Putre, Chile to Bolivian BorderThe junction to the town of Putre is located at Km 127 along Ruta 11. Putre is located 4.86 km off route. The side road is paved and in good condition. However, there are a lot of ups and downs getting to Putre. The junction is 90 meters above the town. Putre is a good place to aclimitize to the altitude.
Upon leaving Putre the road climbs very steeply for about 8 km before leveling on the altiplano. Experts say that to avoid getting altitude sickness you should first aclimitize to the 3000 meter (10,000 ft) level. From there on up you should climb no more than about 350 meters (1,000 ft) each day. It's difficult to do out of Putre. I have marked campsite locations and elevations to help in this.
Kilometers in Chile are measured from the intersection of Ruta 5 and Ruta 11.
Putre is at km 127. Green signs alongside the road give the km location and are
used here. Altitude is from an altimeter we carried. It matched the official
number at both Putre and Las Cueves. However, it seemed to be different for
Chungara and the Chilean border. We do not know whether the difference is due to
the fact that we did not recalibrate the altimeter following a front passage or
if the Chilean data is incorrect. This does give a general feel for the level of
climb and descent.
Bolivian Border to Patacamaya, Rt 1Bolivian route 108 from the border to Patacamaya is a wonderfully paved road in great condition and with a wide shoulder. Distances are measured from whichever end you start at, 0 at the Chilean border or 0 at Patacamaya. I give distances here from the Chilean border.
There are many small streams that pass under the road all the way from the border to km 44. Some look questionable as to cleanliness. Ones closer to towns have a lot of trash. Others could probably be filtered with no problem. They appear to run directly from the snow covered volcano without passing through a town. People in these remote villages use latrines that are placed well away from water sources. Consequently chances of raw sewage getting into these streams is slim. Do not make the same assumption for any stream that has passed through a town having a "sewage system" of any type. There are tons of llamas all over the hills and the women do wash clothes in the streams. So filtering and possibly even iodine treatment is recommended. Below I make note of some of the larger streams we passed. There are many much smaller ones that are not noted.
km 4 - Following creek that looks reasonably clean
Patacamaya to La Paz, BoliviaThe road from Patacamaya to La Paz is an older road. The main thoroughfare is in good condition, but the shoulder is often in bad shape. Traffic is quite busy especially with buses. You will climb gradually up to El Alto, the city above La Paz. Usually wind comes from north to south so you may have a headwind as well. El Alto is a very, very busy city. You will have to just push through the throng until reaching the autopista. There is a toll booth at the start of the autopista as well as a sign saying bike are prohibited. We just ignored this sign and went on through. Nobody stopped us. Once on the autopista you'll find a nice, divided 4 lane highway with wide shoulder and a wonderful ride down to La Paz center. This is definitely the way to get into the center. Once you pass the brewery you may want to get off the bike and start walking as pedestrian and bus traffic gets really tough further on. Riding up this hill could be a real killer especialy considering the altitude.
km 125 - Patacamaya; Hotels, restaurants, gas, phone
La Paz, Bolivia to Desaguadero, BoliviaFrom El Alto the road to Desaquadero is generally fairly level. There is one fairly good climb just after the town of Tambillo. Actually this hill feels harder than it really is just because you are at such a high elevation. This road is paved all the way and is in very good condition. Shoulders are generally dirt but still good for riding. Traffic is light so you can ride on the thoroughfare if you choose. Small stores probably can be found at all the towns along the way although, with the exceptions below, we did not check them out. Don't expect to find too many hotels along the way.
Tiwanaku has restaurants, small stores, and one pretty good hotel and one real dump hotel.
Desaguadero on the Bolivia side is a real ugly, dirty city. You have to turn right off the main, paved road toward the center of town to reach the border. The paved road heads elsewhere, not to Peru. It seemed to us that the Peruvian side of town was a bit nicer than the Bolivian side. There are hotels on both sides of the border, however we still wonder if those on the Peruvian side might be nicer. There are many small shops, snack stands, and some restaurants on both sides. However, restaurants may not be open on Sunday.
Km 0 - Rio Seco junction route to Tiwanaku, 4000 m
Copyright © 1995-2011 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.