I have started a new trip cycling through South America.
I will be updating this page periodically, as I make progress through the continent.
My journey in South America started in the capital of Chile, Santiago de Chile. For the start of my journey, I was joined by a friend from Vietnam. Huong wanted to travel to Peru, so we cycled together through Chile. We stayed in the city for a little over a week, with a couchsurfing host called Byron. I was waiting for my laptop charger to arrive because I had accidentally left it in the UK. Santiago was a really nice modern city and felt very European to me. We took some time to explore, hiking up the small mountain in the middle of the city, visiting the Persian Market and the open air graffiti museum. When my laptop charger hadn’t arrived after a week, we decided to just start cycling and Byron agreed to send it to me when it arrived. From Santiago de Chile we headed west to Viña del Mar.
In Viña del Mar, we stayed with a couple more couchsurfing hosts. One was in the old town of Valparaiso. A port town with districts built on the hills around the south side of the bay. It was a really different experience than in Santiago. Valparaiso was more poor and rough than Santiago. After a few days we continued up the coast. It was on the way along the coast road that Huong had an accident. She fell off her bike and injured her knee. Luckily, a local family were kind enough to welcome us into their home while she healed (Click to read original Blog post). The family lived in a village called Cachagua. A really nice little coastal village. It was so nice to get a taste of family life while we were there.
After a month in Cachagua, we were ready to move again. But unfortunately, Huong still couldn’t cycle. So for the rest of our time in Chile, we had to take the bikes on buses. We continued up the coast, stopping in the coastal city of La Serena briefly before staying with some cool couchsurfers in a small town called Bahia Inglesa. We attended a rock climbing event and then had a party in the desert. It was really cool. The beaches in Chile are really beautiful, especially in Bahia Inglesa. The only problem is that the water is so cold. It really made me look forward to getting further north into the tropics.
Our last stop before leaving Chile was a popular tourist destination, San Pedro de Atacama. It is a small town in the desert, surrounded by natural landmarks to visit. Things like volcanoes, geysers, salt flats and lagoons with flamingoes. The area is really beautiful, but I found that things were low quality while being overpriced. Unfortunately, this is quite common in tourist destinations where people feel that people will come and don’t have much choice. But it was definitely worth a visit before we headed over the border into Bolivia. So after ten weeks in Chile, we were ready to move on.
When we arrived in Bolivia, Huong decided that she didn’t want to cycle anymore. She sold her bike and took a bus to Peru. From this point on I was solo bikepacking through South America. The last thing we did together, before she left, was to cycle out onto the Salar de Uyuni and camp on the salt flats. It was a really amazing experience. The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world. It felt like we were on an alien world. At night the sky was so clear that we could see all the stars and the milkyway. The downside was that it was freezing. The temperature got down to around minus 8 degrees Celsius. But I got some amazing photographs (Click to read original Blog post).
After Huong left, I was staying in a Casa de Cyclistas in Uyuni and got a route suggestion from another cyclist. Yuri was an Italian-Swiss guy who had just cycled from Peru, through the Amazon to Uyuni. After hearing about his route I decided I would take his route but in reverse. But first I needed to cycle from Uyuni to La Paz. It was a long road north on desert roads. But it was a good warm up to prepare my legs for the Amazon route. It took me a couple of weeks to arrive in La Paz ready for my Amazonian adventure.
From La Paz, I headed to the Death Road (El Camino de la Muerte). After spending so many weeks in the desert of Chile and Bolivia, it was so nice to descend into the forest on the other side of the Andes mountains. I spent a couple of days cycling down the Death Road, camping at viewpoints. It was a really amazing experience and so peaceful as the road is no longer in use. The road isn’t so dangerous as it used to be. It got the name because of how common accidents were. But the government have already built a new road which is safer. From there, I headed north to a town called Caranavi.
I met a French couple in Caranavi. They were also cycling north, so we decided to share the road for a while. We cycled together for a week until we arrived in San Borja. I had been looking forward to the next small stretch of road between San Borja and Santa Rosa. Yuri had said it was a great stretch of road. Unfortunately, it was followed by a long stretch of road which was under construction. It took me a week to get through this long, boring stretch of road. But when I got to the end of it I was ready for another stretch that I was looking forward to. The Pando region of Bolivia.
The Pando region is an area in the Bolivian Amazon. It was a beautiful area with some area of forest, villages and remote dirt roads. I briefly stayed with a family in a village called Mandarino and camped in front of their house. It was really nice to meet the locals in the area. My Spanish wasn’t so good at that time, so I couldn’t communicate as easily as I would have liked. But it was still a really nice experience to meet them and see how they live. Some sections of the road were really terrible muddy dirt roads, but even those roads were fun just because of the location. I was really lucky with the people that I met as I travelled towards the border. Everyone was so friendly and kind. But eventually I got to Cobija and was ready to cross the border to Brazil.
I only spent a little time in Brazil this time. It was the only way to cross from northern Bolivia to Peru legally as there isn’t an official border. So to get stamps in my passport I had to exit to Brazil in Cobija, then cycle to Iñapari to cross into Peru. Even though I was only there briefly, I really liked the country and I definitely want to go back to see a lot more!
My first week in Peru was awesome. I headed from Iñapari to Puerto Maldonado, where I stayed with a couchsurfing host who ran a tour company. He let me sleep in the tour office and I also joined a couple of tours for free. So I went fishing for Piranha and also went looking for Caiman on the river at night. But the best part was the next section. I headed to a town called Boca Colorado, a small mining town on a river in the Peruvian Amazon. From here I found a small boat that was heading up the river to a village called Boca Manu. It was a long boat ride, nine hours through the forest. But it was amazing. It was the first time that I had ever take my bike on a boat, so it felt really adventurous.
From Boca Manu I cycled out of the Peruvian Amazon to Cusco. On the way I had another first experience, river crossings. In just one day I had to cross 12 river crossings. As it was my first time, it was a lot of fun. But it was a long tiring day. At some point on this road, I had a crash with my drone and it broke. So I decided that I would stay around Cusco for a while so that I could get a replacement part. This was a good place to stay for a while because Cusco has a lot of places to hike and visit. The most famous of which is, of course, Machu Picchu.
This journey is still in progress!
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