rfay's blog

Bolivia Wrapup

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Marchers in the new-constitution march on La Paz
Marchers in the new-constitution march on La Paz (View on flickr)

Our pictures for Bolivia are up on flickr - Here's the slideshow of Bolivia and here's the slideshow of the Salar de Uyuni. Also, all our route maps and elevation profiles are updated.

Since we've been in Argentina for weeks, I guess it's time that I wrote a little something to wrap up our time in Bolivia!

We had a delightful time in Bolivia, despite the fact that we were lazy and only rode the bikes two fairly easy days (from the Peruvian border to La Paz). After that we took a bus to Uyuni, a tour of the Salar de Uyuni, and then a train to the border at Villazon. (We did get back on the bikes to ride to where we currently are in northern Argentina, in Salta).

Something is always going on politically in Bolivia, and our time there was no exception. You've probably heard about the tension between Bolivia (and Venezuela) and the U.S., and just before we arrived the US Ambassador was asked to leave the country because he was accused of instigating demonstrations in favor of breaking up the country. The current president, Evo Morales, is a campesino (he started his career growing coca!) and is clearly a populist leftist, and has lots of challenges ahead of him.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Bike-Dreams: A Supported Ride from Quito to Ushuaia

If you want to ride the length of South America, you don't have to do it self-supported! We ran into a group, Bike Dreams out of Holland riding from Quito, Ecuador to Ushuaia at the tip of Argentina. They are fully supported and having a grand time. For just 8,900 Euros (about $11,400 right now) you could do the entire ride without having to carry gear. It sounds like a pretty good deal. They also do Paris to Dakar.

Putting Your Bike on a Bus in Latin America

We have now used buses in Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru, and Bolivia, and have used the train in Mexico and Bolivia.

In the US it's quite a lot of pain to transport your bike by bus or plane - they want you to disassemble it, put it in a box, etc. It's a big deal. But we've had generally good and easy experiences.

  • The size of the bus's storage compartment is often the biggest issue. If the bike won't fit, it will have to be disassembled. On a dangerous road in Costa Rica we decided to bail and take a bus and we had to wait overnight for a larger bus with a larger storage compartment.
  • Sometimes the bike goes on top. In that case, we try to supervise how it's fastened down. But they seem to be experts. However, it's our bike, and therefore our responsibility. We care about it more than anybody else does.
  • Sometimes they have charged us a bit for the bikes, which seems reasonable. It is generally negotiable. Sometimes we haven't been charged at all.
  • There is some risk of damage to the bikes, as they rattle around. Normally they come out with some scratch or something that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise. On a couple of dirt roads they have gotten extraordinarily dusty.
  • Sometimes when things are very busy you may have to make advance reservations and wait, since baggage compartments may be all full.

Overall, our experiences with buses have been quite satisfactory and easy.

Safety: Riding on Sunday

Drunk guy at Sacapulas
Drunk guy at Sacapulas (View on flickr)

One thing we heard repeatedly in various people's blogs: "Sunday is a big drinking day in Latin America, so you should avoid riding on Sundays".

Well, they were certainly right about Sunday being a drinking day for the men. Wow, have we seen a lot of blasted men on Sundays. And I'm sure some of those men were driving.

But most people in Latin America do not drive private vehicles, and there is far less traffic on the road on Sundays. So our experience, over and over, has been that Sunday is a great day to cycle. It's also the day that the local sports-cyclists get out and ride. It's the perfect day for cycling.

Latin American Highway Etiquette and Cyclists

Nancy riding with the big rigs
Nancy riding with the big rigs (View on flickr)

We've heard many people complain about motorists in Latin America, we we haven't had a lot of trouble. We actually have quite a lot of respect for the drivers, especially the professional drivers, as they seem to know what to do with us and often do it with courtesy.

However: The more you stay on the busy roads, the more complaints you will have. For example, we often say that there are two experiences cyclists have in Mexico. Those who come down the main highway on the west coast feel like Mexico is one big, busy, ugly highway. Those who mosey down the small roads in the interior of the country feel like it's a wonderful, welcoming, interesting country with reasonable highways.

Here are some of our observations about highway etiquette and getting along on the roads in Latin America:  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Toll Roads and Cyclists in Latin America

Cyclists occasionally ask us about our experience on toll roads in Latin America, so I thought I'd give a little overview. We've ridden on many of them without trouble.

Throughout Latin America roads have been "privatized", giving a concession to a private company to operate them for a period of years. In general, this means better maintenance on the roads.

We have never been asked to pay a toll on any of the roads we've traveled from Mexico to Argentina. However, we have heard of cyclists being required to pay on some roads in Mexico.

Also in Mexico, we avoided the toll roads but occasionally took them. (We find that the toll roads there are fast and fancy, but you get no sense of the culture of the country.) There was one road (from Pueba to Oaxaca) that was rumored to exclude cyclists. Also, the road from Tijuana to Rosario in Baja California is supposed to rigorously exclude cyclists, forcing them onto a very dangerous, narrow alternate.

In our experience, though: We haven't been excluded from any toll roads, and we haven't been charged tolls.

On occasional, in Mexico and again in Peru, there were specific procedures they wanted us to take when approaching a toll booth. They did not want us to go through the auto lane (because we'd register on a camera?) but rather go completely around the toll booth installation. One time in Mexico, not understanding this, I approached too close and the guard did raise his gun for my benefit.

Blazing into Argentina (by bus and train). 5121 Kilometers to Go!

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Randy and Nancy crossing from Bolivia into Argentina
Randy and Nancy crossing from Bolivia into Argentina (View on flickr)

We crossed the border from Bolivia into Argentina today after spending all night on a very comfortable train. Well, at least it was a well-run, clean, on-time train.

Here's the sign that met us at the border, telling us how far it is to Ushuaia, our goal? at the bottom of Argentina:

Ushuaia is only 5121 Kilometers (3175 miles) from our crossing at the Argentine Border
Ushuaia is only 5121 Kilometers (3175 miles) from our crossing at the Argentine Border (View on flickr)

Our Plan: To Uyuni and the Argentine Border by Bus

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Thanks to all of you for your wonderful advice! After a week of resting in La Paz, Bolivia, here's what we have decided to do:

Tonight we're taking an all-night bus to Uyuni, in southern Bolivia, where we'll see the amazing Salar de Uyuni. After a few days there we'll take a train or bus to the Argentine border and ride south on the bikes to Salta, Argentina. In Salta we'll probably take some more time off, perhaps a month or so. Randy will try to pick up some work on the internet doing some web development, and Nancy will be refreshing some of her skills and doing some more drawing. Then we'll probably head south on the bikes and continue the ride.

Thanks so much for your care for us and for your encouraging comments!

-Randy and Nancy

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