ruta del ché
uyuni to santa cruz
LOS NEGROS TO SANTA CRUZ
Our plan was to go from here to Samiapata (which is meant to be amazing - organic farms & cool places to hang out) but run out of time as we had to meet Laura's parents and so hitched a ride to Santa Cruz. Another couple we met on bikes where robbed at gun point entering Santa Cruz so another reason to hitch that lift! In the centre of Santa Cruz, there are great places to stay and eat… We stayed at Ikandire which is 2 minutes from the main central plaza. From here, we caught a flight to Lima to meet Laura's parents and spend some time off the bikes visiting hospitals for Lifebox foundation.
Villagrande to Los Negros
Back on Tarmac roads. There are a couple of small villages between Villagrande and Maratel and we stopped in one for lunch. Maratel is at the cross road and has restaurants and one or two places to stay. We continued to the next town which was not as friendly as Maratel but we managed to find a place to stay at the end of town after the bridge. Lots of shops and restaurants. Heavy rain over night turned all the sidewalks to soft mud!
La Higuera to Villagrande
Further climbing from La Higuera to rejoin the main road and onwards to Pucara. Pucara is a large town and it's possible to find food and accommodation. We continued to Villagrande. There is a pass to about 2850m at 34km from La Higuera but from there, all downhill to Villagrande. We visited the Lavanderia where Ché’s body was displayed and also the airstrip where his body lay for 26 years. Villagrande has a great fresh vegetable market as well as lots of restaurants but otherwise an average town. The asphalt road restarts from Villagrande.
Rio Grande to La Higuera
Rio Grande is at 909m and the road leads straight up! After fixing 2 punctures, we climbed the whole day… The turn off for La Higuera is at 2500m and took us about 6-7 hours to reach. Once we got to the turn off, it was getting dark and we were almost out of water. We were going to camp but found it hard to find a hidden place that was flat on the mountain so kept going. We did pass a few houses but no people there. Arrived in La Higuera after cycling for 1 hour in the dark. About 200m on the right is were we stayed - Los Amigos, run by Chris and Nanu, a French couple. Great room, amazing european style food (delicious and huge portions!) and Chris knew lots about Ché Guevara. We stayed 3 nights and could have stayed longer. Another option was the Casa de Telegrafista - also French fun, a bit further on the left. The budget option is by the school right in the centre of the village. We went to the museum where Ché was held and later killed as well as the Quebrada where he was caught. We found this place to be a gem and will certainly return!
Nuevo Mundo to Wild Camp by Rio Grande
There is 17km of downhill from Nuevo Mundo to the river. About 200m before the river there is a workman camp which looks permanent. If we had known this, we would have stayed here the night before. More climbing on steep roads towards the Rio Grande. There was a small village (El Oro) on the way but we didn't stop. Didn't see a shop but probably does have water if people live there! Eventually reached Rio Grande and camped on the other side of the river - across the bridge. Filtered water at the river.
Villa Serrano to Nuevo Mundo
A short but steep climb out of town followed by a couple of small climbs before a big climb to the top of the mountain. No shops or water in between. Very soft sand in places. No pushing but we did have 4 inch tyres. Nuevo Mundo is very basic. Able to find water, eggs, bread (bread was difficult!) and biscuits. Nowher to stay… We managed to stay in the primary school which had toilets and running water - but it wasn't easy to arrange.
Wild Camp to Villa Serrano
We still had to climb to the top of the climb in the morning - steep and soft in places. The downhill was about 8.5km to the river and then small ups and downs. The last 2km to Villa Serrano is again cobbled. We stayed in a hostel - San Miguel - which was nice but possibly a little expensive in such a rural town (100 bolivianos). Lots of good street food options and basic shops.
Zudàñez to Wild Camp (past Tomina)
Tomina is a slightly larger town. The route we took from here turned left and its the end of the asphalt road. Tomina itself has lots of street food options as well as basic shops. The road out of town is via the bridge towards the mountains. At the start of this road is a hospedaje. The road after the bridge is cobbled for 5km and is all uphill (top of climb is at 11.5km from the bridge). Once the cobbled road stops, it's ripio - which can be soft in places. We camped 6km after Tomina. There are a few houses every 1-5km but no shops or clean water). The next town from Tomina is Villa Serrano - we took enough water for the whole 30km.
Tarabuco to Zudáñez
The short days continue! Not much between these two towns. Zudáñez has more basic shops and restaurants. We stayed in a basic hospedaje here for not much - hot shower, clean room. There is a fresh vegetable market here so we stocked up on some supplies. Fresh orange juice from the street vender too.
YAMPARAEZ TO TARABUCO
Another short day to Tarabuco. A bigger place than Yamparaez but not particularly nice. We had heard of a German run guest house which we found (forget the name) a couple of roads down from the main square. A nice place but it wasn't clean when we arrived, the lady was apologetic and gave a small discount for this… Apparently it's usually well kept. Again, lots of fairly basic shops. This small town is in the Lonely Planet - apparently there us a good market here on particular days.
sucre to yamparaez
We decided that the first few days from Sucre really slowly so that Laura's knee would not develop the pain again. So we only cycled 35 km the first day and stopped early at this small village (no shops in between). It has basic shops but hotels/hospedajes. After speaking with some locals, we were directed to the building next to the church - which we think was an orphanage? The lady there gave us a room with bunk beds for about 15 Bolivianos - clean, electricity and a toilet.
uyuni to sucre (bus)
Uyuni is very cold and the hotels don't have heaters. This would seriously delay a tendonitis recovery so we decided to head to a warmer climate to aid Laura's knee recovery. We caught a lift to Sucre & stayed here for 2 weeks until she was pain free. Sucre is a beautiful town and for us, probably the nicest town in Bolivia. We stayed at Casa el Tronco which was a little out of the centre and a little expensive but really amazing… One of the nicest places we've started on the whole journey! We used the time to do a Spanish language course & after the 2 weeks, we were back on the road.
salar back to uyuni
Unfortunately, Laura's knee pain returned, so we decided to head back to the town. We tied a bungee cord from Reza's bike to Laura's & Reza towed her back to town. There is a car wash about 3 or 4 km outside Uyuni and we paid 30/40 Bolivianos to use the self service jet wash. This is a good idea because it made it super easy getting all the salt off the bikes which will undoubtedly cause serious damage if you leave it!
uyuni into the salar
-If you plan to camp on the salar, take a rock for the tent pegs!-
We waited about 10 days in Uyuni for Laura's knee injury to improve. When she was pain free we headed towards the salar along with 3 other cyclists. The last village (& only village) is Colchani. A small village with basic shops but possible to buy basic supplies and water. Turn left here to enter the salar. There is a big fancy hotel on the left just past Colchani towards the salar - we didn't need to stop here but we guess if you need assistance, it's a good place to try. There are tracks leading into the salar and its best to check which you need to take depending on your destination (islands/la Paz). Our 'Open Street Map App' had 3 the 3 main tracks mapped which was usuful. Unfortunately, once we got past Colchani, Laura's knee pain returned. We camped on the salar which is cold but amazing. The next day, we decided to head back to Uyuni to allow further recovery of her injury.
Camp away from the tracks as traffic at night might not see you!