The Last Dirt Roads

Frazzled. We were frazzled to say the least. The road to Sorata had been paved about 90 percent of the way but the last 15km were brutal. We arrived just in time for the yearly town festival which goes on for an entire week. Festival can be summed up with just one word in Bolivia: drunk.

After weaving our way around bottomless potholes and rickety landcruisers carrying bleary eyed men waving one liter bottles, we arrived at Altai Oasis. We sat down to dinner and received an immediate uplift from the owner. After commenting briefly on the rough ride he smiled knowingly, “Enjoy Bolivia’s dirt roads, they’re some of the last dirt roads in the world.”

8 mile hike to San Pedro

We truly feel this is the last wild terra firma we’ll roll through on our PanAm journey. Having recently re-watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, we can say with confidence, not a lot has changed from it’s iconic Hollywood heyday (circa 1969). We know in a few months time, we will miss these one track suspension busting switchbacks. We will crave the ease with which we find ourselves totally isolated and enshrouded in the beauty of untouched nature.

Like something out of an old western, nearby San Pedro is a ghost town

Before making a hasty early morning retreat from boozy Sorata we hiked out to the San Pedro Cave. Our guidebook described the area as nothing to write home about, but with our recently shifted perspective we decided to give it a shot.

The unassuming entrance

Watch your cabeza

Due to the nearly 24 hour festivities in town the power was out in all the surrounding villages. The normally lit up San Pedro Cave was enveloped in darkness requiring us to tag along behind an elderly guide wearing sandals and baring a totally toothless grin.

Is anybody else conjuring up Deliverance (Bolivian edition) images? Just us? Ok, moving on.

Working our way in, around, through the various cracks and crevices

Thankful for our guide in the darkness

Watch your step, it's slippery in here

About half way through our tour of the cave, having climbed up and down slippery rocks and ladders, our guide motioned to our right and mumbled something about the lagoon. We could see the crystal clear waters, smooth and undisturbed. Logan grabbed the camera and moved quickly toward the water for a good shot. Turns out this lake is so beautifully clear and serene it was actually only about a foot away from where we were standing and Logan took a two foot step right into it. There is nothing quite like a toothless octogenarian cackling wildly at your gringo ineptitude.

A few steps farther back from the water's edge

In true nomad style, we felt rejuvenated by this dirt road paradise and ready for whatever this country might throw at us next. We escaped the still partying town before the mists of the early morning fog had time to disperse. Empty bottles littered the sidewalk tables, quickly being replaced by full bottles and glassy eyed campesinos offered a solemn salute as our giant rig rumbled past. Bring it Bolivia.

7 thoughts on “The Last Dirt Roads

    • We started out with Lonely Planet like a couple of amateurs. Actually, the LP Central America book is pretty good but don’t bother with their South America edition. Footprint is superior especially for listing camping/parking options. For Mexico, The Church’s Guide is absolutely essential, an overland bible if you will.

      South of Mexico, your best bet is to find camping lists (conveniently located here on PanAmNotes) with GPS coordinates and follow those to camping nirvana.

  1. definitely not the last dirt roads in the world… or the worst!  glad you got out of it safely and hope to see you on the other side! xo argentina rocks!

  2. Pingback: Overland Adventure Travel 4x4, Americas, Bolivia,  South America - All Good Things are Wild and Free -

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