Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I am baaaaaaaaaaack in the US of A!

Hi All,

I am baaaaaack!

The view from my backyard...downtown Atlanta is in the background...close but it feels a long way away :)

Got in late last night. Fall in Atlanta is beautiful...I forget every year what a pretty place I live in.

Thanks for the interest and support during my trip...travelling alone, it was nice to have my blog and a thread on TB to always feel somewhat connected to folks.

I REALLY enjoyed the my adventures. Bolivia is TRULY an amazing country. The people there were very kind and friendly towards me. I was a bit scared before I left and you do want to keep your wits about you but I think it is a very safe place to travel to. I am already planning a return a trip. My plan is then to continue cycling south for a few months to the bottom of Patagonia. Its heading into the rainy season right now so April onwards would likely work. If anybody is interested just contact me off board...I am not looking to be a tour agent but I'd love some company for the mtn bike and climbing portions prior to biking and I am happy to help anybody with advice etc elsewhere. .

After six weeks of not just travelling there but MANY great conversations with fellow Bolivian travellers and a bunch of tour leaders/operators I really feel like i know the place. Again, it is an amazing place to visit for anybody that lusts for a bit of adventure...its also extremely friendly and inexpensive

Thanks Again & Cheers,

PS I owe a bunch of folks pics an email...please give me a day or two to wash my bike and clothes before thinking too badly of me! :)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Day31. More chilling and Packing in Sucre for a 2 Day Trek and the Trip Home

Update: Trekking Pics

Photobucket Album

Hi All,

I had a fun last night...Sucre has a lot to offer the weary I did wake up a bit late...oh well, I´ve had may share of early starts on this trip :)

I had a few things to do...I had to found a bike shop and paid US$2 for a suitable cardboard shipping box for my bike...I´ve now got my bike all packed away. I was really happy with it and I was sad to be packing up. I've promised some TLC when its unpacked in Atlanta...I'd like to see it make it all the way to the bottom of Patagonia! Hopefully next year ;)

I also had to find a way to get to Santa Cruz for my 10am flight on the 20th. The strikes, blockades, 15 hours bus ride and tight time frame made the bus quite unattractive so happily I was able to buy a plane ticket for about US$50 that leaves Monday morning. I´ll get another fun night in Sucre plus a bit of time for shopping in Santa Cruz. Its a great deal!

I am all packed for a 2 day trek which starts tomorrow morning...I´´ll get to get up high again...its weird to think Sucre sis a bit below 10,000ft but after 30 days a around 12,000-14,500 ft it feels like sea level. I´ve gotta get out and do some serious road bike climbs once I get back to Atlanta before my blood readjusts :)

I am off to enjoy another 5 star meal for about US$8....its going to be rough adjusting back to US currency ;)

I hope everybody is well!


I hope everybody is well

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 30: Chilling and Neal teaches English (GASP!) in Sucre

Hi All,

I got up about 7:30am and quickly found a great breakfast (with 4 Lattes!), internet and also called work in the US (Teresa is doing great things for ETG!)...while having breakfast I met my friend Webke from Germany ...she is spending a few weeks in Sucre teaching german and English. She asked me (as a native speaker!) to help with her conversational and essay class. She has a small group of six young (17 year old) female students. It was hilarious!, conversaion was based around their drinking seems teenage girls are the same everywhere.

Around 3pm I am meeting for coffee with some of the great folks I meet a few weeks ago in Rurrenabaque (jungle trip) and we are planning a 2 or 3 day trek on some of the Inca trails in the is suppose to be great trekking and I think it will be a great way to finish of my time in Boliiva. I have ridden almost a 1000miles on over some very tough and treacherous terrain so a bit of time on my feet will be good :)

My plan is to pack up my bike and gear for the plane, terk for a 2/3 days and then catch an overnight bus to Santa Cruz (my first use of public transport in Bolivia). I fly out of Santa Cruz on the morning of Nov 20th.

I hope everybody is well!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Day 29: Made it! - Potisi to Sucre, 154km/11 hours - 5 Blockades, a nasty headwind but I got there ! :)

Hi All,

Blockades and a significant military presence greeted me as i woke Potisi this morning...

You can see the final climb/push i had to do on my bike to reach this friggin city in the sky :)

My last views of Potisi...the whole town is based upon mining the big hill in the 20,000 of the 120,000 residents are miners...they have been mining that hill for silver since the 1500's...its like a big piece of Swiss cheese.

My first of five blockade I had to "chat" my way around...I was nervous as I'd heard they can can get pretty serious and stone folks that try and sneak by!

I didn't know if the blockades would let me pass but I did my very best to be charming and all 5 blockades between Potisi and Sucre let me walk my bike on through...

The blockaders were a friendly bunch (at least to me) and wanted me to play some football...

...and to do a bit of "friendly" boxing against there local studs....modesty and a late start prevented me from knocking one of these guys out ;)

All the other traffic was not so lucky and were stopped, with folks sleeping in or under buses or just giving up and trying to walk to their destination.

The ride was nice...the more I descended the more green the countryside got...I've pretty much had my fill of high desert :)

This part of Bolivia is at a complete stand still....frustrated locals and tourists hoping to make connections etc are stuck where they are until the strike/blockades are over....its good to be own my bike - I had tractically no traffic for 100miles of riding ;)

Here is one of the many excellent Tour de France type descents...a strong wind and heavy panniers made it more technical then i´d like...Neal doesn't really like techncial on the best of days :)

All in all it was a pretty demanding day... a late start (8:30am) and a nasty headwind had me pushing hard all day...also the bloody 1:250,000 topo map is a piece of garbage! certainly makes the trip look easier then it is....what small portion of my ride that looked flat was actually a section of huge rollers....climb 500ft....decent 500ft, repeat until you pass out :( There were many awesome decents (it began with a 45km decent!) and a couple of brutal 750+m (2500ft+) climbs....this just went on and friggin on!...but I "love" to climb...or so I say ;)

I got to Sucre at 7:30pm - 45 min after dark (again!) but it wasn't so bad....good roads and a bit of road lighting made the last 10km (all climbing about 600m total) not too bad....although the rain did put a damper on my spirits for a while. I rode through town and found the Hotel Sucre....US15/night and the place is awesome! Beautiful courtyard, rooms, showers, TV....I am thinking longterm :)

The wonderful Hotel Sucre...CNN (in English!), hot showers and a beautiful room is on the left.

I had a wonderful meal and drinks at the Joy Ride of the many very nice nightcubs/bars a short walk from my Hotel...I do like this place :)

I got to bed about bed was calling (read: screaming ) at me!

I hope everybody is doing great!


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 28: Leaving Potisi for Sucre - well NOT quite yet!;)

UPDATE: Well its 2pm here & I am still here....panniers are fixed,bikes packed but I am still not feeling 100%. I think 4+ hours ofhard riding and then likely camping out above 13,000ft could leave me in pretty bad shape so I've decided to hunker down in Potisi one more day. I now know where to eat and where to go & I've got Cinemax in my room. I expect i'll feel 100% tomorrow morning and may be able toreach Sucre tomorrow night...its 180km of but I've been told the road is quality.



Hi All,

Well is 9am and I hope to be on my bike by 11:30am and get a solid 60-80km in on the way to Sucre. I think i'll makeSucre a bit of a base and I´ve been invited to do a 2-3 day trek on a remote portion of the Inca trail. It would be great way to finish off my trip.

My bike is iin need of repair..I managed to break one of the panniers so purchased some heavy grade wire yesterday and will have a go to fix after breakfast. I've been told the road to Sucre (180km) is MUCH better then the hell road from Uyuni to Potisi I rode a few days ago...if so my makeshift repair should be fine.

Anyway...I am off to find food!

I hope everybody is well!


Day 27: Silver Mining, Holding Lit Dynomite in Potisi

UPDATE: For an all too real understanding of the mine please consider watching this documentary or at least the trailer...its 100% accurate IMHO

Hi All,

Yesterday was an interesting day! :)

I got up early for a big breakfast....4 eggs etc...and found a mine tour that left at 2pm. Potisi is a mining's silver bascially funded the Spanish empire from the 1500's on. Back the3n the indigenous people were forced into the mines for 6 months at a time...thats 6 months without seeing daylight! Friggin incredible to think people can treat people that way!

These days Potisi has 20,000 miners (all men) aged from 12 to about 30that would 12 hours a day and often 7 days a week in the mine. The chew coca leaves and drink pure alcohol to stave of the discomfort...they typically don't live for more then 10-15 years after entering the mines...lung disease is the big killer. All this to make about US$6 a week and provide the rest of us with pretty jewellry. After spending a few hours undergraound with them I will never look at silver and copper the same way...folks pay a terrible price for it.

I got hooked up with a tour group with an Aussie, Dutch, English folks - very good people!

The tour cost about US$10 and we were also told to buy some gifts for the miners...we brought a" grab bag" containing a stick of dynomite, coca leaves, detonators and some food and perhaps pure alcohol.

We got kitted out and taken to the mine with 2 guides...the mine is a wicked place...often 3 foot ceiling and lots of exposure to danger...deep holes 30-40ft deep with just a narrow ledge or plank to walk on. Far more dangerous then any caving section in any adventure race i've ever done.

There is about a 30ft drop :(

Another 30-40ft discalimers get signed in Bolivia

The mines seem cray dangerous...tonnes of loose rocks held up by a few timbers

Bacically you hammer and chissel a hole for a stick of dynomite and blast away :)

We got introduced to a few miners and got to see how the worked...bascially following a silver rich seam as best they could by drilling holes for dynomite with hammer and chissel and then carting out the minerals by wheelbarrow. They get paid per tonne of minerals they extract.

The guide was very imformative and we learnt about the history of the mine and how the Conquistadors had used religion to enslave the locals...they were told the devil lived in the mountain and they must not risk risk angering the deveil. To this day they still make offerings (ciggarettes, coca leaves etc) of to an idol of the devil in the hope of making him happy and therefore having him have a good "relationship" with the Challpata (sp) Mother earth which would produce more silver in the mine.

The trip was fill of adventure...we got to light our own stick of dynomite underground...while standing around the corner to shelter from the blast as the minors do...the resulting shockwave was terrifying.

Yep, there is a stick of dynomite (balled up) surrounded by Ammonium Nitrate to give it some extra kick...and yes the fuse has been lit :)

We also got to light a stick above get to carry it on the hopes you make youtube's top ten dumbass videos...the kind where some dumbass losses his arm ;) I do have a short video of the resulting explosion...but its a pain to upload on a slow flying limbs so it would be a hit on youtube :(

Anyway...Bolivia is not your typical country and certainly offers your not so typical adventures! :)

All the best and cheers,