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Villazon – Uyuni

Posted by on March 31, 2017

Posted from Uyuni, Potosi Department, Bolivia.

My stay in Bolivia started a bit rough. As I was getting through the border from La Quiaca to Villazon I happened to start suffering from the cold and food poisoning at once. I crossed the border hoping to find a nice hostel in Villazon but there weren’t any. Therefore I stayed an entire day in the city centre, eating and relaxing on the main square and hoping to feel better by the end of the day. The plan was to find a nice wild camping spot somewhere on the northern outskirts of the city and either stay in Villazon one more day in case I was still feeling bad or make a push to Tupiza located around 90 km north of Villazon. Although ill I was happy to be in Bolivia. Norh of Argentina was a tough place to cycle. The old route 40 was in a bad shape, the towns were far apart, the food was expensive and the choice limited. In Bolivia, on the other hand, people seem to be always active selling things on the streets. Street food is available at all times of the day and is cheap and tasty. The shops are open all day, unlike in Argentina where everything is closed mid-day. Although ill I ate everything I could find. I reckon I had a calorie deficiency as I wasn’t eating enough over the last couple of weeks. The food in Bolivia reminds me of Poland, nice soups and dishes with meat, vegetables and potatoes. I found a nice joint near the bus terminal in Villazon – a delicious two course meal for 16 Bolivianos (around 2 GBP). In the evening I got some food supplies for the next day, a few sandwiches, doughnuts and drinks and cycled to the city outskirts. Options for camping spots were rather limited and thus I resorted to pitching my tent at the top of the hill near the railway tracks. It was windy but quiet. Next morning I felt rather drowsy and tired so I stayed in the tent all day, sleeping, eating the leftover sandwiches and doughnuts and trying to get stronger. As it was getting close to 6pm I packed all the valuables, left the tent and cycled back to Villazon. The wind was getting really strong again and it was easier to cycle south uphill than back north downhill. I went along my ‘food route’, bought all the supplies and came back to the tent just before it started raining. Then came the storm, the wind picked up in strength and my tent started shattering so much that I feared the poles would break or the fabric would rip along the seams leaving me without rain cover. The storm carried on for the most of the night. At first I could’t sleep because of the noise of the howling wind and the fluttering ot the tent’s outer sheeth but then I got tired and fell asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night as I felt water on my face. It turned out that the wind took out the pegs that fastened the entrance to my tent and the whole thing folded allowing rain to seep through the fabric. I jumped out to put the pegs back but it was too late. I had puddles in my tent, my backpack was all wet and so were my passports and my wallet. I rescued what I could, put in the dry bag, repositioned the mat and fell asleep again knowing I’d have to dry everything in the morning. The weather next day was not looking much better so I woke up rather early, partly dried my tent and the sleeping bag in the wind and took off. There was no point of staying longer in there. The ride was easy but I was still feeling under the weather, so it took me most of the day to reach Tupiza. Along the way I experienced one of the biggest hail-storms I ever saw. Luckily, as it started to thunder and first drops of rain began to fall I hid in a tunnel and watched the whole thing unfold while having a roof over my hand. In half an hour the storm moved on leaving on the roads lots of rubble and mud which came down from the mountains with the torrents of rainwater. Half an hour later I was in Tupiza relaxing in a hostel and trying the local food. I stayed there one more day to get well and gain some strength before undertaking a 210 km journey to Uyuni. I am glad I decided to rest because the stretch of the road between Tupiza and Atocha (a town mid-way between Tupiza and Uyuni) was a road from hell. Twenty kilometres from Tupiza at around 2,800 m.a.s.l. the road started climbing steeply and did not stop until 4,000 m.a.s.l. It was a tough and long climb but it didn’t stop there. Right after descending to around 3,850 metres the road climbed again, this time to 4,100, then came down to 3,800 climbed onto 4,200 and there seemed to be no end to that. The road led right across all mountains as if someone just drew a line on a map without looking at hipsometric lines. This roller-coaster continued for about 45 kms leaving me very tired. What seemed to be a one day ride took me almost two days but finally I got into Atocha where I could eat and rest a little. I was assured by the locals that the road from there would be flat but it wasn’t. It began similarly to the first stretch – constant ascents and descends… and detours as the road was under construction. Luckily, 30 kms onwards the road finally got me onto the Bolivian altiplana and the cycling got much easier. Finally, after 3.5 days of cycling I finally reached Uyuni – a bit exhausted but happy. Here my long-planned rest and my first tourist attraction awaits me. For the next 3 days I will turn into a tourist and be driven along the south of Bolivia in a jeep. The next longer stop will be in La Paz one week of cycling from here.

On the way to Bolivia

On the way to Bolivia

Views around Tupiza

Views around Tupiza

Cacti

Cacti

Obelix, Obelisk

Obelix, Obelisk

Tupiza-Atocha

Tupiza-Atocha

Local bus

Local bus

Local cow

Local cow

4,000 metres and rising

4,000 metres and rising

Llamas at my camping spot

Llamas at my camping spot

High road

High road

High road

High road

View from some of the hairpins

View from some of the hairpins

Descending into Tupiza

Descending into Tupiza

A view

A view

Chinoa

Chinoa

Llamas

Llamas

Red ribbon llama

Red ribbon llama

Some rocks

Some rocks

Entry into Tupiza via a river

Entry into Tupiza via a river

Mine at Tupiza

Mine at Tupiza

City centre

City centre

Llama meal

Llama meal

Village diner

Village diner

Washboarded road

Washboarded road

Sunset 1

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

Sunset 2

Sunset 3

Sunset 3

Sunset 4

Sunset 4

Vicunas

Vicunas

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