Days 1 and 2
Date of travel - October 2 through October 17.
As an early 60th birthday present, I gave myself a present - 2 weeks off road motorcycling in Bolivia. Maybe I should say my
wife gave me an early birthday present because she let me go!! Being lazy and not really knowing how to plan it myself, I
instead signed up with Bolivian Motorcycle Adventures for the Highland I tour. (http://www.boliviamotorcycleadventures.com/index.htm
I flew from San Francisco to Dallas then on to Miami and finally to Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
I arrived in Santa Cruz at about 8am nearly 21 hours after leaving home. I was met at the airport and was driven by van to
the town of Samaipata about a 3 hour drive where to tour would begin. I was the only person to have signed up for the tour,
so it was me, the guide (Maarten) and the guides assistant (Irwin).
When I arrived in Santa Cruz it was raining. I was met at the airport and it was off to Samaipata. To be honest, I was glad to
have been picked up and driven to Samaipata for the start of the tour. Riding a motorcycle on the wet roads and in congested
traffic in Santa Cruz would not have been a good way to start my adventure. The don't seem to be too many rules of the road in
Bolivia, stopping at red lights seemed to be optional and Bolivian drivers were very aggressive.
Traffic in Santa Cruz - this is suppose to be a 2 lane road, but no one cares if there are lines on the road specifying lanes.
Once out of Santa Cruz, the rain stopped and the traffic disappeared. We also left the flat, low lands of Santa Cruz and started
to go up into the mountains.
The road from Santa Cruz to Samaipata
In Samaipata, I met my guide and checked into my hotel.
After breakfast, I was met by Maarten (my guide) and we went to get the motorcycles. I was given a yellow Suzuki DR650. The first day was just going to be a couple of short rides so I could get to know the bike and to learn some of the local rules of the road - the rules were don't crash, don't get hit bay another vehicle, and don't run into anybody or anything!
In the morning, we headed off for El Fuerte de Samaipata (The fort of samaipata), maybe 8 miles from the hotel. Maarten gave me an excellent description of the history of El Fuerte de Samaipata as we walked around the area.
The road to El Fuerte de Samaipata with Samaipata in the far distance.
The ruins at El Fuerte de Samaipata (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Fuerte_de_Samaipata
After lunch we took another short ride to visit the local wild animal park. It was populated with monkeys, parrots, turtles,
and some of the local fauna. Many of the monkeys are roaming loose in the park and they will climb up on you. I had the
misfortune of having an overly excited monkey climb on my shoulder. He first tried to remove my hat, then my glasses and when I
reached up to try and keep him from removing my glasses, the monkey bent over and lightly scratched me on the nose. It was only a
small scratch but it did draw blood and I had to be taken inside the office to have some antibiotic put on my nose! I also did
a thorough cleaning of the wound when I got back to the hotel.
A monkey at the animal park not the one that scratched me.
El Ruta del Che.
Today we start our first real day of motorcycling. We will be riding from Samaipata to La Higuera where Ernesto Che Guevara
was killed. along the way, we will also visit the Che Guevara museum in Vallegrande.
The road from Samaipata to Villegrande was paved and an easy ride. While riding to Villegrande, the right mirror on my bike
decided to just fall off for no apparent reason. As I was riding on smooth paved road the mirror just fell off and hit my right
arm and bounced into my lap! I was able to catch it between my leg on the saddle of the bike. I pulled over to show Maarten
the mirror. We were able to buy a replacement mirror in Villegrande.
The road to Viillegrande
Inside the Che Guevara Museum, Villegrande
Che was actually captured alive but the generals in charge of Bolivia at the time, ordered Che's execution.
Getting gas near Villegrande
Leaving Villegrande, the road turned to dirt. The road was maintained, but potholes were just filled with large stones and being the end of the dry season, the road was very dusty. Before this trip, my only real off road riding was when I was in high school about 40 years ago. Luckily for me, my off road skills came back quickly and I did not have any real problems while riding.
The road to La Higuera - the site of Che's death.
Shortly after we left Villegrande, Maarten started having problems with his Honda xr650. He was having problems with the engine missing and low power. Possibly due to dirt in the jets. He made a management decision and decided to go back to Samaipata and get a different motorcycle. Maarten told me to go an ahead the La Higuera and he'd catch up later. So I rode on alone for about 2 hours until I got to the hotel. Maarten showed up about 8pm on blue Suzuki DR650.
Self Portrait on the way to La Higuera
The hotel in La Higuera was quite rustic and did not even have electricity. The hotel was the former telegraph office where Che tried to remain in contact with the rest of the world. Since there was not electricity in the rooms, lighting at night was by candles. Dinner was at a local restaurant where the hosts (owners) were busy chewing on coca leaves and lightly tasting a white powder (cocaine?) while I enjoyed my dinner. There was a single bathroom for the 5-6 room hotel which did have a propane heated shower - so a hot shower was nice after a long dirty day in the saddle.
Statue of Che at the site of his death (execution) I was told that Che did not get much support from the local population for a revolution in Bolivia. The Bolivian Communist party was also not a strong supported of Che.
To be continued