Andes Trail Stages 45-46, Oct 1-2, 2019

Stages 45-46 of 109, days 64-65 of 142

Photos and routes on Strava

DescriptionDistance in kmDirt kmClimb in mEFI
South America4,20955551,218
Andes Trail3,92754647,608X

It was really nice having two full rest days in La Paz, the last two days of September. Especially for me since my cough has gotten worse lately – I needed two days of not breathing hard to recover. The first morning was a Sunday and eight of us went on a cable car tour of La Paz after breakfast. We walked over to the Estación Central where two of the many cable car lines start. We chose Red first since it went uphill – we had ridden under it the day before descending into La Paz. The special tickets that let you go on all the lines for 24 hours (no more than one hour stop at any station though) cost BOB 11 ($1.59). Such a deal! The system is built by the Swiss and once you’re inside a station or in the cable car itself you don’t really feel like it’s Bolivia. It’s so modern, clean, fast and efficient. We rode up to the top, switched to the Silver line, rode for a few stations, had ice cream/coffee/pastries at a coffee shop with a panoramic view of La Paz, from 4100m. Then we took the Yellow line down to below the level of our hotel. Then Blue one stop to downtown, then White through the middle of downtown to Orange, up and over a hill and back down to Estación Central.

Riding the Orange line

What a fun and easy two hour tour of La Paz. We saw parades, parties and very little traffic. Sunday seems quiet and relaxed here. Then I had a big pizza lunch with Twan and Andrew by the hotel and relaxed in the afternoon. In the evening we had a huge dinner party back at Higher Ground for 14 of us. A little sad as it was Annabel’s going away party. But absolutely delicious and super fun.

Monday was also a rest day and I really didn’t do much. Martin and I went out and both bought cough medicine (medicina de la tos) in the morning. When one dose didn’t do much, I took a second, but then passed out for a massive nap. I watched a movie after that then we went out for another giant group dinner, next door to Higher Ground. I had a liter of Jugo de Tumbo rather than beer. And more medicina de la tos in the evening.

I felt so much better the morning we had to leave La Paz – also drawing the late breakfast shift (8am, because the dining room doesn’t come close to fitting us all) was great. We took off just after 9 and after just a couple of blocks, more than half the people headed off to the Purple cable car line. The rest of us followed the GPS track down to the start of the motorway, then 10km up to 4100m (which turned out to be uncrowded and easy), and through El Alto for a long way until we were out in the country again. The cable car group had a great time bypassing the big climb and quite a bit of El Alto screwing around in super heavy traffic. But the EFI group got smaller: Jan kind of took the cable car by mistake and Karin took it due to sickness. Rob’s opinion: There is a plane to Ushuaia for those that don’t want to ride.

Jens and Bastiaan stopped in El Alto

I rode with Chris, Jens, Bastiaan and Andrew and we blazed through pretty fast. Out of town it was back to the Altiplano cruising, nearly flat, but with some rollers. Chris kept up a mean pace and after 50km or so Andrew and I let ourselves be dropped on a hill. We continued to lunch, then headed out together to ride to camp. We met Martin’s group who had bypassed lunch and they warned us the camp had been moved 5km up to a school due to the forecast bad weather. Sure enough, after 132km instead of 137, we spied the Finish flag, ducked through a wall and saw the trucks at a school. It was a broken down school and it was comical when we walked into the gym where Bike Dreams was set up, cooking soup. It was a very crappy building, with the tin roof not nailed down, blowing loudly in the wind.

Better than the alternative

After soup, we found that we could camp in the gym, out on the football field, or next door in the second floor “condos” we named “El Alto”. I chose the condos as it was starting to rain and the weather didn’t look good at all. We fit 4 tents in the room with glass in most of the windows. Wijnand was the only one who camped in the other room with no glass in any window. Half the remaining people camped outside and half inside. We were looking for a word that means camping in a tent indoors but couldn’t think of one. Dinner was at 6:30, quite yummy, with lots of banging of the roof and rain. It poured later but not in El Alto! No one snored and I slept really well!

Dinner in the gym

October 2nd started with me looking for a bathroom at 6am. It turned out there was a pit toilet at the back of the school – not pretty though so no photo. Our room was mostly dry and Wijnand’s was mostly wet. There was lots of fresh snow on the mountains around. Breakfast was at 7 and it was nice to pack everything up dry. No one who camped out on the field seemed to mind too much and some said the rain was a good tent test. At breakfast, the yogurt was lost so it was impossible to eat muesli – I had peanut butter/jam/banana sandwiches instead. Then packed up and started riding at 8:15. It was a shorter day with an option to take the main road saving some distance or the Rob route, with 20km of unpaved. Lunch was supposed to be on the unpaved route but when it changed to the paved route (due to Rob smartly not wanting to risk the truck getting stuck in the mud) many people like me changed their plan to the paved option. When I started riding, by accident I was right behind Wytze, a dangerous place to be. For 22km, it was Chris, Wytze, me, Jens and Rob going fast in a paceline.

35-40kph paceline

Then we got to the turnoff for the unpaved option. They all went and I stayed and chatted with Rob waiting for the other riders. I decided to take it easy for the rest of the day and not breathe hard any more and get over this damn cough. When a big group of 10 came along, they were dead sure of taking the paved route and I joined in.

The pack

We had a lot of fun riding at a very sane pace, and just chatting away until lunch. The shoulder was wide enough for two side-by-side and there wasn’t much traffic. The gentle tailwind was just great. We had another comedy scene at lunch with every one of us screaming at Gareth with the truck horn blowing, but to no avail – he just kept cranking. Later he said he was looking for the truck too – not very hard I guess.

Lunch on the Altiplano

We sat in the sun, ate, then took off in the same big group. We chatted away and suddenly I noticed we had gone 90km. Then we came to a town and it was Oruro, our destination. It was only 12:30 – a really easy day is nice sometimes. Oruro is actually pretty big (264,000 population) and we must’ve seen every school kid in town as we rode in. All in nice uniforms, walking along the streets – maybe going home for lunch? We finally came to the Hotel Gran Sucre and checked in. We unloaded the trucks, had super nice showers, then soup and snacks.

After a relaxing afternoon, seven of us went out to dinner at a pizza place by the main square. We had a massive great dinner, capped off by banana splits. Outside it was quite cool and raining on and off, luckily off while walking to and from the restaurant. In our room, we were shocked that the heater works so well. It’s the first comfortably warm room we’ve had I think. Laundry was dry after dinner. Time for sleep early tonight. We have five more straight days of riding until the next rest day in Uyuni, including the famous salt flats – can’t wait for that.

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