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Monthly Archives: April 2012
La Paz become my other home, this was made possible by Raul and Linda Zarate.Raul ask me to add another day so I can be in the barbeque part for a friend fare well, the following day with Caleb they accompany me to climb to the cumber (4600m). With their enthusiasms, kind and warmness they made my La Paz stay to be one of the Bolivia highlights.
We left the beauty La Paz in its valleys, as we approach the peak of the high pass the weather start to change, fog cover all the wonderful glaciers peaks and entire landscape. It start to get cold, we hug and promise to see each soon or later. When I start to descend the steep and dangerous road the ice cold start to pour, I put on enough layers but the cold rain penetrate and due to slow speed the cold start to burn face and fingers. All the time of descend in the paved road I was concerned by traffic on the narrow, slippery and fog road, here it when it start to become ‘The death road’ as local call it ‘La ruta de la muerte’. 40 km downhill I had to turn right to another 40km downhill of deadly road which is real ‘death road’.
La ruta de la muerte…
I had no idea about this road before till in Uyuni the southern part of Bolivia, I was charting with a local guy when I mentioned my planed route, he asked to your going through death road. I was surprised by the name but there are several places here named after devil, demons and saints when he explained about this road I start to feel like it might be dangerous though I have lent that in this way of getting information you never relay on one source of info or one person. The info didn’t change much but get sort of exaggerations in the street of La Paz when you see these MTB with sigh saying ‘Cycle the death route tomorrow’. Apparently the road it one of major tourist activity in La Paz, not sure how may ever lost their life there but the tour company they make them sign the weaver that they are doing it for their risk! In the one crowded hostel I bump into the guy walk with polls, he crush in the death road, swim In the gravel loose huge part of flesh on his leg. Most of the stories are close to death though most make it though. I was at the turn in 3pm, it still rain but with less fog, at this moment I was looking down to 40km of the most dangerous road in the world. It still quite high though the vegetations start to change to tropic, it is lush green, fresh air, flower sent, surrounded by birds calling; it have been a while since I have been in such environment. Before I start going down two tourist min van passed me, loaded with bike in the roof, the tourists they just give me question mark state, I guess they couldn’t make it up such quick; ‘the guy on the loaded bike, such late, solo going down to death road’ . As I start to roll down everything change, it was like interning in the different world, the jungle intensifies and it was me with the jungle. The road start with loose rocks, sharp descend and corners, the track is narrow with rock cliff on the right and the other drop down on the left to when you can barely see. In this kind of road you can’t go fast neither slow here I remember the tour guide from La Paz who told me in this case he had to put some tourists in the van because they go too slow! The rain is still pouring, water drop from the cliff some time put you in between that narrow pass called road. I also made my almost death story, it was in the corner when the tourists van come uphill since the driving side change in this kind of roads I was in the left side which is more dangerous, I slam on over heart and wet breaks they didn’t work like normal and I happen to end up in the edge of long cliff. There are several long cliff one it 6 000m down, when accident happen in these cliff they don’t bother to go down to fetch anything. From entrance of the death road you are started to be greeted by signs of crosses as memory of those who lost their life here this go for almost first half of the road. The death road it can be real death road mostly for inexperienced bikers, now in this road there is no much traffic because there is new paved road which they don’t let bikes go through cause of the tunnels.
Yolosa it small town at the junction to the new road and others I camped few km out of town. In this part of Bolivia sub tropical it where you can find Afro-Bolivia population, it a small population and it have been mixed a lot but they still carry their African futures. Due to their skin color they are known as Moreno which supposes to mean brown or so. Pass through this are I could see lots of smiling faces with little disbelieve. In the next morning I had second breakfast with Moreno family; at first they assume I was also Moreno from Bolivia but due to my Spanish accent they say I guess I was Brazilian. When I say I’m Africa they couldn’t believe, apparently they don’t have any clue about the continent, the young knows famous football players and that is. The Moreno were salves who brought to work in the coca plantations which were used as a payment during the colonial manning era of Potos. Bolivia didn’t take lost of black slavers cause they couldn’t work in the highlands manning.
From Yolasa which pitch in about 1000m the road gravel road (still under construction) start with small climb then pass through the cliff In the mid day the road descend into river, I cycle alongside the river in the narrow road cut through dense jungle. There are several small villages and single houses pitch in the middle of jungle, the area looks fertile but I wonder the effort it will take to declare part of forest to start farming. There lots of coca plantations though it had to see them, in house front I pass some dried by sun. Though these farmers make very little cash but it ease farming which doesn’t need lot of time to take care of it.
In the evening I arrive Carranav 522m, this place was real hot and humid, it remind me cycling in the East Africa coast. From Caranav the road is pretty much climb, after lot of climb in southern part I don’t have much problem but this is climb of hot day which make sweat a lot. The road is still under construction and they tend to close it for almost half a day. Now there are less villages few traffic most it timber trucks. In the small villages there are ramous of robbers in the jungle but thanks after two days of wild camp I reached Rurranabalque.
Rurranabalque it lie in the River Ben (not sure of the name), it small touristic town, 45 minutes from La Paz tourist can access the Amazon- Bolivia and sub-tropical weather.
Happiness exists when it shared…
In Rurranabalque I meet two cyclists Nelson from Portugal, 3 years on the road Canada- Ushuaia, now on the way back to Peru then may be sail down to Brazil by Amazon. Hugo from Belgium on short our. I team up with Nelson for couple of day, he looks real worn out by road but still strong. He has developed touring patience, quite a slow pace compare to mine. After cycling alone for a while it was good to meet Nelson. In small town called Santa Rosa we were approached with a guy who asked as if we would like to be interviewed by their local Tv channel, we agreed for interview which we never saw cause there would no be news for 2 days during the weekend but we benefit for free camping ground, shower and free entrance to fun Bolivian singing Mexican music. He is great cookers, it take long than normal to make breakfast then lunch and diners all this time he will be telling me his stories from the road.
I had to leave Nelson in mosquito juggle hit a ride for 100km to Riberalta and cycle to Guaya Marin as my visa was in the end. Arrived at Guaya Marin in the evening couple of folks on the motor bike (this is main transport in this region) they ride along for a chart, apparently they knew my name and so on, I come to find out later the article from news paper in La Paz arrived here before me. I had no problem immigration at all, I was real worried but instead of being finned I was welcomed to stay long if I wish. Of cause I wish but cant cycle back. The immigration guys had news paper also and they were happy to meet so I end up charting and having drinks with offices!
Before dark I took a small boat across the river to Brazil, things start to change in the boat; people start to talk to me in Portuguese. At first I thought it another kind of castillano because I could make up what they mean but soon I realize I’m already in Brazil and language change. After scanned my bags and being told that cake leaves are illegal so I have to leave the little one I was carrying for tea but not coke infusion. I had to find Federal Police down town Guajara Mirin (just different spellings with other town in Bolivia side). I was given only 6 days with Brazilian councilor in La Paz due to my amount of money I show at first; here I find the friendliest immigration office or Policia Federal as called here. We talked a lot though communication wasn’t such good. He said the 6 days may be are not even enough to travel by river to Manaus so he end up giving me 30 days. He also recommends applying for Rio sustainable development conference in June due to the relation with my project.
The officer helped to call my friend Jack to come and peak me, I meet Jack in Bolivia on his way to visit his cousin working with missionary here. He have been working as humanitarian in Congo, married Congolese, speak bit of Swahili-lingala. His cousin hosts me, here I fixed the bike, and find out that the change is almost out of order but can go for sometime may be to Manaus. I had to add another day after the pledge from student who studies linguistic, Brazilian music and relation of Buntu. I’ll have to help here with my general knowledge about Bantu.
From here the next stop it Manaus the center of Brazial- Amazon, the part of the road which is possible to travel so far is 340km the rest about 700km of jungle it still has patches of rain which make it impassable also as always the people from town they will tell you ‘there is plenty of robbers in the juggle’.
La Paz, Bolivia – 26/4/2012 11:09AM
Un tanzano recorre el mundo en bicicleta por el medio ambiente ECOLOGISTA Elvis Munis emprendió una vuelta al mundo sobre dos ruedas. Viajará unos 80.000 km por 50 países, desde Chile hasta el monte Kilimanjaro, en África, para recaudar fondos que ayuden a otorgar becas a los jóvenes de su país.
Alejandra Pau / La Paz – 20/04/2012 o
Elvis Munis Fotos: Archivo Elvis Munis Nevado en la frontera de Chile y Bolivia. Corriendo por un sueño. Elvis Munis, de 25 años, es un guía turístico y profesor voluntario que pedalea por el mundo para lograr que él y otros jóvenes de su país puedan acceder a becas para estudiar carreras relacionadas con el medio ambiente. Durante más de dos años, este aventurero soñador pretende pasar por más de 50 países.
Aunque no posee ningún título académico, desde hace varios años Munis defiende el medio ambiente con clases ad honorem. Las posibilidades de los jóvenes tanzanos de costear una carrera universitaria o acceder a una beca son mínimas, debido a la extrema pobreza que sufre su país.
Para cambiar esa situación, este joven creó un proyecto llamado Chile to Kili, una travesía en bicicleta que pretende recorrer desde Chile hasta la montaña del Kilimanjaro en África. La meta es conseguir 100 mil dólares de aportes voluntarios para pagar las becas. La ruta elegida tiene mucho que ver con el origen de Elvis, ya que es miembro de una tribu de Tanzania llamada chagga, cuyos miembros viven en el monte Kilimanjaro.
“Sentí que debía hacer algo para cambiar las cosas para los jóvenes. En mi país, ellos no tienen fuentes para inspirarse y luchar por un futuro”.
Elvis Munis, joven tanzano. La mayoría de los chagga se dedica a la cría de animales y también son agricultores. El producto que más cultivan es el plátano, cuya planta les provee desde techos para sus viviendas hasta su bebida alcohólica tradicional. Munis es el único de su tribu que ha estado en Sudamérica y en Bolivia. El monto del dinero que se recaude estará destinado a la fundación Conservation Resource Center, de la ciudad de Arusha, en Tanzania, que se dedica a formar y ayudar a científicos en la conservación del medio ambiente y también es apoyado por National Geographic. Serán 80.000 kilómetros de viaje, de los que hasta ahora ha recorrido 3.000, y hasta el momento ha obtenido un poco más de 1.800 dólares. Aún le queda mucho camino por recorrer, en kilómetros y en dinero.
La ruta y la inspiración
Este tanzano llegó en avión desde su país hasta Buenos Aires, Argentina, y de allí a Mendoza, de donde partió en bicicleta hasta Coquimbo, en Chile, para luego llegar al país. Solo en la carretera, con la única misión de pedalear, Elvis contó a Página Siete que conoció paisajes y personas de las que imaginaba poco, porque en su país no se tiene idea de cómo es Sudamérica. Aunque a veces extraña su país y a su gente, continúa su viaje porque cree firmemente en lograr cambiar, aunque sea un poco, la visión del mundo. “Sentí que debía hacer algo para cambiar las cosas para los jóvenes. En mi país ellos no tienen fuentes para inspirarse y luchar por un futuro. Por eso decidí poner mi vida sobre una bicicleta para que ellos puedan ver que sí se puede lograr algo”, contó Elvis en la sala de la Casa del Ciclista, en la zona de Irpavi de La Paz, entidad que le dio albergue durante su estadía. Pero su propósito va más allá. Otro de sus objetivos es crear conciencia en cada ciudad que recorre sobre el cuidado de la vida salvaje, los ecosistemas y la conservación del medio ambiente. Por ello da charlas a estudiantes de colegios y universidades. En La Paz realizó esta actividad con estudiantes de turismo y otras carreras de la UMSA.
Una voz para África
“Todos los habitantes de cada país, sea desarrollado o no, deben darse cuenta de que si no cambiamos las cosas y decidimos conservar y proteger el medio ambiente, perderemos los glaciares y los bosques. Eso sería devastador para nuestro futuro”, explicó. Su viaje es reflejado en la página web: www.chiletokili.com, donde se reciben las donaciones para el proyecto. A través de ella, Elvis trata también de que los africanos conozcan algo de América.
“Estoy agradecido por todo lo que he conocido, visitando lugares de los que nunca había oído hablar. Cualquier expectativa que se pueda tener antes de llegar a una ciudad es superada por la realidad”, dijo.
De Bolivia al Kilimanjaro
El lunes pasado, Munis partió desde La Paz hacia Caranavi, para llegar luego hasta San Buenaventura y de allí dirigirse a Beni. Luego pasará la frontera hasta Brasil y abordará una embarcación hacia Colombia. Posteriormente recorrerá Centroamérica y Norteamérica hasta Alaska, desde donde tomará otra embarcación que esta vez lo llevará a Rusia. Entonces comenzará una nueva aventura que lo llevará por Mongolia, Kazajistán, Alemania y España hasta Gibraltar, desde donde llegará a Marruecos y luego a África, a su destino final el Kilimanjaro, una montaña situada en el nordeste de Tanzania formada por tres volcanes inactivos.
“Quiero inspirar a mi gente para que estudie, para que sueñe, para que viaje y conozca el mundo”, dice el joven soñador.
Out of Calama…out of Chile
Bolivia visa is only visa I got without hassling. After got the visa there were no much to do in this mining oasis town, by using old map and wrong direction I end up climb 15 km to find out the road is blocked by mining plants so it out of use. I made it back to calama central lost two good biking hours. The road from town takes me across the Atacama, near the foothills of Andes I pass couple of salt pans to Chiu-Chiu village. It nice and green village in the river (San Pedro) running from Andes and turn to sort of delta leave soil fertile good for small agriculture hence small community, there are Inca ruins here which prove that life has started long time ago in this place. The mad houses (about 20 to 30 include a church and small plaza), fields, landscape, and of cause it inhabitant made this village looks very exotic.
Sopa for Negrito…
I stop in the village for lunch, there was only one restaurant serving lunch though there are 3 but each are open in different time, for breakfast, lunch and dinner ‘No need to compete!’. I pop in the restaurant with only one customer, the 3 waitress in the front desk run behind the counter. Then from behind the counter they ask ‘Que necsita?’ ‘What do you want? Of cause I want food so I replay ‘Comida’. I could hear them whispering ‘ es negrito!. I wasn’t then used with the way highland folks describe little or few things like ‘Panisito (one or two breads), ‘tecito’ (cup of tea), ‘negrito’ (one black), ‘camioneta’ (small road or track) they use this way as friendly way of describing thing and address people. After waiting for a while almost though I wasn’t going to get service, one girl show up with bow of soup in one hand while another hold her mouth to stop herself from laughing she could barely face me as she place the bowl in the table then behind me she asked ‘Pancito?’ hearing pan I just say ‘Yes pan!’ . Then there was giggling bind the counter with whisper ‘El hablar espan~ol!’. The soup is containing rice, potatoes and chicken and some verges for the hungry cyclist this was real good. As I finish the soup other girl brought a plate of rice and chicken, it was bit surprise but since I’m always hungry I continue with meal though at the end I become real full, this is the way lunch and dinner served here it always two plates though you can choose if you want only one. When it comes the time to pay there were 3 girls in counter ready to receive my 2500 peso ($5), they come out to study me well as I cycle off. This will be the common situation from here on to La Paz; the tanagers to middle age female will run away from me some who are waitress or vendors will gathers up themselves after a while to serve me. The boys are also quite shy but few are courage enough to replay when I ask for directions while other will run away laughing just like you say something very fun. Men and old lady are quite brief only the drunker will come by and start up conversation walk away to tell the story to their friends. This situation is more common in Bolivia, the native Indians start from this part of Chile. I’ll have to get used to this satiation later and understand that this community it not very open to strangers though being black here it quite a sight. The more strangely thing is no one want to be photographed even when I ask to take pic with them, people are very nervous when they see camera.
It was very scenic day as I start in the desert slowly approach the glaciers peaks on the horizon, from Chiu-Chiu the road turn left make the end of pave to gravel, it pass through the deep green river gorge kept on along the glaciers peak while gently start to climb. In the evening I made it San Pedro (3500m) the small village of less than 10 houses, mining train station, grave yard and church are most visible things. I camp in front of church and happen to meet only 3 people, 2 in the evening and one in the morning, general the place looks very life less. The next day was quite a challenge as the road took me to high pass of 4000m then descends to 3600m in Ollague, the border town between Chile and Bolivia.
Ollague remind me a lot of ‘Ringo movie’, it alpine desert with cold wind all the time. There are less than 20 houses build by volcanic laver rock, the walls are about 12cm to prevent the cold, they doesn’t looks very attractive house from outside, they are sort of desert camouflage though inside they are colorful. I enter one restaurant to ask for camping information, the resto-bar was real colorful with several celebrate photos in the wall and different alcohols to decoration the shelves. The bar man ask my name as said ‘Elvis’ he point in the wall to Elvis Presley photo, I just laugh and wonder what is Presley photo doing in this middle of nowhere. The bar man told me camping here it just like committing suicide, the bed coast 10,000 peso ($20) even with 4 blanket in the night I thought the 20 bucks worth nothing for this cold. In the morning I had to bike in 5 centigrade with wind it burn more than fire. I stamp in Bolivia, the immigration was sound like ‘Sherriff Ringo’ with his swagger and information, he was proud to learn that there is countries in Africa and one is Tanzania, he gave me Bolivian flag for my bike claim no more Chile!. He told me the first village is 4hrs by bike; the village is about 70km away which took me almost a day.
The good gravel road start with gently climb which will stay like that for almost half day, it meandering in the gracias peaks which I saw two days before from the desert. The day was just me with this wonderful landscape which make you think the paradise is just hear in the earth. Different from the desert up here it starts to get green by ‘Paja brava’ (Andean grass) with small valleys/ craters, lagoons inhabited by flamingos all these give way to one glacier from to another. The sky is crystal blue, few clouds in the peaks, the sun seem to be far as cold wind hold the temperature between 10-19 centigrade just up and down like that for a day before it start to drop to 5 in the night.
Slowly the life it became possible as I start to encounter Llamas (Atiplano camels). There are 3 species I see here; Vicuna (pronounced Vucunya), they are in small groups of 3 to 6 individuals, size of grant gazelle remind me of Serengeti in rain season. El Pakas size of waterbuck, I only see groups of 3 and 4, they are shyer, and they run far into mountains when they spot me. The last spp is Llama, I come across these animals in the long downhill to vast crater unlikely other spp the front point ears creature they stop in the middle of road just wonder what is heck was that, I did the same as well. My main question was what kind of wild animal could maintain such close distance and stare for long time this was before I find out they are domesticated! These animals made the welcome to Villa Alota, the village pitch in the crater rim. Here it where I start to discover the interesting Andean life.
Zona Andean it covers about 30% of Bolivia start from La Paz department run south ward to Oruro and Potosi. It is a region which contain the ‘Cordillera Occidental’ between these chains of mountains there are high flats known as Altiplano where altitudes range from 3500m to 4000m. The first view of human in these Altiplano before the village was short woman with long colorful gown which make her looks broad, long black hair and hut in the back she had the multicolor bundle, she was looking after herd of Llama. I stop to have a close looks but she walk away giving me the back while her dog bark me of and llama stop eating staring at me. The bowl hut she wore wasn’t real for sun, I learn latter these are ‘Cholita (female) Cholito (male) hut.
“The Sombrero de Cholita are part of Andino traditional costume. The dress looks the same like the Herero of Botswana and Namibia but the hut is different. The story of Cholito/ta hut goes back to 100 or 150 years ago when one merchant bough all shipment of hut but couldn’t find the market. He made up the story that if you were the hut you will have good fertility so he sells his shipment and leave behind what become tradition. Today the hut are local made and just like maasai with stick andinos love hut, the young in town likes baseball caps mix with gangsters style, what a good combination!”
I refuel my water bottles and get bananas which I missed for a while because in Chile they are expensive, the evening turn to be very nice, wind slow down, the sun down seems to take it time to sink to the other part. It turns the sky into different color which reflects to the lagoons and glaciers peaks, the entire are looks picturesque. I find a nice place for wild camp in the crater. The next day start with little rain which holds me in the tent till 9 am it pass away but come again 10km before San Cristobal village. This isn’t the rain I’m used to, I have experience this kind of rain once in my life in Mt. Kilimanjaro and that day we lost our fellow porter who dead because of cold. This rain it real cold, it burn my fingers when I get to the village I was start shivering. I made a second breakfast as I boil water for tea a woman near offer me breads because she wonder ‘how come can you drink tea without bread’. The rain was short but I was scared to get out there again, one old man who we chart for a while he insured me there will be no more rain for the day. I cycle cautious but eventual I made to Uyuni town. I didn’t knew the town was such big and busy, it a central of tourism, the get way to Salar de Uyuni and in the South East glaciers of the country.
Salar de Uyuni…the beauty is very simple.
The next day I bough gloves and hood try to stay hot as it seem that I have wrong clothes or I’m wrong person for the weather. In steady of heading to Potosi which makes the loop but paved road to Oruro, I take a short cut which becomes terrible bumping road. 22km out of town I turn left to ‘gringo trail’ following 4X4 tourist’s jeep to famous ‘Salar De Uyuni’. It was 5km of straggling with strong with heard wind while tourists jeep pass by horning not sure what they mean because they just past fast, there are two explanations of these kinda of horn, cheering up or simply ‘get the fk out of the road’. I think my feelings to these hot spot places are getting old, or NO! With this kind of travel you learn that the beauty is in the simple thing. I always find something good, amazing to fill the curiosity, to learn from, these are just simply a landscape, villages, towns, people, ect. In the Salar de Uyuni I had feel very normal, Yes it is a wonderful place. It largest salt pan, stretch as far to the mountain, it a breath taking place. The place still has water and jeeps pass through I thought to go little bit further but seem impossible with loaded bike. I took photos chart with tourists and their drivers then I continue pedaling towards Oruro. The bumping road goes through altipino remote village, it rolling hills with crates which seem to be sort of lakes in the past due to their structures and rocks formation. There are yellow and red fields which are the native grains known as quenua, grain size of amaranths it said to help brain memory, reasoning skills, physical and mental growth, etc.
In the 130km of bumping road it start to rain but this time more heavily with wind the only option I had was to camp but it was in the crater and there were no suitable area at all, luckily there was mining truck going to next village. They stop to offer me a ride of 20km that was sweetest help, next day was ease in the paved road I made it early to Oruro town. I cycle across Oruro carnival town of Bolivia to meet my host Matias in the ecological park where we had ‘parilla’ with other friends. The town has a huge market along the main street, the market offer almost everything you can think of from all kind of farm products to cheap Chinese products. It was un exciting feeling mix with sort of rendezvous, I had to push my bike since there is no way you can cycle though. The guys selling music system, memory card for radio and CDs they blear loud music, other with small loudspeakers sing the song of their products including prices. The place is full of these people with nice costume and their bundles pushing, jousting, negotiating and what not. I saw some things which I may want to buy here but I find out the buying and selling it what slowly everything here, everyone will ask, handle money, try to peak themselves no one want to wait and the seller are also real slow and ease to get confused, I wait for almost 15 minutes to buy breads, you just need the whole day to buy and enjoy the entire process here.
It takes two riding days to cove 228km from Oruro to the city of La Paz, Oruro it 3709m while La Paz is 3660m. The road is still the one goes through the altplano, I’m sure it went to 4000m in some point as breathing become difficult in the long climbing. With such high altitude La Paz makes one of the most highest city in the world, my entrance to the city didn’t make much different to the other city, the traffic, highway without cycling path, etc. Thanks that I wasn’t staying in the city center, I cross the city and heading to ‘Zone Sur’ ‘Calacoto’ (3100m). Before I took on (about) 10km downhill the view from the top its magnificent, the city buildings in the valleys from top to the bottom, the glaciers peaks, it just amazing!. The downhill it quite sharp with loaded bike you go more fast and can’t hold breaks for long time, it give such thrilling feelings. I had to stop after 5 to 7 minutes because of cold wind. About 3km before finishing the downhill it when I lost all the excitement, there were policeman stop vehicle for some inspections so I had to pay attention to him and traffic while the bike was still rolling on 15 to 20kmp/h. Oooh My! I didn’t notes the drench cross the road line up with pieces of rail which are wide enough to let 19” tire go through. My front tire went in, bike crash while I flew over the bike to pavement. It was bad crash I ever had, the tube bust and folk bent backward stopped by fuel bottle to go further behind. I spent 1 hour fixing the bike to finish few km. In the center of Calacoto there are also these kinds of drench but some covered with pieces of metal. Thanks to my host family Raul & Linda, we manage to find an old man with lots of wisdom and patient to fix the folk. I’m now in La Paz processing the Brazilian and Colombia visa then climb Andes again and descend to the sub tropical.
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