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30th Nov2002 - 10.54 GMT

Bermejo vs Tambo Quemado

How to start - Money and Preparation

Uyuni Region



Bermejo vs Tambo Quemado

From: Yani N., UK
Sent: quinta-feira, 28 de Novembro de 2002 23:57
Subject: cycling question


I am hoping to cycle over the Andes next year, perhaps either from Los Andes to Mendoza, or perhaps Arica to La Paz. Do you know roughly how many days these journeys would take (unsupported, and for a fairly experienced cyclist)? and also what is the best time to do the trips? - I believe the two trip might be best at different times? My best time is Mid April and May, but I could do March if April-May would be more difficult for snow etc.


Yani N.

Sent: sexta-feira, 29 de Novembro de 2002 22:02

Subject: RE: cycling question

Hi Yani,

thx for your mail.

I'm sorry, that some of my reports are still in German. The 99 report is in english, though.

To get it right with the weather is quiet tricky. I´ve been there 4 times and always had to do minor or major adjustments to my planed trip (passes closed, tracks flooded, peaks under snow) .

The "invierno boliviano" is not very predictable and be might even more messed up by "El Niño". So you may need a plan "B minor" and "B major". On the other hand, Bermejo (Mendoza) and Tambo Queimado (Arica) are international roads, connecting Chile with the Mercosur, with tarmac surface and I suppose, they should be open most of the SA summer.

I'll check it later with my diaries, but I think May is too late. March may be ok. Chile is a very developed country, so I'm sure, you'll find the acutal road conditions on the web. For schedule details on Tambo Queimado, please check out my 95 and 99 travel reports on www.sahara-mike.de


I was on Bermejo (3800 m) back in 92, so I don't recall it that well, but: I think, it took me 1/2 day from the Airport to somewhere near Los Angeles and another to the pass itself (there were several, frightening tunnels). You should take your time and push another 150 m to the old pass, a weird forgotten place with an abandoned boder station. It may take you another 2 days to Mendoza. The landscape is a bit like the Alpes, just bigger :).

Total: Santiago - Mendoza - 4 or 5 days

Tambo Queimado (4800) is much more excotic, beautiful and chalenging. Day 1 Arica - Maiko (train wagon with rather expensive Coca Tea and warm bread), Day 2 Maiko - Putre (3300 m) and Day 3 Putre - Conaf hut at Lago Chungara (4500 m). I think, in 99 I took it easier and made it in 4 days.

You will pass 1 or 2 places to buy some drink/food a day. So, you should do your main shopping only in Putre.

40 or 50 km after Arica, you'll pass some village, there is also the first, short climb. Beware of the dogs, they are extremely pesty.

Total: Arica - Tambo Qu. (border) 4 to 6 days

So, in a nutshell, Bermejo is easier and faster, Tambo Quemado much more interesting. Both passes are more than 2000 km and 2 or 3 climatic zones apart, but you should find a time window in late european winter or early spring.

I don't know, if you do it for the fun and the challenge, or just "to get on the other side".

If you do it for fun, I would suggest to do both passes ! Skip the 2200 km of PanAmericana. The PA, in my opinion, is just a waste of time. Flat, windy, never ending. There is so much great stuff to do up in the Andes ! Hop on a bus in Santiago or Serena (?) and drive in 24 h to Arica.

I'll be glad to answer any other questions or just do some brainstorming. Cheers & :D


How to start - Money and Preparation

From: Cecil B., South Africa
Sent: segunda-feira, 25 de Novembro de 2002 15:04
Subject: Just a few questions

Hi there. My name is Cecil B., i'm 20 years old and i'm from South Africa. I am really interrested in doing a bike trip in Mali and Niger. I think what you have accomplished is amazing and i would love to have that lifestyle.
Want to know where you get funding to be on the road all the time? Also want to know how much money you need approximitely to begin a trip like that: that is for food and just general living on the trip. If it is possible i would also like to know how much all the equipment will cost me.
As you have probably noticed already, funding is my main concern at the moment. Would appreciate it if you could give me those ammounts, so i can start planning.
Want to say again that i think you are a lucky man and i can't wait to get started planning my own trip.
Kind regards Cecil

Sent: terça-feira, 26 de Novembro de 2002 23:35
To: 'Cecil B.', South Africa
Subject: Just a few answers

Hi Cecil,
thx a lot for the great feedback.
Dreaming about a distant country and planing the trip is at least as enjoyable as the sucessful trip itself. I love it to sit over some maps and think about dirt tracks and distant vilages. And later, back again at home, the travel continues in your head. Thinking again about that special camp at the riverbed or the nice people, you met on the road, will warm your heart and bring a smile to your face.

But: You must be realistic with your goals. Don't try to do too much on your travels, specially on your first ones. You're in danger to fail and to loose the pleasure in biking/traveling all together. This happened with the ill-prepared guy, I biked with in Tunesia/Algeria in 89 and to some extend also to my wife. We pushed too much in 97 (when she quit biking) and we were really at the limit in 99 in Chile. Since then, she only wants to make short treking and likes to stay in hotels :(

Also be realistic with your destination. Is the place so much fun/exotic/challenging, as publicity makes it ? Is the place very crowded (don't try to bike in India) or is it dangerous (Countries like Algeria or Colombia are politically very unstable or have high crime rate (brazil) ? What about roads and dirt tracks ? (I would love to bike in Mauretania, but it seems too sandy and plastered with landmines).

Most important of all, in my opinion, is your determination. It's not your physical strength, your equipment or the money involved. It doesn't matter, if your daily average is 50 or 250 km. You need pacience, discipline and stamina to bike against wind and/or rain, pushing uphill and pushing downhill. Several days, if necessary. If you can do that, you will be highly rewarded with the great pleasures and satisfaction, only a chalenging bike journey can provide.

Ok, that's enough of "good" advises, let's get to your questions.

Want to know where you get funding to be on the road all the time?
Unfortunately, I'm not on the road "all the time". On average in the 90s, when I was single and in university with plenty of time, I made one "big" trip (4 to 6 weeks) and one or two "small" ones a year.
I worked and saved money. My parents paid my rent, so with less spendings through the year I could save enough to travel.
All the trips in europe (in the late 80s and early 90s) were very cheap. I traveled by train and spent between 50 to 200 US-$ for the ticket. In the beginning, I slept in youth hostels, but soon I abandoned that and tried to sleep always outdoors. This will not only save you a lot of money, but also provides you with the adventure and adrenaline to find a nightcamp. You never know, where you'll sleep the next night. A construction site, behind a dune, in the sewer, under a bridge or just in the open. It's plain cool :). It gives you also the freedom to bike as long as you want and watch the sky at night. Of course, in a rainy, wet or highly populated country you may use more frequently a hotel or a tent.
When I say "hotel", I mean just a roof over your head. This can be, for example a flea infested places for 1 or 2 US-$ to avoid downpours. Anyway, taking a warm shower and sleeping in a clean bed, at least once a week, is nice.

How much you spend on food depends on you and the cost of living in the visited country. Even in the cheapest country and living on Coke and oil sardines, you'll spend at least 10 or 20 US-$ a day.

Ok, that's it. You'll spent money for:
* Transport (depends on your destination)
* Accomodation (Sleep outside, if possible)
* Food (between 15 to 30 US-$ daily)
* Entry Visa, Fees, Assurance, Phonecalls (50 to ??? US-$)
* Foto or Video (0 to ??? US-$)
* Maps, books, etc (25 to ??? US-$)
* Souvenirs, Gifts, postcards (??? US-$)
* Some cash for emergencies like broken or stolen stuff, medic (100 to
200 US-$)

If it is possible i would also like to know how much all the equipment will cost me.
Of course, "the sky is the limit". But I'll try to give you the minimum values. The values, of course, depends highly on the cost of living in your country and you may consider to buy stuff on the internet.

Bicycle: I would say, at least 500 US-$.
Bike equipament: Back rider, bottles, "computer", pump - 100 US-$
Spare parts (chain, tires, ): 75 US-$
Helmet and gloves: 50 US-$ (you don't need bike trouser, shirts or
Backpack, transport bags: 150 US-$
Cooker, plate, cup: 30 US-$
Sleeping bag: 50 to 250 US-$
Tent: You really need that ?
Special clothes (Fleece, Gore-Tex): 0 to 300 US-$

So, I think you need at least 1200 to 1500 US-$ for bike and equipament, if you start from scratch and buy everything new. Of course, you can spend 3000 and more, if you go for quality stuff.
My bike cost, 10 years ago, 1200 US-$. My sleeping bag can take -20 ºC, 200 US-$. Polartec and GoreTex another 300 US-$.

I hope you feel encouraged and will push forward with your dreams. If you take your time to plan it well, be realistic in your goals and prudent in it's execution, this travels will give you the experiences of a lifetime. Don't be disappointed, when things go wrong, and learn from the mistakes.
For example, my first trip to Algeria in 89 was mostly a waste of time, biking days after days against the wind in a unspectucular landscape, but I learned from that and improved greatly on the journeys to follow.

If I can help you with any question, just ask. It's a pleasure :)

Best regards


From: Cecil B.
> Sent: quarta-feira, 27 de Novembro de 2002 15:58
> Subject: Thanx pops:)
Hi Mike
> Thanx a lot for all the great advice and motivation!!!! It just made
> me want to get my stuff together and leave straight away. I do realise
> however that it is not something you can just jump into whithout
> proper planning.
> My father did a trip from Ivory Coast, along the southern part of the
> Sahara to Etheopia and from there down to South Africa where we
> live.... He did it on a motorbike though.....still a tough trip! On
> his way down from Etheopia he met a man from the UK that was cycling
> from the UK to South Africa. Since then it has been my dream to do an
> almost impossible cycle like that. I do want to start small though and
> after watching the video footage my dad got in Mali i thought that it
> would be a perfect country for me to wet my feet:) Well not "wet" in
> that part of the world, but i'm sure you know what i mean.
> Thanx once again for the reply and once i have planned my trip i will
> definitelly let you know what i've planned and keep you updated as
> much as possible. Maybe meet you on the road one day:)


Hi Cecil,
I'm glad you feel encouraged ! Go ahead !
BTW, you don't have to travel on the other side of the globe to have some fun and excitement on the bike; for me, as I'm not as free and indenpent as I used to be, a one-week trip to Spain (200 km by car, I live in Lisbon,
Portugal) is organized in 2 or 3 days, always great fun and cheaper than staying at home.
Around "your corner" are very chalenging places. I always wanted to go to
Namibia and check out the sekelton coast and the great sand dunes :)
It's great, that your dad made such a nice trip, so he might be supportive or at least will understand your desire to "wet" your feet. The remoter the place you'll go, the more intense are the contacts you'll have with other bikers. You won't meet many, but you share the same, rare passion. You'll talk hours about the trips you've done and days about the trips you still wanna do.

You need suggestions for some "impossible" travels ?

* India-Ladakh - Biking to Leh with passes over 5.600 m
* Central Asia & China - Biking the old Silk Road
* Sahara - Crossing the Sahara via the Tanezrouft (it's 1000 km of
nothing. I think, some Japanese made it with a trolley and 200 l of water)

Of course, it's not "real impossible", only extremely chalenging ;) Unfortunately, the Tanezrouft seems to be "Off Limit" because of the rebels.

With a 4WD, I'd love to go to the Tibesti (Lybia/Tchad)

Cecil, if I can be helpful in any way (except the funding ;) ), just let me know.

Good luck, have fun, be prudent and let's stay in touch


Uyuni Region

From: Alejandro K.

Sent: terça-feira, 1 de Outubro de 2002 14:58
Subject: Hito cajon

Hi Mike,

I plan to do Uyuni - Atacama on bike this month, if you have anyinfo on the road, GPS coordinates (specially the Hito cajon one) oranything else I'll be very grateful if you can send it to me.

Hi Alejandro,

I’m sure you will really enjoy your ride. It’s just fantastic out there. Wish I could go with you J Prepare for windy and cold conditions. Besides the info, I posted on my site, I would recommend the following:· Bolivia – only dirt track, San Pedro – Hito new tarmac.· Look for a “travel agent” at your starting point (Uyuni or San Pedro) and let him deposit some food and drinks in the refugee at Laguna Colorada. If you start in San Pedro, it would be wise, if someone could carry some stuff up to the Refugee at Laguna Verde. San Pedro-Laguna Verde is 50 km of 4-5% uphill on perfect tarmac. I drove up to Hito Cajon with Colque Tours. They also deposited some food at Laguna Colorada. ·

You may buy some coke or biscuits in the refugees, but better not count on it. During the day, you may encounter 4 or 5 groups of cars. In general, tourists are less helpful than locals.· Along the railroad Uyuni - Ollague, there are 3 villages. In one, I found a water tap to fill up my bottles. This places were so depressing, that I didn’t searched for any shop. · Biking on the dam of the railroad (small track, about 10 cm) is definetly better than using the “road”. · The most difficult part (coming from SP) is the uphill to Sol de Manana. It’s never ending, steep, sand and gravel with an unforgiving wind, which starts in the early afternoon. · Orientation should be of no concern, there are only a few crossings. You should get all the info you need in Uyuni/SP. Colque Tours has a postcard size sketch of the tracks. If you really need it, I can scan it. · GPS may be helpful, if you want to drive on the Salar de Uyuni. If you sleep on the salar (if it’s not under water), be careful that no overnight bus will drive you over.

Good luck

From: Alejandro
Sent: quarta-feira, 2 de Outubro de 2002 14:56
Subject: RE: Hito cajon

Thanks you very much for the info. The web page of the trip will be: http://alejandro.kwiatkowski.com/Uyuni2002/

We will start in Villazon (border with Argentina) go to Uyuni and from there to Laguna Colorada, Laguna Verde, Hito cajon, San Pedro. But I don’t have any map with the ’roads’ in the bolivian side that mark hito cajon, so if you can scan me one from bolivia sourthen will be great. What is the tallest point in this route?How long is the longest segment whitout drinkable water?How do you protect the bike in the salt lake from corrosion?

Thanks you again. Alejandro

Hi Alejandro
Note: All info referring to my experience San Pedro – Lag. Colorada and Ollague – Uyuni in 1999 What is the tallest point in this route?Sol de Manana with 5000 m

How long is the longest segment without drinkable water?I use water only for cooking, for drinking only Coke and Fanta (sugar = energy). You get water in San Pedro and Uyuni. PERHAPS you get water in Laguna Verde and Colorada. PERHAPS you can get water in one of the villages along the railroad. But don’t depend on it. The water can taste horrible and should be treated.

How do you protect the bike in the salt lake from corrosion?I didn’t protect it and rust started almost immediately. Be sure, that you have a “Plan B”. I wanted to ride on the Salar, but it was under 20 cm of water. There may be roadblocks, snow, rebellions or whatever. Be sure, that you have some alternative in case, that something doesn’t work out.

Hope to hear from you



From: Paulo Baldner
Sent: segunda-feira, 19 de Agosto de 2002 1:20
Subject: Lincancabur

Ola Michael,
É perigoso ir sozinho para o Lincancabur pelo lado Boliviano da montanha? Existe alguma aduana no lado Boliviano, com policia?


Hi Paulo,
nice to hear from you.
There is a border check point, when leaving San Pedro / Chile. There is nothing in Bolivia. The first check point is only in Uyuni. So don't worry about your documents.
I'm no mountain climber, I just "walked" up 3 or 4 Volcanos. In 99, I slept in the Base Camp, right at the foot of Licancabur. I started around 6 a.m. followed a path, which disappeared after 30 min on the saddle. At 4 p.m., after 8 hours in sometimes difficult terrain, I was at the summit. People told me later, you can reach the summit in 4 or 5 hours, when you stay on the path. But I was lost and if I had broken a leg or twisted my ankle, I probably would still be on Licancabur.
It's a lonely place, even if you stay on the main track and if you have an accident, which can happen very, very easily in the lose gravel and the ashes, you are in deep trouble to survive the cold night. If you don't find a second person to climb with you, at least make sure that someone might search for you in case of trouble. Make sure, that you find the marked path up the mountain.(I think, it goes like this: At the basecamp, there are some ruins. Right there, turn to the right, don't walk up to the saddle. You may find there some poles or painted marks)
San Pedro is rather touristic and I'm sure, you will find all the info and contacts you need.
For any more questions, don't hestitate to ask

Getting rich ;)


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1992 - The end of my second, brandnew Faggin