reminds me of a story I once read in Dirt Rag #98 abot the Iditarod MTB race.
    "On a long enough time line the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."

  8. #8
    Just Ride!
    Reputation: Pigtire's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    806
    Now that's an epic ride! Great pictures and please post more.

  9. #9
    yeah, uh............bikes
    Reputation: FloridaFish's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    2,715
    Incredible.

    That second to last picture is amazing................it's nice to be reminded that places like that still exist on this planet.

  10. #10
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    63
    Only thing that comes to mine:
    Wow!

  11. #11
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002

    Part 2

    It was a beautiful morning leaving Laguna Colorado, I was determined to not get caught again by afternoon electrical storms and was riding by 7:00am. The blaring morning sun quickly thawed me out and layer after layer of clothing stripped away as cool shadows were cast across the pampa. Finally I reached an intersection where the riding surface improved. I was now on a road which served to connect a geothermal energy project and sulfer mine with the rest of the country. The next few hours I steadily climbed on a graded surface which felt heavenly after the endless washboards I had been enduring. I was having ongoing problems with my other knee however and walked quite a bit of the climb just to stretch out and keep a smile on my face. Occasionally huge trucks would pass and I’d get big waves from the drivers before getting completely dusted. The road continued to climb up to 16,000’ and I had to turn off to the east leaving the good road behind and the walking continued to the Sol de Manana Geyser field. I spent a while in the thin air watching the bubbling water and shoots of water from a distance. From Sol de Manana a nice long downhill dropped 3000’ to the Salar de Challviri and Laguna Salada. Here I once again filled up water at a spring and took a nice long break after the long morning.

    Carrying 12 days of camping and biking food can be a challenge in 3rd world countries. In India we would ask women at truck stops to make us a batch of 20 Chipatti’s for the road. In Chile I ate mostly white bread rolls covered in honey. On this trip however I didn’t wait to get screwed into eating the same pasta with margarine and pepper for a week straight, I stocked up in La Paz beforehand and was able to treat myself with extravagant western food like peanut butter and tortillias, I even found dried bananas. However once on the road I quickly needed to replenish protein sources with the homemade cakes of goat milk cheese that is defiantly an acquired taste!

    Leaving Laguna Salada with a full load of water, I was faced with a strong afternoon headwind. I was tempted to just pull off and camp early but my go-go-go face was on. Wrong decision again. I started across another vast pampa heading to a group of rocks that looked as abstract as a Salvador Dali painting from a distance. “I’ll go camp in those I thought” and pulled off the main track onto seldom used paths in the sand. Mistake #2. I was quickly reduced to walking in the soft tracks and the wind was a constant, drying out every bit of moisture in my lips and nose. So after half an hour of marching I threw in the towel, only problem was by then I was so far away from the main track that I double screwed myself. Thus began the bike push from hell, I can only relate it to snowbiking, on wet deep snow with a 80 lb bike. You get the picture. At last I made it to the main track, cursing myself for wasting so much energy and a few hours for no reason. It was now 45 min till sunset and I was only 1/3 of the way across a long windy stretch of nothing. The only thing to do was put the head down and grind away into the sunset so to speak. Upon reaching the otherside there was not so much to get excited about, I was hoping to find a big rock, or a canyon of sorts to hide out of the wind. But the best I could do was the side of a large sloping hill. Work is never done even off the bike, I spent another hour or so digging out a flat tent spot and building stone walls for a wind break. Sleep came easy…

    The following morning I was taking it easy, moving slow, making 2 cups of instant coffee, writing in the journal, studying my outdated maps. My body didn’t feel like doing much and I had planned on a not-so-hardcore-day. I headed down to the road and started the day with a nice 1,000’ climb/walk over a pass to get the blood moving. From there I got my first glimpse of Volcan Llicanbur, a 19,500’ volcano above Laguna Verde on the Chile border that I had intentions of trying to climb. Soon thereafter I ran into a 4x4 tour group with some hilarious brits that gave me the beta on a large thermal pool. Hot springs! I needed it, I stunk. So I rode down to near Laguna verde and found the springs, they had an adobe changing room and windbreak wall to boot! Kicking it in the springs all by my lonesome 3 more land cruisers pulled up fresh with tourists from San pedro de Atacamama in Chile. They were making a 4 hr jump from 6,000’ to above 12,000 and some of them didn’t fare so well. They typically just fell over upon exiting their vehicles. Needless to say I was still the only one in the pool, I was just getting blank stares from people all bundled up in hats and parkas..

    My other passion next to biking is climbing and mountaineering, I like to combine the two whenever I can by biking to peaks that I want to climb outside of anchorage. It seemed to be the ultimate in this by biking 10 days to a high remote peak in another country and climbing it solo. With a few lumps of doubt in my throat I pedaled around Laguna Verde and pushed my bike up to a campsite at the base of the peak. Spent the rest of the day thinking things through and watching the weather… Awake at 3:00am – Time to Go! Started out hiking by headlamp and moonlight up through scree and talus. My feet were having a hard time staying warm in the cold I’m guessing it was in the teens somewhere and my well ventilated trail runners were a bit brisk. Improvising a pair of vapor barrier socks I threw on two zip-lock bags over my socks. It did the trick. Moving up the boulderfield I kept watching my altimeter, and trying to route find in the dark was a challenge. My worst fear was getting crushed by a shifting boulder, no one would find me for a month if that… 6:00am crack of sunlight shinning through 17,000’ still a ways to go. Had to negotiate two sets of rock bands that took a few moves, then before I knew it I was on the backside of the mountain on hard snow, almost there, glad I didn’t need an ice axe. Saddle, final snowfield, sucking wind, altitude is humbling, last little bit over a crest Shazm! I can see the crater, a minute later I’m on the summit! Yeahhhhh! F-in amazing

    I was pretty blown away that I had pulled it off, wearing trail runners no less. On one side I could see the route I had biked the past 2 days, and on the other it dropped 12,000’ down into the Atacama Desert. I could even see the road I would be taking to cross into Chile. Didn’t look that bad I thought to myself, maybe this afternoon..? Lots of photos, time to descend. The way down taxed me more than I thought it would, endless talus and loose boulders… Stumbled back into my tent a bit past noon and fell asleep for 2 hours. Hummm Chile I thought to myself as I pieced together some cookies and salami. There is fresh fruit and veggies in Chile… That was motivation enough! Despite my thrashed legs, I was out of there, it should just be around the corner then a 7,000’ downhill? Why not? Wrong… Heading up to the border was a continuous grade and of-course had a nice 30 mph headwind trying to make me stay in Bolivia. It was the most exhausted and depleted I had been the entire trip. My legs were so deadened from the climb that they simply had nothing left, I was walking all the hills after a point. Until something beautiful appeared – a paved road, I was in Chile! The road started dropping like no-ones business. The descent was epic, fast and screaming into the Atacama Desert as the sun was setting.. Until I hit the flats before San Pedro, depleted, dark, no-lights, what have I done… into the Oasis town… then all of a sudden there were white buildings and tourists everywhere. I didn’t know what to make of it, just that I was there and didn’t like it. The mountains were better…didnt know how to act around people.

    Photos:
    Walking bike near Sol de Manana at 16,100'
    Hot Springs at Laguna Verde
    Bike and Volcan Llicanbur
    Campsite and Laguna Verde
    my right root on summit, looking into chile
    Attached Images Attached Images

  12. #12
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002
    more photos
    Icicles Descending Volcan Llicanbut
    View of Laguna Verde and Blanca from summit
    Leaving Bolivia, but not for good!
    Rough Track near Laguna colorado
    Attached Images Attached Images

  13. #13
    mtbr member
    Reputation: GuruAtma's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Posts
    3,706
    Wow, I'm exhausted just reading about your trip.

    Thanks for the great write-up and pix. When does the movie come out?
    功夫大师喜欢骑着他的自行车在山上。

  14. #14
    Demon Cleaner
    Reputation: Structure's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    465

    Inspiring

    Great big respect for what you've done. Great big thanks for sharing it.
    Bicycling is politics by other means.

  15. #15
    Right Coast
    Reputation: StormShadow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    327
    That is truly an amazing adventure.
    "Majority rule don't work in mental institutions"

  16. #16
    Gone riding
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    3,369
    Fantastic, what an amazing trip! Those photos are spectacular, please post more!

    Thanks so much for sharing it with us Bearbait!

    Cheers, Dave.

  17. #17
    pepito
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Posts
    640
    i've been eagerly awaiting this ride report for months. it's better than i expected. fantastic photos, great write up, amazing adventure. can't wait to read the rest of it.

    the_dude
    "Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling" ~James E. Starrs

  18. #18
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Atomik Carbon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,365

    Everyone's Dream

    You are living a lot of people's dream that reside on this site. Keep posting as this may be the closest any one of us ever get to realizing it.

    Go Man.

  19. #19
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    1,149
    Bearbait, that is outstanding! Your pics are simply amazing too. What an experience that must have been.

    This just seems to illustrate the idea that through great risks, come great rewards.

    Bravo!

  20. #20
    ICORR - FORC
    Reputation: QCRage's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    269
    Stunning.... I am so blown away, this is the kinda stuff you read about in books.

    Up until now I considered myself a rider with a sense of adventure. pffft, I am not worthy...

    Stunning....
    There's car, beer, girls, and bike. Not just the three; you can have four. - Tyler Klassen

  21. #21
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Posts
    1,978
    Way cool!
    There's a big difference between ripping and skidding. Those who skid don't know how to ride.

  22. #22
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Posts
    115

    Smile Wow

    Speechless!

  23. #23
    Occidental Tourist
    Reputation: YuriB's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    3,564

    passion is an understatement

    that it some serious adventure.
    thanks for sharing.

  24. #24
    mtbr member
    Reputation: AZ-X's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    363
    That's a fantastic journey. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  25. #25
    Glad to Be Alive
    Reputation: SHIVER ME TIMBERS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    42,826
    wow....now that is EPIC
    the trick is ENJOYING YOUR LIFE EACH DAY, don't waste them away wishing for better days

  26. #26
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Soupboy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    4,047
    Impressive, simply impressive. Cool poop man.
    Professional Amateur

  27. #27
    mtbr member
    Reputation: hardway's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    774
    thank you for the incredible ride report. I'm totally amazed and humbled.

  28. #28
    Drinker w/ Riding Problem
    Reputation: brado1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Posts
    5,329

    Wow

    incredible ride report man, that is awesome and ........ wow nicely done.

  29. #29
    abnormally aspirated
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    543
    That is one hell of a trip report. Nicely done! SA is awesome!!

  30. #30
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    34
    inspiring, this is the best I've seen, your writing is just right, what a place to ride a bike!

  31. #31
    me like bikes
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Posts
    1,094
    wow man. i have soo much respect for you and the trip you went on! i'm extra jelous too! i wish i was capable of doing that trip! great write up man!

  32. #32
    Hisforever
    Reputation: SHAHEEB's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Posts
    1,645
    Excellent Bearbait.

    I'm feeling the challenge from your story. Pt 3?

    Hope you had some Bolivian leaves with you.
    Jesus Saves




  33. #33
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    117
    great post

  34. #34
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    1,245

    Simply unbelievable!

    I trekked in Peru in 2004 and hope to go again soon to either Bolivia or Peru. A beautiful part of the world.....your pictures show the harshness of the Bolivian plains. I did a trek with support; you have some serious cajones to do the distances you did solo on a mtn bike. Hats off for one of the best Passion threads I have ever read!

    And please post more pics if you've got them.....living vicariously is all I can do until I get back down there;-)

    Threads like this are the reason why I love mtbr!

    EDIT: I just scrolled down and saw that you had additional pics......can I say it again? Unbelievable!

    PS. How much money did you spend on your trip if you don't mind my asking? And what were the big expenses? You've got me thinking, and surely this cannot be a good thing;-)
    Last edited by brianthebiker; 06-13-2006 at 08:15 AM.
    "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." -Albert Einstein

  35. #35
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002

    Thanks

    Thanks everybody, glad you enjoyed it. Part 3 is on the way.

    Shaheeb - yep had some coca leaves, made a potent morning tea with them .

    Brian - The trip was pretty cheap, I was down there for 5 months coming from Ecuador and Peru so I lost track of how much I spent. Bolivia is (I think) the cheapest south american country to travel in. Major expenses were long distance busses, and when I had to stock up on camping food.
    E

  36. #36
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    1,245

    5 months?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bearbait
    Thanks everybody, glad you enjoyed it. Part 3 is on the way.

    Shaheeb - yep had some coca leaves, made a potent morning tea with them .

    Brian - The trip was pretty cheap, I was down there for 5 months coming from Ecuador and Peru so I lost track of how much I spent. Bolivia is (I think) the cheapest south american country to travel in. Major expenses were long distance busses, and when I had to stock up on camping food.
    E
    Color me Green with envy!

    Am always curious as to how people do these long trips.....were you between jobs?
    "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." -Albert Einstein

  37. #37
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002

    Part 3 - Back north

    I spent 4 days in San Pedro, most of the time I spent resting and eating. Entering Chile was a bit of a shock in the wallet as prices for a room were quadruple what they were in La Paz and groceries were similar prices to the US. Although very satisfied with the accomplishments of making it to San Pedro, I felt like it was all passed too quickly and I quickly found myself looking at maps trying to find a new route back into the high country. I was also trying to contact the park rangers at Sajama National Park in Bolivia. When I first passed through 3 weeks earlier while biking to Arica, we hit it off and they had offered that I could try to Climb the Park’s namesake 21,000’ mountain with them. The phone connections were bad and nothing could be planned. I spent a wonderful afternoon mtn biking (unloaded!) in an amazing area called Valle de la luna, where red rock erosion and a large amount of salt in the soil made for some incredible terrain. Throwing in the towel for lack of ideas that night I jumped on an overnight buss to Arica, then another all day journey back to La Paz.

    Back in La Paz for the third time… I had a little more than two weeks left before I started the journey back home. The weather in Sajama was pretty nasty and I decided to put aside my climbing ambitions this time around. More biking was in store, I needed to head back to the Salars… Another trip to the grocery store for 10 days of food, then back to the buss station. My original plans of starting just 3 hours south of La Plaz in Oruro were changed spontaneously when I learned news of a roadblock and no busses heading that way. I eyed my maps and figured out a different route which would start in Sajama and parallel the Chilean border crossing the salt flats and finishing in Uyuni. Planning done.

    I got off the bus at 12,500’ on the highway where a dirt spur road heads into Sajama Park. A month earlier I had passed through this same spot and was moved by how dramatic the landscape was, huge volcanoes over 20,000’ rose from the Altiplano, Herds of llamas and alpacas dotted the landscape, Hearty Ayrama living in adobe houses, perfect. Probably as close to Tibet as the Americas can get. Also the same as my previous time through was the weather, 35 degrees and driving rain, joy! I threw my bike stuff together and headed down the dirt road to pull off for the night.

    The next morning I awoke to much improved weather, and everything coated with a thick layer of ice. I had two choices for the start of my route, the first spurred off the highway at the border and headed south to the village of Sacabaya. The second started further east and passed through another village en route to Sacabaya. Wanting something different and avoiding the hour long climb to the boarder I decided flip of the coin style on option 2, I was to learn the next day, it was the more demanding choice. The whole day I spent cruising at a decent pace on these seldom used tracks through the pampa. Navigation was demanding as there were often many different paths to chose from. After a while I decided to not get stressed out by taking the wrong route sometimes I would just got the way that felt right not even missing a pedal stroke. I passed several very small houses in route, it seemed even the smallest settlement had a small church.

    Further along I reached a point where the clouds were once again brewing their electrical magic, kicking my anxiety level up a few notches. After losing my way once near someone’s adobe house, I eventually saw the family coming down from tending to their llama’s in the hills. They indicated that, yes the route continues on over a range of hills to the Rio Sajama. I saw the river on my map but figured I’d deal with that when the time came. First I had to either call it an early day or put my balls in my throat and give dodging lightning another shot. Crossing the hills wasn’t nearly as bad as my previous brush with the black clouds, the extra adrenaline gave me the extra umph needed for some really sandy spots. I reached the river as the day was coming to a close and the rain starting to begin. I had no idea if there was a good way across, it was something to deal with in the morning. I was lulled to sleep that night by the sounds of rain and booming of thunder.

    The day of river crossings began! First I starting by riding a few miles parallel to the river. Passing a small group of houses I met a friendly man who was very interested in where I was going and where I came from. He then lead me around the corner where sure enough the track disappeared into the Rio Sajama. The guy mentioned that the river was very high from all the rain lately and that I could stay with him to wait for it to come down if I wanted. Although I greatly appreciated his hospitality I was bent on getting across. It didn’t look too bad, I put on my other shoes and started walking out in the river to test it out. Sure enough less than 10’ away from the other bank I almost went for a swim when I dropped in the murky water past my waist. ****! With the weight on my bike I could barely even pick the thing up, so where ever I crossed I would have to shuttle gear crossing several times. Thus began the search for a better site to cross. I was determined, in Alaska river crossing are common and I wasn’t about to let this one stop me. TAfter two hours of pushing my bike along the bank I ran into a group of llamas who I asked where the best spot to cross was they simply ignored me, ate grass and walked away. Fine, I’m on my own. Eventually after walking out into the swollen waters to try several different spots I found one that would work. There was a section where the water was a bit sketchy and a bit over knee height – but it would go. I ended up crossing it 7 times, once and back to test it out, again for the bike, another with panniers and again with my pack. I finally rested on the other side munching some lunch wishing the sun would come dry me out a bit. Phewww!

    Onward, weaving through scrub grass to find where I left off, soon enough I was back on the original track and on my way. The afternoon thunderstorms were already starting to brew as I entered a long stretch of really goppy mud. Not much else to do but walk, I could see the white church tower in Sacabaya off in the distance, but by now I had learned that I really sucked at estimating distances out here. Just as it seemed that I was home free getting to the village the track dropped into a large depression and river crossing #2 came into view. My heart sunk and I couldn’t believe it. I felt like just dropping the bike and waiting, however long for some vehicle to come along. That logic quickly went out the window when I realized I hadn’t sent a vehicle since I left the highway, and that the river was too high for anything to cross anyway. Ugh.. Git er’ done… I found a decent crossing site a bit upstream, the water was actually deeper than the first river, but wasn’t flowing as fast. I arrived at the other side relieved again to done with rivers and on my merry way, a few minutes later I rolled into Sacabaya.

    Sacabaya is a tiny little village of Ayrama people. I found the well and started filling up all my water bags. It was chilly, windy and there was a bit of spitting rain in the air. A few people saw me and we exchanged “buenas tardes” but I was wishing I knew just a bit of their language as Spanish is second to theirs. While filling water a lady approached me and we chit chatted a bit, then showed me some scarves made of alpacka wool that she had knitted. I gave my usual reply that I was biking and didn’t have much space for buying stuff. She understood and walked away. I got back on my bike and started to roll out of town… I got two minutes down the road and started to re-think things a bit. It was the end of my trip, and what a special place to buy something that directly helps the people and especially to remember such an epic day. I rolled back into town to try to find the lady and didn’t have any luck, but I did find just about everyone else in town! Before I knew it I was surrounded by young and old alike all either staring or asking me questions. I think by appearing humble and telling them where I had come from earned a bit of respect over other the other foreigners that may visit the area. We talked about how even Quinoa doesn’t grow here and everything they subsist one comes from llamas or sheep. Eventually someone found the lady and I bought a scarf for the equivalent of $6. After many thanks and best wishes on both sides I rolled out of the village again, it was one of the most memorable experiences of the whole trip.

    Photos:
    Volcan Sajama, llamas and Rhea
    Reaching the Rio Sajama
    Muddy track and chasing thunderstorm
    River crossing #2
    done with river crossing #2!
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Bearbait; 06-16-2006 at 12:25 PM.

  38. #38
    Crop Dusting Magistrate
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    600
    Look up "Epic Ride" in the dictionary. This is it!

    Some of the pictures remind me of the White mountains here in California, vast, stark, thin air and lung busting climbs.

    I hear that chewing the coca leafs helps a bit in the elevation there.


    NICE!
    It wasn't me

  39. #39
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002
    Check back in a bit, The final part 4 will be the best!

  40. #40
    Reviewer/Tester
    Reputation: Rainman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    6,191
    Absolutely .... incredible. ! !


    R.
    It is inevitable ...

  41. #41
    pepito
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Posts
    640
    you really don't have to tell me to keep checking back, i have been....every hour since i saw part one. it just keeps getting better. this should be a sticky. maybe dirt rag would have some interest in running your story? very kent petersonesque. can't wait to see part 4.

    the_dude
    "Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling" ~James E. Starrs

  42. #42
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002

    The Final Chapter

    Leaving Sacabaya I rode for another hour feeling really happy. It had been a day full of unexpected events never knowing what was going to happen next. I had some of the music from the movie “The Motorcycle Diaries” in my head, and for a change, the wind was at my back. The following morning the skies were clear enough that I could see Volcan Sajama way off in the distance now dominating the horizon. I made my way further south across another vast pampa, making several turns at intersections that I had no idea which way to go. After a few hours I reached a new road, that was actually a real road, graded and everything! I was still unsure where the heck I was and stopped in a small village to try to ask someone. Lots of buildings, lots of llama poop, no people. I entered the tiny adobe church for some clues as where I was but still no luck. I had lunch and continued on heading for a large mountain in front of me. On the map there was another route to where I wanted to go, but at this point I was going over the pass. My knees were bothering me quite a bit so I ended up walking my bike for most of the pass, then continued riding down the back side to the village of Huachacalla. It was amazing to gain some altitude and get some perspective on the terrain I had been covering the past few days.
    At Huachacalla I arrived in the middle of the day when everything is closed. I bought what I could which was some prickly pear cactus fruits and proceeded on my way.

    I had now entered a bit more populated area. There is a main road from Oruro which passes through into Chile serving salt and sulfer mines, near the border and the Salar de Coipasa. My route would take to the northwest corner of the Salar de Coipasa then south the west side of the Salar de Uyuni, then 110 miles across to Uyuni. 4 or 5 days I was thinking but many unknowns. The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world, and is some of the flattest terrain on the planet. At one point in time they were vast lakes, but eventually drained leaving behind mineral deposits leached out from the mountains. I had researched riding on the salar’s and knew that first you needed to have your navigation dialed, second you need alot of water, and third if you screwed up or broke down, you were more or less on your own unless a 4x4 happened to come by. My main concern was the amount of water covering the salt, dry you can cruise, a little bit and it becomes a trippy reflective landscape, too much and you are in for a salt bath…

    I arrived at the tiny village of Villa Vitalina on the edge of the Salar de Coipasa with more than a fair share of doubts. It looked like a big lake, and it seemed crazy that I was going to bike across it. All of the locals and truckers I had talked too said there was a lot of water, or just shook their heads in acknowledgement that I was genuinely crazy. At this point however I was going for it, besides its not like they knew what a modern bike was capable of, or had ever tried it had they?? After a stormy night I got an early start and made my way across the salt mine road to the large island in the middle of the salar. I made it to a truck stop where a woman was cooking up food for the salt truckers before their long trip to Oruro. At first the truckers just stared a bit, but later once they realized I could crack a few jokes in Spanish, they warmed up. It was pretty hilarious, I think truckers worldwide have the same sick sense of humor. After acknowledging that I needed to be riding a woman more than my bike, or at least have one strapped to my rear rack, I headed out and began the mission across the salar.

    Things started out well, I was surrounded by water but was able to connect patches of salt where trucks had been driving. The horizon was a 360 degree mirage as the reflections worked their magic. Not wanting to re-enter Chile I turned off the truck route and south into the unknown. On the map I had about 30 miles of salar to cover, and I didn’t want to get caught in another thunderstorm while standing in electrolyte solution. The water was coating everything in salt but was ridable and I was able to make about 10 mph at best. Sometimes things got a bit slushy but overall I was amazed at how firm the salt remained under the 2” of water. As the miles ticked by I entered the southern end of the salar, I began to get away from the real thick hard salt and into mud covered salt. This stuff slowed me down considerably but was still ridable. The patterns of the mud and salt, then 1” of water made for some incredible reflections. Pretty soon I was on the fringe of the salar and got off my bike at a rocky outcrop with huge towering cacti. The expanse of desert, flatness, salt flat and distant volcanoes were beyond my definition of surreal.

    Continuing south from the Salar de Coipasa I re-entered solid ground again and began crossing an endless pampa on a gun barrel straight track. The track was so deeply rutted, loose and wash boarded I spent most of the distance either pushing my bike or riding off to the side. I Reached the tiny village of Hizo (yes they are all tiny). It looked like I was going to have another dry evening and poked around for some water. A young girl eventually showed me a hole in the ground, when I pushed the flat stone aside I could see water about 10’ down in well of sorts but there was no apparent way to get it out, not even a bucket on a string. Oh well, I thought I still had enough. Leaving Hizo I crossed yet another pampa and a few sediment choked streams before camping for the night. It had been a big day, lots of miles and Salar #1 crossed. My confidence is biking through the water on the Salar de Uyuni was pretty high, but it was three times bigger.

    The following day I was feeling pretty tired and needed a rest day. My plan was to get to the town of Llica about 20 miles south, stock up on water, and camp on the edge of the Salar de Uyuni. On the way to Llica I was walking my bike up a hill and found an old motorcycle license plate lying on the ground. Perfect! Bolivia 15999, I got some cord and tied it to my rear rack, should get some laughs from the locals! Arriving in Llica was a bit strange, it is the largest town for a long ways, home to a small university and military base. They don’t get too many cycle tourists there either, I got curious looks from just about everyone. After mulling about and trying to get last minute information from locals and truckers about salar conditions it was time to roll out. They all said that the water was either very little or knee deep, why bother asking? Leaving Llica I passed a military checkpoint manned by a crew of teenagers. We had a bit of fun together and joked around a bit before it was time to go. They took note of the license plate and even wrote down my number in their log book. On to the Salar.

    The feeling of approaching such a vast expanse of flat nothing was intense. I was self sufficient and had 17 liters of water, enough for three days if I pushed it. I made my way around several peninsulas of land before reaching a point where the route passed a signed entrance to the salar. There actually are busses that cross the salar a few times a week and trucks which connect Llica with Uyuni and two other villages on the north and south edges of the Salar. In addition there are 4x4 tour groups that visit the eastern parts of the salar before heading south to Laguna Colorado. I knew that tracks in the salt could therefore not be trusted for navigation. Camped among ancient coral rocks that night, I plotted my course on government issued military maps - 120 degrees southeast for 60 miles would take me to Isla del Pescado – fish island. From there due east for 20 miles would bring me to another island where I hoped to camp. Feeling a healthy blend of nervous excitement I went to sleep.

    Go time! Big breakfast of eggs and was on the bike at 7:00am. The entrance to the salar got me a bit nervous as there were big pools of water and the salt fairly slushy. Soon thereafter though I was riding along making good time on a well traveled route. It was a beautiful morning, sun blaring at me to the east with clear skies. Little by little the track I was following petered out as I was holding my compass bearing. Within an hour of riding there was only a single vague set of tire tracks in the salt. The slushy surface also faded away, replaced by endless hardened polygons. The polygon riding was quite abusive, no where else to go however as I surveyed the vast expanse of salt around me. A bit later a sliver of land emerged out of the mirage on the horizon, must be Isla del Pescado I think to myself and patted myself on the back for sticking to my bearing. Now at least I had something to aim for. Soon enough I was riding on some water. It took just a tiny bit to change things dramatically. A bit between the polygons or just a very thin covering made for awesome reflections. A bit further and the water was about 1” deep, deep enough to make everything soaked in salt water and for the most impressive reflections yet. “I am a salty *****…” I joke to myself as I cake on more sunscreen on top of dried salty skin.

    Deeper into the Salar, the water maxed out at about 2” for about 30 miles. As I got closer to Isla del Pescado I was confident that I could pull it off. This was doable after all and my determination was paying off. Reaching the island I went through some pretty deep water before reaching the shore. As I relaxed on the beach all the salt on my body and everything I had crystallized into a thick white flakey crust as it dried out in the strong sunlight “I’m such a salty *****”… I walked uphill a bit to get some perspective on the surroundings. I could see my next island destination as a sliver of black in the reflective mirage, it also looked like there was a lot more water between here and there. Saddling up I headed out.

    The feeling of being exposed is unmatched in the middle of the salar, there is no shelter, there are no other people, the closest land is either a deserted island or 50 miles away. It a humbling place to bike across solo, yet at the same time is empowering. The 20 miles to Isla Inca Huasi were “turn off the brain” miles, the conditions stayed the same with 3” of spraying salt water and bumpy polygons. I could easily see where I needed to go so I just grinded away for 3 hours as the island very slowly got bigger and bigger and Isla del Pescado was left behind in my wake.

    Isla Inca Huasi is a main destination for 4x4 tour groups. I pulled in around 1:30 just as a whole bunch of groups were making it their lunch stop. I was not quite ready for re-emergence with other tourists. I stopped to talk with a group of young French, and the first thing out of one of their mouths was “its much better from the roof of a land crusier..” as he lit a cigarette. I didn’t quite know what to say, only that it pissed me off and decided that would be my first and last conversation at this place. I made my way to the back side of the island to hide and make camp in solitude.

    Watching the sunset that evening from the top of the island was beyond words but something like “outrageously stunning” comes to mind. This evening was to be my very last time camping in 5 months of traveling. It was a bit sad to think about, but I had no problems with it once the winds picked up to 40 mph and began pulling my tent apart. “Always going out with a fight” I thought to myself as I re-orientated my tent and tried building rock walls at 11:00pm.

    Last day of biking for the trip. I headed out from Inca Huasi on beautiful smooth and fast salt with no water. It was the kind of stuff you could drag race on and I popped it into the big ring for the first time since I left the highway a week earlier. At this point navigation was a bit fun as I was heading to the eastern edge of the Salar where there is an actual hotel made of salt blocks, then access to a road on the land. The maps I had were so outdated that I had to guess on my bearing a bit and hope for the best. Hours ticked by and the riding grew a bit monotonous, I kept seeing 4x4’s on various other paths off in the distance and was still hoping I was heading in the right direction. Just as I had hoped however could eventually see the black square shape of the hotel pop up out of the mirage a bit off to my right. Nailed it! A while later I pulled up to the building feeling totally psyched. From there I was home free, 10 more miles of Salt and only 3 more hours to Uyuni. I ate pretty much all my remaining snack food and headed out. I hauled ass all the way back to Uyuni pretty much racing one of the beater busses that travel the Salar. It was an amazing feeling pulling into Uyuni, I had done what I set out to do. Biked the entirety of the western Altiplano and crossed the two Salars. Something I had dreamed of doing for years and the inspiration for the trip to begin with. Next up was finding a pressure washer to clean up all that salt!

    That was it for the bike, I made my way to Potosi then to La Paz by buss before 4 days of flying back to Alaska. I don’t have the travel bug anymore, we’ll see how long this trip will hold me over before changing my life again.

    If you want to do something, do it now!
    Thanks for reading!

    Photos:
    Villa Vitilina with the north edge of the Salar de Coipasa in the background.
    Salt mine truckers in the Salar de Coipasa
    in the salar
    Muddy salt in the southern end of the Salar de Coipasa
    View of bike and salar
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Bearbait; 06-16-2006 at 12:28 PM.

  43. #43
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002

    Photos

    Track and Village of Hizo
    Quinoa field
    Army boys leaving Llica
    Bike at the entrance to Salar de Uyuni
    Attached Images Attached Images

  44. #44
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002

    More and more photos!

    Night before crossing Salar de Uyuni in background
    Morning, entrance to Salar- lots of water!
    Bike reflection in water
    Sunset on Isla Inca Huasi
    Camp on Isla Inca Huasi
    Attached Images Attached Images

  45. #45
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002

    more and more and more photos

    Navigating the big white
    Bike near east end of Salar
    Polygons, Isla del pescado in distance
    i am a salty *****...
    en route to potosi, bike on roof of bus.

    Cheers
    Attached Images Attached Images

  46. #46
    pepito
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Posts
    640

    Good job!

    best. thread. ever. thank you.

    the_dude
    "Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling" ~James E. Starrs

  47. #47
    what?
    Reputation: Padronis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    30
    That has to be one of the greatest things I have ever read! Thanks for sharing!!!!

  48. #48
    Gone riding
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    3,369
    Thanks so much for sharing you journey with us Bearbait, it has just been fantastic to read. Over the last few days I have been looking forward to each new chapter, and the brilliant photos that followed. Words just can’t describe what you’ve experienced.

    You’re a very lucky man.

    Cheers, Dave.

  49. #49
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    1,245
    Your pictures are incredible......simply stunning! A trip of a lifetime covering a vast expanse few will ever see except for the few courageous souls willing to navigate solo in such desolate terrain.

    This is bar none the single best thread I have ever read on mtbr! Hats off my friend, and please post your next adventure.
    "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." -Albert Einstein

  50. #50
    Squalor
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,576
    Bearbait - I remember you soliciting advice on the 29er board some time ago regarding a durable rear wheel for a "long South American tour".

    I guess this was that tour.

    AMAZING! I've never seen anything like those reflective pictures of the salt flats.

    LP

  51. #51
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    453
    Congratualtions man! Simply amazing. Truely inspiring. Thank you.

  52. #52
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    1,245
    I guess a follow-up question I forgot to ask was what was the bike setup? I assume you had to balance durability versus weight since you would be traveling such great distances alone and needed to carry much potable water (and gear) along with you.
    "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." -Albert Einstein

  53. #53
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002

    Questions

    Brian- I posted the bike setup a while back on the 29er forum but It was basically as follows:
    Large Monkey con:
    XTR 8spd cassette, old sram 9.0 shifters and rear deraillier, 22, 30, 42 up front, square taper bb and old race face cranks. XT and LX V brakes, XT hubs to DT TK 7.1 rims, Schwabble Marathon XR 2.0 tires, older time pedals.

    Touring stuff - Tubbus cargo rear rack with ortlieb panniers, Blackburn expedition rack up front. I had my front panniers stolen in Ecuador so I was just using compression stuff sacks that I found in Quito strapped on up front. For water I had a 10 L and 4L MSR dromadary bags plus my bike bottles plus usually another 2 L water bottle strapped on somewhere. When full, the 10 L bag was a real beast, I nicknamed it "big pappa".

    The Marathon XR tires were key, they have got to be the strongest tire out there. I only had one flat the whole trip, amazing... also that tubbus rack is totally bomber.

    Nothing else really went wrong, I was anticipating that the small rear rack eyelets on the monkey would break at some point but they never did.
    Eric

  54. #54
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    1,245
    Bearbait,

    Thanks for the post re bike setup. Am also curious if the solitude ever got to you during your 5 month sojourn.

    I thought I had some great trips to Nepal/Peru, but yours has me truly envious

    Brian
    "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." -Albert Einstein

  55. #55
    post-ride specialist
    Reputation: icegeek's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    4,010
    you win

  56. #56
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Ultra Magnus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    2,163
    absolutely amazing journey. This should be in print somewhere. I've saved this thread as an .html file to read over and over.

    Do you mind me asking what kind of camera you took with you? I can't imagine it's a digital, seeing how finding places to plug it in for a recharge might be difficult.

    BM
    "I've come to believe that common sense is not that common" - Matt Timmerman

  57. #57
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002

    Camera

    Hey BM,
    I used a canon S60, which is 5 megapixles and is practically the only point and shoot with a wide angle lens (28mm if you consider that wide!)

    I had two batteries and they lasted really well.

    Glad you guys are psyched on it, its been fun re-living it here.
    Eric

  58. #58
    roots, rocks, rhythm
    Reputation: Dawgprimo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    647
    Great read
    Fantanstic pictures
    Very Cool trip!!!
    Thanks for sharing


  59. #59
    North Van/Whistler
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    3,614
    On longer trips (3 + weeks) I've usually gone with toe clips so I could use only hiking or trail shoes for side trips and scrambles. I see you used clipless and Sidis. How did that work for you with salt?

    How long did it take you to acclimatize to riding at 16k?

    The highest I've ridden is 14k. How did you feel riding at 16k? Did you take meds? Any special sunscreen etc for the extra burn off the salt flats?

    The maps I've seen for the Bolivia altiplano (topos) are crap. Where did you source yours?
    Locals' Guide to North Shore Rides http://mtbtrails.ca/

  60. #60
    beer thief
    Reputation: radair's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    4,577
    This trip was over the top, out of the box, all those cliches.

    Stunning photos and descriptions. Good luck with your transition back to civilization.

  61. #61
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Rev Bubba's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    3,745

    Absolutely wonderful

    I read your post on the train ride home last night and totally enjoyed it. Thank you for doing what most of us could not even dream of attempting.
    REV

  62. #62
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Posts
    2
    Wow, great picts and the trip sounds amazing.

    I have heard a similar story from a crazy Spaniard once. Everytime I have ever told it, I have dubbed him "the most hard core person I have ever met". Here is the short version. Met a guy with a loaded mtn bike in LaPaz, asked where he was coming from. Turns out he had flown into the Northern coast of Brazil, rode the entire coastline down to the Southern tip of S.America. Then rode the 5000 miles of Chilean coastline. After that he wanted to see the Alti-Plano so rode up over it to Uyuni, then eventually up to LaPaz. When asked where he was going he replied, "I think I might fly home from NY!" Holy ****....was going to be around a 2 year trip. (Same guy had ridden North to South through africa).

    Anyhow very inspirational to think that people are out there right now doing trips like the one Bear Bait has shared.......bad ass.

  63. #63
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    657
    Wow, great thread!
    This is something that most people couldn't ever even dream of, including me. I have a LOT of respect for you and your trip. Good job.
    pUt Da LiMe In Da CoKe YoU nUt


  64. #64
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002

    Mas Preguntas

    LeeL- So for Shoes, Lots of people on big tours just use clips, you're right. I've never used cross over type clipless shoes and for the long mileage I didnt want to use toe clips. So the extra <2 lbs of carrying a pair of trail runners is the way to go for me. I did a bunch of big hikes here and there and didnt want to have cleats on my shoes either. They were nice to have for all the stream crossings too.

    Yes - the maps of the Altiplano area are crap. The best country maps are made by ITMB (great waterproof paper!) and Nelles maps, that being said neither cover the altiplano well. Villages and roads are either missing or in the completly wrong place. You can get good topo maps from The Instuito Geographico militar (IGM) office in La Paz, they are a bit expensive and you end up with big photocopies but they do the trick. Problem with the IGM maps is that they are completly outdated (made in the 70's) so roads and tracks are not always shown correctally, but they are good for navigating based on natural features. I cant tell you the amount of times I came into big Y intersections in the middle of a featureless pampa, stared at my map, then completly guessed at which direction to go.

    Altitude- no meds, Coming from peru I had spent a bunch of time biking around Lake Titicaca, then in La Paz, then Uyuni, on a bike your travel out there is gradual enough that it gives you the time needed to acclimate. In India however we got slapped around by the thin air going over the Barlach La (spelling?) which is over 16k, since there you ride at 11k for a few days then face a big climb. After that though you spend considerable time at 14k and then the bigger passes like the Tanglang 17,400' and Kardung La 18,400' were not bad at all since we were good and acclimitized.

    Sunscreen - I had Spf 45 that I picked up in La Paz which worked well with my special custom made sun hat (photo to come). Dermatone, the white glacial cream, might be nice if you have fair skin out there.

    keep em coming,
    E

  65. #65
    banned
    Reputation: Drewdane's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    6,059
    That is just a mind-blowing trip you took there! Amazing, and great pics.

    I gotta say though, people like you give people like me conniption fits . (State Department, Consular Services - we clean up the mess when bike trips across the Altiplano go sour).

    (For future reference, and for any U.S. citizen planning overseas travel: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/...tion_1186.html )
    Last edited by Drewdane; 06-16-2006 at 02:09 PM.

  66. #66
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002

    Smile

    The official "Salty Bit(h" sun visor worked well for the occasion.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  67. #67
    North Van/Whistler
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    3,614
    ty re maps BearBait.

    I used ITMB maps for Baja surf trips and for getting off the beaten path. A lot of it was compass work though

    Someone I know is using Google Earth for a skitour traverse in the Patagonia. He used google earth and government topo maps for Baffin Island ski tours and apparently that worked out well in north america.

    I don't know what to say that's not been said before other then that was spectacular.

    What i'd be interested to hear is how well your kit held up to the salt beds and what kind of wheels; rear hub and wear and tear builds you put together
    Locals' Guide to North Shore Rides http://mtbtrails.ca/

  68. #68
    mtbr member
    Reputation: ShivaSteve's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    226
    I have to agree. Simply stunning, classic, epic redefining adventure. Brilliant photography. OH MY GOD.

  69. #69
    mtbr member
    Reputation: BuckyBeaver's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    1
    Thank you for this extremely impressive thread. Amazing pictures of your epic adventure. I am your number one fan, and I admire you more than words can say.
    AMAZING.....BREATHTAKING........EPIC..........ONCE IN A LIFETIME.........

    I am THRILLED for you!

  70. #70
    a.k.a. MTBMaven
    Reputation: mtnfiend's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    1,749
    Amazing. Your trip reminds me of this guy I worked with at Sport Chalet in Huntington Beach, CA. He took off with his bike and traveled the World for like 3 years. Or the cyclist a co-worder ran into in Brazil that started his journey in Alaska.

    My wife and I are leaving for Peru on Wednesday (6/21). We might be going to La Paz after Lake Titicaca. I'm going to look into these 4x4 tours you speak of.

    Thank you so much for the wonderful story! I really enjoyed your adventure...vicariously.
    I thought of that while riding my bicycle. ~ Albert Einstein on the theory of relativity

  71. #71
    Any given singletrack!
    Reputation: blue_dragon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Posts
    72
    This is outsanding journey...

    So, where you plan to go next year?

  72. #72
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002
    mtnfiend- Have a fun trip.
    If you do look into a 4x4 trip you will have no problem arranging it in Uyuni, it would be more $ arranged in La Paz. Also make sure the tour goes by Laguna Hediona and Laguna Honda, it is where that first group of photos were taken, a route not many groups do since it is further distance and more wear and tear on their vehicles.
    PM if you have any questions.

  73. #73
    nachos rule!
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    391
    simply stunning, senor. fantastic write-up, thank you very much for sharing.
    plus a change, plus c'est la m'me chose - alphonse karr

  74. #74
    mtbr member
    Reputation: dawgs1850's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    51
    Absolutely amazing. Congratulations on an amazing trip! Excellent writing and beautiful photos!
    Trying hard to get less fat...

  75. #75
    Alaska Turner Mafia
    Reputation: EndoRando's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    1,111
    Wow Eric, what an experience! I'm really glad you took the time to write it up and share it with us too. The accompanying photos really helped to relive your tour, I'm jealous as he!!, what an adventure.

    I have to admit though that I got a chuckle out of seeing your one red crank. I remember the day the other broke in front of Manoog's Isle, as you almost went down with a pedal and half a crankarm attached to your cleat. Obviously you pieced a mismatched set together and they made the entire trip. From my perspective that also added a touch of character.

    I smiled inwardly too when you told of turning around after having second thoughts and searched for the woman with the scarf. That was something a mensch would do. Nice show of goodwill. Glad you had an amazing trip and good to see you made it back to Anchorage safely. See ya on the trails.

    Rando
    Deceleration Trauma is my middle name

  76. #76
    Kathleen in AZ
    Reputation: DurtGurl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Posts
    5,177

    Wow

    You have opened the world up to us. Many thanks for sharing.

  77. #77
    Cheesiest
    Reputation: intheways's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    1,557
    Truly righteous!

  78. #78
    Floater
    Guest
    That's Passion!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Just incredible

  79. #79
    3327333
    Reputation: edemtbs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Posts
    2,856
    I'm very late to this posting and thus any exclamatory words I could come up with have already been said.

    Thanks for the pics and stories, paltry as that seems, it will just have to do -

    Ed E

  80. #80
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    2,379
    Just read this as well, but amazing write-up and photos.

    Thank you.

  81. #81
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Posts
    1,978
    Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!
    There's a big difference between ripping and skidding. Those who skid don't know how to ride.

  82. #82
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Posts
    326
    Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

  83. #83
    Tear it all out! SuperModerator
    Reputation: CraigH's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    7,755
    Quote Originally Posted by QCRage
    Stunning.... I am so blown away, this is the kinda stuff you read about in books.
    I agree, your adventures need to be in a book.
    Your trip is like the guy from Time who rode around Australia, but yours is much more remote.

    Simply incredible!

    Thanks for posting!

  84. #84
    Tear it all out! SuperModerator
    Reputation: CraigH's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    7,755
    ...and I didn’t want to get caught in another thunderstorm while standing in electrolyte solution.
    LOL, although I imagine it wasn't funny at the time.

    I've done short tours, but nothing even close to what you've done.

    Thanks again for posting, and I have to agree with others that have said that this is the best thread they've ever read here. I have no idea why I didn't see it when you posted back in June.

  85. #85
    Tear it all out! SuperModerator
    Reputation: CraigH's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    7,755
    Found some more threads of yours where you posted photos from your trip:

    a Bolivia!
    Sun and dirt
    The Monkey Enters Peru

    Your bike & pannier set up:
    The Monkey Expedition Begins

  86. #86
    yeah, uh............bikes
    Reputation: FloridaFish's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    2,715
    opened my new issue of DirtRag today and immediately remembered this thread.

    Good job! I haven't read the article yet, but the images in the magazine and your post will be in my mind until I die......and hopefully someday I'll add my own snapshots of these scenes to the catalog in my head.


  87. #87
    wanna dance?
    Reputation: HotBlack's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    1,074
    Wow. Just wow. With a little extra dish of more wow on the side.

    Also, wow.

    I'm going.

  88. #88
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Posts
    483
    Simply incredible! Thanks for sharing this amazing adventure with us, for which no words adequately could describe (it). A ride, nay, a journey, for which the term epic isn't even close to characterize it. Thanks again! What would be the word for "beyond epic?" -GT2005

  89. #89
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Ultra Magnus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    2,163
    For the record, I tediously copy/pasted this post into a word doc and made a pdf of it...

    Way too good to not have to browse through whenever I want...

    BM
    "I've come to believe that common sense is not that common" - Matt Timmerman

  90. #90
    !Vamos, flaco!
    Reputation: Pabs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    1,360
    Probably the best thread ever.
    "Fact is only what you believe; fact and fiction work as a team." Jack Johnson

  91. #91
    mtbr member
    Reputation: notrelatedtoted's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Posts
    722
    This should be a sticky. Amazing - and I haven't even read the words yet.

  92. #92
    Tear it all out! SuperModerator
    Reputation: CraigH's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    7,755
    LOL!

    My wife and I were talking about this thread when we saw the article in the magazine.

    Bearbait, you still out there?

  93. #93
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    32
    That's a killer trip man. Nice tent! I just got one. Do you have a day by day journal over at crazyguyonabike.com or no?

  94. #94
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002
    Thanks, fun to see this pop back up again!

    check this out too..
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqSPRhc2qLs
    Last edited by Bearbait; 05-14-2008 at 08:39 PM.

  95. #95
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    35
    dude, you just blew my mind!

  96. #96
    crd
    crd is offline
    ride like a girl
    Reputation: crd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Posts
    621
    Quote Originally Posted by Bearbait
    Thanks, fun to see this pop back up again!
    Nice narrative and photos! I especially like the hot springs photo
    Laguna-Verde.jpg

    I hope one day to visit Bolivia, my daughter is part Bolivian, so more motivation to get out there...

  97. #97
    It's carbon dontcha know.
    Reputation: 6thElement's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    3,997
    I've had this bookmarked for a little while since it got bumped up waiting for an opportune moment to read through it and enjoy the photos. Thank you for posting up the photos and journal entries, a trip most of us can only dream of.

  98. #98
    Steady Creepin'
    Reputation: LuMach's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    486
    Yeah, I'd seen this in Dirt Rag too, great story. Looks like it was an amazing experience, very inspiring.

  99. #99
    It's carbon dontcha know.
    Reputation: 6thElement's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    3,997
    Which dirtrag was the feature in?

  100. #100
    Caveman
    Reputation: Bearbait's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    1,002
    It was DR# 135,
    Thanks guys

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Members who have read this thread: 0

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •