May 28, 2006 GMT
(8) Bolivia: South Central

I had criss-crossed Bolivia like a politician campaigning for office. From Paso Tambo Quemada to La Paz, south to Cochabamba, east across the Chapare and the Beni via El Camino Nuevo to Santa Cruz, north and east into the Missiones district, back west on El Camino Viejo and south to Sucre, further south to Potosi and Tarija. Then east again to Villamonte and finally south to Yacuiba where I plan to make my exit to Argentina.

What a grand country. What a country of contrast and change...from high, arid altiplano to the lush tropical Amazon, the middle agricultural zone and finally the low and arid desert zone of the Chaco, with everything imaginable in between.

Bolivia was once twice the size it is today. It's numerous wars with its neighbours have been wars of attrition. They lost land to Brazil in the rubber rich area of the Acre. They lost their east coast access via the River Paraguay to Paraguay, most recently in 1932. They lost their Pacific Coast access to Chile in 1884 in the War of the Pacific. And finally, they lost land to Peru in the lower Amazon basin in 1909.

Political instability has not been kind to Bolivia. They have endured 192 changes of government in 178 years as a Republic. Social reform lags, but the people endure. They are the most resilient, most friendly, most helpful of all the countries I have visited.

Twice, in different cities (Sucre and most recently Potosi) I have pulled up to the curb and opened my Travel Guide to the city map to try to determine where I was relative to where I wanted to go. My book was barely open when a lady came up and asked where I wanted to go. She set me straight in two minutes flat. This has never happened to me anywhere, in any country before...only BOLIVIA. Simply incredible!

The road to the Chaco, from Potosi, was through Tarija. It was a long eight hour drive over gravel roads to get here. Most of the road was being prepared for paving, with many detours; hence the extra time to cover the 380 kms.

The Red Valley of Camargo.JPG

The country changed before my eyes, from high altiplano at 14,000 ft to middle altiplano at 10,000 ft and then a lovely red valley at 8,000 ft. From there I climbed back up to 10,000 ft ever so gently. If I hadn't check the GPS I would not have known. I was expecting my destination any time now but my GPS said another 38 kms. I thought I would just drop off of the altiplano down to Tarija but no, that was not the case. There was a mountain between me and the city.

The steep ascent had but a few switchbacks as I climbed up to 12,700 feet. A totally different environment greeted me as I crested the mountain. The descent too was a different story. The spiralling descent into Tarija at 6,200 ft. was one I had never seen before. Hundreds of tight switchbacks covered in deep, floury powder, the road barely wide enough for a single vehicle...the corners almost too tight for a bus to negotiate. The temperature warmed with every turn until it was finally 20C when I reached the bottom.

The View from the Top.JPG

Tarija, an isolated oasis of tranquility. What a lovely, delightful town. It is disconnected from the rest of Bolivia and I am told because of its proximity to Argentina its citizens feel a stronger affiliation for that country and lifestyle than that of Bolivia. The rest of Bolivia seems to share that sentiment too. I think when the road is finally completed all of that will change as Bolivia discovers the gem they have forgotten.

I was quite surprised to find that some of the police here ride the K100RT Police Model. The officer told me they have ten of these bikes in this metropolis of 132,000 people. There cannot be more than 100 miles of paved roads in and around Tarija and yet this model had 118,000 kms showing on the odometer. You have to wonder where he went. There is a flurry of Japanese 250 cc Police Models also. This country just never ceases to amaze me.

Tarija...the only city in Bolivia that I have visited that has normal, legible street signs. What a pleasant surprise to be able to navigate about town with confidence.

Street Signs.JPG

For many years the world has seemingly thought that there were no dinosaurs in South America. The tracks near Sucre should have proved different. The museum in Tarija surely will dispel any such notions...dinosaurs, mammoths and giant armadillos over six (6) feet in length, just to name a few. Many more remain to be discovered.



Posted by Robert Bielesch at May 28, 2006 01:05 AM GMT

NEW! HU 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar is now available! Get your copy now for some terrific travel inspiration!

HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!

Horizons Unlimited 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar.

"The calendar is magnificent!"

"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"

We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!

HU DVD Autumn Special!

Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!

Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).

The first in an exciting new series, Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers."Inspiring and hilarious!"

"I loved watching this DVD!"

"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."

"Wonderful entertainment!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'HEROES' on your order when you checkout.

Renedian Adventures

Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!

What turns you on to motorcycle travel?

Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!

New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.

Books & DVDs


All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.

Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

Story and photos copyright ©

Sorry, you need a Javascript enabled browser to get the email address and dates. You can contact Horizons Unlimited at the link below. Please be sure to tell us WHICH blog writer you wish to contact.

All Rights Reserved.

Contact the author:

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!