Thursday, July 30, 2009


Last Sunday, the 26th, seemed to be a typical day out on the road. My group was somewhat slow, but everyone arrived at the bottom safe and sound. We were a bit late leaving La Senda Verde, still, no big deal.

I had some Irish lads in my group and they proceeded to buy a bag of 20 beers. Between them and everyone else the bus kicked off one of the better parties I’ve seen in awhile. I anticipated quite an enjoyable evening drinking beer and talking to Mike, one of my clients, about philosophy, music, psychology, and life in general.

And then something unexpected happened. About an hour and a half after leaving we began to encounter snowflakes. Fifteen minutes later and we were in a full on snowstorm. And in another ten minutes we were stuck. As in the bus won’t go any more kind of stuck.

With no daylight left we had to make a choice. Steve and his group were in the bus behind us, and collectively we decided to give our clients the only two options we had; stay in the bus overnight, or get out and hike. The upcoming trek possibly could be a total trip of about 14 km in the storm. Yet, both our groups quickly decided that hiking, even if it took 4 or more hours, was preferable to remaining in the bus.

We handed out jackets, pants, and orange safety vests from our stash of riding gear. Then Steve and I got out one of our ropes from my rescue kit, doubled it back on itself, and we had everyone grab hold of the rope.

Geared up and ready to go.

I led out, hiking at first with my headlamp on and then eventually turning it off as we left the 30 odd buses and cars stuck all within the same half km of road. We moved slowly, stopping semi-frequently because one of Steve’s clients had altitude sickness and was throwing up. After about 2 km one of the random tour buses became unstuck, turned around, and headed back up the road toward us. A few clients managed to get on the bus, including the guy who was sick.

I'm pretty tired here. If you look close you can see that I have a huge wad of coca in my right cheek.

We continued on and at La Cumbre, to my surprise, German, Battle Cruiser driver extraordinaire, came on the radio. He was almost to us and he brought backup in the form of a Policia Nacional pickup truck! They had let him through the road blockade about 10 km below, where I thought our original destination was going to be.

We quickly filled the Battle Cruiser and about 7 clients got on another tour bus coming by that had gotten out of the snow. I climbed in the bed of the pickup with Mike, by far the coolest guy I’ve ever had in my group. We continued talking politics and philosophy as the snow and wind swirled around us; my wet feet and hands finally feeling the cold with the absence of physical activity.

After about 20 minutes we arrived at the blockade and the police would go no farther. It was sleeting and we were having trouble getting through to a taxi company. Finally we came across a guy who was willing to brave the trip down through the sleet; so Mike, a couple of the Irish guys who rode in the cab of the pickup, and myself all piled into the poor guy’s car. Only the driver’s side wiper worked, and not very well. We spent most of the trip down on the left side of the road with the guy hanging his head out trying to see the left edge.

10 minutes later we came to a halt. Flat tire. Luckily we were down in the upper reaches of La Paz and the sleet had turned to rain. We gave the guy 50 bolivianos and apologized for overloading his car, and in all likelihood, giving him the flat. Then we hailed a cab and continued on our journey.

Finally, after burning CD’s and dropping off what little gear I managed to collect from clients, I collapsed into bed at 1 AM. But it was a good day, hell, it was a great day! We had adventure, and snow, and we managed to work together and get out of it. One of the more memorable experiences I’ve had since coming to Bolivia.

The next day Ben, Phil, and Alistair tried to go out with groups but they had to turn around, the snow was still too deep and the road was effectively blocked. It's only the second time in almost twelve years that a trip has been canceled. (The first was for protests involving dynamite).

Yesterday I worked again and the road was clear and dry. There was still snow covering the mountains and it was beautiful riding at the top.

Gliding down asphalt in a surreal world.

There’s nothing better than a little adventure to break up some of the more monotonous moments of life!

I. Love. Mountains. And snow!

So does Phil!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sorata Pt. II

Last week I was able to make another trip to Sorata with Ben, Steve, and two guys, Juan and Willie, who came to Bolivia from Columbia specifically for the singletrack. They didn't even bother riding the WMDR because they had better things to do. Namely, rip it up all over the place, including possibly my favorite place in the world, Sorata.

We had three stunning days in Sorata and the memories will be with us for quite a while. The first day we arrived out of town at the beginning of a trail known as Loma Loma. This is where we started when I was here last with Rob, Rene, and Joe.

Ben airing out the first jump at the top of Loma Loma.

Steve with a killer backdrop.

Steve taking the same line that the pros did last month.

Ben with a wall ride. The run in was junk so it was pretty hard to get speed.

Another wall ride.

Steve, completely burying the bike in a corner. Note the expression of supreme calm on his face... and no fingers on the brakes whatsoever.

View of the mountains from the Altai Hostel. The Altai is where we stay every time we go to Sorata.

On the second day we headed up to another trail called ChuChu. It begins up above tree-line and the first sections are singletrack mixed with scree. There is also a large road gap at the top that Ben hit. I wanted to, and had all my body armor on, but after seeing Ben I chickened out. Maybe after I get comfortable with 30 ft. jumps that don't have a gap in them.

There was a slight head wind and Ben had a bit too much speed on the take off, nearly clearing the transition on landing. However, he checked it just enough and landed smooth on the downhill.

Ben and Steve slash scree.

Ben on the lower slope.

Steve making huge and fast carves on the lower slope. Shortly after this photo Steve went whipping by me with a look of terror on his face. Apparently a large rock appeared in his line and to avoid it he cut left, but my bike was in the way. And then he hit my bike that was lying down just below where I was taking photos. He somersaulted several times and ended up 25 ft. or so below my bike. Quite possibly one of the funniest things I've seen in a while.

Ben laying it down after the scree field.

To get to the second section of ChuChu there is a steep hike-a-bike that takes about 3 minutes.

Steve and Juan riding off into the clouds after the hike-a-bike.

Riding at cloud level.

And then one of the most amazing experiences of my life happened. Ben and I were riding up front and we came over the crest of a hill and there were about 7 wild horses right in front of us. They took off and we followed them, keeping up until a little section that cliffed us out. We were literally riding within ten feet of them and they were galloping along in front and next to us. It was seriously one of the coolest things to happen to me. It was what I imagine being an American Indian was like when they would ride into a herd of Bison. We stopped and some of the horses headed down to a watering hole. I climbed up onto a ridge and gave the go ahead to Ben and the guys so that I could try to get a photo of them riding into the horses again. This time, however, the horses were much more aware and Ben wasn't able to get as close as we initially had.

The last frontier.

The next, and last day, we headed up and rode the bottom section of ChuChu again. Unfortunately, no horses appeared, but we had a blast riding some tight and rocky singletrack through trees, fields, and at times local back yards. Dirty and tired we headed back to the Altai, grabbed a quick shower, and then hit the road back to La Paz.

Sorata "cityscape".

Before getting to La Paz we took a short detour to a town on the edge of Lake Titicaca where we had trout fresh from the lake. Pretty great way to end three days of the best riding this side of the equator.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New Post Coming Soon

I promise... I also posted an email address, feel free to contact me! Job prospects, photography, anything and everything, hit me up! Note that the address is wanderwideawake(at) Clearly, the (at) should be an @ symbol but it is not posted that way in case a spambot tools through my site.