Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Extreme downhill in the Valley of the Souls

The next stage of my mountain biking in Bolivia was the chance to join Juan and Willy from Colombia, along with Ben our guide, on some single track riding. Gravity describe this as ¨secret single track¨so I´d better be vague about where German, our driver took us except that it´s in the general vicinity of the ¨valley of the souls´which had a resonance when I realised that my companions were decking themselves out in full face helmets and body armour for the descent. I decided that at 60 I was too old to learn to ride in this kind of gear, and simply took a conservative approach to the drop offs and switchbacks.
It was a magnificent route though - dropped down scrubby slopes to a small village backdropped by red ironsand cliffs, then sidled around a giant version of the Putangirua Pinnacles and down a switchback into a salt encrusted riverbed that led us out to meet with German for a picnic lunch under a tree in the plaza of a small village. The afternoon´s entertainment was a chance to zizz off in the back of the truck whil we drove back up to the other side of the valley, past pre-inca monoliths, to a high point overlooking cultivated terraces. A fast run through a village (keeping the speed up to avoid the menacing dogs) to the start of a knife edge ridge. The single track (which also seems to be the local´s walking route to the nearest shops) follows the crest of the ridge, with amazing dropoffs on each side. I´ll be frank and say I walked a lot, but it was a great experience, and the PaceƱa beers when we met German in the valley floor topped off a magnificent day.

Less magnificent was the curse of seat 13B striking again: a dose of travellers´diarrhea that followed the night after, so the last couple of days have been resting up within range of the hotel toilet, and drinking lots of fluid...

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