Given my enormous delay between my present adventures and my narrative on this blog, I decided to make a short summary of my visit to Chile so as not to accumulate it.
Chill in Chile
Here we are in Chile but before reaching the first small town (San Pedro de Atacama), the most dizzying descent of our lives awaits us: 2000 meters of negative elevation on just over 40 kilometers… In short, a sacred descent that is swallowed up in just over an hour.
Arriving in San Pedro we rest several days to regain strength after our Bolivian adventures. We take the opportunity to fill up with fruits and vegetables and prepare great dishes. To say simply, a small week of vacation without too many kilometers.
It's only a good-bye
That is when I leave Alex and Marie who continue their roads to Argentina. Many other events await them in Patagonia, starting with 2000m of positive elevation. We encourage and we say to the next… In France. ^^
For my part, I have to go due south because I have a flight to Santiago in less than 15 days. I pass by the Valley of the moon near San Pedro to contemplate the deserts, the impressive mountain range in the distance and a cave of salt perfectly fantastic.
After a day and a half of pedalling (and 1000 m of positive difference) I reach Calama where I take a bus to advance me south.
Cactus under the Stars
I arrive at La Serena which is a seaside resort 500 km north of Santiago. The atmosphere is relaxed in this rather large city. I allow myself a few days of extra rest on the Pacific Rim before I get back on the bike.
So I go inland to follow the road of the stars! Known for the many observatories and high mountains away from any light pollution, this road quickly becomes a track and passes through many valleys.
The mountains are very dry but the Chileans have techniques of capturing water in basins that allows them to have all year in the valleys. The contrast between the top of the mountains full of cactus and the green valleys is striking.
I camp several times in height and the warmth of the night allows me not to put my canvas of tent and therefore to contemplate beautiful starry skies lying on my mattress.
Little by little the landscape becomes a little greener, I chain different tracks borrowed only by some goats. Long climbs and very pleasant descents follow each other.
I arrive at a small town somewhere north of Santiago, I decide to take a bus to avoid traffic at the entrance to the capital.
I just have to visit the city and find a box for Zigzag. My flight to Costa Rica is coming soon.
Short video because like the last one of my SD cards dropped. But this gives a glimpse of the northern part of this country.
Being late on my schedule, I could not see the southern part of the country. It must be said that the shape of the country does not help. ^^
I will therefore not doubt to explore a little more these landscapes and all the different environments that it can offer.
Santa Claus is very late, but he has a surprise in his boot.
The Stone Tree
The night under tent sheltered by the some buildings of the hotel Del Desierto was rather cold, for proof, the frozen water bottles that we find in the morning.
We set out ready to cross another desert without ideas on how many kilometers we will have to push the bikes.
Several sandy passages require us to get off the saddle and push our steeds but there are several well-rolling kilometers. The terrain is rather flat, the heat overwhelming but the colors of the surrounding mountains are astounding.
We arrive at the stone tree after about twenty kilometers. This natural rock formation was gradually formed by the violent winds and the sand present here.
No tourist, no 4×4, we decide to satisfy himself close to the stone in question with a pack of noodles and a box of corn. A 4×4 makes its appearance and two European tourists are very impressed to see cyclists.
The afternoon track is even more sandy, the wind arrives quickly as usual. We are therefore rather slow, despite the negative difference.
We arrive at the Laguna Colorada and therefore the entrance of the nature reserve or full of 4×4 and tourists arrive from Uyuni. We must pay 150 Bolivianos for the reserve Eduardo Avaroa which occupies all the rest of the region up to the border with Chile. There are French and many other nationalities that go so far as to applaud us and our bikes. However, we still have a lot of kilometers and passes to go through.
The park rangers accept that we plant our tents not too far from their homes, a little bit sheltered from the wind. But they tell us that it is normally forbidden to camp near the Laguna and so we must wait until the sun sets… We wait for the sunset and put our tents in the wind.
The evening is icy, we warm up as we can with a nice dish of pasta with tuna.
Let's go camping above the Mont Blanc!
I think I spent the coldest night of my life, my sleeping bag is not made for temperatures like this. I plan to follow the sun for a year, it's not necessarily synonymous with following the mild temperatures.
We start the day by bypassing the Laguna and then climbing a pass, obviously the wind makes its appearance from 11am in the morning.
Once this pass reaches we still have to make a little twenty kilometers to the geysers. This passage was the hardest for me: wind, sand and especially corrugated steel track all along. It hurts the back, the buttocks and the mind.
As well as bad we come to the ground of Mañana, the plateau to the geysers in the middle of the afternoon. We discover the fumaroles and the sick of bubbling mud. We are now just below the 4900 meters above sea level: higher than the Mont Blanc!
We are preparing to camp in the corner because these 36 kilometers have rinsed us (finally me at least). The endless wind does not help, but Alex decides to improve the rock that is used as a makeshift shelter.
In the evening it will be pasta with tuna (to change), the thermometers indicate-5 ° in the tent despite the pasta dishes, the stoves and US inside.
Tonight I sleep with a long sleeve T-shirt, a sweater, a fleece and my jacket; All in the sleeping bag obviously. The violent wind is raging all night, but with all these layers of clothing I am not too cold.
The alarm clock is obviously icy, it certainly did-15 ° in the night. The sun takes time to warm us because of the altitude we are in. A nice descent awaits us this morning, so we quickly motivate to pack our things and travel the last kilometers before the pass at 4900 meters.
Fortunately after the pass, the descending track rolls rather well one exceeds even the 20km/h at times!!!
We enjoy the best that we can from this descent to the Laguna Chalviri because we know that we are not at the end of our surprises.
After a long break in Polques, small tourist place where there are hot baths for tourists and a small grocery we go back on our two wheels to attack another collar.
On the way, we pass by the desert of Salvador Dali, thus naming by the curious rocks that are there and thus giving a surreal aspect.
The path is long towards the pass and the wind is increasingly violent as we advance, however the colors of the mountains take me totally: Would I dream?
The wind slows down our progression to the pass, once at the top it's even worse! Sanded track and ultra-violent wind. A caravan with a German family asks us if we need anything.
On the other side of the pass we see the volcano Licancabur which marks the border with Chile: so we are not very far.
We pass next to the Laguna Blanca to reach the hut/hotel/restaurant of the corner. They accept that we camp in a room next to the reception. Yay, we'll have no wind and a warm night. In addition to that we order sausage with potatoes, it will change us pasta with tuna. 🙂
We meet two other Frenchmen with a group that is about to climb the Licancabur the next day.
We spend a great evening (without wind!) after a good day of crazy 66 km.
Bye bye Bolivia
The next day we have less than ten kilometers left to reach the end of the reserve and the border with Chile.
It goes up, but we know that it is soon the end of this sublime hell of sand.
As the guide warned us to meet the night before, the customsmen still want us to withdraw 15 bolivianos for nothing. They say they ask everyone but just talk about administration or call the embassy to change the subject very quickly.
Once in good standing to leave Bolivia, we pass the border and happily find the asphalt. A steep descent to the first small town awaits, but I would say no more at the moment.
As a gift for this year's end: the video.
Santa Claus arrives late because I unfortunately lost a lot of videos of South Lipe (SD card that crash…).
The installation does not transcribe too much the weather and the difficulty of this region. I also embed photos to replace lost videos… 🙁
If you want another point of view on the area, I advise you to see the video of the biketrippers that have well morflés: here
I wish you all a happy New Year's holiday, next year!
After many days in La Paz to repair my bike and recover from food poisoning (apparently almost inevitable in Bolivia), I take the road to southwestern Bolivia.
Several hundred kilometers of not very exciting roads allow me to arrive in Sabbaya, a small village close to the Salar de Coipasa.
Reunion in Salty environment
I'm starting to roll, ready to cross the Salar de Coipasa. There are tracks everywhere that go in every way possible. I choose one that traces in the middle. I have to find Alex and Marie in the vicinity, but there is obviously no network here.
The immense expanse of salt is rather simple to roll (bah yes it is flat) but on some passages, salt is moist, splashes of salts bleach Zigzag and my saddlebags.
I stop at the small village of Coipasa which is on an island of the Salar to take some provisions in the only tiny grocery store. The manager tells me that two French bikers passed half an hour ago: no doubt it must be Alex and Marie.
I'm taking my road as fast as I can to catch them.
Distances are very difficult to interpret so this desert is flat, but after a short time I see two silhouettes in the distance. Although it is impossible to determine whether these silhouettes are cars, bikes or anything else, I decide to direct myself to them.
Bingo, after a few kilometers I find Alex and Marie who stopped to take a break with two other Germans on the bike; They just crossed each other. Nadja and Julian, they go up north, they carry all their climbing equipment as well as sails for paragliding (and yes all on their bikes!), so they are rather loaded and are very friendly (their blog). It's kind of magical to find ourselves five in the middle of this landscape, so it deserves a souvenir photo.
We split up to pursue our respective paths. The dish and the non-existent circulation of the Salar are perfect for chatting while rolling with Alex and Mary. The mountain in front of us comes very very slowly despite our speed, but after several tens of kilometers we finally leave the Salar.
We camp the same evening not far from a deserted track near the village of Luca and try to rid the bikes of the blocks of salt accumulated in places.
Towards even more salt
The next day we go towards the direction of the following salar: that of Uyuni. It is the largest salt desert in Bolivia and the second largest in the world. But first, we still need to pass two passes and sixty kilometers.
Once the first pass we stop in Salinas to eat and restock in fruits, vegetables, drinks …
In the afternoon we continue our route around the Tunupa volcano which is surprising in colors.
After the second pass we finally see the Salar de Uyuni in all its splendor. We bivouac to the edge of the track and admire the sun lying on this immensity of salt.
Today the plan is simple (and flat), we just have to cross the half of the Salar to the island of Incahuasi, also known as the Cactus Island.
The entrance to this white expanse is simply incredible, it really feels like another world. We each prepare a suitable soundtrack because the next 35 kilometers will be Dante but redundant (personally it will be a compilation ' of Pink Floyd).
All Flat Earth theorists can come here to get an idea for themselves. The day before the height we saw the island in the center of the desert; Once at its entrance (and thus level), it is impossible to see it. A small black dot appears and begins to swell only after several kilometers.
We arrive very quickly to our destination, it must be said that the route was really simple, it was like riding on asphalt. Fortunately for our bikes, this salar was totally dry.
We rest and take a good meal (from the lama!) at the island's restaurant. There are only a few families who live here, but tourists coming in 4WD with organized tours come constantly.
We meet a Spaniard who also travels by bike and mark a word in the guestbook reserved for the cyclists. We notice that the number of French bikes passing through there is rather important.
The sun begins to fold, locals tell us where we can mount our tents and insist that one can shelter in one of the houses if the night is too cold. They're really super nice to us.
The wind is starting to be strong. We will be the only tourists that night to sleep on the island, amid the cactus, rocks and this immense white desert.
Late at night, once the moon is lying down, I take my head out of my tent to admire the starry sky … I'm really on another planet.
This is finally the sequel to South America: Bolivia.
After the border
Always with Mary and Alex, we pass the geographical border then after the passage of a pass down to the small village of Puerto Acosta. We can have lunch for just over a euro directly in the kitchen of the restaurant, it is rather atypical.
We move to the border and customs post for entry formalities in the country. The other two pairs of French tourists join us, which makes us 7 to have to fill out the papers. The customs have never seen so many cyclists passing at the same time, they take us even in pictures.
We separate again because Mary, Alex and I plan to do a little more kilometers than the others. On a near deserted road, we quickly move on our mounts.
The evening came and after some unsuccessful research of a place where camp, we ask an old gentleman who was passing by. We will be able to plant our tents next to an empty ground; And fortunately, because the wind and the storm are not waiting.
The next day we take the road to Achacachi, the main town of the area. We provide fresh bread and fruit in the village of Escoma before attacking the few climbs and 80 kilometers of the day.
Well tired we arrive in Achacachi and we find a hotel (Alojamiento here) with a very limited cleanliness. Good, at €2 the room do not ask for luxury, there is besides no shower.
to the capital
The next day we take the road again, still south. The snowy mountain ranges are gradually appearing. Despite this, the road is still very monotonous and there is more and more traffic.
After about thirty kilometers and at the end of the lake, our paths separate. I have to go to La Paz to find a bike shop and repair one of my spokes from the rear wheel (you have to disassemble the cassette to replace it and I have nothing for) as well as my suspension that seems blocked. Alex and Marie did not wish to attempt the experience of entering a bicycle capital take the direction of the West.
We leave knowing that we will find ourselves soon to pedal together a part of Bolivia.
Now it's time to make a little recap of my visit to Peru.
By bike: 540
By bus: ~ 1900
By taxi: ~ 250
Peru has been a great experience very rich in discoveries for me. This is the first time I have travelled to South America and I really do not speak very well Spanish (I have improved since then), so the displacement was total as soon as I arrived.
I thank Gonzalez who joined me for two weeks, it was really nice and I finally got to speak French. I also thank the whole group with whom I made the trek of the Salkantay, the atmosphere was great.
Peru has a very rich culture, just walk a little bit to realize it. Nevertheless, in view of the number of things to see and the greatness of the country, I focused on its nature and its mountains. That is why, apart from Machu Picchu and some buildings in places, I did the impasse on the Sacred Valley, or the Chavín of Huantar. Nor did I have time to see the multicoloured mountain, the canyon of Colcan, the NAZCA lines … The country is anyway too big and too rich, I do not think there is a way to get bored. Despite this I took full view with these snowy mountains, these gigantic trees, this lush nature by location and very dry to others …
Its height and its diversity of landscapes make it a truly splendid country and I will not speak of the intense blue waters of Lake Titicaca.
What I'm going to miss:
The view of the White Mountains
The warm welcome of the Peruvians
Fresh fruit juices pressed in front of you for a ridiculous sum
Markets: Their atmospheres and their choice of products (bio?)
What I'm not going to miss:
The traffic of Lima
Sometimes unsanitary toilets
The quantities of waste at the edge of certain roads
All dogs chasing cyclists
It's time for me to explore a little more South America, hoping to come back one day to visit everything I missed.
It is time for me to say goodbye to Cusco and resume ZigZag for good. Indeed, since I am in Peru I do not pedal a lot of kilometers and it is time to head to Bolivia. This is a quick summary these weeks cycling to reach the lake and move to Bolivia.
Pedaling in the Andes
After a short week of rest in Cusco to enjoy its sublime markets, panoramas and very quiet life, I get back in the saddle for good. It's been a while since I had to pedal several hours in a row, it's time to get back to it. I take the direction of the south through the Andes to go see Lake Titicaca.
Little by little my legs get used to this kind of effort. I pass several passes, and quickly visit the pretty small towns like Sicuani, Ayaviri, Azangaro …
The days scroll and the kilometers also, the weather gets hotter and warmer as I get closer to the Titicaca. I decide to go through the north side (east) of the lake as it is much less touristy. So there is a lot less traffic and the itinerary looks beautiful.
The colors of the mountains are very pretty, very pastel tones and ochres that contrast well with the very blue sky. Apart from the dogs that can't help but chase the cyclists, the bike days are very enjoyable.
Then the doubt intrudes, what is the right procedure to get out of Peru? Is there a real customs post on this side of the lake? After checking I read that a customs post has been opened on this side for only 9 months. I'm lucky, because otherwise I should have backed up Puno and lost several hundred kilometers!!
The impressive Titicaca
After sleeping in Huancané, I finally arrive at the highest navigable lake in the world. The road is beautiful with very little traffic, I reach the charming village of Moho after a sacred ascent.
A few kilometers further the views of the lakes are chained, the road becomes splendid!
I can't help but stop to enjoy an afternoon and an evening to camp on board. Wash in the Titicaca: check!
Peruvian bureaucracy and meetings
The next day I pedal a little 15 kilometers to arrive at the customs station (to leave Peru) in telecom, confident to rally Bolivia in the day. Unfortunately my visa is exceeding three days, so I have to pay a fine of about €3. The problem is that I have to go to a national bank to pay my due and the only one in the corner is in the village of Moho 35 kilometers back.
Moreover, the person who can make me leave Peru in the rules will not be present today but tomorrow.
I can take a bus, but the road is so beautiful that redoing it a second time does not bother me, and then I have all day before me.
Back in Moho after the peaceful road I pay my due to the "Banco de la Nacion" and will eat in the restaurant of the village. During my meal, I notice a bicycle at the entrance of the restaurant, I am going to greet him and discover a whole band of six French tourists!
I have not crossed a single French bicycle since the beginning of my trip and very few tourists in recent days.
We talk quickly and they join my table. I tell them my little administrative problem and their advice so this road by the lake.
After refueling, we all embark on this road that I ride already for the third time.
They are 3 couples, some have to start pedaling in Lima and have all planned to take a tour of South America and some even carry their paragliders; They all found each other as they went along.
I am Alex and Marie who are rather motivated to go further on the road and so move towards the border that the account all cross the next day. I offer them the bivouac location that I found the day before.
We spend a good evening although the sun sets at 18 o'clock, we take advantage of the magical location to make a fire.
The next morning we arrive at telecom and go to the immigration office. Unfortunately the guy never seemed to have seen such affluence in his office and in addition to that, he did not have the internet because of a recent storm. So he has to check if everything is in order on his phone. It takes him more than an hour for the seven of us.
After these multiple counter times we finally take the stony trail that will lead us to the border. The pass is not a thin one to make, but the scenery is worth it.
The least we can say is that it is rather atypical as a border crossing, we have not seen a single vehicle between the two villages.
Waking up at the camp around 6 a.m.: The day is long but flat. It rains at the beginning of the day, but it adds a little charm to this jungle.
We continue to walk and climb the valley in a good atmosphere. We cross along a few small shops allowing hikers like us to refuel a minimum in chocolate bars, ice cream and drinks. The lush jungle is rather friendly, you can see immense butterflies, flowers of all colors, birds, waterfalls …
The sun returns quickly and after 6 hours of walking, we find ourselves in the small village of La Playa to enjoy a great lunch.
Unfortunately I have to say goodbye to my group after the meal as I chose to do the trek in three days to spend a full day at Machu Picchu. So I will follow another guide with another group for this afternoon and visit the famous city the next day.
One hour bus takes us to the railway station, Hidroelectrica. From there, we will need another 2 hours walk (along the rails) to Aguas Calientes, the tourist town below Machu Picchu where we will spend the night.
We arrive in a very tourist but rather cute city, and after a dinner and some pisco shared with this new group, we go to bed to be in shape for the visit the next morning.
Trek du Salkantay – Day 4: Machu Picchu
We attack very early for this very hard day. Wake up 3 hours of the mat ' after just over 2 hours of sleep. We start walking at 4 o'clock with the frontals to be down the Machu Picchu ready to be unstitched.
At 5 h The bridge opens, one can finally attack the climb to the city, more than 400 meters of elevation.
We try to go fast to be able to enjoy the place without tourists for a few moments. The atmosphere of this ascent is peculiar: The stone steps never seem to end and it is still rather dark.
I climb in 35 minutes and arrives among the first ten of the day in the famous Inca city.
I do some pictures and I finally appreciate this magical place as it should be.
The guide joins us and explains the discovery of the city, the life at the time, the reasons for its location, its construction and makes us a small visit.
The sun taps well and we can continue the visit as we see fit. I have for my part all day to discover the place, but I also took the option: the Montaña, which allows to climb up the great mountain behind the city. Obviously I see an option entitled "Mountain" I do not hesitate ^^.
So I have a moment in the shadows to enjoy the site before attacking this climb.
It should be known that the name Machu Picchu which means old mountain in Quechua comes straight from this mount. I start the climb with 5 Englishmen who look as motivated as me, it's gone for 700 meters of descent only in staircase.
It takes a sacred physique and a lot of time to climb this mountain, the steps are increasingly steep and narrow, but it's worth the effort.
The view at 360 ° is impregnable, in short this mountain is crazy! A thunderstorm seems to be approaching, so I come down in trotting to avoid the wet stairs, because it can still be very dangerous. Returning to the city and the storm apparently passed by, I headed towards the door of the sun without knowing the walking time to reach it.
I still need more than an hour and a half to reach it, which is where the famous Inca trek arrives at the city.
The fatigue begins to feel but I still take a tour of the Inca Bridge, another path that allowed to arrive on the site in the Inca era. Now the bridge is condemned because of its dangerousness.
It's 3 pm, it's been a while since I walk and 12 hours that I am standing, it is time to go back down to Aguas Calientes where I am ready to take a nap.
In town I cross members of my former group with whom I started the trek of the Salkantay, they must visit the site the next day. Despite the fatigue, I decided to join them at the restaurant for the evening, as the atmosphere was really very friendly in this group.
Back to Cusco
I had a long and good night to recover from the hard day of the evening before. Today I have only two hours walk next to the railroad to join a bus that has to take me back to Cusco. I enjoy the morning to visit a little Aguas calientes.
It is very nice, the return to the bus is so nice.
I find the bus despite the messy organization and the number of tourists that there is. There are still 6 hours drive to Cusco, where I will find the hostel that I had left 5 days before.
These 5 days have been a very good experience: magnificent views, warm encounters and splendid mountains. The visit of Machu Picchu was the icing on the cake, the site is really amazing although this day will remain one of the most physical of my trip (for now).