So I have been further punished by the Bolivian roading network since my last blog. After a pleasant day in Sucre to have a look around and recover as best as I could, I set off on a route that I felt would give me the easiest way towards Santa Cruz (a large modern town between the Capital city and the Eastern border with Brazil). Actually when tourist info describes towns as modern you know the rest of the countryside is pretty run down or has never run up so to speak.
|Breakfast with the Locals.|
Two options presented themselves to get to Santa Cruz. The first headed directly north towards another large town Cochabamba and then East. The Second headed more Easterly to start with but had fewer towns along route. After looking at Google Earth from my Hotel in Sucre I decided to go with the first option thinking that I deserved a couple easier days. O’ and that’s right the road is supposed to be going down. Payback time for climbing the Andes.
The road climbed out of Sucre and then plunged down and down into a gently sloping valley for the first 90km of a 140km day. Great I thought this is the story. Road workers were everywhere clearing up after the flooding following the wet season. The road now had turned to concrete and the workers were diligently sweeping the dust off it with leafy branches. Incidentally the road workers all get to work on their bicycles and they are an interesting sight all parked along the road ready to take the workers home again after their shift for the day. Other than this you see no recreation cyclists or weekend warriors as we have back home.
|Look Smooth to You?. I Assure You it Wasn't.|
Ok I should have known something was amiss by the lack of traffic and the fact that every time I get a bit of easy cycling I get punished shortly after. Today was no exception. At the 93km mark the road went over a bridge and suddenly turned into a rough rock strewn dirt track. I thought road works, no problem the seal will be back soon. Fifty kilometres later as I just dragged myself and my bike into my destination for the night in the dark I was resigned to the fact that the seal was gone for good. The hostal man confirmed that the next day of 100kms was all on dirt. (This is not just a dirt road but a dirt road resembling the sort of track you get to the face of a landfill. Rough compacted earth with all sorts of uneven rocks and crap in it).
The next day I could barely make 10km/hr on what Bolivians call a dirt road and I’d call a 4 wheel drive track.( In fact similar to a forestry track that’s been cut up by heavy vehicles). Once again there just weren’t enough daylight hours in the day to make my target in daylight. I pulled into my destination in the dark and totally filthy from the dust thrown up by trucks passing me. There were no cars on these roads just labouring trucks and not many of those. It was a lonely dusty day. To top it off the silly girl at the hostal that I managed to find showed me the shower which only had cold water (and which I had to use because I was so filthy) when in the morning I found out there was a warm one on the next level!
The next morning I felt fairly sure that there were only 30kms of dirt track left before I intersected the Santa Cruz road but it tested my mental resolve fully. The road headed firstly to the base of a big slip that workmen were clearing and then the ‘road’ headed up the dry river bed! Once my Mercian and I had bounced over river boulders for 10 kms the road headed up a ridge that at times was just un ride-able for 15kms.During all this time I have to be conscious of the fact that I have to keep my bike and gear intact. Bad as the conditions are, things will always be much worse if you break a rack mount or frame!
Mentally I’d almost had enough. Finally after a descent averaging 13km/hr bouncing from one rock to the next we popped out on the Santa Cruz road that was sealed! (Mostly anyway)
You know it’s a funny thing. The Bolivians in the bigger towns almost go about their lives like people in other cities around the world and yet, just on the outskirts of their city there’s just dust and dirt and disorder. I’ll see school kids and young women dressed up to go to school or work walking along dusty dirty roads with vehicles creating clouds of dirt all around and I wonder why they bother.
|Dropping in Altitude things took a Turn for Tropical (and Tidy!!)|
I’m glad I didn’t bother cleaning my bike in Sucre. In fact I’m not going to bother until I get to Brazil. I’m hanging out a bit for Brazil because I think it might just be a little more up market. So far there’s always been a catch. We’ll see. And I’m a bit worried that I haven’t seen the last of the dirt tracks. After Santa Cruz I’ve still got a week of riding to get to the border with Brazil.
One day later and I have managed to arrive in Santa Cruz with enough time to find the most expensive hotel in town ($140 NZ) complete with door waiter’s indoor pool, the works. And I thought that the place I had in Sucre was fancy. Nothing compared to this. Tenting in Europe and living on supermarket food is going to be tough after this.
|Municipal Plaza Santa Cruz. Lovely. (Bring your Girlfriend Here.)|
I feel now that I can safely say that the East of Bolivia is the place to come. I am now off the Andes and at 300mtrs altitude. The temperature is tropical. Tonight on my walk to the central plaza pictured it is 24 degrees C. Today’s ride was a joy. Although Adi had put in my notes “all downhill” it was in fact mainly downhill with two 10km climbs over the last of the Andes foothills.
Santa Cruz and its surroundings have so far proved to be the tidiest and most scenic part of the ride through Bolivia. And I’m crossing my fingers here, after talking to a young cycling couple today who had some English, I have gleaned that the road to the border with Brazil is mostly sealed. I’m really hoping it is because dirt road in Bolivia is enough to give me nightmares. Especially when your route planner has you doing 160kms over it. Riding in the dark over dirt road is not to be considered.
|And Stay Here!|
Good night all.
No time to plan my route out of Santa Cruz in the morning. I’ll just have to head dead East and hope for the best.
And those young guys at the bike shop wondered why I had a little compass on my handlebars. Boy would they ever be lost in a foreign country. Roadie’s aye.
ps. A whole bag of grapes from a roadside stall cost me $2 NZ today. They don't sell smaller quantities so tummy could be dodgey again tonight for the right reason.