Cycling above the Clouds

Riding the Andes by Bicycle


The magic of the Sur Lípez

After the physical and emotional energy expended on riding the salars over the past few days, I decided to jump on a 3 day 4×4 tour to visit Bolivia’s other natural gem – the Sur Lípez region. The alternative would have been another 9 days or so of riding one some pretty inhospitable roads, carrying even more food and water than before, and spending freezing cold nights in the tent. I plumped for the softies option;).

The trip blew my mind. Continue reading


Out of this world – the Bolivian Salars

The past few days of relatively un-stimulating riding would not be in vain, as they brought me to the start of one of the most amazing pieces of riding I have ever, and suspect will ever, have in my life.

You can watch my short video of the experience filmed on the bike on YouTube here: (or search for ‘Cycling the Salar de Uyuni’).

For more photos and descriptions keep reading…

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Striking out solo

For the first time since Sara-Ann headed back to the UK, it’s time for me to get back on the bike and start riding solo. I haven’t picked the easiest journey to begin alone, with 725km to travel from La Paz to Uyuni via some pretty deserted roads and tracks. I’m full of anticipation setting off, and also wondering how I’ll manage with the extra weight on the bike now I’m stocked up with the extra food and water I’ll need, along with the the camping gas and some other supplies that Sara-Ann had previously shared with me.

I learn a couple of things pretty quickly…

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La Casa de Ciclistas

Whilst in La Paz, I’ve been staying in the amazing ‘Casa de Ciclistas’, which definitely deserves a mention.

The casa is owned by a local cyclist called Cristian, who is a special quirky character, and extremely generously lets a bunch of us stay in this apartment for £2 per night. That basically just covers the gas and electricity. For this you get a spot on the floor, use of the kitchen, bathroom and wifi, storage for your bike and best of all, a sitting room to hang out with some great ciclista company. The walls are covered in years of fabulous cycling graffiti, route maps and words of wisdom from past guests. You never know who you might meet whilst staying there.

My spot on the floor – surrounded by plenty of cycling graffiti:)

Our bikes are kept in Cristian’s spare bathroom

Who’d imagine such a great cycling community would be hidden behind this door?!

Cristian’s workshop – available to use only after you pass his test;).

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Caseras, Cholitas y Brujas

What have you been up to Sarah B? You may well ask!

I’ve essentially been hanging out in La Paz for a week and a half, primarily waiting for a date to do a TOEFL English test (as part of a visa application) but also getting to know this beguiling city in the process. The big downside of course is that I’ve said a fond farewell to one of my dearest friends in the world, and cycling companionista, Sara-Ann. We’ve had such a fabulous six weeks together and I’m genuinely gutted to have parted ways.

Here we are enjoying the views from the La Paz Teleferico on our last day

So what’s been keeping me busy?

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In and around La Paz – on the topic of Death!

La Paz has kept me entertained for 10 days or so now. It’s an amazing city, with dark, steep, cobbled streets (which are also pretty un-rideable) and every now and again you capture a glimpse of the majestic mountains surrounding it. The Casa de Ciclistas where I’m still staying is really well located in the centre of La Paz, but still the city can feel pretty sinister at night, especially when I’m on my own. But then a new day begins, the sun comes up and the whole place comes to life, buzzing with people, traffic and markets.

The Cemetery

Bolivians are definitely a superstitious bunch, and a visit to the cemetary gave us further examples of this. Remembering the dead is a far more celebratory occasion in Bolivia than in most of Europe. Death and corpses are also treated in a very matter-of-fact way. As is the case in Mexico, Bolivians have the ‘Day of the Dead’ (‘All Souls Day’) where families will go to the cemetery to hold a fiesta with their departed loved ones, bringing them prayers, and also cigarettes, a slug of their favourite tipple, music and dancing. It is a day when the deceased are remembered, and partied with like a living member of the family.

On the more practical side, we learnt that families have to pay an annual rent for a space in the cemetery, and that rent is pretty expensive given space is so scarce in La Paz. If they fail to pay, the body will be unceremoniously extracted from its niche in the wall and replaced with the next cadaver. Who knows what happens with the remaining skeleton – probably better not to know, or perhaps it gets used for something else (read below!).

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La Paz – arriving in style

So here we are on our last cycling day together before Sara-Ann hangs up her padded lycra and waves farewell to a never-ending supply of perfectly ripe and creamy avocados. Blighty awaits for her to be ‘Best Person’ at the wedding of Mark & Helen – and I’m hard pushed to think of a better reason to head home.

But for now, here’s La Paz. We made it! And boy did we arrive in style.

We were warned we’d be in for this…

But what we got instead was…

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