I am staying in the famous La Paz Casa de Ciclista; perhaps best described as an open home for travelling cyclists (the homeless?). There aren’t that many in the world but virtually every single cyclist that travels the Andes seems to pass through here. Over the years, it has housed an eclectic mix of various characters from all walks of life, their stories are told through the graffiti that plasters the walls.
My stay is extended further after I drop my phone in the toilet. Three errant technicians and 230 soles later it appears to be fixed and I am finally ready to leave. I have clocked up ten days and about 30 donuts in this city. No vegetable has passed my lips.
Here’s how the next few days to Sabbaya via the mighty volcano Sajama pan out:
Finally I escape the comfort zone of the Casa de Ciclista via the yellow teleferico and enjoy a final view of the impressive city and its folk.
Two days and 200+km of pounding down pavement get me to the start.
And…the good stuff begins
After cold freezing rain the previous night, waking up to clear skies with Sajama on the horizon is a quite a feeling.
And then the circling around the North side begins.
Sunset shot taken from the small Sajama tourist village.
The quiet and somewhat touristy village of Sajama. I am never asked for money to get into this reserve but meet an unfortunate couple who are taken advantage of and stung for 100 soles each. I understand the official price is 30.
I battle 8 kilometres of headwinds to get to the border town of Tambo Quemado. It is well supplied and the extra few hundred metres uphill and off route to get there proves worth it. I take the opportunity to change some spare dollars for a surprisingly fair rate; there will be no cash points until Uyuni. I then start to head south away from Sajama.
A huge lake appears after the dusty village of Macaya where I see (pink?) flamingos – lots of them.
The massive volcano is still very present over 60 straight km away
I seek refuge from the wind by camping next to a small hill near these Chullpas – some kind of burial tower for noble families found across the altiplano in Peru and Bolivia. I see no one.
The next morning I miraculously bump into Diego and Ana from Spain who I have met in the casa de ciclista. They are heading towards Paraguay and Brazil after Bolivia.
They have made friends with a family and this small cute dog. It doesn’t bark. I like.
They prove to be useful subject matter in my quest to improve my photography skills.
As do this llama family.
And of course Sajama. Ever more distant with each kilometre south, it’s magnificent presence is maintained for days.
Somehow still smiling after kilometres of washboarded sandy roads, living off biscuits and eggs.
They make good progress considering their loads and the state of the roads.
The small deserted village of Tunari, we see no one. Not unlike a lot of the villages on this route. Where have all the people gone? I try to fill my water bottles from the taps; nothing comes about. Is that why no one lives here? This is the last glimpse we get of Volcano Sajama before it disappears behind the hills, now almost 80 kilometres away (in a straight line).
Huge open dry landscapes. The approach to Negrillos, where we camp in some kind of shared dusty patio.
Attempted scam? After buying some (very) basic supplies in the village shop the owner comes running out claiming I have given him a false 20 sol bill. Unsure whether to believe him I change the bill and leave Negrillos. After two kilometres I realise he is wrong (for dull reasons I won’t explain) so I head back. He gives me back the bill. Hard to know whether he tried to scam me or whether it was an honest mistake…
And then we arrive in Sabbaya thirsty and tired finding refuge on the floor of the police station for the night before preparing to tackle the Salars.