Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Rest Day - Salta

Having spent almost the entire day yesterday going through the pros and cons of continuing on with my Bike Nightmares cycling tour through the Andes and having given my travel agent from Flight Centre no end of grief trying to come up with opportunities for me to still see some of the must see sights of Argentina and Chile before flying home, I've come to the conclusion that I should carry on riding till Mendoza (a fortnight and some one thousand kilometres or thereabouts, away) if for no other reason than it gets me into another large town with an airport, it gets me a little closer to my final destination and a prospective tour date with another (non-cycling orientated) company and most importantly of all an opportunity to "hopefully" enjoy the sights and sounds of Argentina.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Rest Day - Salta

Whilst I've been in the rather fortunate position to have been in a hotel here in Salta for the last couple of days (only cause I needed a bit of time away from the group), I heard tell from one or two of the other riders who I bumped into in town earlier today, that the campsite that the I'd otherwise be in, is a cold, miserable and run-down dump of a joint, to the extent that there's now only something like eight or nine (out of forty-five) people staying there.

Now as for whether this was a contributing factor to the brawl which occurred between a couple of guys within the group last night or not, I don't know nor care. Essentially though as far as I'm concerned (without knowing all of the details / reasons involved) I think that both parties should be shown the door..... 

On a more positive note, whilst I spent much of today either eating or shopping for tourist trinkets, I also managed to jump on a cable car to the top of San Bernardo Hill so as to get an overview of the city as well as the Lerma Valley, through which we'd driven a couple of days earlier on our way into Salta from La-Quicaca.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Rest Day - Salta

Owing to the fact that we sort of painted the town a very dark shade of red, last night, I'll have to fess up and admit that I did bugger all today. Had a bit of a late lunch in one of the restaurants overlooking the town square, then went for a bit of a snooze in one of the parks, which was then followed by dinner (a sumptuous steak) in one of the better restaurants in town, whilst watching a very large and vocal demonstration by some of the young women of Salta demanding, from what I can gather, that abortion and sex education in schools be legalised. Of course, as for how successful they'll be in a country where the Catholic Church is so well regarded, with the current Pope coming from Argentina, who knows.... Maybe it's the opportunity to get the message across that was seen as being the main aim. Either way though, the police were concerned and had the town's main church or Cathedral well and truly protected!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

La-Quicaca to Salta

Given the way I felt in Tampa a few days ago, I made the decision (and took the opportunity whilst I had Internet access in Unuyi) to book a hotel in Salta, Argentina a couple of days earlier than the group was due to arrive there, with the view that whilst I'd miss a couple of days riding it would give me an opportunity to eat well, do some "tourist stuff" and clear my head.

As a result, after saying goodbye to the group, Julia and I, jumped into a car (with a driver) for the 400 kilometre trip to Salta. Sure it was a bit more expensive than if we'd caught one of the long haul coaches, but I've got to say it certainly paid off in the long run!

Whilst we were stopped on four or five occasions by the police for a bag and identify paper check, if we'd been on one of the buses the stops would have taken considerably longer and probably added an extra hour or two to the trip. Thanks for the forewarning about the prospect of police checks must go to one of the bus driver's we spoke to last night.

Getting into town at just after 3.00PM, we took the opportunity to grab a bite to eat, t'was McDonalds I am ashamed to admit, and then to explore the city and get some retail therapy in! 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Rest Day - Tupiza

I'm not too sure why we're spending a rest day, today in Tupiza, another boring Bolivian town without any redeeming attractions or scenery. Sorry, but as you may well have deduced by now, I haven't exactly been inspired by Bolivian cities,something which hasn't exactly been helped by the poor (read virtually non-existent) service shops or the quality of the food in restaurants.

Seriously I have never come across a country so lacking in entrepreneurial flair or a willingness to do anything for themselves.

I'll be pleased to be getting back on the bike tomorrow, particularly given that from what I can gather it'll be a paved road, and will end up with us riding into Argentina, assuming the border crossing goes smoothly. I mean I will be entering the country as a POM and we all know the recent history between the England and Argentina.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Atocha to Tupiza

Whilst I had a bit of a minor scare that I might have to ride the full day today, it looked like it was going to be particularly long and hard day in the saddle on an unpaved road similar to or worse than yesterday, with one of the two trucks having not returned from its overnight search for one of the spare truck tyres that had apparently rattled loose from its moorings at some point during the day, fortuitously it returned moments before I was due to mount my stead and head out into the wild blue yonder.

As a result, I along with Carmen, Julia and Dave popped our bikes on the roof of the lunch truck, with the view that at least this way we'd get most of the day's climbing out of the way (by cheating) and at least giving ourselves every opportunity to enjoy riding (as opposed to it being a chore / endurance test) and I'm so glad we did. That's not to say we didn't do any climbing we did, with the first serious test of about four kilometres, having a gradient at time. that had pinches in the double figures. Of course, I should also mention that this was all on an unpaved road, making things just that little bit more interesting.

Of course, there were to be downhills to be found / enjoyed as well, though one did have to be mindful of the corrugations in the road that had one bouncing around on the seat like nobodies business and I'll admit it, I've got a very sore arse at the moment!

The other thing to be aware of, was not only the drop off should one take the corner's a little too fast, but also the long haul coaches! It's one thing to stay in front of one and to be pedaling like mad and speeding down hill like a looney it's another thing all together to be confronted by one coming in the opposite direction!

Being a hot day, we were all ultimately pretty wrapped when the road leveled out somewhat and the riding became a little easier. We even managed to find a little village, where we were able to enjoy a wonderful bowl of soup and a bottle of coke.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Uyuni to Atocha

If I'd known today's ride was going to be as tough as it ended up being, I would have hired a taxi, bought a car or at the very least jumped onto one of the Bike Dreams trucks. Seriously and I know that my mountain biking skills are still only at the beginner to intermediate level, the length and depth of the sand traps in combination with the washboard nature of the road surface made it extremely slow (and painful) going in what was to a certain extent, boring scenery! Things were livened up to a certain extent, when I came across these guys, though I've no idea where they were headed as there didn't appear to be a water or a feed supply nearby.

It's at this point I have to be honest and say, that by the time the lunch truck came past, (around the 85KM point in the ride) I was totally feed up, with things and ended up jumping on board for the remaining thirty odd kilometres to our designated campsite. It's a pity in a way, that I hadn't chosen to do it the other way around (not that it would have been possible I subsequently discovered) because the scenery improved, quite dramatically, within 5-10 kilometres of my getting on board the truck!

I later found out, the reason there hadn't been a lunch stop and why only doing the second stage of the ride would have been impossible, is that the lunch truck had been required to deal with a medical emergency, as one of our group, had come off his bike owing to the treacherous road conditions and dislocated his shoulder in the process!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Rest Day - Uyuni

It would seem that Uyuni must have been an important industrial or railway town at one point in time because there's a rather large and now seemingly unused train station in the centre of the city, but what makes this little town, on the edge of the salt plain, important / interesting to see, other as being a tourism hub, is it's rather large train cemetery.

Seemingly the POMS were invited over to Bolivia, in 1888 or thereabouts, to construct locomotives, carriages and most importantly of all, to lay the tracks, so as to enable the various mining company's in the area to get their minerals to the ports on the Pacific Ocean. 

Unfortunately it would seem however, when the mining industry collapsed in the 1940s as a result of mineral depletion the trains were abandoned (Run into one another and then set alight or something, would seem closer to the truth of things). Either way though, it gives rise to a very interesting site, well worth visiting if you are in the area.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Salar De Uyuni to Uyuni

This morning having stayed at a hotel in the middle of a salt plain and only being a short ride into town, we had the opportunity this morning to do a Individual Time Trial of some seven kilometres without there being any traffic lights, interference from motor vehicles or otherwise and whilst I suspect some people took it seriously (though they may not have said as much) most took it as an opportunity to blow off a bit of steam and have some fun.

Being "released" in alphabetical order by first names, I was the first to head out towards the finish line, as the rabbit for those following to chase as it were, with my prime concern being that I not be overtaken by the next chap, within the first kilometre  (the visual distance of the rest of the group). Now being first thing in the morning and without having had or made the time to warm up, I found it difficult to get going.

The air was cold making breathing extremely difficult and I suspect like most people I found it impossible to get up to a decent speed. I think I managed at one point to get to about 30KM/H but doing so made the lungs almost collapse. 

As a result, I wound it back a fraction, I mean I wanted to be able to cross the finish line in one piece and I'm glad I did.... I mean I hadn't staked any $$$ on it, wasn't taking it too seriously and doubted that I'd keep the stronger faster lads at bay regardless of what I did. In that respect I was proven right, but am pleased to say that, I reported an acceptable time nonetheless. 

Once the ITT was over and whilst the judges collated / reviewed the times people achieved,  we all headed into Uyuni the town in which we've got a rest day tomorrow and what a welcome relief it was to subsequently check into hotel with hot running water.....

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Tahua to Salar De Uyuni

With the opportunity to ride across the largest salt flat in the world and one which is apparently 25 times larger than the infamous Bonneville Salt Flats in America where so many car land speed records have (and continue to be) set, there's no way in the world you could keep me from riding today.

Issues such altitude sickness, food poisoning, the behaviour of a certain dickhead within the group (sorry for the language but there is no other way to describe him) or scratchy limbs (from the multitude of bites I endured a month or so ago and that still give me grief), were all cast aside. As a result I headed out on to the salt plain with a certain amount of anticipation and excitement.

It's a weird almost surreal experience, with scenery that has to be seen to be believed. 

Looking back at where we camped last night - right on the edge of the Salt Plain

Julia and Carmen.

Stopping by a little "island" in the salt, we had a bite to eat at the lunch truck, before heading onto our hotel, one which we were to discover wasn't exactly ordinary given that it's made almost entirely of salt, though unfortunately I forgot to take pictures specifically of it, as evidence or a reminder. 

Let's just put it this way, I was having too much fun both with the ride out there, I did a bit of long distance interval training, but also once there by drinking & dancing to some great music that people had on their iPhones and so on!

The trucks parked out the front of the hotel