South America Blog Posts

Week 17 – Doing repairs & riding San Borja to Santa Rosa

After I arrived in San Borja with the French couple, we had planned to separate as they headed to Trinidad and I continued north. After spending so many nights in the tents, we decided to take some rest days before leaving town. In my case, this wasn’t just to rest, but also to take care of some repairs that I needed to address. Riding on the rough road surfaces over the last few weeks had taken it’s toll on the bike. I am guessing the vibrations just worked things loose. So it was mostly just a case of tightening some bolts. But there was one problem that I really didn’t know how to take care of.

A Damaged Tyre

One day on the route to San Borja I noticed a huge lump in the wall of my front tyre. I never experienced anything like that before, so I posted some pictures in Facebook groups to ask for advice. After reading through a lot of comments I spoke to my friend Charlie, who I met while travelling through Africa. He has a lot more knowledge about bicycles than I do and actually owns a chain of bike shops. So I went with his suggestion. I wrapped a bank note around the innertube of the tyre where it aligned with the defect. This worked for a few days, but then it came back. When I took the wheel off again I saw that the bank note had split into several pieces. So I went for a slightly stronger solution. First I lined the inside of the tyre with duct tape. Then I cut a small piece of plastic water bottle to around the size of the bank note. Charlie had warned me that the plastic would puncture the tube. So I followed some more advice from Facebook. I covered the piece of bottle with more duct tape. That seems to have done the trick and its still holding up to now. I also contacted the manufacturer and they said they would replace the tyre. But I won’t be holding my breath.

The Back Road to Santa Rosa

I decided to take the route that I am on, after meeting Yuri in Uyuni. He said that one of the highlights was the road from San Borja to Santa Rosa. This is a back road which doesn’t show up on Google Maps. The road surface isn’t so great, but the road takes you through the countryside. Passing cattle ranches, forest and marshland. The route took a couple of days and I spent the night camping in a small village called Santa Elena. It’s such a beautiful village. There were horses, pigs, chickens, dogs and cats just wandering around free. It was also a great camp spot as there was an outside toilet and a tap with running water. I took a ‘shower’ using the tap before getting some food and heading to bed.

Lots of Wildlife

The second way was amazing. I started to see more wildlife along the roadside. Animals that I had never seen in the wild before. The first was an armadillo. But it ran too fast for me to take any pictures. Then there were Capybaras. Lots of them. Some in the road and they would make a loud noise when they were running away. Something like a dog’s bark, but a lazy old dog with dementia or something. Then I saw a large bird that looked like an emu or ostrich. But maybe the coolest thing was when I got closer to my final destination for this week. I was crossing a bridge when I heard a noise. Something moving in the water. I looked down to see that the river was full of Kaimen. It was a great way to end the route as I got into town. The only issue now is the road north. Yuri told me it was a bad road. Not necessarily the road surface, but just a long boring road, 350km. But that is for next week.

South America Blog Posts

Week 16 – Caranavi to San Borja with some new friends

After I arrived in Caranavi, I took a couple of rest days to sort out a few things I needed to do. Firstly, I needed to fix my gears as they had been playing up since the ‘Death Road’. But I also needed to do my usual weekly blog and vlog posts. Luckily the gears were an easy fix. The front gears were just jammed by a bit of grit in the mechanism. But I actually took the time to watch some YouTube videos and learned how to adjust the gears on the front and back. They aren’t set up perfectly, but they are much better than they were.

Meeting New Friends

I have also been having some problems with my center stand. It keeps coming loose with the vibrations on the rough road surfaces. So I needed to buy a hex key big enough to fit. When I was walking back to my hotel, I noticed two touring bicycles locked up in the lobby of a hotel across the street. I went in and asked if they belonged to some tourists, they did, but they were out in town. So the next time I went out of the hotel, I called in again and asked if they were back. This is how I met the French couple, Lea and Armand. We had breakfast together the next day and it turned out that they were heading the same direction as I was. We agreed that we would share the road for a while.

Some Great Camping

I had hoped that coming down the ‘Death Road’ would take me out of the mountains. While it did bring me down a lot of altitude, there were still a lot of mountains still to cover. We headed out of Caranavi and we realised that we would be passing over a mountain pretty much every day of the next week. We didn’t hit a mountain every day though. We took some rest days along the way. We also had some great camping spots beside rivers and waterfalls. It was really nice to travel with Lea and Armand. It gave me motivation to push over some mountain roads, but also camping with some new people was a lot of fun. There were two camp spots that were particularly good. The first was next to someone’s house in a mountain village. The guy who owned the house was a musician and he played some music for us. Then I played his guitar while he played his local instruments. He taught me a traditional Bolivian rhythm on guitar. It was a lot of fun and completely unexpected. In the morning we also met his 96 year old mother. The second great spot was next to the river in Sapecho. We swam in the river and I took the opportunity to take a bath and wash my clothes in the river.

Clearing the Andes

The road north was sometimes beautiful and sometimes terrible. The road surface was sometimes smooth and good condition, then it would just stop and we would find ourselves going over rocky roads. I think it would have taken me a lot longer to follow this route if I had been alone. Not that I felt rushed, but being with other people can give you that little extra motivation to keep pushing up the hill rather than stop. It took us almost a whole week to finally get out of the Andes and onto the flat plains of the Bolivian Amazon region. It feels so good to be able to cycle so easily on the roads, even if they are in bad condition. As the week came to a close, we arrived in a town called San Borja. This was our last stop together. Lea and Armand would be heading east to Trinidad while I would be heading North towards Cobija and the Brazilian border. But we all decided to stay in town for a few rest days before we separated.