Over breakfast with Chacho we talked more about life in Bolivia. The country is made up of various indigenous people, and in the southeast it is mainly the Guarani – like in Paraguay. He spoke a lot about the differences between the Guarani and the Quechua, who I would be meeting on the way through the mountains, and didn’t seem overly fond of them. He hires farmhands, but only Guarani, as he trusts them more. They get paid 50BOB (Bolivian Bolivianos), which is about 7USD, a day and gives them three meals too. They apparently don’t save anything and spend it all on snacks and phones. In his mind, Quechua on the other hand just save and never spend. He also spoke more about what he thinks are the failings of his country, a country which has large natural resources – gas, oil and mining – but is the poorest in South America.
After saying our goodbyes, as Chacho had to go off for work, I got some delicious snacks for breakfast. The best being the salteña, a delicious baked pasty which had juicy chicken and some kind of sauce inside. As well as that, I picked up some bread for the road, but that proved a poor idea as by itself it’s just hard and dry which made me thirstier.
The area I rode through is near La Ruta del Che, where he tried to stay hidden, but was finally caught and killed in 1967. A random guy I met on the road told me that one of his most important memories was talking with Che almost 50 years ago, when the guy was a small child. He didn’t tell me what they spoke about, but apparently at home he has some things signed by Che that he cherishes. I was finding the road challenging enough on my bike, while Che obviously neither had a bike nor could use the roads, so had to scramble through the rugged wilderness that surrounded the area. A true challenge.
One of the most common things I saw as I rode along was the black, white and blue flag of Evo’s MAS party. There were a couple of bits for others, but his flags were just everywhere. Chacho might not like him, but if the flags are representative he’s got the election in the bag.
I stopped for lunch in the only town along the way, Monteagudo, and for under $2 I got the full lunch as it is here. A soup, usually containing rice or pasta, and then the main meal, which is some meat, accompanied with rice, pasta and potatoes and maybe a bit of tomato or onion. Cheap, and filling enough that I can see myself eating out when I find myself in town during lunch hours.
After Monteagudo I saw a little dot on a map called Puente Acero – Iron Bridge – and decided that there’d definitely be something there. Being in the foothills of the Andes there was little flat and to finish the day I had a couple of tiring climbs. The sun had gone down by the time I summited the second one, so I got another downhill in the pitch black with nothing more than my headlight to show the way. I bounced my way to the bridge and was met by 4 houses, only one of which had any lights on. I stopped and was told that yes, this was the community of Puente Acero that I was looking for. They’d stopped serving dinner, but had no problem with me putting my tent up behind their place. Good times. It was then that I realised that my Big Agnes replacement pieces didn’t actually match. They’d sent me a newer fly than the body and so while it went together, I’m not optimistic to how well it’ll go if it has to face heavy rain. Fingers crossed.