Our Big Bolivian Motorbike Adventure

Our ‘Bolivia Motorbike Adventure’ in July 2015 was an absolutely fantastic trip and we think it’s fair to say that during the two-week journey from the Amazon to the Andes our TBAC riders (Ulrich, Peter, Martin, Neil and Garry) and crew (Steve, Matt, medic Sarah and local guide Cory) experienced a lifetime’s worth of adventure.

Our adventure started in the busy, buzzy Bolivian city of Cochabamba. On the morning of the first day the guys took a trip up to the famous Cristo de la Concordia statue on the cable car and then we assigned the motorbikes (Suzukis DR650’s) to the group before heading out to a steakhouse for possibly the best steaks we had ever eaten! The next day we woke up to beautiful blue skies, bright sunshine and a delicious hearty breakfast. Spirits were high and everyone was extremely excited about the day ahead of us which would take us from Cochabamba to Mizque, a small idyllic town in the valley of Mizque River.

Cochabamba - bikes all ready to go

As we left Cochabamba we travelled on windy, paved roads, but later in the day it was time to experience some off-road terrain. Our riders coped well with the journey, and upon arrival in Mizque it was time for some cold beers sat around the town square watching the world go by.

The following day we travelled from Mizque to Bolivia's most beautiful city, the world heritage site of Sucre. In Sucre we stayed in a stunning, old colonial hotel located high on a hill with spectacular views over the town.  Sunset beers were the order of the day as we were treated to a spectacular sunset over the city from our rooftop viewpoint. Our group were getting along very well and we all genuinely seemed to be enjoying each other’s company.

After breakfast the following day it was time to leave Sucre and begin our journey to the mining town of Potosi which lies at the foot of the Cerro de Potosi (sometimes referred to as Cerro Rico ‘Rich Mountain’). We rode on paved roads all day with stunning views, and at the end of the journey we had a steep climb to our destination at 4100m. On arrival in Potosi some of our group toured a silver mine and by all accounts it was a very memorable experience as they witnessed the gruelling working conditions of the miners. Those members of our group who didn’t venture down the mines took a tour of the National Mint Museum.

View of Cerro de Potosi and the silver mines

The next day we travelled from Potosi to Uyuni. In the morning we travelled for about 4 hours on a long dirt track over a few mountains and plateaus, spotting hundreds of llamas and alpacas along the way. This was a fantastic opportunity to see rural Bolivia which very few ‘gringos’ get to see.

The following day was one of the highlights of our trip as we visited the Salar de Uyuni - the world’s largest salt flat. We set off to the cactus island of Incahuasi and then on to our exclusive lunch stop with Tunupa Volcano as our backdrop (with tables, chairs and white linen table cloths). It really was an incredible day and Garry said that it was possibly one of the best biking days he’d ever experienced (this is quite a statement given that Garry has joined several motorbike adventures around the world over the past few years).  After a visit to the ancient mummies burial half way up the volcano we headed to the Hotel Tayka De Sal which is an eco-friendly thatched house right in front of Tunupa Volcano. That evening we had a delicious meal and lots of red wine!

Optical illusions on Salar de Uyuni

We woke up with slightly sore heads but after breakfast and plenty of coffee it was time to get going as we had a long day ahead of us. The journey from Tunapa to Oruro was approximately 300kms with sandy, broken roads for the first 200km and then tarmac. It was an amazing journey and we really got a feel for the vastness of the Bolivian Altiplano (high plains).

The following day we left Oruro and we could see snow on the distant hills. As we turned off towards Quime and began our ascent up a mountain we quickly approached the snow line and noticed that the road became a single track through deep snow. Local cars had blocked the road on top of the pass as they weren't equipped for the conditions so we used our support truck to clear the road and drag them through the drifts. After an exciting descent through an ancient glacial valley we arrived in the beautiful town of Quime, and that evening we sat around a fire with gin and tonics, swapping stories of our adventurous day.

The next day was a tough one for our riders as it was dirt roads all the way from Quime to Chulumani. We left early in the morning and travelled for 200km on broken roads as we slowly descended into the upper Amazon rainforest. It was a challenging but incredible experience winding down the narrow roads passing through spectacular cloud forests. We reached the peaceful little town of Chulumani in the afternoon and rewarded ourselves with some cold beers and a dip in the hotel pool.

The following day was another off-road adventure as we travelled 90km from Chulumani to Coroico. This journey was not for the faint hearted and our riders needed full concentration and nerves of steel as they negotiated the narrow roads with sheer drops. As we approached our hotel the bikers took a single track route and unfortunately Matt slipped in some mud and came down on his ankle which required a visit to the local hospital where they put his foot in plaster. That afternoon some of the guys opted to take an exhilarating ride on a zip wire hundreds of metres over Death Road, whilst the rest of our group stayed behind and made use of the hotel pool and bar.

The next day we were due to travel from Coroico to Copacabana, however we had to make some last minute changes to the schedule as Pope Francis was visiting La Paz and all roads into and out of the city were closed. Instead we did the ‘The Death Road Loop’ which involved riding up the World’s Most Dangerous Road (also known as the El Camino del Muerte or Road of Death) and then descending down the newer (and much safer) road which led us back to Coroico. We were blessed with clear skies which meant that we had spectacular views of the valley and mountains. It was an incredible day, and now we can say we’ve conquered the World’s Most Dangerous Road.

Garry about to tackle Death Road!

The following day we travelled from Coroico to La Paz. It was hard to believe that we started the day in the jungle tropics, and then passed stark mountains with ice on the side of the cliff faces before ending our day in the vibrant city of La Paz at 3400m above sea level. Upon arrival in La Paz we handed back our bikes, and then had the opportunity to explore the museums, cathedrals and colourful markets. In the evening we had our final group dinner at a lovely little restaurant where we celebrated the end of our incredible Bolivian adventure with flaming steaks.  There was a unanimous feeling that this has been the trip of a lifetime and we’ve created some unforgettable memories with an amazing group of people. We’re already planning our next Big Adventure!

Matt taking a moment at the top of Death Road

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