Caryl and Brian's World Bike Tour

Bolivia Bicycle Touring Comments

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Putre, Chile to Bolivian Border

The 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.
Putre - hotels, restaurants, good stores, phone

km 127- Jct to Putre
km 134.5 - creek crosses road, good water, good campsite left side off road
km 137 - Starting about here all the way to Las Cueves you follow close to a stream with good water
km 141 - slope lessens a bit
km 146+ - Las Cueves, get water
km 152 - large mirador, good campsite
km 160 -Carabineros station, get water
km 163 - Chucuyo, 2 restaurants, also have rooms to let. Copihue de Oro sells bread, cookies, sodas, and some basics such as rice and some canned goods
km 166 - Turn-off for Parinacota near here, 4 km off route, downhill. Accomodations and meals available at people's houses.
km 180 - Refugio lago Chungara; camping, lodging, no food, water
km 185.5/0 - Chilean border control, snack stand

Bolivian Border to Patacamaya, Rt 1

Bolivian 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
km 7.7 - Tambo Quemado; Restaruants, lodging, small stores
km 17 - Rio Sajama, clean
km 19 - Lagunas; restaurant seems closed for good.
km 22 - Stream, clean
km 24.3 - Creek, clean
km 26 - Peak of climb
km 27.5 - Creek, clean
km 36.8 - Jct Cosapa (9 km downhill)
km 44 - Rio Tomaripe, clean
km 48.6-bar/pension El Viajero
km 55 - creek, good camp site
km 69.3, 69.8 - Bars,closed?
km 77 - Start along river
km 79.4 - Pension
km 81 - Turn-off to small town, no services
km 91.6 - Restaurant Juventud also small store
km 92.6 - Turn to Curahuara de Carangas (5 km), 4 restaurants with supplies at intersection, town has lodging, stores, phone, restaurants, medical center
km 105.5 - Cross river Sulloma, muddy, leave valley
km 130 - Bridge over Rio Desaquedero, muddy water in river
km 150 - Snack store
km 189.5 - Patacamaya; hotel,restaurants, stores, gas, phone


Patacamaya to La Paz, Bolivia

The 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
km 132.5 - Turn to hot springs resort hotel and restaurant
km 145.5 - Ayo Ayo; stores to get drinks, most not open on Sunday
km 147 - Tholar; hotel, restaurant, snack stores
km 170 - Calamarca; small snack shops
km 178- Pocohata; small snack shops
km 184 - San Antonio; phone
km 187 - V Remedos; noservices
km 200 - Start El Alto - All services
km 240 - La Paz; All services

La Paz, Bolivia to Desaguadero, Bolivia

From 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
Km 19 - Jct to Laja: nice church, may have small stores
Km 34.5 - Jct to Tambillo, 3850 m
Km 37 - 3965 m
Km 37.8 - 4020 m
Km 42 - 3907 m
Km 55 - Jct to Tiwanaku: restaurants, hotels, stores
Km 74 - Guaqui - Stores?, gas, phone
Km 102 - Desaguadero


Copyright 1995-2011 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.



We'd like to thank my father, Charles Johnson, whose diligent mail forwarding and other logistical support make this journey far easier than it could be otherwise.


Wendy Strutin Riedy for archiving the newsletters on her WWW site,

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