Luís Simões, travel sketcher around the world
La Paz to Sajama
The third chapter in this country is from La Paz, we cycling to Sajama, Bolivia. Since we stopped for a month, the barren roads was not easy to ride. The road from Challa to Tomarapi was thick loose sandy. With the combination of strong head wind, we had to push our bicycles at times.
Finally, after a month we wait for the replacement of our GPS, we are ready to leave La Paz and to to Sajama, Bolivia.
During this waiting time, we spent it by traveled the eastern part of Bolivia by public transportation. Obviously, after a month we had a place that we could call home, yet, we had to (again) get out of our comfort zone wasn’t painless. But, you know, traveling by bicycle is how we choose and our body rested more than enough. Now, we are ready to roll back to the road!
Where is Sajama?
The mountain is located in the Oruro Department, Sajama Canton. It is situated in Sajama National Park and is a composite volcano consisting of a stratovolcano on top of several lava domes. It’s around 250 kilometers from La Paz and 18 kilometres from the border with Chile. The peak is at 6,542 m of altitude and is always covered with snow.
From La Paz, we cycling to Sajama, Bolivia. It took us a week to reach Sajama town with a day off in a cute-deserty-hotel in Tomarapi. Instead of pedaling through the main road, we pedaled our bicycles through rural areas. We cycled to La Paz from Tilali through the main road, and it was dull. We crave more adrenaline, nature, and the authenticity.
Leaving La Paz
As you may know, the best way to leaving La Paz is by cable car. It was only 4 km away from the nearest cable car station from where we stayed. It’s safer and quicker to reach El Alto. On top of that, it has an incredible view of this hectic administrative capital of Bolivia. I couldn’t find any better reason to say it.
From El Alto, slowly, we pedaled our bicycles toward Comanche through Viacha. It was all paved for the first 30 km. But once we left Viacha, the road became less traffic as it turns into an unpaved road. We continued our journey for 20 km more until the junction to Coro-Coro. We set our tent next to a river and hide from the road behind a rising ground.
On the next day, our journey – cycling to Sajama, Bolivia – continues. From this point until Santiago de Callapa, we rode our bicycles through barren road. It was hard to pedal our bicycles on this sandy trail. Until we understand that we have to reduce our tires-pressure to control it better.
We passed a small park called Flavio Machiado Viscarra. It has a small mountain where Puya raimondii plant grows. It is also known as the queen of the Andes.
We also passed a deserty little village called Cachingora. Luís eyes captivated by an abandoned church in the main plaza which looks rusty yet contrasts with the pink building next to it. He made a sketch video of it in here.
What is more interesting in this route was, we started to able to see the Sajama volcano. It is standing proud in the hazy sky. It seems like he doesn’t want us to lose track. As long as we are pedaling toward this mighty mountain, we are in the right direction.
While in Coro-Coro we stayed with the priest, in Santiago de Callapa we stayed with a local lady wearing a thick-layered-skirt. She offered us her warm kitchen with a condition – buy some of her homemade bread – what could be worse than this deal?
Sajama National Park
From Callapa, our next stop was Curahuara. It’s a village located on a junction Patacamaya-Oruro-Sajama. Since the road was all tarred, we arrived quite early. So, we decided to continue to ride until Challa, just before a short cut to the Sajama National Park. We found an abandoned house and camped in their garage. In front of the house, we had a beautiful sunset with Sajama Volcano in it.
The next morning, after Luís did a sketch, we continue cycling to Sajama, Bolivia. The path turns into a sandy road again. But this time, we knew the trick – low-pressure tire.
The distance from where we stayed in Challa until Tomarapi is not far. Only 28 km. However, we got another challenge on that day – a strong head-wind. If our pace is 8 km/hour on the sandy trail, a strong breeze added, and our speed became 4 km/hour. We pushed and stopped a lot. At some point, all of these made us tiring, that we decided to stop and rest for a while. Luís made another sketch of Sajama Mountain while resting.
Our destination for that day was Tomarapi. It is a tiny hamlet that has a cute-hotel that occupied half of the village. We tried our best to bargain to stay there for two days (yes, we got a very good deal). And here, we received the best hospitality service in Bolivia.
Since we didn’t have many things to do on our rest day, Luís made a sketch video in this area, and I help him. You can see it here.
Cycling to Sajama
Our journey pedaling the barren road in Sajama National Park continues. And this last day of this route, our aim is cycling to Sajama village.
The distance from Tomarapi and Sajama town is not far – only 18 km. And the first 4 km was the hardest in this section. We had to climb 200 in sandy trail to reach 4500 m altitude before slowly rolling down to Sajama.
Not too far from Tomarapi, about 6 km, we stopped in Laguna Huaynacota. This lagoon is known for bird watching. We saw a lot of flamingoes – 3 types of flamingoes at least. With Pomerape and Parinacota volcanoes bordering Bolivia – Chile, this laguna looks magnificent!
After we had an early lunch with the amazing view of Laguna Huaynacota, we proceed on our adventure. Around 5 km before Sajama village, a local lady shout at us. She was approaching us with a big grin on her face. She told us that there is natural spring water around here. When we ask where is the pool, she pointed to a hill that is far from where we are.
There are things to consider at that time: first, we didn’t have much cash left. Oh yes, the natural spring water is not for free. As much as we could imagine how good it will be to soak our bodies inside the warm pool, we have to be wise with cash. Second and the last, we can not trust anybody and leave our loaded babies, out of sight from us.
So, we left and resumed rolling down to our destination for that day which is the last point in this route – cycling to Sajama, Bolivia – with a golden sunset reflecting on the peak of Sajama mountain.
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- Fabulous landscape along Sajama volcano
- Wild life: Llamas and flamingoes
- Laguna Huaynacota: 6 km away from Tomarapi towards Sajama village
- Natural spring water: 5 km away before Sajama vilage from Tomarapi
- There is fee entrance to Sajama National Park that we never pay
- The local people in this region do not like camera, wether you point at them or not. They just do not like it.
- There is no big town in this route. Be wise with your cash.
- Due to the harsh climate, it’s important to take clothes you can layer, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen and chap-stick
- Wild camp was pretty easy but leave no trace!
- We stayed with priest in Coro-Coro
- We stayed with a local in Santiago de Callapa
- In Tomarapi and Sajama, we stayed in hotel – with long bargain before we check-in.
- Viancha was the last place we bought our dinner food for the next days.
- Tomarapi hotel provide food base on the package you bought.
- In Sajama there were some restaurants and little shops to restock food.
- We refill the water from the tap and sterilised them.
Since we stopped for a month, the barren roads was not easy to ride. The road from Challa to Tomarapi was thick loose sandy. With the combination of strong head wind, we had to push our bicycles at times.
Download the files and add them to your mobile application:
Day 1 – La Paz – Camp near Comache
Day 2 – Camp near Comache – Coro Coro
Day 3 – Coro – Santiago de Callapa
Day 4 – Santiago de Callapa – Cruce Curahuara de Carangas
Day 5 – Cruce Curahuara de Carangas – Camp near Challa
Day 6 – Camp near Challa – Tomarapi
Day 7 – Tomarapi – Sajama
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