Rainy daze, riding high and tandem sized pot holes

By Emma

Lake Titicaca Peru

Lake Titicaca Peru

For the last few months Bren and I have been talking about the rainy season in South America. We have had the notion of trying to beat it since October and expected it to greet us at Machu Picchu but somehow, we managed our trek through the Inca Ruins in dry weather, even sunshine. It was miraculous. All of the literature about hiking the trail at this time of year is filled with stories of the trails closing due to heavy rains. Having this goal to get to Machu Picchu was threaded with a sense of foreboding that our plans could be thwarted by bloody rain. And we are not just talking about the kind of rain that gets you wet, but the kind of rain that wrecks roads and prevents all chances of riding. We feel like we have been pretty lucky.

Llamas Llamas everywhere!

Llamas Llamas everywhere!

Stretching the tight legs after a luxurious  10 days off the bike in Cusco.

Stretching the tight legs after a luxurious 10 days off the bike in Cusco.

Riding down through the Amazon and continuously back up again to altitude, we have been talking with locals about, of course, the weather. It’s a very popular conversation topic. And even with our level of Spanish we understand that this part of the world is experiencing some serious changes in weather patterns. Obviously it has worked out for us with a delayed rainy season, but with drastic results for local farmers and their produce. So while in the eyes of many skeptics (Aussie Prime Ministers for example) climate change is just a figment of our imaginations, it certainly is an actual event over here. And even people who don’t have TV’s or read newspapers know about this thing called ‘climate change’. The effects are real.

Storm clouds make for some gorgeous cloud work

Storm clouds make for some gorgeous cloud work

But now that it is January, the rainy season has finally caught up with us. And it’s a tricky beast to gauge. Some days we wake to ominous grey clouds and thunder that can magically blow away and give us 50km of sunny riding. But other days, the rain sets in and doesn’t let up. And our tent has suddenly turned into a sponge so it has made for some pretty soggy camping, especially inside the tent. Less than ideal.

Undercover camping at a restaurant in Copacabana Bolivia. Thanks Andre for sheltering us from the storm

Undercover camping at a restaurant in Copacabana Bolivia. Thanks Andre for sheltering us from the storm

In dry weather, it is easy to judge the conditions of the roads, but with huge volumes of rain dumping down, potholes are quickly hidden and converted into tandem bike sized lakes. Impossible to see but very easy to ride in to. It’s never good. Especially in hectic traffic with buses and mini vans desperate to get in front of you at any cost. Adrenalin has never pumped so furiously at such low speed riding. Riding into La Paz Bolivia was some seriously scary 20kms of city riding in the pouring rain, dodging traffic and navigating the pot holes. Luckily we had our 2 British cycling mates with us- Claire & Adam – so in banding together we survived mostly unscathed. And they managed to capture our dive into a large pot hole on go pro. Stand by for that clip in the next video.

Riding with the Brits from Puno to La Paz

Riding with the Brits from Puno to La Paz

Bumping into Claire & Adam again in Puno, we spent 4 days riding together to Lake Titicaca and crossing the border into Bolivia as a team. It’s been great to have company and share perspectives on all we see. Not to mention camp meals!

With Brits Claire & Adam in Bolivia, Titicaca in the background

With Brits Claire & Adam in Bolivia, Titicaca in the background

Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest fresh water lake with a surface elevation of 3,812m above sea level. It spans the borders of Peru and Bolivia, but I have to say, Bolivia got the best half.

Our first view of Titicaca on the Peru side. Our camera is so good it hides the algae and all the garbage

Looking down onto the town of Puno & first view of Titicaca on the Peru side. Our camera is so good it disguises the algae and all the garbage

Our 1st views of Titicaca were arriving into the town of Puno in Peru and it was disappointing, to say the least. It is a huge lake with an equally huge reputation but our first sighting revealed huge expanses of algae littered with piles of rubbish. Not the picturesque vision we expected at all. But crossing the Bolivian border and riding to Copacabana (Barry Manilow has never sounded better) the scenery around the Lake was utterly breathtaking. It’s hard to believe it’s the same lake. Bolivia definitely got the best deal there. Rolling mountains with towns tucked into the valleys dotted around the winding roads. We were fortunate to get an incredible day of sunshine and the blue of the lake was stunning.

Titicaca - the Bolivian side

Titicaca – the Bolivian side

For my sisters Megs & Kyles

For my sisters Megs & Kyles – music and passion, always in fashion.

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It’s been a very emotional time and I still cannot believe we have made it to Bolivia. This time last year we were in Mexico; country #3. And now we have cycled into country #15. There have absolutely been times when I didn’t think we’d make it. Well, when I didn’t think that I would make it. And when I was pretty certain that Falkor wouldn’t make it. Let’s face it, we all had those thoughts.

Lady with lambs

But with our newly installed SRAM mechanical brakes, we are feeling a stopping power like never before. To be able to rely on our brakes again is such a wonderful sensation. I believe it is called relief. And oh what a feeling! It’s like riding a different bike now that we have resolved that wee problem! As for the rear wheel? History tells us it is better not to mention such things at this point and so we continue to ride with all fingers crossed on that one.

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And so here we are. Riding around the Bolivian side of Titicaca with me all sniffing and choked up. We have made it so far and already, we are so close to the end of this journey. I can’t help but feeling proud of us. Ever since I was a little girl I have often viewed my life in a weird 3rd perspective way, as if I am watching a movie about someone else. And this journey has been so wild that it has enhanced that feeling infinitely. How could it possibly be lil ole me having made it this far? Someone without much physical coordination, no fitness and a tone of fears. It just blows my mind to acknowledge we really have made it this far. It’s gonna be pretty strange when we arrive back in Oz. How will our minds adjust?

Bolivia! Country #15!

Bolivia! Country #15!

Since arriving in Cusco we have been riding what is called the ‘Alta Plano’, which pretty much means the ‘high flat plains’ around 3,800m above sea level. It’s awesome cos we are more or less riding along the top of the Andes and have been able to ride some big days again, making 80-90km before 2pm. It’s a crazy contrast from only riding 30-40km in a day over 8 hours of climbing.

Lake Titicaca Bolivia with snowy peaks in the background.

Lake Titicaca Bolivia with snowy peaks in the background.

Zooming across the Alta Plano

Zooming across the Alta Plano, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t anything higher than you. There is always a higher mountain!

Brendon tells me that the hardest climbs are now behind us. I am reluctant to subscribe completely to this belief as it sounds just too good to be true. Sure there are a few more climbs to come, but apparently nothing like what we have just ridden. Do you believe it? Being constantly on this Alta Plano is a weird feeling. You don’t feel as though you are at altitude until you race up a flight of stairs and find yourself breathless after only 10 steps. The UV rays are really strong and within minutes your neck is stinging and sunburned. I am constantly with my Carmex at the ready and the altitude is really harsh on your skin. We are turning into leathery cycling creatures.

Bremma Titicaca

We reckon we will spend 12 days riding across Bolivia to the border of Argentina, and with this tricky cold wet weather, we are expecting some solid riding and to blast straight through. One of our original goals was to ride across the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flats, but the heavy rain will have flood the normally flat and dry salt desert. So sadly, we have had to put that riding mission on the back burner for another journey, and as we get closer, we will investigate a tour out there in a 4×4.

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So currently? We are in the infamous Casa De Ciclista in La Paz Bolivia. We are spending 3 days off the bike here, relaxing with the Brits – Claire & Adam – and Aussie cycling duo Ben & Tina (who we first met in Nicaragua back in April, then Panama & have since chased rumours of their whereabouts throughout Peru). Having all spent Christmas together in Cusco, its very cool hanging out together again, this time in Bolivia. Again, with the eating and drinking. And as Ben & Tina finish their cycle journey here, we even have an excuse for it all!

This could be the last blog for a while as we have been told the internet in Boliva is worse than in Peru. So stay tuned folks, by the time we write the next blog, we will have ridden our 19,000th km and could be in Argentina!

Have you seen this crazy awesomeness!

WBR Jan 6

Thanks to you all for your fantastic involvement, TotallyTandem was recognized in December as one of the top fundraisers for World Bicycle Relief. We are so humbled by all of your generosity and are stunned by what we have been able to achieve with your support. Working to achieve this fundraising goal has really shown us that limits really are all just self imposed boundaries and that by working together, anything really is possible.

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Check out some more of our pics from the road;

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With Nico of the Bomberos in Ayaviri.

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Our digs for the night

Sleeping on gurneys in a 1973 ambulance. It was cozy and dry...much more so than our soggy tent!

Sleeping on gurneys in a 1973 ambulance. It was cozy and dry…much more so than our soggy tent!

Nativity scenes are hugely popular in Latin America - they are truly everywhere! This one at the Bomberos was the most intense crazy scene we have yet witnessed. With flashing lights and competing tunes squeaking through the night, this scene feature baby JC in a bombers hat and jackets, surrounded by oversized parrots, African animals and a series of accidents requiring help from the Bomberos

Nativity scenes are hugely popular in Latin America – they are very detailed and absolutely  everywhere! This one at the Bomberos was the most intense crazy scene we have yet witnessed. With flashing lights and competing tunes squeaking through the night, this scene featured baby JC in a Bomberos hat and jacket, surrounded by oversized parrots, African animals and a series of accidents requiring help from the Bomberos.

Cheezy grins while smashing some big days again

Cheezy grins while smashing some big days again. Oh yeah, watch those kms clock up.

We roll through small towns and stumble across some pretty lively festivals

We roll through small towns and stumble across some pretty lively festivals

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Yup, looks like its gonna rain

Yup, looks like its gonna rain

This lady called out to us to stop and try some fresh milk

This lady called out to us to stop and try some fresh milk

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It just makes us cry to find gorgeous places with such huge piles of rubbish

It just makes us cry to find gorgeous places with such huge piles of rubbish. And it’s nearly always tonnes of plastic. Too much plastic in the world! Do your bit to avoid all of it.

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“No produzcas mucha basura. Reduce reutiliza y recicla”

Camping with the police in Manganani. A sweet undercover spot.

Camping with the police in Manganani. A sweet undercover spot and even a hot shower!

Falkor got a sweet police guard over night surrounded by the coppas bikes

Falkor got a sweet police guard over night surrounded by the coppas bikes

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Camping behind this old house offered some shelter front he wind overnight but nothing could save us from the torrential rain and freezing cold. Look at all the snow on those peaks that fell overnight!

Camping behind this old house offered some shelter from the wind overnight but nothing could save us from the torrential rain and freezing cold. Look at all the snow on those peaks that fell overnight! Brrrr!

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High-five on the go. The last of our high pass climbs tip Argentina.

We did not expect to see a market at this high pass

We did not expect to see a market at this high pass

We did not expect to see a market at this high pass

We did not expect to see a market at this high pass

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cold cold cold

Bremma roadside after Cusco

Controversial ice cream names....

Controversial ice cream packets…

Oooh! Now that is quite the tack to find in your tyre!

Oooh! Now that is quite the tack to find in your tyre!

Our host in Juliaca - Geovanni! Most excellent to meet you amigo!

Our host in Juliaca – Geovanni! Most excellent to meet you amigo!

View of Lake Titicaca from our hostel in Juli

View of Lake Titicaca from our hostel in Juli

Bremma Tounges

While smashing 80km on the Alta Plano can be done before lunch time, its is still bloody tiring!

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Saying goodbye to Peru and crossing the border into Bolivia

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The town of Puno

The town of Puno

Lake Titicaca at Copacabana

Lake Titicaca at Copacabana, Falkor flying the Bolivian flag.

On the ferry crossing Titicaca in Bolivia

On the ferry crossing Titicaca in Bolivia

Well done! You made it all the way to the bottom! You rock!

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