Here we are, in Bolivia, in the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve. Caroline and I just started the famous Ruta de las Lagunas. The altitude varies between 4,000 and 4,500 metres with fantastic scenery, but also horrible roads.
Indeed, they are many parallel trail done by 4wd going off-road or just fed up of driving on washboards. The challenge is to find a good track in order to minimize the problems with a motorbike. The 4wd prefer the new trails where they are less washboards. However these tracks are a lot more sandy. For a motorbike, it's the reverse, we preferred the hard and well-trodden tracks, even if often, we were really tired of driving on bumpy roads.
But sometimes, the choice we make are not always good...
At the end of the first day, we slept at the Polques hot spring. There are two sites located within a few kilometres of each other. The first one is very touristy with huts to change yourself. The second one, that we chose, is only a large pond set up as an infinity pool. Apparently, it's a bit less hot than the commercial site, but having the option to go to a site with a dozen tours and so many tourists and a site with slightly colder water where we were alone, the choice was easy.
In the afternoon, after we arrived, we enjoyed a nice, quiet and peaceful bath, with the company of flamingos minding their usual business; that is to say to constantly feed themselves. We slept a few paces from the pool with a spectacular view over the laguna.
The next day, we also enjoyed the hot spring for a good time before a few guides without any customers came to take a short bath.
Sol de Mañana
Sol de Mañana is an area with geothermal activity at an altitude of 4850 metres. There are several bubbling mud pools and fumaroles. The air is thick with vapours carrying odours of sulphur.
For a while, this trail was fairly easy, but after one or two kilometres, it changed to a hellish road. Yes, there were a few falls and some frights.
Caroline even had one foot stuck under the motorbike and I had to sprint back to her to help her get out of this mess. Yep, a sprint at 4500 metres looks more like a slow walk, and I had the impression my heart was about to burst out. However, we came out unhurt from this ordeal.
Once stuck on this trail, we had trouble getting out of it. Notice, on the photo above, that the trail is flanked by fairly high sandy walls. Yes, yes, just about 20-30 centimetres , but crossing such an obstacle with motorbikes weighing 170 kg (Caro's bike) or 200 kg (for mine), it's not an easy task.
Since we could not carry on that track, we had to get out of it. We managed to get Caroline's bike out while I was pushing, but for mine it was more difficult. I sank down in the sand, and I had to remove all my equipment. You are going to think it was easy after all, but let me remind you that at 4,500 metres, all the efforts we made were so much harder due to the high altitude.
Arbol de Piedra
Finally, after this trying day, we arrived exhausted at the Arbol de Piedra (Stone Tree) where workers offered us to sleep in an unfinished building still under construction. The problems were not over and even if we were partially sheltered, the tents were hard to install due to the strong wind.
I witnessed an angry Caroline cursing against the desert, the dust and the wind. Anger I shared, but more calmly. In retrospect, it was a memorable day for all its challenges, but also for the beauty and the harshness of this environment.
The last day on the Lagunas Route was very nice. The sandy trail gave way to a bumpy road with large rocks. The type of road that is hell with a 4wd, but a blast for motorbikes.