To Tupiza

28 11 2007

Well, something went wrong there… I decided to complete the rest of Bolivia overland, while Joerg and Rahel decided to take the train. I must say, in hindsight, the train may have been a good option…

The train turned out to be easy enough, but there was literally some confusion about which day it left – not helped by a departure at around (this is Bolivia, nothing is too exact) 2:30am.

I waited until I was sure Joerg and Rahel had a ticket for the train before I left. The ticket office operated on Bolivian time, so I wasn’t able to get away until 11am – not an ideal start time when there is 100km of dirt road between you and the next size-able town. I hadn’t worried about a proper breakfast as the two Llama steaks from the night before were still propping me up. Being alone again I took the opportunity to bash my way along the road as fast as I could – I’m much faster that the others without front panniers and with suspension. Nothing went wrong until I got to Atoche – a small mining town in the middle of … nowhere? I asked around for a room and was cheerily told that all the rooms were taken because there was a sporting tournament on tomorrow. In all four hostels. Bugger. So bought some water and headed out into the desert for a night camping on the altiplano. The hammock was a little difficult to erect (I haven’t seen a single tree for weeks, let alone two!), but I managed in a very narrow, dry, stream bed. It worked. The only problem was I had ridden until dark, was exhausted and in no mood to cook and eat. So I didn’t.

The next day I slept in a little. Well, the map said it was 51km to the next town, and only 80km to Tupiza, and I had just done 8km past Atoche last night. I had plently of time, right? I lay there listening to nothing. I mean there wasn’t a single sound. I only really noticed how quiet it was when I heard a fly buzz past (some distance away). No wind, no insects, (no people). Nada. Tranquillo. The sky was a perfect blue, and the sun rapidly warmed the air (still at around 4000m altitude remember), could it get better?

I saddled up, and hit the first unmarked junction of the day 2km later. Luckily I had been prewarned about this one, and turned right (not at all obvious, I assure you). After 30km I was starting to realise that this section has a bad reputation for a reason, the road met a series of rivers, all perpendicular to the direction the road wanted to take. The outcome is a day of riding very very slowly up a hill, only to roll down the other side, and repeat. The very very slowly comes from altitude (always between 3900 and 4200m), heat and steep and corrugated road. Plus for me tiredness and hunger. At 60km I was wondering where my town, and breakfast and lunch, was. I hit a very small town and was told the town I was after was still 20km away? No, it couldn’t be, surely there must be a mistake. On I pressed. More hills. Real Wild West country. Somewhere around here Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made their famous (last?) robbery and met their demise. (Hi Sundance, Hi Larissa, Hi Wendy, Hi Stoyan – I’m sure none of you are reading this, but the Sundance reference jogged the memory there).

I was starting to wonder where this town was, when the biggest valley of the day appeared in front of me. The road dropped down a long way (to about 3000m) into a huge valley, with towering red mud cliffs that have been formed into wierd shapes. Quite spectacular, but difficult to appreciate on an empty stomach. Salo (the town I was after) was in this valley, as the map said it would be, but fully 30km further than it should have been. Grrr, German maps.

I pressed onto Tupiza, a rather nice (somewhat touristy) town which was down the valley (read: no more hills today!). I bought supplies to get me to the border (allegedly 104km on the map, but I have other sources that say it is closer to 90km), and then, relatively famished, sought food. A nice steak was found, and I though my food problems were over until Argentina. Well…

That night I didn’t sleep a wink as my stomach complained bitterly about the food in it. The next morning I was so weak and tired, it took a considerable effort to meet the train that Joerg and Rahel were on (it stopped in Tupiza on the way to the border). But I had wish Joerg a happy 40th Birthday! I staggered back to the hostel, and didn’t leave the room all day, especially not to eat. The next night I also couldn’t sleep (I’ve never had such a pain in my stomach  – the rest of me was fine, just weak, but I couldn’t lie in any position without pain). Next day, same story. What is going on here? Despite the crippling weakness (I’d now eaten one slab of meat and some bread in four days + cycled over 200km) I managed to buy some vegetables from the market and cook up a simple soup for dinner. I started to feel better almost straight away. For some reason my body had gone from rumbling and cramping stomach from too much food at once, to rumbling and cramping stomach from lack of food without a pause in the middle to let me know what was going on. And there I was trying to starve myself to get the wretched steak out of my system. And I’d been taking drugs to try to sleep (which didn’t work).

Stupid body. One day it will be able to keep up.

So, I hope, I’ll be back to something approaching normal strength tomorrow (I’m still hesitant to eat anything too solid in case the stomach rebels again). And then, finally (please!?!?) I’ll be able to get into Argentina. Phew. But no steak, not for a few days at least!


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2 responses

30 11 2007
Richard

The parasites are boring through your stomach. They will hollow you out til there is only a shell left. You need rehab. And a train ticket. But first go to Aconcagua It is down the left hand side of Argentina. They say an easy climb. Without a bicycle. You should be able to go quite high. After Bolivia you will have magnificent acclimatisation. Be a doddle. If the parasites don’t do for you.
BTW. The body does not keep up. It falls further behind . Eventually when a great age is reached, usually mid-thirties, the subject realizes that he must not to overload the bits that don’t work and should be sparing of the few remaining parts that do. So find a nice beach and a bevy of friends to peel grapes for you. It’s time to dump the bike. Whatever they’re paying you to do this it isn’t worth it.
Take lots of pictures at Aconcagua.

1 12 2007
Steve

Thankyou for the thought. I will, soon, join the over 30’s club. Perhaps my body is falling apart in anticiption?

These friends that will peel the grapes – they wouldn’t be female by any chance?

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