Mind-bendingly beautiful off-road riding in wonderful Bolivia
OK. Other companies do Bolivia by motorbike. But not the way we do it!
If you want to get to places others don’t see, avoid the cliches and the touristas, then saddle up on our recce trip of this fantastic Latin American nation in 2017.
Ants produced the BBC’s Worlds Most Dangerous Roads with Phill Jupitus and Marcus Brigstock in Bolivia in 2013, and was instantly smitten. We’ve wanted to develop an expedition here since Edge was born and now, here it is! This recce trip is going to be an epic adventure in the making, and we’d love for you to join our little group of pioneers.
Bolivia is a country on many a bucket list. It has it all – jungles, deserts, the Andes mountain range, volcanoes, wonderfully welcoming local people, beautiful Colonial cities, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, high altitude salt flats, weird and wonderful wildlife, superb scenery and bags of history.
This expedition is going to whisk you far away from the tourist trail and, with the help of our hugely experienced local team, show you places that others just don’t get to go. Of course, motorbikes are the ideal transport, and our route is designed to keep us off tarmac as much as possible.
We’ve done a huge amount of research on the route, the places we want to see and where we’ll stay, but this is a recce trip, and as such it isn’t the ‘polished’ version that we will eventually offer. With your help, this trip will explore and allow us to tweak and develop an exciting itinerary that will be offered to future riders. Right now, its a small group of pioneers who’ll see things from the Edge perspective..
No doubt, the riding is going to be challenging at times, and will include some time on gravel, sand, dirt and salt – much of which will take place at altitudes of up to 4500m. But the scenery, the welcome, the variety and the quality of the riding is going to be first class.
Sound like your kind of thing? Then read on to find out how you can ride Bolivia with Edge Expeditions in mid October 2017.
With thanks to Marcos Soto Montpellier for some of the beautiful images
This is a 14-day motorbike adventure through much of central and southern Bolivia starting and ending in the vibrant city of Cochabamba.
We’ll be riding across mountain ranges in the foothills of the Andes, over high passes and through a corner of the Amazon rainforest. We’ll zoom across the Altiplano, wallow in hot springs, circumvent multi-coloured lakes, climb active volcanoes, sip cool drinks in colonial cities and be absolutely flabbergasted by the ever-changing scenery.
At times it will be hot and humid, at others we’ll swaddle ourselves against whistling high altitude winds, but at every twist and turn of the road you’ll be awestruck and beguiled.
We are only running one recce trip to Bolivia, so grab your place whilst you still can.
NB – this is a recce tour, so the itinerary given is subject to change.
Where will we be staying?
We’ll be staying in comfortable hotels in Cochabamba and Sucre, guest houses or basic hotels in other towns, and sometimes in homestays with local people and their families. These nights are often highly enjoyable glimpses into local customs and lifestyles. We may also arrange for a night of camping in one very remote area, depending on time and local conditions.
What size of group will it be?
Our group sizes are always small, allowing for an intimate experience of the cultures we meet along our path. Our group is usually 7-8 expeditioners, a guide, mechanic/back-up driver and one of the Edge team. We usually find groups are made of like-minded people, both male and female, from a wide age range, and where motorcycles are involved, this is particularly true.
Why have you chosen little old-fashioned bikes?
Our local guides have huge experience of working in these often hostile terrains, and after trying many varieties of bike have opted for the lightweight, mechanically simple and hugely robust Suzuki DR650. Little more than 10kg heavier and marginally lower at the saddle than a DRZ400, the bikes cope very well with the bumps and lumps and are comfortable both on and off the pegs. If your drop a bike, it likely won’t break and you’ll be able to pick it and yourself back up without needing a support team and a crane. We are huge fans. We have a choice of machines available but these – in our opinion – are the tools for the job at hand.
What will the weather be like?
A very difficult question to answer when skirting the sixth highest mountain range on earth and including a stint in the Amazon! But you can expect some hot and possibly damp days lower in the valleys and off the high plateaus – temperatures could be in +30C range and higher. At altitude, you might see warm sunshine followed by winds and rain, hail or even snow on the plateau and perhaps down to 0 degrees for a short period of time. In general, the rule of thumb is to expect warm days and cooler nights when we are out of the lowland areas.
I’m a solo traveller – is this for me?
Yes. More than 85% of our expedition clients travel alone as part of our group. We don’t charge single supplements to solo travellers – see below.
Do you charge single supplements – I can’t see them in your information?
No. We don’t believe that solo travellers should be penalised with extra charges. It goes against our ethos, so unless totally unavoidable or astronomically expensive, all costs are included in the expedition price. Please note that in many of our destinations, single rooms are simply not available due to the nature of the available tourism infrastructure.
What kit do I need to bring?
We will provide you with an information pack after signing up to this trip, and this will detail any particular equipment we think either necessary or useful. For this motorcycle expedition, see below for a smidge more detail.
How do I choose what to wear on the bike?
This is really a matter of personal choice, as all riders have their own modus operandi. However, our experience says that good expedition boots are very useful. We don’t tend to ride using metal-toed dirt boots, but some do. We use an adventure-style boot that allows good ankle protection and is stiff with protection on the shins. In terms of lid; we tend to favour flip-front helmets, but some use enduro lids with neck protection. We tend to use a pull-on overcoat and trousers that are kept to hand for quick access. Under these we ride in a well-ventilated and elbow/shoulder/back/knee armoured bike jacket and trousers – the better ventilated the happier you will be! As already highlighted, most riders have their own tried and tested methods. Our simplest motto would be to layer for multiple weather types and have warm gloves and a warm jacket layer to hand.
Is there a back-up vehicle?
Yes. We will travel with a back-up 4×4, carrying filtered water, an extensive medical kit and bike spares. There’ll also be a mechanic in the back-up vehicle.
How much are flights?
This entirely depends on where you are flying from. If you come from the UK, you might expect that flights – including all connections to and from Cochabamba – may cost around £1200 at the most, and this may involve upwards of three connections. It’s much easier (and cheaper) from North America, and Spain also has very good connections, which most UK and EU travellers make use of.
Will I have to share a room?
Yes, at times. There will be hotels where we will have separate rooms, but more often where we are staying at homestays or guesthouses where there is little option but to share rooms. This is all part of the adventure, and a reason we love to travel here. It makes sense for light sleepers to bring earplugs, in case of snorers or the host family waking early. If you particularly want a single room, we might be able to arrange this on the day, but a cost increase might be incurred.
Will I be affected by altitude?
Altitude can affect different people in different ways. It can also affect the same person in different ways from trip to trip. We will be spending quite a number of days above 3500 metres, and up on the altiplano, often well above 4000 metres. If you feel that you might suffer from altitude sickness, or have history of it – indeed in any eventuality – you should discuss this with your doctor prior to booking and travel. Diamox and other similar prescription drugs are available to ease symptoms, but the key way to address any onset of altitude sickness is to descend. Luckily, from anywhere particularly high, descent is possible relatively rapidly thanks to our back-up vehicle. Our route is also planned to gain altitude in the smallest increments possible to aid acclimatisation, and we have avoided flying-in to start from La Paz for this very reason. Simple precautions and awareness go a long way, and you are the one best placed to keep an eye on your own condition.
Do you perform proper risk management on your expeditions?
Yes. We employ international risk experts Sirisk to perform our country risk assessments 1 month prior to departure. We also maintain close contact with the relevant Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice for countries we plan to visit. Beyond this, we have a full set of risk management and disaster contingency plans for each expedition and are expedition first aid trained. For final back up we also use the services of Remote Medical Support that allows us to have a UK expedition doctor on the end of a telephone line wherever we may be.
I can’t do your dates but love the sound of your expedition – can you be flexible?
Yes. We offer set group dates for our expeditions, but we can organise and deliver bespoke expeditions to groups and individuals to suit your itinerary and budget. More information is available on our bespoke expeditions page.
Bolivia is a country of contrast – from the soaring ice-bound peaks of the Andes to biodiverse lowland jungles, with bleak high altitude desert, volcanoes (both active and extinct) and salt pans in the mix, this really is a country with few landscape peers.
However, no country can be simply defined by its geography, climate or wildlife alone but also by its peoples, cultures, languages and traditions. With its citizens numbering some 11 million, it is considerably less populous than some of its South American neighbours, but this is a large country (1.5 times the size of Texas, or about the same as France and Spain together. Spanish is the main language, with Quechua, Aymara and several smaller languages also spoken.
A once colonized nation, Bolivia is very proud of its cultural heritage and whilst it has preserved several UNESCO listed colonial architectural gems, indigenous culture is also revered and many traditions remain alive and increasingly important to those who practice them – not just in aspic for tourists.
This all makes Bolivia a really special place to visit, and we are keen as mustard for you to join us.
Reasons we love Bolivia
- Diversity – Bolivia has some of the grandest and most diverse landscapes on earth including the Amazon rainforest, altiplano, volcanoes, deserts, lakes and salt flats…
- The salt flats – there is really nowhere else like them. See the curvature of the earth, the world reduced to blue and white. Scale and space unparalleled elsewhere.
- Quechua herders and their lamas – where else can you get up close and personal with these giant herbivores?
- The cholita women – proud Aymara and Quechua women in their amazing colourful clothes and bowler hats.
- History – Bolivia has all the ingredients for a fascinating history – gold, silver, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Che Guevara, Inca civilisations, Spanish conquistadors…
- Cities – colonial architectural gems with grand squares, superb museums and vibrant cafe culture
- The riding! Its good. Very good.
Although this is an extremely enlivening way to spend two weeks of your life, it’s also highly dangerous.
Riding motorcycles is an inherently risky activity and to compound this, you will be riding motorcycles off-road in a remote part of the world. Because of insurance limits on riding motorcycles in such a remote region, we can only offer this expedition to those in the 24-69 age range unless you can find insurance to cover you to the standards we require.
Not only could you be hurt, maimed or even killed but in the event of an accident it could take hours (a day even) for the emergency services to reach you.
Don’t even consider signing up for this adventure if you aren’t fully aware of the risks you are taking. And certainly don’t consider signing up if you haven’t got a full motorcycle license.
Furthermore, South America can be a tough place to travel in. This is why we – and hopefully you – like it so much.
There’ll be no wi-fi or mobile reception for most of the ride and fluffy towels, Egyptian cotton sheets and en-suite bathrooms will be an extreme rarity. The roads are bumpy, the food isn’t exactly cordon bleu, some days will be very tiring, it’s very possible you’ll feel the effects of altitude and you’ll be lucky if your stomach doesn’t have at least one minor revolt.
If you like your holidays to include foie gras, butlers and quilted loo roll then please look elsewhere.
This expedition costs £4300
What this includes
Rental of a fully insured Suzuki DR650 motorcycle
Accommodation in a range of homestays and hotels. These will range from simple family run homestays and ‘hostals’ to hotels in the few cities we pass through.
All meals, including picnic lunches on some days
Local airport transfers
A professional guiding team including Ants or Marley, an English speaking Bolivian guide and a well-versed local mechanic who’ll provide any spare parts, tools and roadside repairs.
Back-up vehicle and drive
Fresh filtered water
What it doesn’t include
International flights to and from Cochabamba
Your personal riding equipment – clothing, boots, helmets, protection
Extra daily costs for snacks, alcohol or souvenirs
Your personal travel insurance including medi-evac