Copacabana, Bolivia to Villazon, Bolivia (border of Argentina)10-14-08 thru 11-11-08

November 20, 2008

It was raining hard and a pleasant change when we crossed into Bolivia from Peru near Copacabana on Lake Titicaca!  After paying $135 U.S. for a visa into Bolivia (because we were US citizens – but good for 10 years!) and getting our entrance stamp, we climbed up the barren-dry landscape of the penninsula on the southern end of the lake.   After climbing for about 2 hours, we topped out and came around a corner of the mountain to see the most incredible view.  There was the turquiouse blue waters of Lake Titicaca at 12,600´ and the snow-capped peaks behind it rising to nearly 20,000 feet.  We were fortunate to have clear skies, a full moon rising over the Andes and a perfect campsite with this amazing view!  It doesn´t get much better than that (with a can of tuna and some ramen noodles to share for dinner)!!!!

From here we had a smooth ride downhill for another 15 miles to the end of the peninsula, where we boarded a cargo barge to cross to the mainland only a half mile away.  These rickety wooden barges, looking like they were built 100 years ago, carry cars and even buses across all day long creaking to and fro, taking 30 minutes to cross!

From here we rode 80 miles south of the lake (had a great tailwind) and stayed in El Alto on the flats above LaPaz, the capitol city of Bolivia.  The next morning there was a protest march through the streets.  Thousands and thousands of indigeous farmers were marching for land reform.  They took up 3 solid lanes of traffic and marched past our hotel for almost an hour.  (Many of them marched from Lake Titicaca, 80 miles, during the few days before).  By the time they reached Lapaz, they were over 1 million strong!  Their march was sucessful in getting congress to address their issues!  The protest and marching continued for the next 3 days! We didn´t mind the marching because it totally stopped traffic, so we were able to bike on traffice-free roads to Potosi, over 400 miles into Bolivia, in a quick 6 days! 

 From Potosi we bused back to Cusco, Peru to meet Ralph´s sister Linda and her friend, Maggie to hike with us on a trek in the Andes.  We spent the next 5 days hiking the Salkantay trail to the amazing Inca site of Machu Picchu.  Machu Picchu is one of the 7 wonders of the world, built in the 1400´s and then abondoned when the Spanish invaded in the early 1500´s.  It was grown over with vines from the nearby jungle thus was hidden and never destroyed by the Spaniards, then re-discovered by an archeologist from the U.S. in 1911.  Amazing how they built this city on top of a nearly vertical-sided mountain 600 years ago with very intelligent precision!  (This is hard to undertstand when modern-day Peru still has toilets that do not even flush in most places and most people live in mud houses with dirt floors!) 


Ralph and Lin above 15,000 feet! (air is thin!)

Ralph and Lin above 15,000 feet! (air is thin!)



Machupicchu 11-30-08

Machupicchu 11-30-08

After busing back to Potosi, we biked southwest for 3 more days to Uyuni on dirt-gravel roads through high red rock desert country at between 11,000 and 13,000 feet with a strong headwind and of course, lots of dust in our face!  Uyuni is at the edge of the ¨Solar de Uyuni¨ (Uyuni salt flats).   From here we took a 3 day round trip tour in a jeep, covering 500 miles of desert in southwest Bolivia. 

The Salt flats are the biggest in the world covering about 7,000 square miles!  It reminded us of the frozen lakes we use to go ice fishing and skating on in North Dakota — flat and white for miles and miles!  We visited an island of amazing giant cactus in the middle of the salt flats and stayed in a hotel made completely out of salt blocks (beautiful white walls!).  From here we travelled south onto stark rolling desert hills with steaming volcanoes.  The colors were surreal pastels (pinks, yellows, oranges, moss greens, white, tans).  We visited Lago Colorado with snowbanks of white mineralization (borax) that looked like ice and snow on the red water!  In the shallow lake were hundreds of pink flamingos!  We also visited an aquamarine colored lake, as geyser basin with boiling mudpots and sulfurous fumaroles, sat in nearby hotsprings- sipping wine, saw many llamas, vicunas (a wild cousin of the llama) and even a couple of emus (cousin of the ostrich!).  It was a wonderful 3 day tour booked through Andes Salt Expeditions.  We got to just sit back and enjoy the ride for a change!!!  They did all the meals (llama for lunch one day!) and provided places to sleep.  We were fortunate enough to have 2 other couples on the trip to share great stories, music and wine.  Mirka and Maciek from Poland and Sue and Rob from London were all great company to share on this long and rough adventure ride!  It was great fun and thank you all for making the trip a life-time memory for us!



Salt, not snow!

Salt, not snow!

Cactus island looking out onto Salt flats!

Cactus island looking out onto Salt flats!

Ready, set, fly!

Ready, set, fly!

Salvador Dali painting?

Salvador Dali painting?

surreal landscape

surreal landscape

From Uyuni, Pat met up with Mirka and Maceik for the 6 hour train ride to Tupiza, while Ralph biked the next 2 days thru the canyons where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid were gunned down by the Bolivian army after a robbery 100 years ago on Nov 8th!  This area is reminiscent of the wild west in the U.S. with bizarre geological formations, deep gorges, cactus forests against red rocks, dry dusty roads and endless wind!!!!  The bike route Ralph rode yoyoed between 11,000 and 14,000 feet – yahoo!!!  (Pat made a good choice!) 

Tupiza was the low point (elevation -wise) of our trip through Bolivia.  It sits way down at 10,000 feet!  From Tupiza we headed for the border climbing out of a beautiful red rock river canyon back up onto the altiplano, crossed through Villazon and into Argentina at dusk.  There we were greeted by a sign, “Ushuia 5131 Km”.  It is amazing to think that we only have about 3000 miles left to ride on this amazing journey!

Bolivia was a very unique country.  Most of it was high, dry altiplano desert.  We usually had a flat, straight road ahead of us with mountains far in the distance on either side.  We almost always were above 11,000 feet!  NIghts were cold and crisp and days were warm, but certainly not hot.  The air was parched dry and we both developed the “Bolivian hack”, a cough brought on by super dry air and lots of dust.  The landscape of southern Bolivia, especially the salt flats area, was surreal in its pastel colors and stark expansiveness.  It is like no other place we have ever been.  Harsh, stark beauty! 

Bolivia had far fewer people than Peru, but they appeared to be more poverty-stricken.  The people were much friendlier, which was a welcome switch.  The food was very bland and most meals were devoid of anything green.  Definitely, the stark scenery was the contry´s highlight for us. 

Only 2 countries to go!!!!!     Bikin´ On!      Ralph & Pat



  1. Terrific pictures again. Llama one hight..tuna and ramen the next..feast or famine with gourmet surprises in remote desert planos..sounds better than Gross Dingos or the Red Rock Diner. Will pull up map of Argentina to see what’s in store for next phase. Wish I were there!
    Mark Mace.

  2. Ralph and Pat I met you on the plane when you were coming to Fairbanks. My husband and I have very much enjoyed your website. What a wonderful experience. He had a two month stay in the hospital from open heart surgery and only now is reading some parts of your journey on my computer. Would it be possible for you to fix it so he can read the journey on his computer? His address is Bill Peele–judy.bill@acsalaska.net May you have wonderful holidays. Judy Johnson, Fairbanks, Alaska

  3. that is a great flamingo pic – its not that easy to get those shots close up there as they tend to keep away . Nice angle on the Laguna Colarada aswell.
    Glad you enjoyed Bolivia!

    • Thank you, we thought so!
      Ralph & Pat

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