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3  AMERICAS   BY   BICYCLE

MES VOYAGES AUX TROIS AMERIQUES EN VELO

BOLIVIA COCHABAMBA HASTA CARACOLO

COCHABAMBA - CARACOLO : 205 km

Cochabamba - Sarayi : 89

Sarayi - Caracolo : 116 FROM JEFF KRUYS SITE

Cochabamba to Caracolo

Cochabamba to Sayari 89 km

it was a Sunday and the last day of a long weekend, so the highway was much, much busier than it normally would have been. In fact, it appeared that every truck, bus and private vehicle was on the road today between Cochabamba and La Paz. Thankfully, there was a half-meter shoulder to ride on. The sprawl of Cochabamba extended some 20km out, past the next big town Quillacollo and on to the truck weigh scale at a village called Sipesipe.

The next village, Parotani, marked the low point of today's route at a river crossing, and then the highway climbed and climbed. It was warm today and I went through all my beverages more quickly than I anticipated. Beverages were hard to come by on the initial part of this climb, and what few roadside vendors existed were closed for Sunday, but higher up in the hills there were a few fresh water streams crossing the road. And higher still were clusters of truckstop restaurants, but they were also closed, either for Sunday or because it was now past lunchtime. Besides the gorgeous deep-valley scenery, one notable feature of this highway was the high population of scruffy stray dogs who just sit by the highway, each with its own half-kilometer strip of territory, far from any human settlements, presumably surviving on scraps of food that fall from the windows of passing vehicles. Roadside littering seems to be a genetic imperative descending from the Incas, so these dogs are probably making a better living this way than by depending on individual human masters.

I called it quits around the 4000m elevation mark, anticipating that the highway was about to reach the lip of the canyon and a plateau that would likely be densely populated farmland.

Sarayi to Caracolo 116 km

Cold morning, but I was far from any villages. Traffic was much, much quieter today now that the millions of weekend travellers had returned home. The day was spent climbing and descending over the rolling peaks and ridges, with great scenery, cold and windy mudbrick villages and windswept, treeless altiplano vegetation. It was hard work and I didn't take nearly as many photos as I should have. The highest point, 4500m, was followed by a teasingly short descent and some more undulations before a final, satisfying descent downstream along a river valley. Things started to get a bit more lush and populous, but there were still no trees. From here to La Paz would be nothing but farmland. I passed through the medium-sized junction town, Caracollo, the first place since the greater metropolitan area of Cochabamba where it was possible to buy supplies other than cookies and Coke. Here I met the La Paz-Oruro highway, and the traffic volume increased accordingly.

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