Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Deep in the windswept Altiplano, a scarecrow wearing a bedraggled Santa’s hat was about the only hint of festiveness to be found, and even this looked like it had probably been on there since last year. It’s fair to say my desert blast through rural Bolivia, complete with night spent in an under-construction building, stands as my least festive Christmas to date. But what it lacked in roast turkeys and brandy butter was made up for with an abundance of superb dirt riding, all set against the dramatic backdrop of Altiplano wilderness…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It all kicked off near the towering Sajama volcano…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Quite a beast it has to be said.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On Christmas day Santa brought me clear skies and a great stretch of dirt road leading south from Sajama.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After a fruitless search of my Ipod for anything resembling Christmas music, it was back to Katy Perry and some of the best riding of the trip so far.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Altiplano crudely translates as ‘high plateau’ and true to its name there wasn’t much in the way of climbing. A mind bogglingly expansive plateau reminiscent of Alaska’s bleak Arctic tundra.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Every once in a while a speck of a village pops up. Some abandoned, others only partially inhabited, with scarcely a soul to be seen…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All with the obligatory old banger collection

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Not a lot in the way of traffic on the roads though….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Except for these guys

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2.3” 20psi; that’s how I roll. (although I have a feeling a 29+ set up may feature on next year’s Christmas list…)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On that note, thanks to Cateye for the new speedo. Now I can see how slow I’m going again…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Come 3pm and the afternoon winds really crank up, making camping in the open all but impossible

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So I push on towards the village of Julo on an increasingly sandy road. Where’s a fatbike when you need one…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Arriving at the metropolis of Julo just as dusk is approaching, I seek refuge from the wind in an under construction building and, with no one to around to ask, bed in for the night. Out comes the Christmas Nutella, it’s no brandy butter, but it’s a pretty rare commodity in these parts…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My Christmas accommodation; the first floor next to the church. It makes the stuff on ‘Holidays From Hell’ look positively palatial.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back on the road and I’m faced with the same million-dollar question that I fear will feature throughout Bolivia; washboard or sand? Both are tricky customers, but thankfully there’s generally a happy medium to be found, which, more often than not, lies somewhere beside the actual road…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Despite the threatening sky a local man assures me it won’t rain; “Not for another month!” he says with utmost confidence. Half an hour later the inevitable deluge arrives and rather than camp I decide to push on the town of Sabaya and seek a bed for the night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Passing more semi-abandoned ghost towns…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On a continuous ribbon of top-notch dirt track.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And finally, after a long day in the saddle, I arrive at the buzzing conurbation of Sabaya, a day earlier than expected…

Whilst only a short stretch, this desert foray served as great introduction to the world of Bolivian backcountry riding, in all its sandy, windswept glory. Depressing villages aside, and with the world’s largest salt flat up next, the Bolivian leg looks set to be a cracker….

Route Info:

The pikeys have got it covered, see here.

2 days; Tambo Quemado (where there’s a alojomiento at the west end of the village) to Julo 63km, Julo to Sabaya 88km

15 responses to “Do They Know It’s Christmas?

  1. hi Paul, Great to get your ‘Christmas’ post! Do hope you’re good, your blogs still read extremely well. you’ve got great style and I love the photos! Hope you have a fab new year, if it’s any consolation, we’re staying in with a takeaway and going to watch some of series 1 of ‘The Killing’, hardly cheery but great to watch.
    all the very best and hopefully will catch up with you in 2015! Cheers, Nige ps glad the ‘pikeys’ still features!

    • Hey Nige, happy new year! Takeaway and the killing sounds brilliant. It’d be great to catch up when I’m back later in the year, maybe a jogle reunion pub ride…
      Cheers
      paul

      • Hi Paul, a pub reunion ride sounds an excellent idea mate. Well done on all you are achieving, brilliant effort! Nige

  2. Great shots!!!
    I miss the altiplano, Cass and I had a great time. If a little on the chilly side.

    Personally i cant think of a better way to spend christmas than on the road. Bah humbug!

    Keep Pedalling

  3. Merry Christmas Paul. Keep riding and exploring the world. What a wonderful adventure you’re having😄

  4. Hi Paul. happy new year. Great read interesting pictures, keep up the good work, good luck. Sheila.

  5. Feliz año nuevo mi amigo.
    I had to look up “conurbation” – new word for me in any language!
    Things could have been worse for you – you could have eaten sand for Christmas and ridden on Nutalla tracks. How bad would THAT be, eh?
    I love the fact that you are doing all the suffering for us readers. Even the hangovers! Sorry mate, but that’s how it is.
    When you get to the tip of South America, I recommend inflatable tyres and heading further south! Keep pedalling till you get to Oz, and I will fix you up with the best ploughman’s you have ever experienced.
    Katy Perry? C’mon… Where’s your (late) Joe Cocker to give you that added push?
    Love your work,
    Max

  6. Beautiful photos of the rough roads from Sajama to Sabaya. My husband and I rode through there in July 2012 and you’ve brought back memories! The remoteness, lack of resources, terrible roads were all integral to the incredible journey. Happy New Year and happy riding!

    • Hi Jacqueline, thanks for the message and happy new year! Yes the altiplano is a pretty incredible place, albeit exhausting… I’m sure you’re both itching to come back out (one day in san pedro de atacama and I already am!).
      Cheers
      Paul

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s