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Old 11-22-2013, 09:07 AM   #1
HayDuchessLives OP
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Bolivia: Cochabamba to Torotoro National Park

(Lo siento – no hablo Espanol.)

I spent the month of October in Bolivia and Peru, meeting family members and sightseeing. I love mountains and Bolivia and Peru sure have some amazing mountains and lots of twisty roads, both paved and dirt. Someday I’ll return and do a lot more riding.


One of my aunts is from Bolivia and I traveled with her and my uncle (her husband) and got the royal treatment. I spent my first week in Cochabamba, acclimatizing, socializing with family members and eating lots of delicious traditional meals. One of my second-cousins, Gustavo (Gus), offered to take me on an overnight motorcycle ADVenture as he and his lovely wife Lourdes also enjoy riding. After reviewing several options, I chose to ride to Torotoro National Park. The road conditions sounded the most interesting, ending with numerous steep switchbacks leading up to the summit of a mountain. The park also boasted beautiful caverns, a deep canyon, a turtle cemetery, and dinosaur tracks for our viewing pleasure.

Description taken from Wikipedia: Torotoro National Park is situated in the Northern Potosí department, 140 km south of Cochabamba and only accessible by gravel roads and riverbeds, which takes seven hours in the dry season and much longer in the rainy season when sometimes the route becomes completely impassable. Torotoro National Park is located in a semi-arid landscape at altitudes between 2000 and 3500 m above sea level, with canyons as deep as 300 meters.

Thanks to a most-excellent price, I ended up renting a Honda CRF 450 racing bike, set up for cross-country competitions like the Dakar. Even after the bike was lowered I could still barely reach the ground with my tippy-toes. This caused me concern as the traffic in Cochabamba is very chaotic and frightening and I wanted my feet to reach the ground for stopping purposes. This photo shows how high the seat is compared to my leg height.



Check this out....




This is a big no-no in the U.S., so I was concerned about getting pulled over for riding a non-street-legal bike on city streets. Hmmm…. What to do? I did what any female does when faced with a daunting challenge: Well of course I put my “big-girl panties” on and braved the crazy traffic on a tall motorcycle with no rear-view mirrors. Ai yi yi!!

At the motorcycle shop I met Freddy Herboso, who is a famous Bolivian motocross champion. WOW!! Of course I asked if I could get my photo taken with Freddy and he was gracious enough to agree. Here’s a photo of Freddy Herboso with an infamous Granny Gone Wild from Alaska. (Freddy es muy bonito!!!!)




He said this was the first time he rented a dirt bike to a grandmother. Freddy assured Gus and I that I wouldn’t get pulled over for being on a dirt bike, but if I did, he said to say the bike belongs to him. The cops know him and would let me go with no problems. This is the first time I rode a dirt bike and it is sure advantageous being able to ride directly from the harried city traffic out to the peace and quiet of the mountains.


I didn’t know whether this powerful, lightweight racing bike would keep me out of trouble or get me into trouble, but I looked forward to the ADVenture and riding on some dirt roads in Bolivia’s mountains. Gus and Lourdes rented a TransAlp motorcycle that rode a lot faster and smoother at high speeds on paved roads than my Honda did. But the Honda excelled on the dirt and mud and I fell in love with the bike. We named him Loquota, (spicy, red-hot pepper) as my #1 DR at home is named Loquita. Below: Gus and Lourdes with the motorcycle they rented.




Torotoro National Park is about 140 km from Cochabamba, in a very scenic mountainous region. Since the Honda has a small gas tank we planned to fill up in Tarata and again at Torotoro. We headed south to Tarata, only to discover the gas station was out of gas. Gus led the way to another town that luckily had gas. This is nothing unusual to me as sometimes the remote gas stations in Alaska run out of gas so I usually carry extra gas on long trips.

Along the way we stopped to look at a brand new sewage treatment plant being built by Aguatuya in Cliza, a town of about 10,000 people. The town’s sewage currently empties right into the river, which is not healthy for the residents or the environment. Once the sewage treatment plant is built it will provide multiple benefits, including jobs and improved health conditions for the locals and the environment. Gus and his family own Aguatuya and they are proud of the work they do to improve the lifestyles of some of Bolivia’s residents. For more information, visit their Website at www.aquatuya.org.






This trough is designed to collect rainwater and route it directly to the river, keeping it separate from the waste water that needs to undergo treatment.



This is a nice-looking, well-designed facility. If somebody ever starts a thread showing “your bike in front of a sewage treatment plant” in the “Pics pics pics” photo section, let me know.

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Old 11-22-2013, 09:22 AM   #2
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On the road to Torotoro

We made a few sightseeing stops along the way. I saw dozens of gorgeous churches, basilicas and cathedrals during my month-long trip, ranging from simple, small churches to grossly ornate basilicas. Here are a few photos from a small church.











Most of the bigger churches and basilicas did not allow photography inside to help preserve their extremely old paintings. It was amazing to see all the various items intricately made out of gold and silver, including crosses, dishes, altars, sculptures, etc. It would have been a lot more beneficial and Christian-like to use the gold and silver to feed, clothe and educate the indigenous people instead of wiping them out, but that’s a personal opinion and sadly it has happened all over (the conquerors exploiting/killing the indigenous people).

How many times do you see cactus plants growing out of a roof?




The parks and plazas in Bolivia are usually decorated with floral designs, colorful trees and statues honoring various things. I really liked this statue of the soldier on his horse. This is one bad-ass steed! It looks like this ferocious horse is ready to kick ass and fight to save his owner. (My #2 DR is named Soquili, which is the Cherokee word for horse.)





We stopped for lunch in Anzaldo and it felt great to get off of the stiff seat on the Honda! I loved all the beautiful, vibrant flowers and blooming trees.






.....to be continued....
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Old 11-22-2013, 05:23 PM   #3
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I think you may be the first with the idea of " bike in front of a sewage plant". That idea has phewtential.
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Old 11-23-2013, 09:48 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rutabaga View Post
I think you may be the first with the idea of " bike in front of a sewage plant". That idea has phewtential.
I think it could be phewnomenally poopular!

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Old 11-23-2013, 11:31 AM   #5
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On to Torotoro

On to Torotoro

We didn’t stop to take landscape photos on our way to Torotoro as we were having so much fun being "in the zone," riding on dirt and cobblestone, carefully avoiding pigs, chickens, dogs, donkeys and sheep when we rode past homes and small villages. I didn’t have a horn to honk so sometimes I had to yell to scare critters out of the way. I rode slower than usual but I wanted to enjoy the stunning scenery and it’s hard to go fast and focus on both the road and the scenery, especially on dirt roads. There were many stretches of long and lonely highways with outstanding vistas and I tried unsuccessfully to take it all in, slowing down quite frequently. The dry terrain we rode through is very different than Alaska, where we typically have lots of water (creeks, rivers, oceans) and green vegetation, whether it’s lush rainforests in the southeast or the rolling hills of tundra in the frigid northern regions.

With countless, relentless tight turns and hills to ride up and down, very little traffic to worry about, gorgeous mountains bordering the river valleys, and an abundance of warm sunshine, the riding was extremely delightful! YEEHAW!!! I highly recommend this road if you enjoy riding on dirt. (And when you go invite me!) Sometimes when the creeks are running high the road to Torotoro is unpassable so I was glad I wasn’t there during the rainy season.

We finally arrived at the bottom of a big river valley and followed the meandering river to the base of the mountain where Torotoro is located. The road going up the hillside has numerous steep switchbacks with tight corners. There was a big road race the day before we got there that would have been something to see. My bike died on me a couple of times while going up the mountain, which meant I was running low on gas. I switched over to the reserve and we stopped to drink some water and take some photos of the river valley we rode through. The temperature was a LOT hotter than I’m used to and it was starting to take a toll on me.

Looking back at the valley we rode through.





Looking up at the switchbacks leading to the top of the mountain.



When we got to Torotoro we found a place that sells gasoline and filled up my gas tank. Whew. This was the first time I purchased gasoline in 2 liter bottles! The quality of the gas was rather dubious as the engine ran a little rough after the fill-up, but I didn’t have any choice.






We stayed at a wonderful place called Villa EtelVina, which offers delicious food and clean rooms or camping. They have rooms with private baths or shared baths. The dining room is in a separate building and has a TV, movies, books and board games. Did I mention the food is delicious? The flowers are gorgeous and a locked gate provides security for bikes and vehicles. (Website:
www.villaetelvina.com)


 
 




What a cutie!




Gus had Loquota and I pose for this photo and the profusion of red flowers highlights the handsomeness of the Honda. The flowers make an awesome backdrop but my helmet head hairdo doesn't look so great. Boy, I sure developed the "hots" for this dirt bike and will eventually buy a 225 or 250 someday to do some trail riding in the Lower 48 (the contiguous states below Canada), but here in the U.S. I will have to use a trailer to transport the bike.



At this point I requested a siesta. More photos after that important tradition is observed.
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Old 11-24-2013, 08:15 AM   #6
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Sightseeing in town

After taking a very late siesta (what a wonderful custom) we ate dinner and wandered over to the visitors bureau to discuss our sightseeing options for the next day, based on our limited time schedule. I recommend you spend a couple days here as Torotoro is a paleontological and geological paradise. There are over 2,000 dinosaur tracks, a deep canyon, cave paintings, and deep caverns of karstic origin such as the Umajalanta and Chiflonqaqa that contain stalagtites and stalagmites. The Umajalanta Cave is one of the biggest and deepest caves in Bolivia.
­
We decided to visit one of the caves, which we thought were about 20 km out of town on a dirt road. (I recently learned the cavern we were going to visit may be 20 km roundtrip, not one way. Something may have got lost in translation.) We made arrangements to hire a local guide with a motorcycle to take us there early the next morning. You are required to hire guides, which is great as it provides income for the local residents, the cost is very affordable and I enjoy interacting with the locals and learning more about the places I visit from their perspective.


We wandered through town and checked out the central plaza, which is being fixed up with beautiful flower decorations and life-size dinosaurs that will eventually have sound installed so the dinosaurs will roar.







I would hate to see this dinosaur’s mouth looming over me.



The town is obviously building up infrastructure and resources to increase economic opportunities by catering to the burgeoning tourist industry. I saw at least a dozen backpackers and some nice, newer buildings like this one. ­­­



We came across a great little museum that looked like a little hole-in-the-wall operation and we were pleasantly surprised and hugely impressed when we saw what was inside. The owners and volunteers have put a lot of time and effort into fixing this place up making very intricate and detailed displays. Overall the theme is dinosaurs, of course, and dedication to Pachamama, ­­­ the goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. Pachamama is usually translated as Mother Earth, but a more literal translation would be "Mother world" (in Aymara and Quecha).

Lourdes is standing in the doorway of this very unique wall, which is part of the museum.




It was kind of dark in the museum so my photos didn't turn out that great.








There is also a shrine to frogs, which the Quechua people also revere. Non-natives, i.e. people that don’t live in Bolivia, had to pay extra to tour this museum. I gladly paid the additional 5 or 10 Bolivianos, which was only $1, mas or menos. Now I’m kicking myself for not leaving a bigger donation when I left.



After leaving the museum we wandered around the quiet town a little bit, enjoying observing the traditional clothing. There was a dance that evening, but we had to get up early the next morning so we returned to our hostel/hotel.
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Old 12-06-2013, 08:05 AM   #7
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Dinosaur tracks!

Our guide was scheduled to pick us up at 7:00 to ride out to the big cavern, which was 20 km or so outside of the village on a dirt road. However, during the night a storm moved in, with thunder and lightning and heavy rain alternating with light rain. I lay in bed listening to the rain on the roof, watching the lightning which was hitting pretty close. Thunder and lightning storms can be intensely exciting and get your adrenaline flowing as you experience Mother Nature's mercurial moods. Thankfully this time I had a roof over my head and not just a tent. I started thinking about how bad the road conditions could get as this area has the red soil that tends to become really slippery and clumpy. I remembered reading how the road to Torotoro can become unpassable and I started worrying about getting out of there. The storm let up after an hour or two, leaving mud and puddles in its wake. During breakfast Gus and I discussed the road conditions and our need to return our rental bikes by a certain time. We decided to play it safe and go check out the big canyon, instead as it was closer (El Vergel Canyon).

Here's Carlos, who is a wonderful guide.




When Carlos picked us up on his bike we discussed things with him and he was fine with changing locations. He led us to a creek and showed us some dinosaur tracks. He explained some of the history and mentioned some of these different tracks are about 80 million years old. That’s incredible. I can’t even fathom how many years old that is. The tracks were all over the place, with quite a few following the creek bed. Some were large tracks next to small tracks, possibly mother dinosaurs with their offspring.









As we all know, when we're traveling we don't always have as much time to take care of some of the basic necessities, like shaving. I'm almost embarrassed to show this photo as I hadn't shaved for a week and my hair grows really fast. Check out my hands! Imagine what my legs look like....



I jokes! This hand belongs to Carlos, not me.

After viewing these tracks we went on an exciting ride over a rough, unmaintained dirt road, with lots of mud and rocks. The mud was clinging to my knobby tires, building up in between the knobbies. Of course this made the tires a little slippery going over rocks and sections of flat bedrock. However, my Honda, Loquota, was in his element and having fun. He said, "Don’t worry Amy; I got this." So I relaxed and enjoyed learning how well the bike handles in those conditions. My DR handles well on dirt roads, but it’s usually loaded down with camping gear (and tools) so it’s heavier and not quite as nimble as this Honda.

We parked at the trailhead and hiked down to the creek.



We checked out this natural amphitheatre, which was dry, but during the rainy season the water rushes through here. Carlos said sometimes bands perform here.





There was a natural stone bridge, formed by erosion. Local legend says that if you cross this bridge holding the hand of your loved one, when you die you will both turn to stone and be together forever. Lourdes and Gus walked across the bridge, holding hands.





We continued further down the creek. I liked this tree, which has survived living in the middle of this creek, despite the forces of nature working against it. You can see big rocks that the creek has thrown at the base of the tree and there isn’t much water here.




This tree has a lot of character, with gnarly, twisted branches.



We saw more dinosaur tracks, wandering through the creek. It was kind of easy to imagine the dinosaurs walking through the creek, leaving their tracks in the mud. The name Torotoro came from the Quecha term "thuru thuru of pampa," or pampa (flat plains) of mud. That's easy to understand! Some people think these huge tracks are from one dinosaur, or multiple dinosaurs stepping in the same spot.





The creek narrows before it comes to the canyon and doesn’t look like much. This entrance to the canyon actually looks rather unprepossessing.



We crossed another stone bridge, this one was thicker and wider, with at least a 30’ drop to the creek bed below. The trail on the other side goes up to the scenic overlook.



When we got to the scenic overlook the canyon was covered with a mist.



Carlos said he has never seen the mist in all the years he has guided people back here. Is this Murphy’s Law or what? We stood at the overlook, talking while waiting for the mist to rise. I asked Carlos if a lot of tourists come here on motorcycles and whether he has ever guided a grandmother on a motorcycle. I told him one of my nicknames is "Granny Gone Wild." I was surprised to hear that very few motorcyclists visit Torotoro, especially since the road to get there is so much fun and very scenic. Carlos also said I’m the first grandmother to visit there on a motorcycle so I made local history. Yeehaw!
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Old 12-06-2013, 08:15 AM   #8
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Awesome report!! Love that tough old tree in the creek!!


Sorry about your hideous hairy hands.
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Old 12-06-2013, 09:42 AM   #9
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El Vergel Canyon

Eventually the mist started lifting and we were rewarded with outstanding views of this deep, gorgeous canyon, which the Toro Toro River runs through. The scenic lookout has a grated walkway you can walk out on and get an exhilarating view looking down....






These formations clinging to the cliff look kind of like stalactites, which usually form in the inside of caves. This reminded me of Led Zeppelin’s album titled “In Through the Out Door,” as l felt I was looking at what you normally see in the inside of a cave while I was outside. These formations are different from the typical hoo-doo formations that I have seen in Bryce National Park in the U.S, but they are similar in the respect that they are also formed by erosion.



We didn’t have time, but you can hike down to the canyon floor where there are some trees and waterfalls that cascade into a pools. It looks like the trail going down to the valley floor is a stairway made of stones, similar to some of the trekking trails in the Himalayas.





Ardent birders come here to see the endangered, rare, red-fronted macaw which can be seen flying around here. Bare-fronted humans are sometimes spotted cavorting in the pools, but they aren’t endangered and sometimes are not that exciting to look at.



An alternate trail crosses the creek and goes up the other side, but it’s very steep and rarely used, especially by tourists and tired old grandmas.



Next up – the Turtle Cemetery.
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Old 12-06-2013, 10:07 AM   #10
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Cemeterio de Tortugas

I could tell Carlos was a very skilled rider so I offered to let him take Loquota for a brief ride. Unfortunately for Carlos he’s shorter than I am, with shorter legs, and his feet dangled a few inches off the ground when he got on the bike. He reluctantly agreed the bike was too tall for him to safely ride. Bummer for him!



While we were hiking the warm sun started drying out the mud and puddles and the ride back out to the main road wasn’t quite as exciting. It was still fun though and I was disappointed to get back on the cobblestone road.



It was a short, fun ride to the Turtle Cemetery, which was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. We wandered through the brand new museum, learning more about the area and the dinosaurs and turtles that used to call this area home. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos. I felt bad that we tracked in mud all over the clean floor!



This area was a major dinosaur trackway of biped and quadruped dinosaurs from the Cretaceus period (80-100 million years ago) during the Mesozoic era, also called the Era of the Dinosaurs because during this period of time the dinosaurs ruled the Earth. It is possible to find tracks of three different species - the coelurosaur, the sauropod and the anquilosaurus­.



We hiked through the turtle cemetery and the colors were amazing. This view with the different colors reminded me of the “Artists Palette” area in Death Valley National Park.





Opportunists ­used to come here and dig up turtle fossils and sell them. Thankfully other people interested in preserving the history of this area stepped in to stop this practice and fenced off this “cemetery,” which is home to a profusion of ancient turtles. Archeologists are working here to carefully unearth the fossils and document and preserve as much of the history that they can. Here are some fossil pieces.



This serrated ridgeline looked like the back of a stegosaurus, peacefully resting, entombed in geologic history.



This rock formation reminded me of a silent sentinel sitting with crossed legs and crossed arms, wearing a hat, acting as a guardian of the turtle fossils.



Of course you have to have gratuitous photos of your motorcycles at various places, so this is the parking lot for the turtle cemetery, which is definitely worth visiting.


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Old 12-08-2013, 11:20 AM   #11
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Return to Cochabamba

After checking out the turtle cemetery we ate lunch and headed out of town, wishing we could have spent another day here to see the caves. But I was happy with the sights we did get to see and was a little antsy to get going as there were some clouds building up over the mountains. And I wanted to ride as I wouldn’t be able to ride my bike for six long months after I returned home from vacation.

This is a view from near the top of the mountain as you leave Torotoro. The road down to the valley floor is all cobblestone and full of steep switchbacks.



After we descended to the main road the cobblestones were­ replaced by dirt; fun, dirty dirt interspersed with slippery mud. Loquota was ready for more action and I got in the zone, paying more attention to the road than the scenery so I could ride faster. I could feel the spirits of the ancestors riding with me and I knew my four Bolivian aunts were praying for me and I felt more comfortable on the dirt bike. I usually ride alone, but it was a blast picking out my lines, trying to keep up with Gus and Lourdes. YEEHAW!

The rainstorm left mischievous mud and puddles in its wake and some creeks that didn’t have water the day before now had running water. Loquota performed well, seeming to enjoy getting dirty and muddy. And the best part is that I didn’t have to clean the bike after getting it dirty!

We stopped at this bridge to take photos, stretch our legs and admire the scenery. I like to spend time on the water and thought it would be interesting to hike up the riverbed and float down in my lightweight packraft, before the water gets really high and crazy during the rainy season.



Here’s a view looking downstream. The road basically follows this river and ends up in Potosi, at least I think that’s where it goes.



I took this photo as I thought my kids would be impressed to learn ­­that their mom rode a racing bike. ­­They have become accustomed to hearing about my wild adventures and this didn’t seem to impress them much at all. However, they were mildly impressed that I had a blast riding a mountain bike down the World’s Most Deadly Road. I want to do that again.



All too quickly we arrived in Tarata and stopped to get more gas. This time the gas station had gasoline – yeah! And once again I was reminded of Led Zeppelin’s phrase “in through the out door” because, look, my bodacious bike is entering through the exit.



Loquota actually wanted to pose for some of the threads in the “Pics, pics, pics” photo section. If you’re in the Cochabamba area and want to rent an outstanding dirt bike (that you can ride on public streets) – visit Freddy Herboso’s shop and rent Loquota. He proved his worth, showing a Granny Gone Wild how to “git ‘er done” in Bolivian backcountry conditions.

After arriving back in Cochabamba I was disappointed to end the trip, but was happy because this trip was a real confidence builder. I have been struggling with health issues for a few years and some days I can’t safely ride a motorcycle or even get off the couch. But on the good days, like I had on this ride, everything clicks and I can ride with my old confidence, competence and comfort on dirt roads.

Chief Tecumseh of the Shawnees said “When you arise in the morning give thanks for your food and the joy of living. If you find no reason to give thanks, the fault lies only within yourself.” While my health issues have changed my formerly very-active lifestyle, I appreciate and give thanks for all the blessings in my life, especially the incredible hours I can spend reveling in the freedom and joy of riding a motorcycle. And while enduring my bedridden days I enjoy can the simple things in life, like reading a good book.

I enjoyed my visit to Bolivia and will return some day to do a LOT more riding as my health feels much better in dry climates and high altitudes. In the meantime, I want to introduce my very first motorcycle to her Bolivian friend.

Loquita of the North, on the Denali Highway after riding on the Dalton Highway over Memorial Day Weekend



meet…. Loquota of the South



Ciao ciao (chow chow).


(I just had to throw in this photo again. Ahhh…..)
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Old 12-08-2013, 12:25 PM   #12
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Bolivia is my favorite country in Latin America, thanks for taking us along. I miss riding there.
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Old 12-08-2013, 01:18 PM   #13
Gaston Gagne
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Wow! Very cool report. Thank you for posting.
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Old 12-08-2013, 05:54 PM   #14
Alaskahack
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Great ride report, thanks for sharing
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Old 12-10-2013, 09:01 AM   #15
richardak
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Thank you for sharing your trip! Bolivia is one of those places I studied about a lot in college and have always wanted to visit.

When does part II come out?
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