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Sunchuli Pass

Mountainside Bivouac

 

“We all had weird dreams. We all slept in 45 minute increments, waking up for whatever—rain. It rained a lot. I pissed in my titanium Snow Peak cup three times. At 7:30 it stopped raining. Kinda. We got up. I was bitchy. It was still cloudy, and going to rain again, obvs, and I wasn’t ready to pack our shit up wet, but we did. On the way towards the top, James and Kyle had to push my bike for me for about about the last kilometer. Basically until the final push through a fifteen thousand foot doorway. The drop down on the other side into the biggest valley ever defies gravity and logic. We crossed a river. Went through a field, around a bull.”

—DWP

 

A Brief Chronological Account of the Action & Events of the Morning

 

  1. We wake up and it turns out that we pitched our tents on a mountain top front porch scenic overlook type deal. The sun is out, which means the rain is not.
  2. The ground on which we pitched our tents was covered with thorny, prickly, sharp little plants that picketed our gear and our feet. Fortunately they were not able to puncture our sleeping bags, they survived the night.
  3. We hike up what mistakes, fate and effort has determined to be the right trail/road/path.
  4. Daniel is edging on a HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) / Anxiety attack putting into question his ability to finish the ride.
  5. James and Kyle discuss what they would pillage from Daniel’s bike if he were to turn around. They agree on the chips, the Clif Bar products, and the trail mix.
  6. Daniel asks if we think he would be able to get back to La Paz with his level of Spanish. Opinion is divided.
  7. Daniel turns his bike around for a brief moment, the closest any of us will come to “throwing in the towel.”
  8. The sun goes away.
Room with a view! We woke up to a hard rain falling on our tents and we "slept" through it until the sun came out.
When we passed out in the clouds amongst a horde of falling rain, we had no idea that we were sleeping in the shadow of giants.
Back in the states, under normal adventure conditions, as general rule we would never pitch our camp this close to a road. But in this case, when the road next to you is higher than all of the mountains in the lower 48 you break those rules.
Gear tanning in the wild can be a very risky venture. Even with all his experience James is taking a big chance tanning gear at this altitude, what with the Amazon's wet vengeance creeping up in the background.
This road looks new right? Like just plowed, regraded, hacked out of the earth new? Well, it looked new to us, it turns out it's been upgraded. We can only surmise that the road that was here before was a strung together mess of a trail that got a haircut, a nose job, new shoes, a turbo charger, granite counter tops, a plasma screen, and Amazon Prime. Because now it looks too good to be true.
We tried this road yesterday, it didn't work out.

Kakazani Pass

AKA the Right Turn

 

A Brief Chronological Account of the Action & Events of Midday

 

  1. We make it to the top of Kakazani Pass.
  2. The road over Kakazani Pass has been built by Engineers trained by MC Escher.
  3. We SEE and RIDE through never before seen scenes from the movie Interstellar, at least in terms of an alien landscape that bends time, distance, gravity, perspective, etc. Except ours had cows.
  4. We all wear our helmets, because it is really steep and really far away from any medical attention, so in a sense our helmets are really small, really stupid, really plastic doctors.
  5. James and Kyle utilize a form of teamwork to pass bikes over a white cauldron of freezing water.
  6. We behold the shortest road in the world.
  7. We ride past a bull.
  8. We ride through a fucking mini monsoon on mud toboggans.
Our path to the pass was littered with one hanging valley after another. If we had learned anything so far on our trip it was that there was always a lake in a hanging valley right before the pass. Unfortunately today's pass was really putting on a hanging valley show, one after another they would appear as we climbed, and time and time again we expected each valley to be the last. Nope, I think we maybe did eight hanging valley huckleberries before finally reaching the pass. They stop getting pretty, trust me.
When you’re in the thick of it and working hard on your way up a pass, and just jamming that leaf into your face to beat back the headaches and dizziness and hunger and pain, you start to feel a little bit like a panda bear.
Pluses: It wasn't raining, we were pretty sure that we were headed in the right direction, and it was downhill. Minuses - The rocks were bowling balls encrusted with razors, the corners were tighter than Scrooges purse strings, and the drops were nearly over vertical.
Oh hey Karl Friedrich Schinkel.
We weren't explorers per se, because no matter where you go in Bolivia eons and eons of people have already been. These little Llama breeding/birthing/sheering rings are everywhere. Why so many? Why not just make a couple? Secrets of the ancients I guess.
Behold, the world's shortest road!
"Guys, golfers don’t come to Bolivia."—Kyle talking about Bolivia’s commitment to mud and the lack of flat spaces.
"They speak about four words a day. They don't want to waste an 'hola' on some gringos riding magic bikes/silent motorcycles."—Kyle responding to the question, “Why don’t those llama shepherd ladies, the ones sitting in the dirt under a hat and pile of blankets, ever say hello to us when we roll past?”
"The whole way down the sluice box—I mean road—to Hilo Hilo, through the bottom of a river valley currently fogged in and thickly saturated with storm juice, we passed llamas everywhere. Below us. Above us. Always watching and monitoring us, kinda... like watching but not really caring. Kinda apathetic or indifferent like. Basically “Sup-ing” us. It was cute. Made your feel safe Like maybe they were guardians or sentries or some such shit. Also, they have great hair. Especially the bangs. Llamas are kinda emo looking. Like the Cumbia kids from Argentina. Makes you wonder who influenced who.

Hilo Hilo

 

“Kyle’s Spanish is sooooooo fucking RAD. And getting better every day. It’s gotten us into so many rad spots. And when coupled with our trend towards lots of everyday-style bad luck that turns out to be good luck (almost necessary luck) in the end, we’re able to stumble into what clearly is the only truly dry building in a village battered by time, turds and widespread poverty. Don’t get me wrong, Hilo Hilo is awesome, at least in terms of geography and people. In fact, especially in terms of geography and people. But with regards to architecture, especially architecture in terms of houses and buildings featuring “creature comforts” such as hygiene and running water, Hilo Hilo is a pile of shit. Maybe a literal pile of shit. Anyway, the town square of Hilo Hilo is next-level depressing. We stack our bikes against a wall and sit under an awning next to three kids in green sweaters. It’s still raining. We learn the bus to La Paz comes every Miercoles. It’s Monday. We’re supposed to continue on to Peter Tosh but this town is in the middle of three valleys and we don’t know (exactly) which way to go. Kyle and James go looking for info. I sit in the rain listening to the three kids talk about boobies and futbol in Spanish for what feels like an hour. A creeper dude stares at me from just inside an open doorway across the plaza… the WHOLE time. I start having really bad thoughts. Like maybe we’re going to get hacked to pieces in this town. I think it’s because James was talking about his South American roadtrip the other night at Edgar’s joint when we were pretending to go to bed. He was recounting how they rode their motorcycles through a town that had dismembered an entire bus full of university students. Point is, I’m suffering, I think, from low morale. Dudes come back, they found the nicest building we’ve seen in four days. It’s down an alley in the middle of which is a two foot wide trough filled with running (muddy) water, turds and trash. The alley and turd stream which turns to turd rapids when the alley gets steep runs past the school down to a level area just above a cliff on the edge of which is a blue concrete building. Inside there are eight dudes hurriedly putting the finishing touches on the decor, sweeping (with a piece of bush), making the beds, moving the living room furniture into place, etc. Kyle already knows all of them by name.”

—DWP

 

A Brief Chronological Account of the Action & Events of the Afternoon

 

  1. We arrive at the village of Hilo Hilo, it’s raining and depressing, turds are floating in streams.
  2. The entire town is empty except for a couple school kids standing under an awning.
  3. We sit under the awning with these kids.
  4. The two kids take us to a school where they introduce us to an older kid who introduces us to some old dudes who basically run the town. They are the town elders, a mayoral pod, the executive branch. Call them what you like, they run the town.
  5. The Mayoral Pod runs the Mountaineering Luxury Hotel. This is the nicest building in town, and it’s not finished, it doesn’t have plumbing. It has holes in the walls. It has a roof. It has some windows. It has beds, couches, chairs, tables and doors. It is the most beautiful thing we have ever seen.
  6. We will be the first people to stay in the Mountaineering Luxury Hotel.
  7. The Mountaineering Luxury Hotel is an Ikea bunker.
  8. The sun comes out, our spirits lift! There are views, lord are there views! Mountain peaks pricking the blue azure before crashing to our feet in sharp angular sheaves of rock and ice and above these peaks we see condors soaring, sky surfing wave after wave of tasty Andean thermals.
  9. We tan our gear.
  10. It turns out to be “dia de los ninos.” Rudely translated as “lets put on our emerald green sweaters and throw confetti at the foreign clowns!” Party time!
  11. The kids session James’ rig up and down the strip mine soccer field located next to the school.
  12. Not to be outdone by these pipsqueaks, James puts on a stunt show and gets gnar, pops a bunch of wheelies, and for the finale does a technical little rock jump/drop-in move. The crowd of 11-year olds goes bananas.
  13. All the kids want a photo op, we are like Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse at Disneyland.
  14. We cook dinner on the ground in the Mountaineering Luxury Hotel.
  15. We sleep on dry beds, with brand new blankets. Blankets we make a pact to buy when we get back to La Paz. Blankets the likes of which we never see again.
Interiors By Deb!
The furniture in the Mountaineering Luxury Hotel was truly unreal. The places had overstuffed couches, overstuffed chairs, mirror topped coffee tables. It was like Pablo Escobar had Patrick Nagel do the interiors of his Key West home. Or it was as if a woman named Deb from Culver City had her way with a Pottery Barn catalogue.
Bolivians don’t do heat. They don’t have heat in their homes, and their homes don't have insulation. And they don’t build fires. Bolivians do blankets.
"It’s like a little piece of Dakar has come to Hilo Hilo"—Kyle, on James doing Fat Boy tricks.
"No no es una moto , no somos lo suficientemente inteligentes como para motos." "No it's not a motorcycle, we're not smart enough for motorcycles."—Kyle
A lot of Bolivians wears sandals in the rain and the mud, and snow, and when it's cold. Basically sandals, just feet, no socks, 24/7/365.
Bolivia does not do heat and only very rarely does it do sun, at least where we were. So when that brilliant yellow orb appears in the sky you have to take full advantage of it and set your gear out on full chaise in order to catch some of those tasty rays.
Later, when the sun has set, it's time to empty your bags and let the ambient dryness of the inside world do its thing on your belongings.

“Store to Floor”

Cooking with James Crowe

 

I don’t know why James is such a fantastic mountainside hovel cook. It could be that he spent the last year plus perfecting his art while traveling through South America on his motorcycle, it could be that he is Canadian, it could be that he has lived in a van for the better part of his 20s, it could be that he loves fake butter, that he likes fire, that he appreciates steam, that he understands that bodies need food and he wants to give his body food. I DON’T KNOW! I don’t even know if knowing matters? James is a unique specimen, a maverick, a shining star, and he is pushing the culinary limits of high-altitude, bodega-supplied hybrid camping meals further than anyone that I know. If there is one thing that I could glean from watching the master at work it was his healthy use of Bolivian I Can’t Believe It’s Not “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” Butter. This congealed salt oil was dolloped like scoops of ice cream on top of beef colored noodles, on top of onions, on top of carrots, on top of any and all food. I don’t think this facsimile of a facsimile of butter is available in the States, and I can’t be sure that even if it was available in the States that it would taste the same. I think the exquisite taste had something to do with the lack of oxygen, like an anti-rust flavor thing. Long story short, James can cook one hell of a egg and beef flavored ramen meal in a Mountaineering Luxury Hotel in the sky.

 

Bolivian Store to Floor Shopping List

01
Bucket Chicken (Not Pictured)

Looks like chicken, must be chicken. Found in every pueblo square in a plastic bucket under a tarp marinating in something orange.

02
Kettle Chips

Poke a hole in the bag to let the air out, then smash ’em, crunch ’em, and compress ’em for a lightweight and savory snack.

03
That LEAF!

Bolivian wizards, shamans, and adventurers have all used the leaf of the coca plant for eons (it is said to aid in altitude sickness, digestion, circulation, headaches, and “regularity”).

04
Mayonesa

This is kinda mayonnaise, in the same way that apple Jolly Ranchers are kinda apples.

05
Coca-Cola

Move over Michael Jackson! Everyone knows Coca-Cola is the King of Pop.

06
Regia

Congealed salt and oil; the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” of Bolivia.

07
Locoto

Tongue-melting powder that’s great on almost anything.

08
Pepsi

Fake, knockoff, wannabe Coca-Cola; bought in haste; whatever you do, do not make this mistake.

09
"Tuna"

Labeled as tuna; pungent and gross; a Trojan horse of dietary vengeance: DO NOT EAT!!!

10
Eggs

They can’t even help but be organic and cage free.

11
Aji-No-Men Beef Flavor Ramen

Noodles and powdered beef. ¡Qué sabor!

James Crowe Travelers' Pro Tip - Blow the excess gasoline out of your MSR International before storing so that all of your gear doesn't smell like a top fuel dragster. Light the gasoline during the process to create incendiary light show!
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