Week 83 & 84 - 1000km of Bike Testing!
Updated: Feb 23
The time had come to really test my bike again after the initial test ride and valve calibration. Niky the mechanic was very happy with the bike and quite certain that my previous issues were now resolved. I really wanted to share his enthusiasm, however I had that sickening, anxious feeling in my stomach because this was the 6th time I had been in this position and the 6th time I had been told that all was now well with my bike. His confidence made me feel a little better and I tried to look forward to the test ride.
We planned to test the bike over a period of three days in a big loop, staying in Oruro, Cochabamba and then back to Sucre. Our previous test rides had been short circuits starting and ending in Sucre but this time we thought it would be a good idea to make more of a journey of it and use some roads we'd not yet ridden previously.
With a couple of days of settled (ish) weather coming up we thought we'd get going. We left Sucre and headed out on the roads towards Oruro. The road was really beautiful and we managed to fill up at a fuel station for just 5 BOB per litre. There was a police stop on route but all they wanted to know as usual was where we were heading to and they didn't ask for any papers. To be honest, during all of the police stops we've encountered, not once had we been asked for a bribe or had any issues, only smiles and interest.
We entered Oruro, Bolivias capital of Folklore, and after three attempts at finding accommodation we found a hostel with parking nearby, which for our low budget was as good as we were going to get. I was overheating massively as the weather had been quite hot, plus the walk with the bag in bike kit from the car park was about 100 metres. The hostel was very basic but comfortable and full of Folklore pictures which were quite quirky.
We decided we would take a walk into the city centre. We'd heard a lot of bad things about Oruro being a dirty and gritty city, however we wanted to make up our own minds. It was definitely a very bustling city and not as bad as anticipated. People were generally quite friendly and there was lots going on. I can't say it was picturesque but it was fine, although as we reached the centre the dark clouds descended and the rain started to fall. We ran into a coffee shop and enjoyed a local coffee while it pissed it down for half an hour or so. We then made our way back to the hostel via a Chinese restaurant and gave our leftovers to a couple of street entertainers who were delighted.
When we got back to the hostel there was a lot of noise outside. We looked out the window and we could see loads of people dancing and singing outside. It didn't last all night, so that was a bit of a relief and the other bonus was the nice hot shower in the bathroom. Quite often advertised hot showers are either a dribble of hot water or are mediocre pressure and a cool temperature. It was always a bonus to have a reasonable hot shower!
Day two of bike testing and we were off to Cochabamba. We woke up and had an awesome breakfast and by the time we left the hostel the weather was already getting quite hot.
It was a little sad as we left the city as there was just so much rubbish everywhere. There was also a lot of road construction underway, however the scenery was really stunning nonetheless. We managed to fill up on the roadside at a small makeshift family fuel station with lots of fuel barrels for 6 BOB per litre. There were quite a few to choose from but we just opted for the one which had more signs of life. They had soda bottles with large hose pipe fixed onto the top which made filling the bikes a lot easier.
As we got back on the road we could see quite a few thunderstorms scattered around. They were either side of us and we couldn't tell if we would end up going through the middle of one, however as luck would have it our route enabled us to just skirt around the edge of the storms. Phew! Although we have great kit it's always nice to avoid the torrential downpours where possible as its just not as nice to ride in.
Pete MyersOne Bike No JobDa Vinci pizza barWe decided to stay at the same place that we stayed at on our last visit, Hostel Mel. At a mere 97 BOB for the night, it was a bargain and we knew what to expect. We had been in contact with another British biker called ' so we arranged to meet at AKA ' we'd tried it before and had been impressed with it Pete was just as impressed with the pizza and drinks as we were, so all was well and we had a great laugh swapping travel stories and tips for various destinations. It's always great to meet fellow travellers and Pete was a really sound guy so hopefully we'd get to catch up with him back in the UK as well.
The final stretch of our 1000km test ride came around very quickly, which would take us back to Sucre. Most of this section we had previously ridden before and luckily we knew a lot of it would be great scenery. Fortunately the bike had also been playing ball and I was starting to feel a bit more hopeful. The day was quite hot to start, however hail and heavy rain was to follow. As time went on, the altitude reduced and the sun came out again the temperature got up to around 40 degrees centigrade as we passed through Aiquile and this continued almost all the way to Sucre. We filled up for the last time on this mini trip for just 5 BOB a litre and the bike sounded ok. There was a little bit of a funny noise but not the same rattling like before. I'd had so many different noises from the bike over the past year or so I no longer knew what was normal and what wasn't but fingers crossed. Our 1000km journey was more like 950km but I was happy enough with that.
We pulled up at the house and got the bikes inside and were greeted by four very excited dogs who were very happy to see us. Rox and Frank arrived shortly afterwards armed with some beers. We chatted, drank said beers, and later on I cuddled up with Relampago on the couch as I was absolutely shattered, yet quietly hopeful that the bike was now actually fixed. 1800km of riding since the initial repair and no issues...touch wood.
The only other issue now was the quickly depleting rubber available on the tyres and because we intended to go to Patagonia and we weren't sure of the availability of tyres on route, we thought it best to get tyres now. We ended up with a Pirelli MT21 on the front again and a Rinaldi R34 on the rear. We had never tried this brand before but given that our normal choices were super expensive in Sucre we went with the Rinaldi. We also changed the rear break fluid and checked the bikes over ready for the next leg of our adventure.
Unfortunately, a couple of days before we were due to leave the boiler died. Although it was a bit of a shame, after you've been on the road such a long time it was not a problem we couldn't overcome. Well, we couldn't fix the boiler but we had a bucket and bowl so we just heated the water, stood in the shower and used the bowl to shower ourselves. In fact, it was a lot better than many of the showers we'd had on our travels so far so all was good.
The next thing that died was my phone. I had replaced the battery back in Lima because it was not lasting more than about 30 minutes, however it was unlikely to be an original battery. Unfortunately the new battery had started to swell. I didn't realise at first, I just thought the cover had popped off, however on closer inspection the battery was now an additional 50% fatter than it should be and hot so it was time to throw it away. No-one had a replacement battery so it was off to the shops for another phone. I ended up with a brand new 2017 Samsung A7 complete with 128GB SD card and cover for cheaper than the phone only price in the UK, and yes, it was a genuine Samsung phone. I did worry about it being a fake however all was well. It took a little getting used to but I was happy to be connected again, plus the camera was a marked improvement.
After staying in the same place for such a long time our stuff had spread around the place and we decided it was a good opportunity to get everything out and get rid of some unwanted or at least unused stuff. As always, there was plenty to discard and it always felt good to lighten the load. We started to get all of our stuff in order ready for our departure, however we had another couple of days to go and we wanted to wait for a dry day to start heading down towards Argentina. That was easier said than done given that the rainy season had hit with a vengeance, and we'd got to see plenty of heavy thunderstorms with the loudest thunder I'd ever experienced and lightning which completely lit up the sky. Kelvin was happy because I cuddled up to him the whole time!
Before we departed we'd arranged a BBQ with Frank, Rox, their builders, a South African friend of theirs who was really lovely and another German guy who we'd met before in the Goblin bar. Needless to say there was lots of drinking and we showed everyone the final video we'd made for Rox of the 4x4 trip we'd done to the Salar de Uyuni with them. Everyone was quite impressed overall and we were given a couple of pointers about transitions which we took on board and adjusted the video accordingly, which just made it a little more easy to watch. Fortunately we did all that before too many beers were consumed.
The next day I cooked a big curry and chapatis for Frank and Rox, making sure that Rox had a separate curry that wasn't hot. I started in the middle of the day with my huge haul of vegetables which I'd bought from the amazing market near the town centre. It was actually really clean and the vegetables looked great, plus they cost almost nothing compared to the prices back home. I really enjoy South Americas amazing markets. They differ from country to country, town to town, but all offer a variety of produce, sights and smells....not always great though I have to admit. There have been some I would never buy meat from for instance, but this one smelt fine and there weren't too many flies circling the meat counters. Always a good sign!
Curry was one of my go-to meals of the trip, and it was one meal where we could get a lot of veggies in as well as lots of flavour. Even camping it was easy enough to make, however having a proper kitchen meant I could also make a stack of chapatis and spend more time getting the curry ready. It was also nice to be able to cook for others as it's not something you get to do a lot of on a adventure like this. Frank and Rox came over in the evening and it was lovely to see them again, however they were very tired after the food and drink from the night before, as were we, so it wasn't such a late night but still a nice evening. Luckily the curry went down well and no-one was left hungry!
It was then the day to leave. We had done some route planning and we were hoping to get to Tarija further South, however given our relaxed travel style and the 470km distance we planned to stop on route in Camargo, meaning we would only have to do about 300km that day and about 170km the day after. Much better! We got the bikes all packed up and spent some time fussing the dogs. I was almost heartbroken to say goodbye to Relampago who I'd really fallen in love with. If we'd been in the UK I think I would have had to have taken him with me but we just didn't have the space or the extra budget to care for a dog on our trip, so I had to say goodbye. It was also emotional saying goodbye to Rox and Frank after such a long time together and unfortunately Rox didn't want a photo because she had tears in her eyes. It was a shame because it would have been great to get a photo with both of them, however we just gave her a big hug and a bigger thank you for her amazing hospitality. We were then off once again ready for the next adventure towards a new country.... Argentina here we come!