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Old 05-29-2011, 11:50 AM   #1
Llamaha OP
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Northern Bolivia and our Off-Road Amazon Adventure!


Hello ADVriders, I'm Adam / SaJourneyman, here to share my latest ride report with you all.

Introduction
As a resident of Bolivia and a keen off-road motorcyclist, something which I had been planning to do for a long time was ride through the Bolivian Amazon up to the Brazilian border, however I didn't wish to do this alone. Thankfully my friend Andy informed me that he was returning from Brazil and that he would like to do this together. Now, having returned to my casa I would like to share the story and photos with other fellow ADVers!

To begin with, here is a lazily mapped out route of which we took:


We were traveling light, so my gear consisted of Andy Strapz Panniers and a Givi top bag. I also carry a Canon EOS 1000D (Rebel XS) and have Acerbis riding gear. If it's hot I'll be wearing my Troy Lee designs jersey and when off-road I discreetly wear Thor body armour + Thor kneepads.

First days
Full of joy and with only short notice provided to my girlfriend, I packed my gear onto my mighty DR200SE and rode to Santa Cruz de La Sierra to meet Andy. My departure took place early on a Sunday morning as the most direct route there has much construction, Bolivia is very mountainous so this construction prevents you from passing until at least 5pm, unless you make it through at lunchtime which was not possible from my starting location however on Sundays they don't work, hence my decision to leave then. In any case, I rode a long 10-hour day, directly to the small hippy-like town of Samaipata and inebriated myself with some locals whom I met upon discovering that the following day was Labor day. After recovery I made way to Santa Cruz and waited for Andy to arrive.


Tania and Kira both looked rather concerned about this trip - not happy at all! Perhaps it was the short notice...


Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a crazy place but an awesome night life

Once Andy arrived we caught up and swapped stories about our various other adventures over a few (hundred) drinks throughout the weekend and then hit the road towards Trinidad.

We were still very hungover upon leaving and after just 150kms we chose to sleep in the small town of San Ramon. After unloading our stuff we went to look for somewhere to eat. As we walked up the hill we saw much commotion happening in the front yard of someones house so we decided to investigate. Much to our surprise, the locals were preparing for a good ol' fashioned Cock Fight. Although a very barbaric thing to watch, we were quite curious and gambled 20 bolivianos each (about $3), only to hand it over after our prized rooster lost both of it's eyes due to the metal spike attached to the opposing roosters leg.


The ol' fashioned cock fight, a rather unpleasant thing to watch actually


There's no holding back here, they really despise each other

In the morning we woke up fresh and hit the road towards Trinidad, one of the few asphalt roads we rode for the entirety of the trip.


Taking a break on the road to Trinidad. Andy rides an Honda NX400 Falcon, basically it's an XR400 remodeled by the Brazilians for the South American market.
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Old 05-29-2011, 12:05 PM   #2
jbcaddy
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muito bom! I will be reading about your ride. Jan
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Old 05-29-2011, 01:24 PM   #3
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muito bom! I will be reading about your ride. Jan
Thanks Jan!
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Old 05-29-2011, 01:58 PM   #4
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Entering the Amazon

Upon arrival to Trinidad I noticed my bike was making a strange noise and with a little investigation I discover one of the nasty Bolivian potholes I had hit on the way had destroyed my rear wheel. Surprisingly it didn't puncture and my spokes were okay so I purchased a new rim and had it respoked within an hour! Trinidad is a city where everyone rides motorcycles and scooters so thankfully resources were plenty. In the end the new rim cost a mere 120 Bolivianos, which is about $17 USD, plus about $10 for labour. No complaints there!


The Bolivian pothole is not to be understimated


This backyard wheel shop had my wheel respoked within the hour

Trinidad was quite a horrible place, very hot and humid with little to see therefore we were eager to hit the road. Departing at lunchtime we rode North about fifty kilometres or so. Along the way we stopped to ask for some directions at a tienda (a corner store) at which point we were overtaken by a large truck. Ten kilometres later, the truck had just beaten us to a river crossing. Unfortunately, a bad entry onto the pontoon boat by the truck delayed us until late afternoon. With another one hundred kilometres of dirt roads ahead of us we chose to return to the previous town 'San Pedro Nuevo' and spend the evening there. It was here when we realised that our pool, aircon and cable TV equipped hotels were now long behind us as we found ourselves showering with a bucket of water and a coconut shell, eating with the local villagers and being kept awake by farm animals and mosquitoes throughout the night.


Local workers looking for a solution to unboard the large truck from their pontoon. Note that they move the pontoon by pulling on the rope!


Our luxurious accommodation


The family we stayed with were very active in the morning, perhaps it's due to the extreme afternoon heat?


The next morning we were able to cross without any issues. Apparently they had been working all night!

As we rode on we saw much wildlife, including a young anaconda crossing the road. It feels very good to see this stuff by your own means, without having to pay for a tour where you are probably packed onto a bus like sardines and forced to listen to a whole lot of stuff you don't really care about.


We met with this young anaconda crossing the road


Everything going to plan so far!

So far the trip was going very well although both of us were slightly concerned about what lay ahead, as our map listed the only connecting road as 'passable in dry conditions'. We had undertaken this trip right at the end of the wet season which is not yet the perfect time to be taking motorcycles into the area....


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Old 05-29-2011, 02:37 PM   #5
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Who's your Trinidady ? Truly inspiring report. Keep it up
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Old 05-29-2011, 04:16 PM   #6
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Cool, I'll be making my way to Santa Cruz and Sucre in the near future and looking for routes.

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Old 05-30-2011, 08:50 AM   #7
Llamaha OP
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Who's your Trinidady ? Truly inspiring report. Keep it up
Cheers Sherpa!

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Cool, I'll be making my way to Santa Cruz and Sucre in the near future and looking for routes.

If you're nearby let me know and I'll share with you what I know
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Old 05-30-2011, 09:35 AM   #8
Llamaha OP
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Puerto Siles

We arrived in the small town of Puerto Siles hoping to continue along a road through the amazon, to the eastern part of the Beni state, however much to our dismay all roads in the area remained washed out from the wet season.


More pontoons and boats were required to reach Puerto Siles as at this time of the year all of the roads were washed out


Entering Puerto Siles

Fortunately, as the Spanish name states, Puerto Siles is a port, a small river port that rests on the very large 'Rio Mamoré'. We immediately began making inquiries about boats, only to be told by the commander of the naval base that we should take a swim in the river to clean up and speak to him about it later. Hot, sweaty and dirty, we took his advice


Rio Mamoré is full of alligators and piranhas however the locals had assured us we could safely swim here


Andy was a little braver than I was


Sun sets over Rio Mamoré

Another problem we discovered shortly thereafter was that there was no accommodation in Puerto Siles. This had us rather worried as for this trip all of our camping gear was left behind. Thankfully we met Damien and after a little bartering, he agreed to let us stay at his house for 50 Bolivianos each, about $8. His house was interesting to say the least, he had certainly accumulated a lot of stuff over the years.


Our new acquaintance, Damien


Damien's kitchen


His living room


This was my bed, usually that of his daughter who was visiting her grandma at the time.

Damion was a keen hunter and had his rifle hanging on the wall. At one point he sent us off on a mission to buy him some bullets when we told him we were heading to San Joaquin for supplies. He would hunt at night time and the last time we saw him we shared our goodbyes and then he rode off into the darkness on his bicycle with the rifle slung over his shoulder. To this day I can't decide whether it was either a very funny or a very sad moment.

Next to the port was the naval base run by Commandante Sanchez, a real asshole. Not only did he lie to us causing us to miss the first boat and wait 2 more days, he forced us to pay a bribe of $10 each for a silly paper which he had just invented the need for, unfortunately we couldn't argue as he wouldn't let us board the boat without it. His final act of treachery was to ask for a sip of my rum and coke on the Friday evening when we departed, only to walk off when I wasn't watching and never return with it.


Naval base run by Commandante Sanchez


Resident of the armada

We would relax during the day, either resting in our hammocks or swimming in the river. At night we would go to bed very early to escape the millions of mosquitoes. Repellent has little to no effect and they can even get you through your clothes.


Passing time during the day


The locals got to know us quite well


The wet season finished not long ago and much of Puerto Siles remained flooded.


A pink dolphin waving to us

Like the problem with accommodation, there were no restaurants either. Therefore in order to feed ourselves we would visit an indigenous family whom lived up the river and they would prepare our food. Much to our surprise, they even served us some Piranhas from the river!




Pork and Piranha for lunch


They had a very neat home-made wood-fired oven

After three days doing nothing around Puerto Siles, a boat finally came

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Old 05-30-2011, 09:52 AM   #9
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Excellent! Thanks for posting this RR. I have very fond memories of Sta. Cruz from many years ago. I'd love to return to see how the place has changed. When I was there, you had a strong sense that you were in the "wild west." I also recall a whole lot of stunningly beautiful women, which was a shocker given Sta. Cruz' remote location.
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Old 05-31-2011, 11:53 AM   #10
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Old 05-31-2011, 06:36 PM   #11
Llamaha OP
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Excellent! Thanks for posting this RR. I have very fond memories of Sta. Cruz from many years ago. I'd love to return to see how the place has changed. When I was there, you had a strong sense that you were in the "wild west." I also recall a whole lot of stunningly beautiful women, which was a shocker given Sta. Cruz' remote location.
Not worries, there'll be more coming tomorrow! Also Santa Cruz is still full of beautiful women, should you ever go back
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Old 06-02-2011, 08:40 AM   #12
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Rio Mamoré and Guayaramerín

The cargo boat came and much to our dismay they said they weren't taking passengers... shock horror ! we almost died upon hearing this news! Then having seen the look on our faces they felt obliged to inform us that there was one more boat just 1 1/2 hours behind them and we might be able to hitch a ride with that one. Sure enough, one and a half hours and half a bottle of whiskey later we were aboard the boat and chugging North up the Rio Mamoré.

The boat was interesting, similar to a house boat yet with several pontoons attached to it. Their load consisted of 7000 (yep, seven thousand) bottles of beer! It was also full of passengers - children, families, men going upstream to work, sleeping wherever they could find space. We made many friends aboard, including one guy who would come to our quarters so he could smoke marijuana. Our quarters were designated to us by the crew who were kind enough to give us all of the space up the front, where we had placed our hammocks to prepare for two days of tranquility.


Our bikes were cozying up to each other


Accommodation wasn't a priority and people were sleeping wherever they could find space


The almighty engine, I saw them pour 40 litres of oil into this at one point!


The boat was called 'Las Carzas'


Saturday morning, sleeping off my hangover.


Sunrise over Rio Mamoré


Although a relaxing venture, after two days on-board we were eager to dock so we could shower and eat a good meal at a restaurant - something we hadn't done for almost a week!

The boat docked early morning in the city of Guayaramerín, located on the border with Brazil. Guayaramerín is a prosperous place, with many cheap products at lower prices to attract Brazilians from across the border.


Welcome to Guayaramerín


The city was basically one big market with duty-free goods attracting the Brazilians from across the border. They also had a plentiful supply of food.


Makes me wish I could cook...


Not sure how to caption this one


Andy had to have his fork seals replaced, they were leaking oil all over him

Having caught up on all that needed to be done in the busy city of Guayaramerín we were then ready to hit the road once again. We decided to make way towards a small town of 'Cachuela Esperanza' which had been recommended to us by our weed-smoking friend on the boat.

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Old 06-02-2011, 08:59 AM   #13
Dan Diego
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Very nice ride report. Haven't been back to that area for some time, but I see it hasn't changed much. Ah, Cochabamba, how I miss you.

Drinking the local chicha?

Keep the photos and commentary coming!
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Old 06-02-2011, 05:51 PM   #14
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Very nice ride report. Haven't been back to that area for some time, but I see it hasn't changed much. Ah, Cochabamba, how I miss you.

Drinking the local chicha?

Keep the photos and commentary coming!
Andy likes Chicha although personally I'm not much of a fan and also I've heard several disturbing stories about the production of it....
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Old 06-02-2011, 10:51 PM   #15
Osadabwa
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Vaya con Dios

Great place, Bolivia. I'm curious to see the bit from Rurrenabaque to La Paz... took that road on a bus ten years ago and it has haunted me ever since... Would love to return on 2 wheels. Ride on!
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