The Bolivian Experience: A New Rider’s Journey

24 Sep 2023

In October of 2022 we had the privilege of hosting an amazing group of guys from all over the world to come to Bolivia on our Wine & Salt tour. Some riders had a lot of experience, some were brand new, but everyone made it through, healthy and happy. What follows is Jeff’s experience of coming down to and riding across Bolivia. He was one of the brand new riders on the trip, just having obtained his riding license not long before we began. 

It was midnight and I was drinking a scotch halfway through a renovation project that was overtime and over budget.

My college buddy in a time zone 7 hours ahead, just waking up and I’m sure in a very different headspace texts me – 

“Do you want to ride a motorbike across the salt flats of Bolivia?”


“Its for charity, its 13 days”

“I’ve already said yes – 2 pragmatic problems: a) not sure my wife will sign off on it and b) I don’t know how to ride a motorbike – but otherwise I’m all in”

“they’ll take all riding levels”

“well I guess that covers me…”

2 minutes later my wife said “you need a break – treat yourself”

So I was in...

The following year I’m arriving in Bolivia.  It’s a warm spring night (October), feels humid compared to my Colorado home – although everywhere kind of does – and I’m experiencing my first dip into South America, having hit 5 other continents already – just Antartica to go now.

I loved it! It was unlike anything that I’d experienced, not as impoverished as I’d imagined – someone had told me they thought the average wage in Bolivia was around $8,000 USD per year. However, there was a Starbucks within walking distance of our first and last  hotel – around a beautiful plaza in downtown Santa Cruz de la Sierra.  But also it was uniquely different from anything I’ve experienced thus far. The nightime plaza had palm trees, mojitos, warm breezes, live music and lots of the lively bustle of life that you get in large metropolitan areas – and that was only one of many different experiences.

The ride took us all over several topographies.

City life day one, dusty, noisy, dramatic and then in the afternoon the ascent into the Andes became increasingly serene.  Roads were paved until they weren’t.  Day two was a bunch of dirt track switchbacks that as a new rider terrified and exhilarated.  But the breathtaking views were amazing and while I admittedly struggled due to my riding skills on the early part of the trip, the views and scintillating scenery, think: rugged hills, blue skies and sporadic Spanish themed villages, kept me thinking – “this beats my average Tuesday!” and the Chinese restaurant threw me for a loop!

My trip highlights

Racing across the salt flats, a moonscape of bewildering expanse, was both beautiful and a little unsettling – it felt like it would be easy to get lost and ride a long way in the wrong direction – however our tour guides kept us oriented, on task and having fun.  With a magnificent lunch in the middle of that moonscape.  I was deeply satisfied riding to our hotel in the dark that evening

And around day 7 we left the Salt flats riding over Andean passes that were around 14,000 feet.  I’d found my riding stride and was just enjoying vista after vista, and on the ride down the World opened up before me and I found myself overcome with delight and spontaneously singing (this isn’t my typical British MO) but the landscape required a response and a childhood hymn seemed appropriate at the time.  There were expansive Mountains on the left, a windy long road ahead, red dirt and what looked like vineyards in the distance – words don’t do it justice.

Temperatures ranged from hot to cold to hot again as we went from low to high to low again, and mercifully we had only one day riding in the rain for an hour or so.  I was nervous about mosquitoes, malaria, and the altitude, but I found myself fine on both fronts – I don’t recall any mosquitoes, and after a night at altitude (where they did have oxygen if you needed it) I was fine walking around town the next day without issue. 

We met kind, gregarious, larger than life characters; I never felt threatened or intimidated.  I was particularly fortunate to find myself on a ride with 10 guys that were cut from similar cloth and I’ll think of them as friends for life, forged in the fire of shared experience.  The other big takeaway for me was being unplugged; some areas were so rural that cell reception and wifi were not an option, which after the initial panic I found deeply liberating.  And I returned to homelife/work feeling rested in a way that few breaks have provided me.

For those of you who’ve never experienced a slice of Bolivia I’d highly recommend it.  I find myself daydreaming of the trip often, it was a richly rewarding experience, a bucket list checked off, a great topic to talk about, and new friends from around the world that I’m still in contact with.  I wear my Novo adventures and Minuteman Pizza T-shirts with fondness and I recommend the experience to anyone who cares to listen.

(For those concerned: I did learn to ride ahead of my trip and the more time on a bike you can spend ahead of the trip probably the more fun you’ll have)

If you want to watch a recap of the trip...

Want a story of your own?

As always, to check out our upcoming dates click here, and to book your place, or you have any questions, feel free to email us here. Thanks Jeff for coming down and an amazing trip!


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