My best vacation is your worst nightmare.
Bumper sticker seen in Moab, Utah
Left Uyani at 8 am with everyone cycling, all happy, but within 2 kilometer the washboard started. Soon everyone was attempting to find a smooth route somewhat resembling our direction. A trail developed to the left of road which cars had been driving on and appeared smoother. Somehow I ended up near the front, then a brilliant idea for a picture looking back at the line of riders emanating from the town against the flatness of the horizon. There were a few hills but mostly the flatness of the salar. I stopped but there was no one behind me, but 1/2 a k back I could see a crowd gathered. That did not look good. Alas nothing I could do so continued to bounce along trying to find a smooth line for a few meters at a time.
Brigit caught up with me shortly later with the news. Buck had gone over his handlebars crossing the tiny berm to the side trail. She said he had probably broken his shoulder and was in extreme pain. That put a damper on my mood. For the next 50 kilometer I thought his ride was probably over and may even have to return to LaPaz and home. I would not even see him.
Lunch was supposed to be at a tiny village at 56 kilometer but the camp truck passed saying all they knew was Buck had gone to hospital with Annalot, our doctor. There probably would be no lunch truck today and gave us some rolls, and filled our water as it was going to be a long hard day. Everyone including the truck was trying to find a way through the washboard, even going out into the desert and trying to find hard ground to ride.
We finally came to the village and a shop was open where we were able to purchase bananas, apples, an orange soda, water, and jello. Barry and Terry caught up saying Buck was in bad condition from the pain and even if he got better there was no way he could drive on this road. Alas the mood dipped.
I rode on soon taking my usual place still riding last or near last. At 75 kilometer the lunch truck passed and Buck was in the back smiling. Yahoo. I thought about hopping aboard but thought only 35 k to go. As soon as they left I thought “did I just make a big mistake?” Once the trucks pass one is on their own. I knew I was getting very tired. Caught up with Terry, Berry, and team Norway (Hilde, and Knut who informed me Buck had just dislocated shoulder and it was back in place.
Rode on slowly gaining altitude and the washboard continued with occasional soft sand which required walking. Glad I had switched tires yesterday to wider despite little tread. Feeling pretty miserable and wondering what the hell was I doing. Washboard, soft sand, uphill when at 83.73 kilometer a thought suddenly hit me that I was on my bicycle and despite being exhausted was having fun. Climbed the hill and descended but a new fear arose. The descent was fast going about 45 kph, over heavy washboard. I was afraid the bike was going to disintegrate with the rattling. It was crashing and banging hard. But the Ibis Tranny was doing great, although my behind was not so lucky and regretted changing saddles to the fizik gobe. Alas it was a trial.
Caught up with Jorg whose gut was acting up and we rode the up and down hills till time to turn off road and onto the river bed which supposedly avoided the hills of the road if the river bed cooperated and was hard enough to ride. It was, and we had a delightful ride somewhat coasting down occasionally pedaling having to ride across the small bit of flowing water. Beautiful little canyon, and the side country was developing into southern Utah like country. After 7 kilometer arrived at the town of Atoche, a mining town where Rob was waiting for us checking off people to see who came the road or river. Hardy 2 was the only unaccounted for person. Jorg and I rode on for the final 7 k of difficult uphill out of the canyon. Rob waited for Hardy. It was a very steep climb and I ended up walking a portion. I was just exhausted. Finally topped out and the country side was incredible with towers and spires and colors and changing scenery. But I was definitely again questioning myself.
Finally arrived camp about 5:30 after a very long day. It was a beautiful site although not much protection beside the road. But all cheered and congratulated me saying it had been a very hard day on all. Everyone had had a hard time.. So where I had questioned my abilities and was thinking of going in the truck tomorrow, I felt rejuvenated and would try again tomorrow. But as Rob said tomorrow was harder. The day would climb back to 4300 meters from our current 3700 then descend to our lowest point in Bolivia about 3200 meters. Still higher than anything in the lower 48 U.S., except a few peaks in Colorado and California.
And a full moon and a lightening show to the south where we head tomorrow.
8 October 2014 bush camp. 7 kilometer south of Atocha, Bolivia
It is always nice for me to awake in the desert. Open your eyes just as it is getting light and see the last of the fading stars and the glow in the eastern horizon. Those moments to oneself when one feels oneself coming alive again.
Had been a problem the day before with Walters lunch truck. The spare tire had bounced out of the carrier beneath. Rob (one of directors of bike dreams) and Walter had gone back last evening to try and find and they were not back this morning. So it was asked that those that could ride do so as little room. Buck was only one to go in truck as injured.
So we prepared only to have Walter and Rob arrive just as ready to depart. 4-5 got in as they do not like the washboard.
The day was a day of changing scenery climbing, and descending.started at about 3700 meters eventually the high point was 4251 meters. Then descended ending up here at Tupiza at 3100 meter. But not quite that simple. There was a lot of up and down. Up a hundred down 75 up a hundred. The day ended with 1500 meters of ascent.
The final big descent was long and the wrists were very sore. Hardy and I exclaimed when we reached the bottom “wow, there are trees, and they are green”. We have not seen trees I quite a while due to the altitude, and greening up is just starting up high. Wondrous.
Hardy and I rode the last 20 k together stopping often for pictures saying better to be slow than not remember what this was as probably never be here again. And the scenery was now much like southern Utah. Cliffs canyons, rock formations. No wonder Butch Cassidy and the sun dance kid lived here. They met their demise in this area although it was not the Hollywood version of the movie. Arrived at hotel about 5:30 after a long hard ride.
Another rest day, wash clothes, sleep, spending the day mostly deciding best option for activity. Something about line dried clothes. I love em. Maybe it is the stiffness or the sterile feeling from the baking in the sun, whatever they just seem nicer to me. Up on the patio a cool breeze blowing keeping the sweat to a minimum. And drinking a beer and eating an apple. Life is good.