On The Altiplano

Spanish for “high plain,” the Altiplano is the most extensive area of high plateau on earth outside of Tibet. We’re now well into this widest area of the Andes Mountains which has an average altitude of 12,300 ft. Herds of goats, alpacas, sheep, and many dogs provided excitement and contrast to the stunning scenery.

Since Globebusters’ last trip to this area, more sections of this main highway in Bolivia have been paved. It’s strange to ride in a country where important links between cities are still dirt roads. Instead of the expected 80 miles of dirt riding, we only had about 50. Fortunately, the dirt was dry and we only had one major water crossing. The downside of the dry dirt is the dust. Even on the nicely paved roads, the instability of the mountains caused us to encounter many surprise landslides. They usually seem to appear right after blind corners!

Very little traffic impacted us on the highway. I appreciated Kevin’s leadership as we navigated the dirt “desvios,” or detours. Since there are no alternate roads on which to detour during construction, dirt paths are carved across the mountains and river beds. When 30 miles out of Potosi, lightning lit up the sky where we were headed. Time to put on the rainsuits. Within a few miles we ran into rain. When we reached 14,200 ft, the rain turned to hail. BB sized hail pelted my legs covering them with red welts. The hail was so heavy that we rode through an accumulation of 2-3 inches. The surrounding ground looked like a Christmas card, all covered in white. As much as we wanted to stop for photos, that would have meant restarting on the ice rink like surface brought by the hail. On we went.

Traffic in Potosi was another story. A mining town of 200K, the roads were narrow, steep, paved in cobblestones and, since it was raining, covered in mud. Some one way streets had had their directions changed since our route was scouted. We wound up doing a U-turn in a steep, wet, cobblestone paved, narrow parking lot. Upon arrival, few hotels have looked as good as did the modest Hotel Colonial.

10-Feb Tupiza to Potosi 160 miles

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