After finishing the last post in the wee town of Llica we hit the streets in search of food. Alan is rather partial to street food so we ended up partaking in 4 plates of deep fried papas fritas and chorizos lathered in mayo and tomato sauce. A wee treat while we were joking with the local ladies about dirty but warm clothes (everyone asks how we find the cold) was the appearance of three brass bands of the town hitting the road with children and adults carrying candle lanterns in a peaceful night march around the town streets, we think to celebrate the workers of the town. Very cool and such a contrast from the white and quiet of the salar de Uyuni.
The next day we fought the sand and corrugations to our next salar – less well known but equally spectacular – Salar de Coipasa. It was so bad that when a 4wd stopped beside Alan his bike was in the back quicker than you could say Jack Rabbit. I was suprised when the vehicle pulled up alongside me and there was Alan in the back! We were spared 20km of the sand and dropped a bit closer to the salar. Once on the salar we found it softer and sparklier than Uyuni and for a lot of it we were just heading for a distant point on the northern shore 40km away – AND- I found the biggest carton of chips ever!! I had to jump in. (it turned out to be a good call as it meant we could make it all the way across the salar before the next days weather )
We stayed in a room full of soft toys that night and they had to have a go on the bikes (Toy Story comes alive in Bolivia) and the next day we awoke to our first cloudy morning for months. It looked ominous and we were glad to be off the salar. The wind picked up that day for our cycle to Sabaya where we ended up staying 2 nights and so missed camping in the first rain we had seen since Argentina. We arrived in Sabaya just in time for almuerza (lunch) at the only restaurant in town. They have set menu of usually a soup, followed by a stew and rice.
It was time for a change of direction and some paviemento riding so we headed back east towards the large city of Oruro. This road went from smooth concrete to some of the roughest ripio and back to smooth concrete. We had a lovely camp by one of the many deserted small mud brick casas that are scattered around the countryside. The sides of the road are alive with llamas. Our second ´breakfast of champions’ that morning was a plate of deep fried chips, llama chunks and thinly sliced chorizos that we bought from a street stall in a small town. It got us thru the worst of the ripio and we made it to Toledo that afternoon to be most kindly hosted in the Municipalidad caretakers one room office/bedroom. He enjoyed the meal we cooked for him in repayment. A huge sports festival was just starting in the town and El Presidente de Bolivia – Evo Morales was being helicoptered in the next day. The town was buzzing.
Onto Oruru (240,000 people) – feels like a million. We are staying close to the central Plaza and commercial area. We enjoyed a local restaurant for lunch where we had a 4 course lunch for 20 Bs ($2.50) each. Our evening pizza meal was twice the price but Jo was craving lashings of cheese. We have had a good day here, we walked up to the huge statue of the Virgen and good view over the city, then spent time walking the street markets, eating, shopping and now a resting afternoon.
We head off tomorrow for the South Yungas – will take 7-8 days to get to El Alto and our elevation will vary from 4700m to 1200m. Bolivia tips over steeply on this eastern side into the Amazon. We are looking forward to seeing forest and warmer temps, not sure if we are looking forward to the 10,000m of elevation gains thru the circuit. We have friends to stay with in El Alto which we are looking forward to.