Andes Trail Stages 52-53, Oct 9-10, 2019

Stages 52-53 of 109, days 72-73 of 142

Photos on Strava

DescriptionDistance in kmDirt kmClimb in mEFI
South America4,82877654,808
Andes Trail4,54676751,198X
    Ecuador9123016,265
    Peru2,62251528,702
    Bolivia1,0022226,231

Missed distance 282km, 3.5 stages (19/20 and 31/32)

We had a relaxing rest day in Uyuni after 7 consecutive riding days. This day was special as it was day 71, or exactly the mid point of the trip in time. In a few days we’ll have the middle riding stage, and sometime after that we’ll be halfway in distance. A bunch of us walked a couple of km from town to the Train Graveyard, which was interesting but the walk was depressing due to the amount of garbage and general condition of everything.

We had a surprisingly nice lunch in town, relaxed, then a simple dinner at the hotel. Many of us were on AFD (alcohol free day) due to massive overindulgence the night we arrived. You should’ve seen Jens and Bastiaan at breakfast on the rest day.

In the morning, it was beautiful and warmed up quickly. By the time we left about 9:30, it was perfect. We headed out in a big group and quickly got to the paved road to Tupiza. This stage, and the next, had been quite difficult in the past, due to being all dirt, with constant washboard and deep sand in places. In contrast, for nearly the whole of stage 52, we were on pristine pavement, much better than the typical California road.

We were in Butch Cassidy territory, quite close to San Vicente, where he was supposedly buried in 1908. The first part of the ride was pretty much flat and straight cranking. We rode in pacelines, pretty fast, and made it to lunch at 65km quickly. After lunch it was more interesting, winding up and down through mountains and valleys. We stopped in Atocha for icecream and coffee. Camp was by the side of the road, just at 100km, in a gorgeous setting. The wind picked up after we arrived and you had to be careful eating the soup as it blew off the spoon. I took a nap in the afternoon, then by 6, it was much nicer outside.

We had a great dinner, then, for the first time in a long long time, could sit around and chat as the wind had dropped away. It was getting close to full moon and the whole landscape was lit up beautifully. I went to bed after 8 and slept super well. I took some night shots at midnight when I woke up to pee.

12:14am

In the morning, we had a luxurious 8am breakfast. It was so nice and warm in the sun, with no stress, and most everyone seemed to be happy. Breakfast was the usual, then we took off at 9. This stage had been very difficult in previous years but we just continued up the excellent new road. There was a lot more climbing, especially in the beginning. It was a series of climbs with small descents, and then we were up over 4200m again – nearly 14,000′. I think it’s the last time on the whole tour.

The air felt great and then we pulled over after 43km for lunch. There was still more climbing after lunch – and we found that the paving wasn’t really finished. There were a number of 1-5km unpaved sections, but not bad really. On one downhill I went nearly 50kph on the dirt. I hit 80 on a paved descent and I think the record for our riders was 87 – I take it easy these days as crashing is not an option. After lunch I passed a few riders but just went at my own pace which was nice.

On one of the yet to be completed sections

We had a little snow at the top – I think later riders had more, I just had a few big flakes which felt nice and cool. Then a quick 700m descent and we were down in the land of warm. There were big tall super green willow and cottonwood trees. We hadn’t seen something like that for weeks. We were still at 3200m, but it seemed so low and warm. The last part of the ride had lots of road construction, unpaved sections, and a diversion into the river for a while. Then I arrived in Tupiza. About 1.5km from the hotel, I ran into the fast group, working on another flat on Wytze’s bike. They were out of tubes so I donated mine that had sat in my seat bag since Quito. It didn’t inflate – same as the one Andrew donated. Finally we got him going so we could cruise to the hotel, arriving at 2:10. We had to follow a hotel guy’s car for 1km to the bike parking at another hotel. Then he gave us a ride back. Baggage wasn’t there yet but we had delicious soup and other snacks. Then we unloaded the truck, had nice hot showers, and a chance to relax.

In the evening 8 of us went out to a restaurant for dinner – pretty nice although slow. Tupiza doesn’t seem like it should be popular with tourists but I saw a number of obvious non-locals. We’re going to bed early without drinking much even though tomorrow is a rest day. Maybe we’re getting soft? Or smart?

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