If you’re considering an Adventure Motorcycling tour and wondering about the best place to go, let us tell you why we love riding in Bolivia.
Bolivia is landlocked between Peru, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Argentina and while this may make things difficult for the Bolivian navy, who are now stranded at one end of beautiful Lake Titicaca, it means that it’s a great place to explore as part of any visit to South America and is especially treasured by those that ride through there during one of our Adventure Motorcycle Tours.
(Enjoy the amazing video at the bottom of this post about Bolivia)
Culturally Bolivia is one of the most fascinating places that we travel through with its ancient Aymara history pre-dating that of their neighbours and many of the words and place names in neighbouring Peru being of Aymara origin. The Incan leader Huayna Capac and his people conquered the Aymara people of the Bolivian Altiplano sometime in the late 1400s or early 1500s and many aspects of the Aymara culture was then integrated into Incan culture.
One of the most striking thing that visitors note about Bolivia is the traditional dress but not as many realize that this is something that is a more modern feature of Bolivian life. The pleated skirts called a pollera that the Altiplano women are often seen wearing was a Spanish peasant skirt introduced by the Spanish and the wearing of this was enforced for indigenous women. The bowler hat that looks far too small and is perched upon the head of the women at a jaunty angle was introduced around the 1920s.
The culture is rich and fascinating though and places like La Paz, Potosi and Cochabamba are alive with colour, sounds and the aromas of Andean Cuisine, which is a reflection of the lands that surround them. The people are very friendly and curious about other cultures. On a bus journey back in 2005 Shaun from Compass Expeditions was asked “Who is looking after your animals while you are travelling here?”
Houses throughout the Andes are traditionally built of adobe mud blocks incorporating some straw and stones to bind the blocks together. Wooden beams are used as load bearing members but often a satellite dish can be seen attached to the house as a hint that inside things are changing to a more modern outlook.
Bolivia’s landscape itself offers so much to the visitor and particularly for those taking part in motorcycle tours. Most of the land is accessible as there is very little in the way of fencing and animals are often kept within an area of common land by shepherding or by having feet or horns attached to a simple stake rammed into the ground. This maintains not just traditional way of agricultural life but also provides an uninterrupted view of the land from the edge of the road to the high Andean peaks that surround the high Altiplano plateau.
The highlights for us are many and the one that is probably most impressive is the stunning Uyuni Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni), which are the world’s largest at just over 10,000 square kilometres and contains most of the world’s lithium reserves. Aside from the technical aspects of the lake’s formation is the incredible vista that is laid out before you when you reach the edge of this huge area of flat, white crystals, which reflect the sun’s rays and see the small islands dotted in the midst of the shimmering haze.
During the wet season a thin layer of water settles on top of the crystals causing the salt pan to become the world’s largest mirror surface and when this combines with the reflection of the sky above it has to be one of nature’s greatest gifts. There are flocks of Flamingoes and stands of cactus as well as beautiful rock features that truly leave a lasting impression.
Many of our Compass Expeditions Adventure Motorcycling Tours pass through here on their way either to or from the Atacama Desert including the Atacama to Machu Picchu tour, the South America Coast to Coast Tour, Los Andes, Atlantic to Altiplano, and the Agua y Salares Motorcycle Tour. The riding over the top of the Andes and through Ollague has been often described by past clients as “the best and most scenic days of motorcycling they have ever experienced” and we agree with them. The paved road gives way to hard packed dirt surfaces with some potholes, occasional patches of mud, a few ruts and the odd patch of sand but it is a ride that is not an issue for those with at least some minor experience riding on dirt surfaces. The support vehicle is there to assist and the ride leader can give advice if required. Our Motorcycle Adventures normally don’t ride into the biggest cities where the roads tend to be busy and more dangerous as we have parking areas on the outskirts of the cities. Instead we go into the heart of the cities by private transport so that you can just enjoy riding through the much quieter roads that make up the remainder of the country. Its common to see a few buses and taxis on the roads away from the hubs and dogs sleeping on the road is something you quickly become accustomed to but what this means is that you often have the road to yourself and the freedom to ride without concerns.
The most impressive part of the journey though is the incredible scenery. Remote, dramatic, with muted colours and the sense that you are witnessing some of the most beautiful views this small planet of ours is able to offer.
If you’ve always thought about the idea of Adventure Motorcycling or would like to experience what a truly incredible motorcycle tour then the trips listed above are ones that will form some truly remarkable memories of your time in South America. Bolivia is one of the most impressive places we know on earth for adventure motorcycle touring and we’d love you to experience why riding in Bolivia is just about the best thing you can do on two wheels.
For a taster of what makes Bolivia incredible check out the video below from the Bolivian Tourism people at Bolivia Te Espera and see why its people and landscape affects all who witness it.