Bolivia: La Paz to Villazon

Leaving La Paz was difficult for two reasons: one; we were leaving behind new and old friends and two; the traffic was frightening and it was a big hill out of the city.

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We had tarmac roads through to Huari and as we were on the altiplano they were mainly flat. However, we did encounter some wind and rain that kept us on our toes.

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We stayed in a mixture of hospedajes and random camping spots. A highlight being the thermal baths at Poopo (schoolboy giggle!).
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After Huari we hit the dirt roads. The road between Huari and Uyuni is currently under construction so we had the delight of our very own tarmac bike lane for some sections. This, however, was interspersed with sections of sandy, muddy and wet so we didn’t become complacent.

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When we reached Colchani we found a salt hostel where everything is made from salt and there are even salt granules as the floor covering. There were a couple of different room options but we couldn’t resist the room with eight beds ready for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Thus followed a discussion on who was Grumpy, Sleepy etc. I’ll leave it up to you to decide who was who…
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From Colchani it was a 5k ride to the Salar to Uyuni. As it is the rainy season the salt flats are covered in a layer of water. Although disappointed that we could not ride the bikes on the Salar, the views and reflections on the water made up for it.
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The road from Uyuni to Tupiza was four days of tough riding. The road condition was variable from ripio (washboard) to deep sand to sticky mud. We had strong head and cross winds. Several hills had to be climbed and descended. It truly tested us and found us wanting. Nevertheless, the scenery was stunning and it was some of the most spectacular riding of the trip.
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This was the country of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. You could really see how they could have hidden out and ‘disappeared’. Being a huge fan of the film, riding through this area was a highlight for me. We had been following the railway for most of our journey and I am sure that it has not changed much (if at all!) since they were busy robbing the trains. We contemplated it as a way to fund our trip further but decided that our skills sets were not quite up to the job.
A final blast of tarmac and we were at the border to Argentina.
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Bolivia has a unique beauty that takes a while for a cyclist to appreciate. However, the stark landscape and rugged environment soon seeps in and the wonder of your surroundings takes over. It has been the best of times and the worst of times. Bolivia – we shall be back. Only not in the rainy season and next time with a fat bike!

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