Inspiring Quotes for Crossing the High Deserts in South America

Below you will find a collection of inspiring quotes I collected during my preparation stage for crossing the high deserts of the Altiplano in southwest Bolivia as well as the Andes via Paso Socompa. Quotes like these keep me smiling and help to focus my mind on the essential parts of the trip.

“… this will be one of your most unforgettable cycle touring expeditions yet …” - Cycling Southwest Bolivia

“Roads: These will be your biggest nightmare in the southwest especially. There are so many tracks that at times you won’t know which one to choose from. Signposting is almost non-existent and when it does appear, it is very dubious. The paths are incredibly dusty with washboard and sand surfaces, making cycling really difficult. And certainly so with your bike being heavily laden with supplies and extra water. So, expect to push for many kilometres and that said, you should also be aware that you’ll face the usual hardships of travelling at high altitude too. “ - Cycling Southwest Bolivia

“Sandstorms are also a common – almost daily-event” - Cycling Southwest Bolivia

“In a country like this, standard operating procedure says to gather information about a planned route, prepare as best you can, and hope nothing goes wrong. Sometimes something does. Sometimes the only water source in 60km has a dead rat floating in it.” -

“Three kilometers east of the town centre of Tahua, when you finally hit the entrance of the Salar de Uyuni, you will immediately realise the rewards of all that hard slog against howling winds in the middle of sand tracked oblivion” - Cycling Southwest Bolivia

“The cold hard facts are these: the best parts of the road to cycle on are going to be a washboard, because it is the only hardened surface around. Otherwise, you will be pedalling your wheels through sand or pushing your loaded rig at more than 3500meters above sea level.” - Cycling Southwest Bolivia

“Riding along the salt plains was indescribable. So silent, you just hear the crunch of your tires along the salt. You can see the bend in the Earth! Islands would appear out of nowhere as we aimed for the distant mountains.” -

“Was uns, oder vor allem mir (Petra), am meisten zu Schaffen macht ist nicht der Strasszustand, der manchmal einem Bachbett aehnlich sieht, nicht die naechtliche Kaelte, die alles was man nicht in den Schlafsack hinein rettet gefrieren laesst, nicht die Hoehe, die einem Schlaf und Atem raubt und nicht die vielen Paesse, die es zu ueberqueren gilt. Was uns richtig zu beissen gibt ist der Wind!” -

“Diese Fahrt ist kein Picknick und das bolivianische Hochland ist nicht Disneyland; Gefahren sind real und allgegenwärtig.” - Julius Grossmann – Fahrrad Guide

“Plant and tree species are reportedly about 190 species, in the harsh terrain, which have emerged given the conditions of salinity, lack of fresh water, low temperatures, and scarcity of nutrients.” -

“Now on our left we have a travelling cyclist, known to roam these parts during their seasonal migration from Alaska. It looks like we’ve got a solitary male here and by the state of him I’d say he’s been on the road a while. Best not to provoke him too much, they’re an unpredictable bunch, but we generally find offering them a bit of food settles them down.” - “But what do we feed them??” - “Oh they’ll eat anything, this one probably hasn’t seen a good meal in days….” -

“The Paso Socompa crossing between Argentina and Chile is shrouded in a certain amount of mystery; a remote and desolate place, over which no one can seem to agree whether or not it’s actually a legal border crossing. Long since closed to vehicular traffic, it’s now a rather forlorn and forgotten outpost where a handful of plucky cyclists are about the only action it sees.” -

“Granted, Bolivia might not seem the most obvious choice for a family holiday, especially the high altitude Altiplano, perched at 12,000ft and above. The backroads are corrugated and sandy. The sun is relentless. Food is limited and water is scarce. And living conditions are distinctly basic.” -

“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear-the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break….I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.” - Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

“Water, water, water… There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount…unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.” - Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

“You can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamn contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail, you’ll see something, maybe.” - Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

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