After a brief and very expensive taxi drive-by of the salt plains in Uyuni – which cost double the price of 4X4 a day tour (left it too late…..and what was more annoying is that I cycled within 5km of the place the taxi brought me to visit the previous day – just couldn’t bare the thought of getting on the bike in the wrong direction on that road!)………. I headed back onto the dirt roads for days 3 and 4 of the 500km off road stretch. Day 3 was manageable but the fourth and final day was Bolivia trying to kill me at the bitter last….all of the earlier ingredients….105km without any civilisation on sand, rocks and dirt but this time with big mountains (see pic!) Oh and to top it off I was chased by a bull, another 1st. There was a calf on one side of the track separated by a mother bull on the other…as I rode down the calf got scared and ran away, which meant the bull got angry and chased me, wasn’t funny at the time.
I eventually arrived in Tupiza, Bolivia, the dirt track hit tarmac and the military were there and greeted me, very strange. Tupiza looks like the wild west with tall red willy looking rocks sticking up everywhere, apparently the Sundance kid met his end here, before my time, but very nice anyway. From there I headed to the Bolivian border town of Villazon. I made the most of Bolivia’s cheap prices and stuffed my face with cheap fruit juices, menu Del Dias etc etc before crossing the border to Argentina. As I cycled into Argentina (which should have been a magical moment) by stomach rumbled and Bolivia gave me a final reminder of my stay. Poos, if u can call them that, so bad I had to check into a village hospital at a place called Tres Cruces, never felt so bad in my life! I asked him if I could stay but I wasn’t allowed. There was a pay toilet in the village, the woman looked sympathetic but was no doubt loving the fact I was her best ever customer…I was in and out every 5 minutes and she made me pay every time…….nowhere to stay and not willing to camp I had to push on 50km in the night sky for the town of Humahuaca. I didn’t even bother stopping to go to the toilet.
On arrival in Tafi Del Valle I am informed the road ahead is closed for 3 days due to a rock fall. It’s the only road and the only way to Tucuman (without going north again and doing a 700km detour to Salta and back as the roads are separated by a big mountain range). Everyone I ask tells me it’s impossible to pass. NOBODY can go through they tell me……. for 3 days! I am not prepared to wait….I’m trying to bag a few days to party in Buenos Aires at the end, not stay in an out of season tranquil country resort, beautiful as it is. I head back onto the road for Tucuam and after 10km or so see the police road block “CAMINO CERRADO” As I slow down they tell me its closed…I understand I tell them…and keep going. Where are you going they shout…I just point to a house a hundred yards ahead…………and keep going!
I have the whole road for myself, its downhill, extremely green and beautiful with hairpins bends in a deep forest with a stream cutting down the valley. I descend for about 50km downhill before I reach the rock fall, I don’t want to turnaround. The road has slipped off the side of the mountain and is being re-constructed by road workers. I decided to lift my bike and just walk on through ……and to my amazement they help me carry my bicycle across the rubble, the foreman just smiles at me!! It gives me great pleasure to think that people I met in Tafi Del Valle are taking 700km detours and even flights to reach this point….sometimes the bicycle can be faster!!
I am now in Tucman. Its Wednesday night, Cordoba is 600km away and I feel it time to finally party…which gives me 3 days to get there for Saturday night, lets see! Thanks for your donation….3352 kilometres so far and total raised for Cancer Research UK is 2107 Euros…won’t tell me in pounds!
We at appliancehouse.co.uk have already donated and you too can donate to Simon’s JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/simonpanther
Update 1 : Charity Bike Ride Across South America
Update 2 : Mile Number 1, 2999 To Go
Update 3 : Get Me Out Of Here!
Update 5 : Famous In La Paz
Please note the views expressed in this article are those of the author Simon Panther and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to Appliance House Ltd or Cancer Research UK.