Fundraising success: 3.500 Euros = 35 Bikes for Africa
We achieved our latest fundraising goal!
Wooohoow – a few weeks before reaching our cycle goal Buenos Aires we overtopped the fundraising one! You and us brought together funds for 35 bicycles for education projects in Zambia. That’s above all imagination from the beginning!
But of course, donations are still welcome, we’ll keep on spreading the spirit for bicycles.
Compared to walking an individual can ride 4 times the distance as someone walking. A bicycle increases a person’s capacity 5 times and can safe a lot of valuable time. Giving bikes can make hard lives easier!
Valle de la Luna - Atacama Desert
Our first day off after the lagoon route! We spend it with Cristobal from Santiago and his friend Rajinie from India. They met us in the situation when we just came out of Bolivia and kissed the tarmac after five weeks on dirt roads. They were thinking „What the hell are they doing here on the ground?!!“ they tell us later when we accidently meet again in San Pedro. They generously present us with fruits, tomatoes, avocados and even invite us for breakfast the next morning.
We oversleep for more than an hour, we are like dead this night… But then we enjoy the nicest breakfast after weeks: sitting in the sun, feeling the warmth on the skin and having scrambled eggs, coffee and a huge fresh orange juice in front of us. This is real luxury! We appreciate every tiny bit so much…
In the afternoon the two take us to “El Valle de la Luna“ – by car! We cruise through these moon-like landscapes (part of the Atacama desert) and eat fruits all day long. The mountains of the “Cordillera de Sal” create one of the driest places on earth, because the salt is absorbing every little humidity in the air.
We have a really good time in San Pedro but decide to leave already the next morning because it is too expensive for us. We go by bus over the Jama pass to Salta in Argentina, no more need to cycle in these winds in the desets and to camp that high in the cold for another week…
And Salta is beautiful! The climate is great, the people are superfriendly, everything is available, we have warm water even to do the dishes…. Suddenly, we feel culturally so close again. We know the songs in the radio, we find good bike shops and nice coffee…
Incredible. Now we start into the last two months of this trip. We are talking about some easy cycling to Buenos Aires. Hardy is already getting melancholy and we slowly have the feeling the adventure is over… But well, it is still some 2,000 km to go.
Our new red down wonders: CUMULUS Panyam 600 sleeping bags
The last three months in Peru and Bolivia sometimes gave us a really hard time regarding the temperatures at night. Sleeping in the tent became torture over 4.300 m because we just did not have the right sleeping bags… Fortunately, our friends brought us brand new CUMULUS sleeping bags when they visited us in Cusco – from that on we were safe! Especially on our route through Bolivia we would have been lost without them.
A big thank you to CUMULUS from Poland who sponsored us with one of these down wonders. With only 990 g of weight, an 8.2 l volume and a comfort temperature that goes down to –14°C they are just the perfect sleeping bags for touring cyclists in these regions.
In all these cold nights we were always so much looking forward to cuddel up in the bags. We often zip them together and enjoy them as a double. In the mornings they are also great for enjoying the breakfast outside in the rising sun – what we really recommdend, it is such a great feeling!
La Ruta de las Lagunas – Through the deserts in Southwest Bolivia to Chile
Nothing, absolutely nothing can really describe my feelings for the “Ruta de las Lagunas“. It is a route of the extremes, so beautiful and so hard to cycle. We especially have bad luck with the wind, everybody is telling us it is the strongest of the whole year so far and that it just started when we started. It is definitely an endurance test for the cyclist and the equipment.
During suffering, fighting, screeming, freezing… our thoughts drift into so many different directions. We maybe mostly think of warmth, food, relaxing and all the things we will do and enjoy when this route will be over. But we are also just here, appreciating being in this incredible surrounding and cannot believe we really do it: cycling the “Ruta de las Lagunas“. This is a once in a lifetime experience! Sometimes tears just come out because it is so overwhelming and nearly unreal to cycle in these amazing landscapes.
The sand goes into everything. Cooking without sand in the food is an art in itself and our laptop and hard drive are soon packed in some extra bags. Some plastic things break probably because of the cold. Sand inside our air-pump makes it difficult to fix Hardys flat tires. One more spoke of my back wheel breaks, my Magura HS 33 break starts leaking and the screws of our panniers loosen one after the other…
We carry about 28 kg of food when we leave Uyuni, which is a lot. Too much, we sometimes think, but it is definitely important (especially for Hardy!) to feel safe with that. For the first week we still have a daily apple and carrots, then no more. Find the food list below…
Cold. As long as we move in the day, everything is fine. The nose is constantly dripping, but physical exertion is keeping us warm. But as soon as we stop, especially when the sun is leaving us, it gets incredibly cold. Finger and toes are hurting, depending on the height we sleep in about four layers of clothes, zip our sleeping bags together and cuddle as close as possible to steel some of the other’s warmth. Mostly, it is too cold in the evenings to cook outside. We either cook a quick packet soup with soy meat in the vestibule of the tent or just eat crackers, nuts and raisins. We definitely do not eat enough considering the calories we burn in these days. So, we start preparing rice or noodle dishes for the day in the mornings.
Headwind. So strong that we cannot hold ourselves on the bikes. Never felt the power of the wind so strong before. One little sandstorm after the other – we can do nothing but turn our backs to the wind and try to cover the faces. The first days we still hope it will get better but it only gets worse and worse. No chance to cycle against it if it comes from the front. So many days we are pushing the 65 kg loaded bikes for hours against it through sand. At one point I just cannot go any further. There is no power left in my arms. The wind makes me angry. I hate this bastard, I screem against him, finally I just cry and keep on pushing. Hardy is only 15 m in front of me but does not hear anything, the wind absorbs my cries. Everyone has to fight on his own. But 20 min later in a short break it is a hug and some nice words that make me go on. Mutual motivation and shared suffering becomes so important. I am sure I could never do it on my own.
Jeeps. A jeep full of guys of our age stops. Oh, they want to take another photo, we think. “You’re insane, but you’re heroes!“ they tell us. This lets us forget the wind, the sand and the suffer for a few minutes. It gives new motivation. The other day a jeep stops and offers us water. We have enough for the next day but are so happy about the chocolate we get instead. There are jeeps passing every day. In joke, we call them “would-be adventurers“, they are always friendly and wave hands. In real emergency these jeeps are the only ones who can help you out there.
Refugio. We are sitting at the breakfast table, 10 pancakes, butter, dulce de leche, coffee, tea, and tinned fruits in front of us. Tourists from the other tables stare at us whispering something. They cannot believe what we are able to eat. We explain we are cycling and then they start to give us all their rests of their included breakfast. The owners of the Refugio even give us some joghurt that a jeep group left and make me absolutely happy with that. Joghurt!!! That was a long a time ago… In total we spend three nights during the route in a Refugio. These are very basic hostels at some lagoons that accomodate the jeep tourists. They do not always have running water, sometimes generator electricity at night or solar energy during the day. For us it is pure luxury in these days just do be inside and not coping with the horrible wind outside in the tent.
Tailwind. The wind can change from enemy to your friend. When we turn South after Laguna Hedionda we suddenly feel the power of it in the back. It is incredible how it pushes us uphill, makes us even too fast on the bad sandy washboard so we have to thwart it. Que pena!
Lagoons. Appearing in amazing forms and settings and sometimes full of flamingos. Laguna Colorada, Verde, Blanca, and many more. Each one has its own beauty. The colours are incredible. The pink of the flamingos in blue, green, white, turquoise or even red water. The different substances like salt, copper, even arsenic and algae give the water different colours and make these landscapes unique, fascinating – surreal.
Geysers. Sol de mañana. It smokes, bubbles, sizzles – and smells of sulphur! We are on 4850 m and feel like in another world. Muddy water is boiling at about 90° C in holes in the ground, some have such a pressure that the brownish water and smoke is blown into the air – it is nearly scary, we think of a witch’s cauldron. These are the venes of the volcanic mountain chain in the back. Just some holes let the bubbling inside go out.
Thermal Bath. Laguna Chalviri. 11 p.m., the night is dark, but the nearly full moon is lightening the clear sky, the cope of heaven is arching over us in the quietness of the desert. We are lieing in a hot thermal bath, the muscles are relaxing the first time after days and we marvel the scenery: At the banks of the lagoon we spot the silhouette of three foxes hunting for flamingos. Wow – what a moment! We are relaxed, excited, tired and just happy.
Height. The highest point we reach is 4950 m, it is above the geysers and we have to camp there as the sun is already setting. Imagine a strong ice cold wind plus the freezing temperatures you anyway find on this height. Going out of the tent to pee is torture. Luckily, we don’t have any problems with the height in respects of respiration, headache or altitude sickness. Being over 3500 m for over three months now we are quite well acclimatized, though we always are gasping for air in moments of special effort.
Landscapes. Pampa, deserts, stone forest, volcanoes, lagoons… Unique on earth. Every day we are stunned again by the colours, views, rock formations and the seemingly endless landscapes. Lost for words, I cannot describe the beauty of what I see… You have to experience it yourself.
Chilean border. The last day of the route. We know we will make it to Chile and finally San Pedro de Atacama today. Again an incredible strong headwind that makes us pushing up the last 7 km from Laguna Blanca to the Chilean border. I just wish it would be over right now. The border is so tranquilo like no other before. Two men sitting in there, no electricity, so no computer, just a stamp and then we are suddenly in Chile! But still another five kilometers hardchore climb to the international PAVED! road which will take us 43 km downhill to San Pedro. Asphalt, after five weeks on dirt roads, finally on tarmac again! I am totally done, fall down on the road. We feel like kissing it… and still I have to pedal down the descent because of this hated headwind…
Information: Only 3 km outside of Uyuni we visited the train cemetery before hitting road 5. We went South to San Cristobal and cycled via Villa Alota to Laguna Hedionda (no good idea – headwind from the West!). There we hit upon the real Ruta de las Lagunas and continued South to Laguna Colorada, Sol de mañana, Laguna Chalviri, Laguna Verde and Blanca. At Laguna Hedionda the hotel owner was an unfriendly ashole and did not want to give us sweet water although we were paying guests for the night. The tap water was much more salty than usual because of the strong wind that mixed sweet with salty lagoon water. We really had to fight for it, stuff wanted to help us and the owner wanted to make us pay for sweet lagoon water they fetch from a few kilometers away. In the „Hotel de Desierto“ we experienced the complete difference, everybody was superhelpful and nice. They even gave us boiled drinking water although we did not stay. At Laguna Colorada you find many options to spend the night. We even found a refugio with a (nearly!) warm shower. The last night at Laguna Verde and Blanca the walls of some abandoned houses are definitely the best option to camp (our tent EXPED Orion Extreme just fits into it). If you have the legs to pedal some 9 km further the only better option is to stay in the quite new Refugio South of Laguna Blanca.
Everybody who wants to cycle this route by bike should check out this PDF. It helped us a lot, especially regarding the very good description of camp spots, as you cannot just pitch you tent anywhere. You definitely will need wind breaks. We nearly flew away and bent the tent poles by trying to pitch it in the wind one night. Huge thanks to everybody involved in working out this perfect information sheet!
4 kg rice
3 kg noodles
4 kg oat meal
1 kg peanuts
0.5 kg raisins
1 kg cacao
0.5 kg milk powder
1 kg carrots
1 kg onions
3 packages of olives
10 tins of thuna fish
10 packages of tomato sauce
6 packet soups
0.8 kg soy meat
5 packages of biscuits
2 packages of salty crackers (bought more in a Refugio)
5 chocolate bars
15 nut and honey bars
salt, sugar and spices
0.7 kg coffee
bread, butter and marmelade that lasted two days
capacity for 22 l of water
2 l of gasoline for cooking
5 rolls of toilet paper (bought more in the Refugios)
2 packages of baby wipes
Since we had the opportunity to eat six meals in a restaurant or refugio, we did not need all of the carried food. But it is defintely a better feeling to carry it and be safe with it…
Velosophics and Supernova-Lights
Check out our story in the new Supernova-Lights catalogue 2014!
We are very happy about the great support of and cooperation with the Supernova-Team - it is a pleasure working with you.
Supernova is lighting the way - we are biking it!
Cycling the Salar de Uyuni – a dream comes true
Not sure for how long we are already talking about how it would be to cycle through the biggest salt desert on earth, but it has been long before really planning this trip. Now time has come: We are standing in front of the endless white in Jiria the last village before the Salar and are so much looking forward to enter this gigantic white tomorrow. Jiria has not much but a very friendly family who is running the Hospedaje „Dona Lupa“. They let us sleep in a dining room for free and we pay 20 Bolivianos for a (loooong!) hot gas shower.
The next morning and one kilometer further we are in the Salar. It is sill a bit brownish, but the real clear white is waiting in front of us. We want to follow the track to the famous isla Inca Huasi, that Dona Lupa showed us from the roof top in the morning. But we immediately leave the track when Hardy (with his bad eyes!) spots some flamingos in the water at the edge of the desert. Then we head for the real white salt. Off the track we just navigate to the black spot at the horizon (some 40 km) that the Señora showed us in the morning. The whole day we do not meet a single person, we hear some jeeps very far away. It is terrific! And then suddenly two tiny black points appear on the salt and grow into two cyclists! In the middle of the Salar we meet two Czech cyclists, how funny! Finally, we are lucky that we meet them: they tell us we are heading to the wrong island. Obviously, we misunderstood the Señora, but well… So, we do not reach it and camp on the salt which is a great idea anyway! We find a circle of salt with a different structure where we are able to put our poles in the ground. This night is definitely one of the nicest camping experiences we ever had! The sunset, the sunrise and the milky way that clearly goes down to the white horizon are overwhelming us. If it would not have been so cold we would have sat outside on the salt for hours to gather the scenery.
We heard before it is a tradition for cyclists to go naked on the bike in the Salar to confuse jeep tourists. Like our friend Steve described before a possible scene in a jeep:
„George, George, there is a naked cyclist! Look, George!“ „Elsa, you are seeing things! Here are no cyclists, and defintely not naked! Driver, we should go back, my wife is not feeling well…“
So, Hardy is doing this job and we have great fun!
We reach Isla Inca Huasi the next day for lunch. A beautiful place! An island completely covered with huge cactus in the middle of the shiny white. Don Alfredo and his wife live here and generally host cyclists in their house for free. Unfortunately, he is not there but we are asked to write in his book like all the other cyclists who came here before. Wow, so many entries of riders we met or heard of before! We do 90 km to Colchani this day, the first village on the „main land“ this day as we stay on the tracks which are easier to ride. After two days on the salt we think it is enough. We are looking forward to a little rest and some organization days in Uyuni, 22 km from Colchani.
Good Morning Bolivia!
One of our coldest camping nights, we guess between - 10 and -15 °C… Here in between Curahuara and Turco on about 4,000 m of altitude on the Altiplano. We are already so much looking forward to some warm days in Argentina!
On back roads through Western Bolivia Part II
From Curahuara via Turco and Huachachalla to Salinas
Snow! Everything is white! Really, it feels like Christmas! I start singing „Schneeflöckchen, Weißröckchen…“ and everybody else in the village is talking about „La nevada!“. Honestly, while you in Germany are still enjoying the summer we get stuck in snow for two days… and I start building snowmen with Bolivian kids.
After the lama spectacle we just make it five kilometers further to the village Curahuara, when it first starts raining before turning into snow for the whole day and night. We find a really nice room with running water and hot shower (!) and stay again. The friendly villagers are worrying us by telling when the „nevada“ comes like this it would definitely stay for a week or so. Luckily, it does not. The night is incredibly cold, but the next morning the sun makes it a beautiful winter day. We build a funny „Señor de nieve“and then go for a snow walk on the little mountain next to the village. We really wish we will have weather like this when we will be „Coming home for Christmas…“
It is possible to cycle on the next morning. The frozen sand ways to Turco even are an advantage for us as this is easier to ride than loose sand, of course. The 55 km are not easy but incredibly beautiful: snow on the mountains behind us and in between the stone woods and pampa bushes here and there. There is just nobody on this track, we meet one person the whole day and slowly get used to the feeling of being absolutely alone. At about 4 pm we have to stop as Hardy is too tired and carving a lot. We put our tent next to a tiny river in a huge dry river bed, light up a nice fire and especially enjoy the next morning when the sun little by little warms up our frozen limbs. This is the most beautiful moment of the day! …followed by the moment when we ride into Turco at lunch time and a funny mixed group of a military man, two old women, some school kids and a street worker on the plaza start applauding loudly when we stop in front of them to ask for food. „Bienvenidos a Turco!“ This is what I call motivating! Thank you, Turco people! Not many cyclists make it to here, maybe two in a year they say.
In every village we are buying nearly everything we can get, you never know when you will have the next possibility. Most important is oat meal, tomato sauce, thuna fish and bread. Rice and pasta mostly is no problem to find. But each time we find fresh fruits o veggies we are extremely happy. And honestly, it gets worse and worse the more we come South. The villages get smaller, and often there is just nothing to buy instead of crackers and the so-called „gaseosas“, drinks like coke and lemonade full of sugar and dyes. It is sad to see the people really believe the advertisements saying this stuff is good for them and makes them stronger. In Huachachalla Hardy (wo always asks for everything although it is obvious they won’t have it!) asks in a small shop that are pharmacies at the same time for Echinacea. They don’t know it and he explains „to strengthen your immune system“. The Señora in all seriousness offers him Red Bull! Incredible!
Reaching Huachachalla defintely is the most challenging on the whole way. We need three days for 80 km, have to push a lot through sand ways and real dunes, loose our track and can just go South via the compass in the GPS. Before we did not think it would be that hard to find the way, but without anybody to ask, and tracks that split up into to six or seven traces we are just lost at one point. There is a way on the GPS but about 5 km away that we can only reach cross-country through the pampa. Hardy cuts fences, we get half naked and carry all our stuff through muddy rivers and finally frighten a Señora on her land who never saw cyclists before. Shortly before Huachachalla we funnily pass the little settlement of Centro Berlin, our capital!!!! We meet only three people there and find out it is an Estancia, a place to come for fiestas or community activities. We wonder why to come here at all, here is just nothing but sand and pampa! We can camp in an open community house and they have a well where I wash my hair at -2 °C in the morning. Quite refreshing!
On the way we see many lama skeletons and what is even more interesting: lots of Aymara funeral towers. It seems they just put the dead bodies inside, we check a few and often find the skulls and bones of their ancestors. We feel like Indiana Jones, this is not a museum, it is real, a bit spuky but every time we pass one again we are tempted to have a look.
Arriving in Salinas we are so much looking forward to a hotel room and a warm shower after eight days „in the wild“. But the whole village is out of water!!! No way, the first bigger village and they do not even have a public well most of the tiny settlements we passed on the way before. Well, we find a good hotel (Kamana) with a tank, so we could at least take a short warm shower in the evening without washing the hair… Here we can stock up veggies and fruits again and leave via Jiria to cycle the great salt desert for the next two days.
Traditional lama slaughtering in Bolivia
While having breakfast in front of our room the next morning the family is preparing a lama slaughtering in the back yard. Mmhh, nice to see such a spectacle for breakfast, I think, but it turns out to be really interesting, absolutely natural, and not as disgusting as I thought before.
The butcher comes to cut the lamas throat with a knife. Everything else is done by the two Señoras of the house and the sisters family. For them it is the most normal thing in the world, they do it every second day. They laugh about our curiosity but patiently answer all our questions and have fun at work. The lama meet of these healthy and happy lamas is supposed to be very nutritious and good for us humans. People in this region eat it every day and a lot of them get 120 years old – they say. At first it is quite hard to get the skin off and to cut and break the feet. Then it comes to a division of work for men and women, the man cuts the rips and the big bones. The women take out the intestines. Little daughter Anita has to help as well - while European kids today play with iPads and now all about the wipe gestures, this Bolivian girl plays with the inner things of lama. She enjoys letting it all slip through her fingers and complains when she has to stop her game to hold the lama leg up… Suddenly the younger lady comes out with some plastic glasses, they pour the liquid from the uterus in a bowl and offer me a drink. „Agua de vitaminas“ they explain and laugh. I cannot be overcome to try a nip but they happily clink glasses.
What a start in the day!
On back roads through Western Bolivia
Days away from everything on the Bolivian Altiplano… This is where the real adventure starts! Sand storms, hail, extremely sandy and washboard roads, stuck in the snow, little water access on the one side – burning sun, amazing clear camping nights under millions of stars, tiny villages with poor and always incredibly guest-friendly Bolivians on the other side… We like Bolivia!
Part I: La Paz to Curahuara
I recover after lying in a hotel room in Viacha for five days (nearly too small to get all our stuff in!). The first night camping after Viacha we funnily are discovered in our hidden camp spot behind a hill: two other cyclists suddenly appear as if they knew where we are. Luki from Stuttgart and Daniel from Innsbruck. Obviously, we all have the same preferences finding a place for the night! A hilarious cyclists meeting in the middle of nowhere accompanied by Lukis guitar sounds in the night and in the morning…
But two days after taking off Hardy has the very same symptons like me before. This damn sickness really slows us down, we have to change plans and go to Patacamaya to stock up food, medecine and cash as we are not in the planned shedule any more and to give Hardy a rest day. But we are unlucky and the ATM does not work for us – we even have to go back to El Alto by bus for a day!
Being slow can get on your nerves but we have to get used to it as it would not change the next two weeks due to the worst roads we have ever been on. And it also has a good side, spending time in the villages again brings us close to the people. We have the feeling the Bolivians are a bit more restrained than the Peruvians, but as soon as you approach them, they are curious and incredibly friendly. Everybody is happily waving hands as soon as we greet them. And we hear no more Gringo shoutings – thank you for that, Bolivia!
We cycle through hundreds of lama herds. They are funny creatures: When they recognize us the complete herd stops grazing and all of them stretch their necks in our direction to stare at us curiously. Hardy is curious as well and chases them to find out if they have RFID tags in their ears. They are always faster than him…
On the way to Curahuara we pass numerous Aymara (indigenious people on the Bolivian Altiplano) funeral towers, some are still complete, some only half. That is how the Aymara bury the deads and we are quite surprised to really find some mortal remains in there!
But it is not only sickness and bad roads, it is also the weather. For the first time we experience a real sand storm, which is followed by hail and then snow. Luckily, we are only about 8 km away from a few houses when the sand storm surprises us on the flats of the Altiplano. We see it coming from far and think „Ohhh f***! We have to reach the next hills before it hits us!“ But we do not, it fully catches us. From one second to the other we are covered with sand, cannot stand the wind on the bike, and are not able to see further than one meter. We push through as fast as we can. After a few minutes the hail comes and hurts the face. But we make it to the houses, looking for shelter. Surprisingly, it is not only a lama farm but they offer very basic accomodation and food as well. The only water they use is rain water, so they are happy about the weather and catch water with plenty of buckets and basins to in the back yard. We stay and enjoy a yummy lama steak with rice and salad!