Cycling in Bolivia isn’t without its drama. Once, I was almost killed coming down a steep hill by a pig being chased by a dog. Death by pig would be considered newsworthy in London, here it gets filed under ‘mundane’.
A more familiar problem is Bolivian drivers. Like their London counterparts, they just aren’t very bike-concious and the idea of the road being a shared space between motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians is an alien concept.
Once outside of urban areas the low levels of traffic mean the threat from vehicles is minimal and cycling becomes a pleasure. Or it would be were it not for the frequency of fang-bearing dogs willing to give chase. When you’re sweating your way up a severe incline at 3000m altitude the dog has all the advantage and you’re left in a compromising position. I’ve learned from bitter experience that dogs here aren’t all bark – they bite.
That said, cycling through the beautiful countryside surrounding Sucre is worth the occasional homicidal driver/dog* (*delete as the occasion requires). With that in mind I set off for the 6 hour round-trip to Yotala, getting off-road and passing through sleepy villages on little used dirt tracks. A brutally steep climb with attendant dogs takes you out of Sucre to a rough track that loops around for 25km to Yotala, with nothing but tremendous views for company.
The only downside of cycling down dirt tracks is punctures. There are a phenomenal number of thorn producing plants in Bolivia only too willing to discard their spiky offspring on to the track your cycling down. It would take four stops and seven puncture repairs before reaching Yotala.
Yotala is famed for the quality of its chicha, the homebrew that is the main alcoholic drink of the Bolivian countryside; but after several hours of cycling under an intense sun and another 20km still to cycle back to Sucre it didn’t seem wise to partake. The journey back was on the main road from Potosi to Sucre, which is pretty busy with traffic but at least I didn’t get any more punctures.