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Dec 17th - Dec 26th 2010

Bolivia Cont.

 

17/12/2010

Start Mileage - 31,501

Miles - 88

Potosi (Hostel Campania de Jesus) - Sucre (Hostel El Cabildo)

Up for breakfast, pay the bill, pack up and squeeze the bike out of the door and onto the busy, narrow and on a slope road! Made it without getting beeped at by impatient taxi drivers going nowhere in the stationery traffic!!! We made it out of town relatively easy for a change as well and started the descent through the mountains towards Sucre. Another hot day with good riding and asfalto all the way.

We had checked the internet before leaving Potosi to try and sort out accommodation in Sucre but everything we had seen was either fully booked or way to pricey (Christmas is coming and the prices rocket Ö some things are the same world over!!!). As we rode into town we could see a hostel from the main road,† it looked a bit pricey but you never know, so we pulled† in to check it out. As soon as we pulled up at the gate the owner came out, opened up and ushered us in. We hadnít even got our helmets off before we were given a cold drink, told to sit down and the maps came out. We had to give Victor and Maria† a complete run down of the trip before he would even talk about prices. Eventually we get the price Ö BOB210 Ö Ouch!! After a bit† of haggling the price was dropped to BOB180, still pricey but we agreed. We had secure parking, free fast internet, cable T.V. and hot water in the showers 24 hours so not too bad really.† Itís a huge place with 2 big banqueting halls, conference rooms, swimming pool, restaurant and gardens.

We unpacked the bike and then asked Victor for directions into town, he told us where to go and what to look for then jumped in the car and told us to get in, great, a lift into town and it will save us walking up the steep hill to get there. We jump in the car and set off at a rapid rate of knots, up the hill round the corner and then Victor pulls up at the side of the road and points out the mental institution and the park. Off we go again, twice around the roundabout, mental institution pointed out again and the direction we need to go to get to the center which is about 5 blocks. We were waiting for Victor to pull over and let us out but instead we just drove around the roundabout again and headed straight back to the hostel picking up some of Victors family on the way backÖ hmmm, I think maybe we must have missed something in the translation!! So up the hill we go, itís a killer and the legs are suffering at the top! We made it into town, really nice, old colonial buildings all whitewashed and no graffiti. There is a law in Sucre that all the buildings have to be painted every year. We found a street full of people and with lots of bars with happy hour all night :-) and a street party going on with stalls on both sides selling great looking and smelling food so decided that was going to be dinner. We had to get tickets from a stall back up the street so fought our way back through the crowd bought our tickets for BOB25 each, the party is an annual event to raise money to help the local sick that canít afford medical treatment. The food was as good as it looked and smelt, a big plate of chicken, beef, potatoes, veg and a corn on the cob accompanied by hundreds of kids playing pan pipes and drums. Dinner finished we dropped into one of the quieter bars with happy hour for a beer or two and to escape the pounding music coming from the other bars and the huge speakers at the end of the street. Walking back to the hostel we got to the main plaza and a group of the kids from earlier were putting on a show, dancing and music with everyone joining in .. Good to watch. No pictures though as we didnít take a camera!!

About 200 meters from the hostel Victor pulls up in the car again and offers us a lift, we declined!! he tells us he has been out delivering invitations for his birthday party tomorrow and invites us as well.

 

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18-20/12/2010

Sucre (Hostel El Cabildo)

18/12/2010 - Into town around 14:00. We have been racking our brains trying to think what we had that was British that we could give to Victor for his birthday when I remembered I had a picture on one of the flash drives of HMS Exeter tied up in Portsmouth. He was a fighter pilot in the Bolivian Air Force and we had been talking last night about our time in Royal Navy so we found a copy shop and got the picture printed off.

Back to the hostel for about 18:00 to get ready for he party which starts at 19:00. We gave it a little while before we went in to let family and friends congregate first, and we didnít want to seem to be to eager to get stuck into the free booze and food!!! At 19:30 we were the first people there, waiting didnít work then!! So we had a beer and talked with Victor until people started to turn up at 20:30. We were called through into the huge room that was set up for the party, lots of tables each with 2 or 3 bottles of Johnny Walker whisky. About 100 people had turned up and the whisky was disappearing rapidly so more was brought out and Vodka which helped to fuel the dancing, which we avoided getting involved in!

21:30 and people started to leave, bugger no free food like we expected :-( At least we had lunch in town. At 22:00 we got called up stairs to the dining room. A great meal with beef, pork and chicken and not skimpy portions either .. makes the cost of the room a bit more bearable now. After the meal it was back downstairs for more whisky, vodka and dancing, guess which one we didnít partake in!! At 02:00 we were both done in so said our goodnights and got our heads down, think the party went on until about 04:00.

19/12/2010 - Not up very early this morning!!! After copious coffees to clear the thick head we set out for the local craft market at Tarabuco, about 60KMís from here. Victor told us to take a taxi from the town rather than the local bus to Parada Tarabuco so we jumped in one at the top of the hill, we asked the driver how much and he said BOB10 Ö great, thatís cheap for a 60KM taxi ride Ö 2KMís the other side of town we were dropped at a bus stand, Parada Tarabuco isnít in Tarabuco it is the stop in Sucre to get the bus to Tarabuco!!! We squashed into the 15 seater micro bus that had 21 people in and all their shopping that wouldnít fit on the roof and set off for the hour and a half journey to Tarabuco. When we unsqueezed ourselves off the bus the first mission was to find somewhere with coffee!! Usually the market is mostly set up for the tourists, selling the brightly coloured hats and ponchoís etc. to the gullible. Today however is an annual gathering of the indigenous people from the surrounding area and there are lots of people milling around in their traditional costumes, not a put on show for the tourist, and lots of local bands playing traditional music. We wandered around for a couple of hours refusing to buy ponchoís, hats and bags and getting shouted at for taking a picture of a family loading up their donkey!

At 15:00 we had had enough and got the bus back to Sucre, not quite as crammed as on the way out and managed to get a bit of kip on the way back.

Victor came into the room to invite us for a coffee and saw us looking at pictures on the computer from Kruger Park so we had to take the computer out and show the pics to the whole family. After the coffee Victor et al were going out and gave us the option of either being locked inside or outside the gates .. They waited for us to get changed and gave us a lift up to the plaza, saved walking up that bloody hill again!!

Food, beer and early back to the hostel.

20/12/2010 - We had planned to move today so we were up early. Breakfast was on the table when we went outside and Victor joined us, he asked if we could wait to talk to his son on Skype, he is studying at Cambridge University, we agreed and started a slow pack after breakfast. At about 11:30 Victor eventually managed to get hold of his son, he called us over to chat to him but as soon as we sat down he lost the connection. Tried again several times but no luck, back to packing up. As we were just strapping the last bit of kit on the bike Victor came over and said that today was going to be a hotty .. too hot to travel and that we could stay another night for half price. It was very hot already so we started to unpack again, good salesman or gullible ďGringoísĒ? The latter I think!! Spent the afternoon sweating!

There was a list of restaurants posted on the wall at the hostel with 3 Chifaís (Chinese restaurants) all not too far from the plaza. Now that Iíve seen the list I have a hankering for a good Chinese meal. In the evening we took another walk into town, up that bloody hill again .. still, good practice for when we get to Machu Picchu I suppose, in search of the Chifaís. the first one we found easily enough but it turned out to be just a local restaurant run by Chinese. The second, which looked promising, called the ďStar of Hong KongĒ or something like that with Chinese style decoration was shut! The third one we donít know, where it was supposed to be according to the map, it wasnít, it was a bank .. Bummer!! no Chinese tonight so back to the Happy hour bar we were in the other night for burger and chips and an omelette. An hour after ordering our meals they turn up, we were expecting something extravagant after waiting so long but no, it was just plain old burger and chips & omelette, at least it was happy hour so the beers didnít cost as much as they could have! We could here English being spoken at the table across from us and thought we recognised one of the guys, after listening and wondering for 10 minutes I had to see if it was who we thought it was, it was a guy from London that we had met earlier in Humahuaca, small world syndrome again.

 

21/12/2010

Start Mileage - 31,589

Miles - 122

Sucre (Hostel El Cabildo) - Padilla (Hotel Padilla)

Up at 08:30 and looking out the window the courtyard is wet, cleaner in early or raining? Ö it is raining!!† After breakfast we packed the bike in the last of the rain, as soon as the last strap was tightened, the rain stopped and the sun started to come through. Weíll give it another five minutes to dry out a bit more while we have a coffee and then get going. Victor had other plans!! He had managed to get the son living in Cambridge on Skype and asked us to have a chat with him, after we had spoken for a while Victor then asked what we thought of his sons English .. So that was the reason, Victor was making sure his money was being well spent!!

Ready to go again at 10:30 and we are asked to stay a little while longer while Victor goes to pick up his brother and other son from the airport so they can say goodbye, another coffee then. Then it rained, heavily, everything on the bike got soaked.

12:00 and we are once again set for the off, goodbyes said and loaded up with biscuits and fags by Maria we get going in the drizzle, until we get to the road we need to follow to Tarabucco and we got lost that is Ö thought we would remember it from the trip the other day but with so many lefts and rights we ended up back where we started. Ask a taxi driver ďSi, es asiĒ, (yes itís that way), confirm with another driver and he points us in a completely different direction!!! We then ride the 100 or so meters to the bus stop to ask a bus driver, which is what we should have done in the first place, they should know as thatís the only place they go. Proper directions in hand and we get on the right road without any more problems, we were just missing one turn in our previous attempts. The drizzle persisted as we rode along to Tarabucco but in our favour it stopped just as the tarmac did not long after the Tarabucco turn off. 10KMís of good dirt with a few roadworks and then back to tarmac for a little while. Once again the road turned to dirt and by the map it looks like it is going to be dirt all the way to Cochabamba, hope the rainy season doesnít start proper!! A great ride on some mostly good dirt roads, barring a few wet and muddy patches, through small sleepy villages where as is usually the case we get waved and whistled at as we pass through, hopefully it is because they are friendly and not annoyed that we woke them up. As time was getting on and there isnít a great deal on the map as far as towns or villages go we pulled up at Padilla and found a hotel with secure parking, right on the Plaza and all for the princely sum of BOB25 per person (£2.50 each). We took a wander around town which consists mainly of the Plaza and a few shops. We bought a few supplies that needed topping up and found a place doing Cena, we opted for the full menu, soup, main and drink. The Cenas we have had have been good on the whole, tasty and a fair size portion for not much money, this one wasnít any different, except that this was the first one that had whole chickens feet in the soup, maybe they just held them back from the ďGringoísĒ before!!! The feet were the only thing left on the plate at the end though we just couldn't bring ourselves to suck what little meat there was off them like the locals were!

 

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22/12/2010

Start Mileage - 31,711

Miles - 115

Padilla (Hotel Padilla) - Pucara (Residencial Montes)

We are riding out to Pucarra today where we will pick up part of the Ruta del Che. This was the final march of Che Guevara and his band of guerrilleros before he was captured and assassinated at La Higuera, a small village S.W. of Valle Grande. His body was later transported and put on display at Valle Grande before being buried at an undisclosed location. In 1997 his body was later discovered buried under an airstrip near Valle Grande and was returned to Cuba for burial.

 

We need fuel before we leave and there is no fuel station near Padilla but we are told of a house that sells fuel which is on our way out of town. We find the house and buy 10 litres of the most expensive fuel in Bolivia (48p a Ltr!!), everyone has to make a living I suppose and where else ya gonna get it?? Happy we have enough fuel to get us to the next fuel stop we continue on our merry way along some good and some not so good roads, getting a bit concerned that every time I look at it the GPS is saying we are heading South but just put that down to the twists and turns of the road. After what seemed like hours and miles (was only about 45 minutes and 13 miles!!) we pulled over to check the map which didnít help much, not very detailed. A great spot to be lost though, high in the mountains and looking back over Padilla and for miles further on into the distance and looking up we also get to see a rainbow which completely circled the sun Ö no gold there then! Just as we are sat there scratching our heads along comes a guy on a horse so we ask if we are on the road to Pucarra .. no, we are heading to Monteagudo and need to go back to Padilla Ö. How did we manage to get lost leaving a town with only two roads and this isnít the one we came in on????† Cheap maps Ö..

Back to Padilla and ask a few times, ride around a bit then ask again, get some funny looks from the locals as we pass them in the Plaza for the 3rd time. Eventually we ask a truck driver who tells us to follow him and gets us in the right direction.

After having a reasonably early start we are now leaving Padilla again at 12:30 Ö at least on the right road this time! Well, for a couple of miles at least .. We got to fork in the road, again the map or GPS is worse than useless, we canít find any of the places that are signposted ... if all else fails, go right. Usually works but this time we ride up a few steep climbs and then the road narrows and gets very rocky. Just after we have pulled up we here a moto coming towards us and flag him down, are we going the right way? What do you think? .. Back the way we came then take the left split. With the lack of service stations and coffee shops en route we pulled over at a nice quiet spot in the middle of nowhere and brewed up at the side of the road, as soon as we had got the water on, out of nowhere a young woman appears with a bag of shopping and stops for a chat as if it is an every day thing before disappearing over a banking going who knows where, where did she come from?? We hadnít passed civilisation in hours and didnít see any for ages after we left. Coffee and biscuits consumed we get going again and the drizzle came back making the going a bit tougher and slower. Soon we came across what I had been dreading all day, a river crossing, just when I thought we were going to get away with it. There was a car parked up on our side of the river with itís doors open and water dripping out of all four, not looking good, so Lorraine goes off to do her bit for water crossings. She is in over her boots and it is a very rocky bed, might have to be a strip down of the bike and carry the gear through first. Just as she is about half way, the guy from the car says there is an alternative route back up the road a bit, just a 100 Mtrs back, a narrow dirt road leading to a narrow bridge then more dirt the other side that had been chewed up a bit by cars trying to get over the bridge .. much easier. Further along the road we come across the second river crossing of the day, this time the approach is steep, off camber and a turn at the bottom to enter the agua. No need for Lorraine to get her boots wet on this one. As Iím wondering what the best way to get down to the water would be a tractor plows through and is over axle deep at the rear, no way we could get through that. Again we were lucky Ö just back a couple of hundred Mtrs was another track that cut off to the side, no bridge this time but a lot shallower a crossing, still a slope into it, a bit wider and muddier on the other side but we made it through. We stopped on a bridge, the only piece of flat ground for a long time, for a smoke, to give my back a rest and to check the map. Garmin says we are very close to Pucara, just off to the left a bit! but no sign of life is in view for as far as we can see, onwards and upwards! Now the light is beginning to fade and still no sign of life, could be a wild camp tonight.† We haven't seen any likely spots to throw up the tent, everywhere is fenced off with barbed wire and the road is sunk lower than the rest of the ground level. Riding at night is unadvisable, riding on really bad roads at night is stupid, so on we go!! Just as the last of the light disappears in the distance we can see the glow of Pucaraís lights, sanctuary! 14KMís of narrow dirt road in the dark, that was the longest 14KMís we have done, it took forever to reach Pucara and our troubles weren't over yet. We are in the village but there still isn't any light, the road up to the Plaza is steep, rocky and very rutted. I got both wheels in different ruts, hit a patch of large, loose rocks which threw us across the road and we nearly ran a guy over that was walking down the hill but I managed to keep it upright until we hit the next rut. This time not so lucky and the bike went down on the left hand side and lying downhill .. Bugger! The guy we nearly ran over turned around to have a look and carried on walking, thanks mate! The road was so steep that we couldn't get the bike back on itís wheels so Lorraine wandered off to find help. While she was gone another passer by lent a hand and with a struggle we managed to get the bike up and over to the side of the road. 10 minutes later Lorraine comes back with the owner of the only hotel in the village who says that I can park the bike in her fathers garage which is just up the hill. With Lorraine and the hotel owner walking ahead with torches (BMW lights are rubbish!!) I managed to get up the hill without dumping it again and parked up† just taking necessaries off the bike and leaving the rest. Too late to get Cena in the restaurant next door but they had burger and chips, think they were left from lunchtime, cold, greasy the bread was solid, the dog enjoyed it later though! At least the only shop in the village had cold beer. There was a beetle the size of† a 50p piece in the room with us trying to commit suicide, I must have turned it the right way up a dozen times but it kept turning itself over again, you can only help so much!

 

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23/12/2010

Start Mileage - 31,824

Miles - 28

Pucara (Residencial Montes) - Valle Grande (Hostal El Marquies)

Looking at the road† in the daylight it is easy to pick the line through all the rubbish and to see we have a bit more of it to get out of the place. Bike packed and the offer to pay for the parking refused by the old guy we get on our way. Only 45 KMís to Valle Grande and the last part of the Ruta del Che. High in the mountains still and another great ride, a bit narrow and a bit muddy at times but no traffic.

We are staying here for a day or two over Christmas so we are going to splash out a bit on the accommodation, £9 for a nice room with private b/room and cable T.V. and parking next door included.

Either we missed the signs to La Higuera, the place Che was assassinated, or there weren't any. It is about 50KMís from Valle Grande but we donít think we will go back as there isn't much there to make the effort worthwhile, just a statue, a small museum and the building he was shot in.

Surprisingly Valle Grande isn't a very touristy town which is good, just the normal people doing their everyday stuff. Not much to the town itself, the Plaza is busy with people hanging around and there are some great smells coming from the food stalls in the market, some of the best Empanadas weíve had.

 

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24-25/12/2010

Valle Grande (Hostal El Marguies)

24/12/2010 - Lazy day, checked out tours at the local tour office to see if it was worth going to La Higuera. They only have one tour that starts at 06:00 and has a 2 hour trek, and is BOB200 each, thatíll be a no then.

Not a lot happening for Christmas eve, the Plaza is empty but the churches are full, a very quiet Christmas eve.

25/12/2010 - Another quiet day with not much happening. A very quiet Christmas for us!

 

26/12/2010

Start Mileage - 31,852

Miles - 226

Valle Grande (Hostal Marquies) - Cochabamba (Residencial Tajibos)

07:15 and we are awoken by someone knocking on the door, the guy next door wants us to move the bike out of his yard and now he wants paying for it too! I move the bike and Lorraine gets the kettle on. Packed up and on the road by 09:30 after getting directions out of town from a local truck driver. The map says we have 50KMís of ripio, 50 KMís of tarmac, 60KMís of ripio and the last 200KMís of tarmac. Apart from a bit of dirt leaving town we had nice new tarmac for the first 100KMís to Camarapa where we stopped for a coffee because Lorraineís back was giving her gyp! The next 60KMís of ripio turned out to be 150KMís of ripio instead of the tarmac beginning at Pojo, good ripio but it was raining and the road got a bit slippery but a nice ride through the cloud forest and avoiding some rockfalls along the way. We had to pull in for another coffee at Epizana as it was now throwing it down with rain, the roads had turned to rivers. It was nearly as wet inside the cafť as it was outside with the rain pouring in through the patched up roof and nearly being caught by all the buckets and pans spread across the floor. The rain eventually died down to a drizzle so we left heading for the blue skies ahead of us tarmac all the way to Cochabamba from here.

We arrived at Cochabamba at around 18:30 and started the hunt for accommodation, found a nice place with good parking easily enough although we had to cart all the gear up four flights of stairs! By the time we had offloaded and sorted out all the wet gear we couldn't be bothered looking for food, crisps and beer for dinner!!

 

 

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