Gravel Travel

Some llamas wear pink earrings. That was one of the highlights of the day.

This was a long day and we knew it when we started. Still, we didn’t manage to get rolling until 10. I adjusted the valves in a dirt parking lot and had a mystery electrical problem to deal with first. Inglorious beginnings are par for us.

Sucre was our goal and we had three options:

A northern route on pavement via Cochabamba. We guessed 10 hours, but this route didn’t really appeal to us.

A southern route via Potosi. Again, paved and maybe 10 hours, but I figured we might come back this way. I don’t like back-tracking.

Third, was a central ‘direct’ route. It appeared on some maps and not on others. Unpaved and unknown distance. Google maps show this as a highway – it’s not. A guy at our hotel said this was the fastest route – he guessed 5 hours. Boy, was he wrong.

The pavement ends at Huanuni, where you turn left and start with a 4600 meter pass. For some reason, I imagined we would spend the day driving downhill. True, on average, but first we had to clear successive passes of 4400 meters, 4200 meters, etc all the way to Sucre. Up and down. Up and down.

We found gas in Llallagua and filled up. I managed to convince the guy to fill up a 10 liter jerry can (recently purchased) and this was a life saver.

Single-track and steep drops were the norm. We forded rivers. We couldn’t make it up some steep uphills. We unloaded the bus and Angela even got out and pushed a few times. Every bolt and screw in the bus continues to rattle loose. We were covered in dirt from head to toe. Every nook and cranny of the bus was filled with dust. Somehow, we even manged to get lost in just about every tiny little town we entered.

This route rivals La Ruta de Muerte, and includes an endurance component.

When the sun set, we were only 2/3 the way to Sucre. What else to do but keep going? We could have pulled over and boondocked, but we were on a mission and we just wanted this drive to be finished. We eventually ran out of gas, and the jerry can was just enough to keep us going.

Somewhere around 10 pm we saw the lights of Sucre in the distance and it was a great feeling. We coasted into town, but first had to pay a road toll for the privilege of driving this great route.

Something like 300 km in 12 hours and we only stopped for gas and 1 quick pee break the whole way. This averages out to about 15 miles per hour. For 12 hours. It felt like we were going even slower.

3 thoughts on “Gravel Travel

  • June 14, 2011 at 12:12 AM
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    Shame guys – that sounds absolutely terrible!!!

  • June 15, 2011 at 8:33 AM
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    Certainly could have been worse. We definitely got to see part of Bolivia that most travelers do not!

  • June 20, 2011 at 11:23 AM
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    I totally pulled off my driver’s side window crank last night and thought of you guys. I think Bumblebus is just jealous of all your adventures and wants to be more like Red Beard. I should let it read your blog. 😉

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