Bolivia is a landlocked country bordered by 5 countries - Peru, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Brazil - with diverse topography and climate from mountains and deserts to rainforest. Up until we reached Potosi we had only experienced a very isolated and desert region at the southern tip of Bolivia. Potosi was our first city stop and a big surprise to us, dispelling all the backward expectations we had for this beautiful country.
Potosi sits at an elevation of 4000 m on the side of a mountain. It was well after dark when we arrived, a riding situation we like to avoid as much as possible for safety and comfort reasons. It gets bitterly cold when the sun goes down at these elevations and Janell doesn't like to ride with her tinted visor raised because the chill eats at her face. When its very cold and dark, she rides close behind Stuart, slightly to one side, to utilise the light his headlight casts and both pray that no goats, llamas, alpaca's etc. wander on to the road because it would for sure be fatal if we hit one.
When we rounded the last bend and saw the hillside alight from homes and shops we felt an overwhelming relief and promised ourselves we wouldn't get in that situation again which is an idle promise and soon forgotten. We worked our way up through the narrow cobblestone and paved streets until we reached a hotel in our GPS. There were in fact 3 hostels beside each other so we inquired at the information desks until we found Hostel La Casona to settle in. There was no street parking and this hostel kindly allowed us to ride our motorbikes through the front doors and into the interior courtyard. With the motorbikes safe and sound we unloaded into our heated room and relaxed under a hot shower. Negrita was allowed in the room so long as she slept on the floor so we booked our room for three nights.
Relieved, tired and very hungry we took Negrita for a walk to find some food. A few restaurants were still open but no street food. We didn't want to return to the hostel to drop Negrita off so we walked up the stairs to an Italian looking restaurant to see if we could bring her in with us. The restaurant was huge but with only 3 other couples spread out. The lighting was dim and no wait-staff were in sight so we took our chances and darted for a table in a corner with a large tablecloth. Negrita was very quickly pushed under the table and told to sit and stay quiet. A waiter eventually brought menu's over and while Negrita was silent throughout the entire meal and completely concealed, every time the waiter came to our table she would vigorously wag her tail and hit the wall, table, chairs so we're pretty sure the waiter knew she was hiding under there. We enjoyed our meal and left a nice tip for the waiter who hid our secret.
We spent three nights in Potosi then rode 150km to Sucre. It was a pretty ride on good roads and we came down in elevation which meant warmer climates. This time we had our accommodation organised through Booking.com with 3 nights booked at Homestay Bertha. Janell was still recovering from a cold she had in Potosi but felt up to walking the next day so off the three of us went for a 2km walk to the Sucre main plaza, a very lively and touristy area.
Ioverlander.com was the first place we looked for a mechanic. One appeared on the map and we rode to the location but couldn't find it. Then we started asking around and were sent sequentially to four different mechanics, unfortunately none of which were familiar with 'bigger' motorbikes like ours. Finally we got to talking to a guy in a pickup truck who owned a KLR and kindly had us follow him to his mechanic, Micky. Micky spoke English and said he could fix Janells motorbike on the spot but Stuarts would have to be left overnight. That was fine with us so we wandered to the local shops for lunch, watched some football then walked back to collect Janells motorbike. We returned the next day for Stuarts, fairly happy with the work done. Unfortunately Janells rear brake problem returned a few days later so the problem was not as simple as replacing the brake fluid, something mechanical wasn't operating correctly.
Janell had been having trouble with her motorbike since leaving Chile. Her rear break would seize up when she used it. Sometimes the brake pads would work loose again but other times it wouldn't and this would result in a red hot brake disc. When this happened we'd have to stop, wait for it to cool down then use the phillips-head screwdriver to lever the brake pads apart. The problem had got to the point where Janell was just not using her rear brake which meant she had to use gears to slow down and consequently was riding a lot slower. Stuarts motorbike was travelling well mechanically but had a few aesthetic problems including a broken nose, fender and bash plate. We wanted to take the opportunity of a planned 3 night stay to find a mechanic to look at the motorbikes.
Meanwhile, Sucre had lost all water. Apparently there had been a landslip somewhere that took out the water pipe out with it. We were told the water could return any time from five days to one month. The restaurants did their best to continue operating but toilets everywhere in town were closed. Some hotels were prepared with on-site water storage but our Homestay was not so organised, the toilet was looking really nasty after one day and everything was starting to smell. There was a mad rush to buy bottled water, we found a shop and purchased 8 Litres for drinking and to keep fresh. Seriously this has to be one of the worst things that can happen in a city. In a small town or in a remote area at least you can go to the toilet in the bushes somewhere and dig a whole. In a city there's no unpaved surface to dig a whole or bush to hide behind and no clean streams or river to rinse. Water returned the following night, just in time for us to shower the next morning and leave town. An interesting experience and one which makes you appreciate the simple things in life.
Friends you make while travelling are friends you have for life. A young couple who hosted us in Puerto Madryn, Argentina, took off on a motorbike adventure for a few months just after we stayed with them. They took a different route to us but ended up in Sucre at the same time. We were so excited to see them again and spent a day exploring together. We went separate agendas from Sucre but we would see them again for some adventure in La Paz to travel the famous death road together.
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