Having connected with the jungle, we pushed west towards the mountains once again. The riding was tough, it brought its fair share of difficulty but came with some of the greatest hospitality we’ve experienced.
Skidding down the steep riverbanks we managed to safely get all three bikes onto boats to cross a river dividing the ‘road’ we were riding. The theme of driving around Bolivia seems to be that the entire country is seemingly under continuous roadworks, hence missing sections of highways like this are nothing out of the ordinary.
Heading off from Trinidad we were smashing it across Northern Bolivia and keen to trade the hot, humid, mosquito filled jungle for the mountains. All that was in our way was 500km of dodgy roads. The first 250km took us a solid 9 hours of riding. It was a mixture of slick mud which was like trying to ride on ice, dry dust which makes vision impossible if you are within 200m of any vehicle or actually nice dirt riddled with potholes. The sun beat down all day and having sweated enough to fill a swimming pool we eventually made our way up into the start of the mountains. Wishing for anything to take away the grinding heat we were greeted with a massive downpour. I’m sure you can imagine how much rain sucks when you’re on a motorbike so we poked our heads into the first house we found and the family kindly took us in. We were given a place at the dinner table and told to stay the night which is typical of the Bolivian generosity we’ve encountered.
Beaming from the best sleep in weeks it was time to head off to our appointment with the local waterfall. Washing machines and showers are so few and far between that natural water sources like this are our primary source of washing, cleaning, and finally swimming. And when there’s something to jump off…..well, just try and stop us.
Fresh as a field of daisies, we crossed valleys and passes all the way to the Yungas region near La Paz. With the light quickly fading and some more rain setting in we again pulled over to a small community of 4 families and asked if we could sleep in a construction site for some shelter. They said “sure but if you'd rather there was a small house you can sleep in”. Despite being the ones offering the hospitality and kindness they kept apologising for its simplicity as it was just a bare room with a floor, walls and roof. Nothing else. What they didn’t realise that our standards are now so low that we thought it may as well have been a palace. It kept us warm and the rain out, there was nothing more we could have wanted in that moment. Except for when they offered us a large saucepan of hot chocolate.
Breakfast was shared with a grandma and her grandchild before sadly leaving their shelter and kindness to tackle the rainy mountains to La Paz. In a matter of minutes we were soaked to the bone and the amount of fingers we could feel was rapidly diminishing. Then the rain turned to snow and things went awry. Pat and Scott both stacked it hard going around an icy corner and afterwards Scott’s bike’s transmission wouldn’t engage. We retreated back down the mountain and coasted into a police checkpoint. Getting inside it quickly became clear Pat was suffering from hypothermia enough that he was unresponsive and quite frankly, utterly useless. Having found his clothes and redressed him the police kindly took him into their warm office and wrapped him up in a mountain of blankets. Over the next hour life began to return to him and we eventually found a car to take us to La Paz.
Having boogied our little butts off in the wild city of La Paz we caught a bus back to the police checkpoint and successfully managed to tow the broken bike 30km into the city. While waiting for the bike to be repaired we tried out the city’s gondola system, listened to ‘Crazy Dave’ who is an ex-prisoner of the infamous San Pedro Prison, and got to know the most unique city we’ve visited. At the end of every day we retreated to the beautiful house of Pat's friend's family. The most warm and welcoming place and people you could imagine.
We deemed short walks around the hilly city of La Paz sufficient training to tackle a 6000m peak we had set our eyes on. Boy were we in for a shock, more on that next time - Lachie