Climb to La Cumbre

Irupana to La Paz (Yungas part 2)

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What comes down must come back up. At least, this is the case of my route. It is now time to slowly leave Yungas and come back to the altiplano where La Paz awaits me.

June 10

There are days when you wake up and discover an outrageously nice morning. And there are days when you wake up and discover that your back rim is cracked. Today belongs to the second type of days -- as I do a quick inspection of a bike my eyes stuble across an interesting piece of mud on my wheel. Oh wait, it isn't a mud. Actually, it isn't anything, just a few-milimeters wide gap in a metal.

Morning brings some nasty surprises

Cracked rear rim isn't usually good news. But I still find some peace with it -- this "disaster" happened only 4 days before I reach La Paz where I should be able to get thing fixed (e.g., by getting a new one). It is much better than discovering this kind of a problem somewhere hundreds of kilometers from any reasonable civilization. In any case, the plan is simple -- just try to ride it until La Paz.

When I finally get out of albergue to conquer the descent to only 1200 meters above the sea level the weather is misty. Sure enough, this foggish weather clears as soon as I start reaching my lowest point of the day. There I munch on a banana to get superman powers uphill to Chulumani. The climb isn't super-fun as the Sun starts to show it's supersun powers and to finish the mood all the passing cars seem to have superdust powers.

Descending from Irupana ...
... I pass by a nice waterfall
Start of the climb to Chulumani
Views before Chulumani
First views of Chulumani

When I reach Chulumani, which is a lively village with tons of activity around a bus terminal I just bike through and continue further towards Puente Villa though I do not expect to reach it today. Instead, I hit a goaaaal when finding a camping spot. Literally as I end up on a football field.

Another nice waterfall
I am scoring a goal for the night

June 11

When in the morning I come out of the tent I feel like on a real match. There are several families bustling around on the field. Except that instead of a ball they are bringing big balls of coca wrapped in a net and spreading it out to dry.

In the morning the football field turns into a coca-drying place

Because the Sun doesn't want to show up I am packing the tent wet. I continue the last 500 meters of descent to Villa Neuva. There I stop by for a bit of break and shopping before the real climb starts.

Descent to Villa Nueva ...
... is full of traditional cliff-built roads
Not much more and I will have to climb again
Getting wings would be quite handy

From Villa Nueva it is only climb until I reach 4600m high pass before La Paz. Of course, this isn't doable in a day. In fact, it is three days of climbing.

As climb goes on I have a lunch around 1500m. Then I continue until Santa Rosa which brings a nice surprise -- the road is suddenly paved (and my lungs are very grateful for it). Unfortunately, my celebrations of a road were a bit premature -- a bit later in La Florida the pavement ends.

From Villa Nueva I have to pedal once again ...
... that is, if I don't have a small break
No matter how much I climb the mountains are still high above me

Then the road goes through a relatively steep valley. And it doesn't look like there are going to be tons of prospective places to camp on. Until I spot a perfect place just a while after a very nice Velo de la Novia waterfall. Did you even camped on a bridge? Because I did! For some reason, the bridge which I tentatively call the "new bridge" (although it does look quite old) isn't exactly connected to one side of the road (i.e., there is about two meters of vertical discrepancy there). The road snakes around and goes over what I call the "old bridge" so my new bridge is devoid of any traffic -- basically a perfect camping spot. I just need to secure all my bottles and other round objects as the new bridge is quite tilted.

Views are getting more peaky
A teaser ...
...before Velo de la Novia waterfall
Bridge/camping spot which overlooks another bridge

June 12

With surprisingly no condensation on a tent I make a quick start today. The morning weather seems a bit gloomy which suits me quite well -- otherwise I would be cooking in my skin. As I slowly progress towards higher elevated places a nice mountain tops starts to appear around me.

The road snakes around a steep valley
And the views are opening with some nice mountaintops
I wish this was Switzerland with its nice hiking trails -- the mountains on the opposite side of the valley should definitely be worth a climb
I spot another big waterfall

Before I reach Unudavi - a few food stalls around a paved road which I join - I have to do some serious workout. The last part is surprisingly steep and I am gasping for air and trying to cool down. To relax a bit from this steep climb I munch on a snack in Unudavi. From there the paved road is reasonably steep and I am passing above what I suppose is a nice valley. It is harder to ascertain this with certainty though -- the higher I am the more closer to the clouds until I eventually just get into their mist. The temperature instantly plummets down and when I am finally camping at a good spot, it is very cold.

The valley gets even narrower
Last push to Unudavi is steep
Paved road goes with a bonus of clouds
With the clouds all around the temperature plummets down

June 13

In night an unwelcome guest knocks on my tent. Or to be precise, keeps knocking and knocking and knocking. The damn strong wind just tries to trash my tent. But it apparently blow away all the clouds as there is blue sky in the morning.

Morning reveals that my camping spot is in a beautiful location
The mountains are all around me

The landscape of yesterday -- green frindge of the jungle -- is gone. Instead I now look at a bit yellowish grass which reminds me of Alps in the fall. And even at this altitude it is remarkably hot -- that is, as long as the Sun shines on me.

They had to literally cut a piece of the mountain to build the road
I always wonder about the forces which turn mountains sideways

While I am slowly throdding up on the road I am meeting tons of cyclists. Or should I say "tons of amateur weaklings"? These are all the gringos taking the "world's most dangerous road" downhill. Of course they got to the top of the pass by a car and probably do not need to pedal at all until Coroico. Basically, as I said, total weaklings. The true (wo)men would go the opposite way ;-)

Looking back the views are good as well
A nice spot for a lunch break

After a slow lunch I am ready to finish the last 300 meters of the ascent. I end up in the pass at 2pm which is a bit sooner than I expected. And to my surprise, this is the first 4600+ pass where I did not have to push a single meter. I use the spare time to push the bike a steep uphill to a big statue just next ot the pass and then enjoy the views. They are excellent as from this point I can see snow-covered tops of Yungas to the north. To the west I can see a big lake/dam and mountain hills which are slowly disappearing into the altiplano.

Look back just before I reach La Cumbre is something that takes my breath away. (OK, it was the altitude that took my breath away. But it is still beautiful)
A short while later and I am looking at a big monument
Lake/water dam at La Cumbre
La Cumbre reveals nice snow-covered tops ...
... and impressive peaks

From the pass a fast and cold paved downhill awaits me. The downhill leads directly to La Paz where I manage to meet with a friend of my EPFL colleague and crash at her small apartment.

Descent leads around a second massive dam
First looks of La Paz are more than impressive

June 14 - 15

La Paz is an interesting city. The first thing which strikes me is the geographic location. The city is built inside a huge canyon going down from the altiplano. In fact, the city is so vertical that there is at least 600 meters of elevation difference between some neighbourhoods. The second thing which strikes me is the Bolivian driving style. Make no mistake -- I already have a lots of experience with Bolivian drivers from mountains. But here in the city they take it to a different level.

For both previously mentioned reasons, La Paz doesn't have lots of cyclists. In fact, I must be the only crazy person around moving on a bike. My mission here is quite simple -- get a replacement rim for my bike. And while I presumed this to be an easy job it turns out to be quite some feat. I am going through several bike shops with no luck -- the first one doesn't have a rim with the same number of spikes, the next few doesn't have rims at all, then there is a bike shop with a rim for the correct number of spikes but it is super narrow. Then I find a bike shop where the guy does have the rim but at home so it won't be today. Oh, and I am learning that tomorrow is some damn holiday day. In the end I get a recommendation to visit Gravity Workshop.

Descending towards lower parts of La Paz
Being an electrician must be a tough job

As Gravity workshop is back uphill (actually, not that far from the place I am staying at) and I do not particularly feel like climbing few hundreds of meters in a bad traffic, I try a new thing. Since a few years ago La Paz features Teleférico -- a public transit using cable car.

The Gravity workshop is a bike repair place for all Gravity bikes (e.g., all the weaklings I saw yesterday zooming down towards the Death road). Apart from fixing their own bikes, they have a lots of spares and fortunately for me a good rim. I even manage to convince them to replace it by tomorrow morning.

With the bike in good hands I now have time to explore La Paz by foot. I stroll towards the Plaza Murillo to get sense of this big city. And also to do some good shopping -- there are some outdoor shops just a few blocks from the plaza and I am lucky to find there both bencina blanca (actually, even better -- the original Primus stove fuel) and a replacement sports towel (I don't know when but I lost the one I had).

La Paz has some surprisingly high buildings
From correct spots you can see all across the city
You can buy anything in La Paz, wooden llamas are definitely not an exception. Or maybe is this a Trojan llama?
Around plaza Murillo ...
... there is a nice looking cathedral

I start the next day by picking up my bike with a new rim. Then I spend the rest of it indoors -- after altiplano and Yungas I really need to catch up with internet and computer jobs (e.g. photos, GPS tracks, etc.). The only exception is a short walk to a supermarket where I finally get some decent food -- my bags are now bulding with kilos of new contraband.


Loading map...

Download simplified GPX of a route here

Stats by activity:

Activity Distance
Pedal rotations
bike 161 4.5 56
cablecar 5 0.4 -
Stats by day:
Date Distance
Avg. temp
(moving, C)
June 10, 2017 41.1 0.93 23.1
June 11, 2017 44.2 1.00 24.2
June 12, 2017 28.1 1.73 13.3
June 13, 2017 39.3 0.85 12.0
June 14, 2017 13.6 0.45

Elevation data

Loading graph...
(drag over a region to zoom in, right-click reset)

The next table is only for cycling activity.

Grade(%)Ascent (km)Descent(km)
< 2 25.4
< 4 8.3 5.0
< 6 7.7 8.6
< 8 13.8 8.5
< 10 6.8 6.0
≥ 10 4.3 5.9

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