I was going to say that yesterday would have to have been one off the hardest days yet. But that would be wrong as there have been so many hard days so far in this journey. But it would be the hardest day in Bolivia. On a par with the snow storm heading over the Andes in Peru.
I started at 7.30 am as I knew it was a tough ask at 180kms, over a pass and onto Potosi, that I knew was at 4000mtrs. I started from Challapta at 3700mtrs. In true Andes style the first 55kms were up hill at a gentle-ish grade but remember there’s not much air at 3700mtrs. Anyway after 55kms I was at 4300mtrs and my altimeter told me it had reached its limit. If only it was as easy as that for me. Luckily I’d set it for change of altitude so knew who much higher I was going.
|Cheap Room( luke warm shower, toilet wont flush). Contemplating the Day.|
After reaching 4300 mtrs the road refused to go down! For the next 50 kms we went down a bit and then up a lot more. It makes you cry out “what the F do I have to do to go down?” After 100kms of this and no towns to speak of I was getting very concerned that if altitude sickness didn’t get me a lack of food would. Thank goodness that at that stage a little crossroad point appeared and with it a truck stop café. Once again chicken and rice was on the menu but I didn’t complain.
Little did I know it but this is where things really went wrong. (I left my only map on the table when I left).
As is the usual case in Peru and Bolivia as I ate my lunch outside a bus driver and crew where busy trying to fix their beat-up bus. And would you believe it the sign said it was headed for Potosi. I thought shall I go out there and just throw my bike on. It was tempting but I just couldn’t do it. I haven’t suffered this much to throw it all away like that. Real cyclists don’t need support. When I need that bus or train it’s all over. Anyway I honestly believed that at 4300mtrs the rest of the way to Potosi had to be easier.
Haven’t I learnt anything? This isn’t the Rockies we’re talking about. I got on my bike (leaving my map) and the road was flattish for a bit and then it went up and up. I just couldn’t believe it. There was a storm going on in the hills to my right with snow and pitch blackness. Luckily my range of the same height was clear of bad weather. But it didn’t stop it going up. At 4700mtrs a truck driver stopped to see if I needed coco leaves for the altitude. But if one thing has gone right for me it’s a total lack of altitude sickness. It was cold up there though and I was now worried I wouldn’t make Potosi because of the climbs and because the road signs had decided since my lunch stop to add another 20kms to the distance. (They couldn’t take off 20kms, no).
|My only Company on the High Plains.|
Just as I was resigning myself to camping at 4700mtrs in a tent with summer sleeping bag, the road decided to go down. And down and down for at least 50kms.
I dropped to 3800mtrs and the darkness was coming. Just at the bottom I passed a French family of cycle tourists going the other way. They had spent the whole day doing the final 50kms I needed to do to get to Potosi. I told them to stop right we they were because there was a little village with a restaurant and to go no further. They had real mountains ahead of them. I don’t know how they’ll do it.
Anyway they told me that still ahead of me was a 400mtr climb and drop and then a 400mtr climb to Potosi. There was no way I had enough daylight for that. Darkness comes on quickly here.
Showing me how fit I was after a day from hell I still managed to crank over the first 400mtr and down the other side before freedom camping in a dry river bed 400mtrs below Potosi and 19km away.
|The Little Dots are Llama.Those hills Look like Nothing. Don't Believe it.|
It had been a 180km day over mountains with my only company herds of lama and Bolivian peasant farmers.
And the final straw….. Unpacking in the tent that evening proud of my accomplishments.
Where’s my map???? Shit.
No language and now no map, that’s just great.
What’s for dinner, road kill again?