Into the Chaco

May 4th, 2010

Oofa. I wake up and I am a wreck.

The only satisfaction I have is that there’s a car in front of the hotel entrance–I ask them if it’s a guest and they say yes, and they go and wake Mr. Noisy at 6:30 AM. He comes down shirtless, which I easily could have gone the rest of my life without witnessing, and moves the car. I fire up the bike in the lobby (I’m feeling wicked) and Oh yeah, I bump into all the furniture on my way out, too.

Putting on wet gear to ride in the rain. My Daytona boot were great when I bought them in 2006, but now they have decided to not be waterproof any more, despite the Gore-Tex lining. It’s a drag to put on cold/wet boots. But I solve the problem by putting my my cold/wet socks first so the cold/wet boots are less noticeable 🙂

Dirt roads in the rain = slow going.

OK, now I am feeling REALLY sorry for myself. Rick and I talked about riding the Che trail together, but Rick had problems with his chain and needed to make a bee line to Lima…too bad, I could have been (not) enjoying this days ride with him.

Bad piggy! (Doesn’t seem like the stick thing worked on this one, either!)

Ah, blessed pavement. Normally I don’t mind dirt roads, but two days of dirt roads in the rain have me wanting to kiss the pavement. Too bad I cannot find the border crossing I am looking for. Next up: Paraguay.

Lunch. Note the pile of french fries to make it look like I got more chicken! (I’m so hungry I order a second piece of chicken, sans fries, and they serve me a drumstick. Same price, too!


(Little do I know at the time this will be my last meal for two whole days!)

OK, where IS that border? I backtrack a bit, consult the map 452 times, ask a few locals, and never seem to find the northernmost border crossing. Oh well, I head to the one everyone points me to.

I’m told this is the way…I only have 60 miles of dirt to the border…then another 60 miles of dirt to the next pavement

Oofa. Not good. I haven’t seen a car in hours. Guess this ones on me.

I get the bike upright again, but it’s not easy with the still-hurt hand. Yeah, can ride without every vibration of the road coming up and sending electrical shocks through my hand, but sheesh, gripping and heaving a bike upright and my hand is DONE.

Well, jeez. this is MUCH slower than I had counted on.
But I’m a gnarly adventuress, right?

If I can just get to the border, I’ll find a nice place to stay, eat a good meal, and sleep the sleep of the dead…

These little green birds (I think they are Quaker parakeets) make these nests e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Noisy critters! I’m entering the Chaco region.

Alrighty then.
Some SERIOUS Bolivian military folks ask me every question under thee sun, and try to intimidate me. They take me inside, and another officer logs all my paperwork, while Mr. Intimidating proceeds to try and try on all my gear, and asks me how much everything costs. I wince when he tries on the helmet, and rejoice when he realizes it’s an EXTRA SMALL and it doesn’t go on. Yick! I don’t want someone else’s head in my helmet!

These guys don’t really get to me–I’ve been through this drill so many times, with so many NICE policemen…I know my papers are in order, so I revert to my too-chatty-American-butchering-the-Spanish-language persona, and eventually they lighten up. Back outside at the bike we chat about my trip, I try to take pics with them and they get all serious again, OK, so I ride off to the migration office. The police have informed me that there’s no place to stay there, and frankly I really want to leave them behind anyway. Here’s the only picture they let me take.

Nope, says immigration, but NOT! The drunks at the bar next door tell me it’s down the road a bit but invite me for a drink. No thanks. I ride off.

Ah. THIS is immigration. And NOPE, not the guy in the uniform, its the couple in farm clothes.


No place to stay here, either, they tell me to try the next stop, 60 miles, on the Paraguay side. I ride off into no-man’s land between the borders. I’m officially checked out of Bolivia, and have to ride another 60 miles or so to Paraguay. Alrightythen.

More dirt. I am riding FAST, like over 40 mph, even though I know it’s not “safe”. it’s almost dark, and my only option is to make it to the Paraguay side and hope THEY take pity on me. Hmf. Usually I am luckier than this…

Ain’t gonna happen. I m NOT going to ride this dirt track that keeps turning to sand every once in a while in the DARK, so I start looking for a place to pull off the road. Not an easy place to find: I need somewhere where I can get off the road without leaving a track, get far enough off that no one will see the reflectors on my bike, hard enough that I won’t get stuck in sand, with two trees so I can hand the Hennessey Hammock Edward loaned me just for this “emergency” purpose. I can use it like a tent on the ground *IF i HAVE TO* but since you enter the thing from the bottom, it makes more sense to hang if I can. Besides, even though there are trees it’s desert-like and all I can think of are things that slither and crawl.

Did I mention that I never actually TRIED the camping hammock? Edward showed me how to unpack it once in my barn at home, but that’s the sum total of my experience with the thing.

One horrible night’s sleep in the Chaco, coming right up!


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