locations people travel

mar de sal

It is sort of a tradition amongst long-distance cyclists to take a picture while riding naked through the salars. The vastness and the lack of any soul around is i guess inviting for this gesture of boundlessness.


If you want to see Alvaro naked, look at his blog.


In Tahua we found shelter at the local school. The kids of the groundskeeper mistook me for monkey bars while we were waiting for their dad.


One of the kids had a developmental disability and reminded me on the character ¨Arnie¨ in ¨What’s eating Gilbert Grape¨. There is a program in Bolivia to pay for the care the child needs. Here in the rural parts of the country, these kids are left to the care of their siblings but are likely to be robbed of the chance to ever learn to walk.


We arrived with the ambition to climb the volcano Tunupa just north of the salar de uyuni. In the end, lack of preparation and energy changed our minds and we turned around half-way through. But at least we got a closer look.


We were glad that we changed our minds as we were descending, the weather changed dramatically and hailstones were drumming on our hoods.

Tahua also brought a reunion with a french couple we met at the casa del ciclista en la paz. Just as we got back from the volcano, we met them at the plaza and could offer them half of the floorspace of a classroom for the night. The next morning we cycled out into the salar…


before we went our seperate ways and they vanished into the distance, floating on the clouds…


until they were only dots on the horizon.


The whiteness was blinding at times. It was one of these places were the wonder wears of slowly and reluctantly. Even after hours of cycling, it was at times hard to grasp.


Rain was all around, but luckily not upon us,


and we encountered only little water at first.


After our half-finished excursion to the tunupa volcano, the following hailstorm and rain during the night changed this slightly, and while the vulcano slowly got smaller in our backs, we cycled through a varying depth of water.


Which was never enough to hamper the cycling and made for a great mirror effect.


It took a long time, while the sense of distance fails to deliver any idea about how long it will take to get to the other end, but finally the mountains on the southern side drew nearer.


We stopped for a salar camping experience on the isla de tortuga.

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After an early dinner we waited for the light to change and had enough time to appreciate the sunset while the shadows grew longer.


Despite the freezing wind, we held out and it was worth it.


As was the getting up at an early hour for the sunrise at similar, if not colder temperatures.


Luckily our campspot was well chosen and one could enjoy the view directly out of the tent.


We were a bit worried about the rain beforehand, but it turned out to only add to the experience. Though i was glad about the raincovers for the shoes that i got made in Huaraz and the bikes were in for a good cleaning once we got off the salt.

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After riding into the city, i didn’t feel like dodging traffic on my way out. Together with Alvaro, whom i met in the casa del ciclista, i hopped on a bus to Patacamaya from where we made our way around the volcano Sajama. Soon we left tarmac behind and wouldn’t see any of it for the three weeks to come. Alvaro in front of the volcano.


We passed abandoned villages and only rarely one sees people in these parts. Even in populated areas, the villages appear like ghost towns during the daylight hours. Our first camp spot was well below 4000m and we could still find enough firewood.


The next day was a bit tougher through quite a bit of sand. A superb lunchbreak at Tomarapi was a well-needed boost for the ride to the village of Sajama. We found shelter in Chachacomani and stocked up on supplies although our panniers were filled with food for a week. While reading about the Lagunas Route it seemd tobe a bad place to run out of food and thus we were maybe a bit overcautious. The next day we saw some flamingoes up close at the laguna at Macaya.


We took single trails along its shore through herds of grasing llamas.


which became a common sight. But it is hard to get tired of these creatures as their faces not only have a funny expression most of the times, but are also very distinct from one another.


Some pushing through sand was involved from time to time, but never long enough to be frustrating.


As well as some river crossings, which at the end of the dry season were never too difficult.


Travelling with Alvaro brought also some changes. I would have camped probably most of the times whereas he is more used to ask for a place to sleep. Usually i was rather reluctant to use official institutions, like health centres or schools, for such purposes, but it brought with it some really nice encounters with the people and thus i didn’t feel like misusing their hospitality. And often we found shelter in unused buildings of which seem to be plenty around.


Here it was also not only a question of comfort and not having to pitch the tent. With severe winds and thecold during the night, these places helped to conserve our energy for the road.


We stopped at some chullpas at the rio lauca, famous for the paintings.


This was on our way to the salar de coipasa. Less famous than its bigger neighbour, the salar the uyuni, this was recommended by other cyclist because of its lack of tourism and thus traffic.

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La Paz

The first view of La Paz is an impressive one. Arriving in el alto, the city is lying in a huge bowl below.


Humbert, another cyclist travelling with a guitar, and stephan rocking the casa.


While usually not too motivated to explore cities, i sometimes yield to persuasion and take a look.


The plan was to visit the musical instrument museum which is located in this quaint little street.


The museo is small enough not to overwhelm a tired cyclist. One of the more curious items on display is this guitar with five necks, probably contructed with indian gods in mind as patronage.


The casa is full of scribblings of other cyclists that have passed through. And i found quite a few familiar names on the walls or in the guestbook, like Dallas for example, my host in Brisbane some years ago. The room we slept in is decorated with this tree and some suggestions what to do while resting.


The house got a bit crowded in the last days of my stay. On the left is Christian our host.


Thank you for this great place!

locations people travel

Lago Titicaca

The ride through Puno and from there along the lake wasn’t that impressive. A construction site for kilometers on one lane and dust clouds in the face with every passing vehicle wasn’t helping either to make it more fun. After the turn-off to Copacabana things improved. I couldn’t warm up to the town itself but i met a lady from spain while having breakfast which made more than up for that and was also responsible for a late start towards the second half of the day. The route from there towards the ferries across the ‘estrecho de tiquina’ is beautiful. Here while climbing out of Copacabana.


It was a special day: Todos santos. The day to honour the dead. While trying to escape the rain in the evening, i was invited to a family’s house. On All Saint’s Day people visit cemeteries to make a picnic,  make (rather awful) music with drums and flutes…


and don’t miss out to have a good time while no drink is rejected.


Soon i had a glas of beer in my hands as well as my first mouthful of coca leaves. After the festivities, i just rolled down to the lake and camped at its shore, a nice welcome to bolivia.


The next day i set out to La Paz and some rest days at the Casa del Ciclista.

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old road to puno

From Arequipa i climbed on the old road to puno towards the altiplano. First with the misti volcano on one side towards the laguna de salinas.


I didn’t make it all the way up that day and found a nice campspot in an abandoned house. When night fell, the lights of arequipa glistened from below.


During the climb, i had to share the road with trucks coming laden with salt from the salinas and the road was at times a sandy mess, making for a cloud of dust whenever a truck was passing.


After reaching the plateau, the laguna de salinas comes into sight.


The first night i was camping ina  mini canyon of white rock which protected me well from the wind.


Finally on top, i was exposed to the wind but luckily we were heading the same way.


Herds of vicuñas were a constant sight and with more animals than people up here, it was difficult to imagine that these creatures are endangered.


Animals, changing colours and rock formations kept things interesting along the road.


Tincopalca was a good place for a rest. As there was no restaurant to be found, i had to make my own meal. Remembered our breakfast routine in huaraz, i found all that was needed in a nearby store. Soon i was sitting on the main square cooking up an omelette and was surrounded by twenty kids watching attentively. For the first ten minutes they were commenting on everything i did, unaware that i could understand what was being said, until one of the youngsters pointed at me and said: ¨my name is¨. Answering in spanish, a big roar of laughter and an even bigger bunch of questions ensued. I was really hungry as i hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast and now it was way past teatime. Though i was so relaxed from the last days of cycling that i didn’t mind the volley of questions and managed to shove in four advocado sandwiches while answering some of the questions. Sometimes just replying ‘como’ which usually bought me enough time to have a bite or two in between. Later they requested some photos being taken…


and one kid wanted to try at least once as well to be the photographer.


Onwards, past lagoons with only the occasional motorbike interrupting the silence.


The last night i spent around 4500m with my water bottles being forzen in the morning. Another pass and a great downhill brought me to mañazo, where i was offered a room at the municipio for five soles. The next day was all paved and a slight tailwind pushed me towards puno and the lake Titicaca. As i was up before six and had started early, i had all day to cycle along its shore.

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Huaraz – Lima – Arequipa

What looks like a bus schedule, is just that. One day i said goodbye to paul and sam and made my way to the bus terminal to catch a night bus to lima. I felt i had to decide in-between exploring the southern sierra of peru or to have enough time on my way to patagonia. Once in lima, i just went over to the next bus company, one block up the road and bought a ticket to arequipa. Also an overnight bus, this time the travel time was twice as long. Luckily i could store my bike at the terminal and was so more at ease to explore the capital. Wandering about before the city woke up, i soon reached the plaza de armas in the centre. Just around the corner is the casa de la literatura in the old railway station.

P1030528In big cities i like to seek out vegetarian restaurants to get some variety from the usually not too varied menu for vegetarians on the road. A good resource for finding these places is happycow, a website with listings of restaurants in most countries around the globe. On my way to ‘el manatial’ restaurant, i was passing these painted houses and was soaking in what atmosphere big cities have to offer and is hardly found along the dirt roads through the andes.

P1030625Especially duiring the era of the shining path, numerous campesionos moved to the big city in hope of a better life. They settled on the hills surrounding lima with hardly or no legal status concerning their ¨property¨. Only much later, the land on which they had built their shacks or houses was legalized.

P1030553These fotos were taken next to the old city wall of lima with living quaters directly attached to the back side of the wall.

P1030548There are quite a few nice buildings surrounding the plaza de armas. I couldn’t quite figure out why some of the doors and entrances had these wall elements in front of them.


The clash between the posh and the poor is most stricking in cities and lima is no exception with the homeless sleeping on the main shopping street.


The building of the club nacional de lima next to the teatro colón at the plaza san martin.


After lunch i was somewhat overtaken by tiredness and had a nap at the parque de la exposición, just across the road from the bus terminal. I love the bakeries here in south america, and peru is no exception. You never have to walk far to find one and in some cases like here, they come to you with their small tiendas on wheels.

I had my first small quarrel for a long time at the bus station before departure. I had asked about taking the bike and was told there was no surcharge. But now i was asked to pay the same amount that the ticket for me had cost as an extra for it. There was some running around, a manager showed up, supposedly calling the lady i had purchased the ticket from in the morning, hinting that i was lying, then mentioning some official list which they wanted to fetch but which mysteriously never showed up… in the end i paid a third of what they asked for. Never mind, i had a nice fellow sitting next to me, which was also a good test of how well my spanish was holding up since i had almost exclusively conversed in english with paul and sam for two weeks. That wasn’t enough to forget it all and so i was happy to share a good while of the busride in conversation.

Leaving Lima wasn’t exciting and neither was the landscape during the rest of the day. That had changed when i woke up just before sunrise the next morning as we were cruising along the barren coastline bathed in the morning sun before turning inland around Camana.

After checking into a nice guesthouse, i went for a walk around the white city until the Plaza de Armas.


One of the inner yards of a colonial building. Many house businesses today or official institutions to ensure their upkeep.


Buying joghurt and tons of fruits made for a great dinner which i had with this view from the roof terrace of the hostal.


Arequipa is called the white city because of the stone which was used while constructing most of the historic buildings called sillar, a whitish volcanic stone.


Another view from the roof terrace with the misti volcano on the right.


My route would take me just around it on the old road to puno. Since they build a new one to the east, this meant less traffic and a more adeventurous route towards lago titicaca.